For some reason I can’t figure out how to provide a link in the comment section, so I thought I’d provide one here. Under the post “The Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism,” ET reader Danny recently raised an excellent question about how 1 Peter 1:10-12 relates to the perspicuity of the Old Testament. I don’t have time to address it right now, but here is a brief post which speaks to what I think Danny is getting at: The Relationship of the Testaments: Walt Kaiser on 1 Peter 1:10-12. For those who might like to do some more reading on this subject, here is a link to the whole series on the broader issue of the relationship between the OT and the NT.
Archive for October, 2008
Lest my fellow contributors think me dead, here are some thoughts I’ve been having…
I have been enjoying reading through some psalms in the study here the past couple weeks. Psalm 33, which we recently used in worship at the church I attend, has been on my mind. I thought I would give some minor observations that might help us think well about this text. This is not intended as a detailed discussion of the content of the psalm, but a few points that help guide our reading thereof.
First, Psalm 33 should be read closely with the psalm(s) that precedes. Several lines of evidence support this supposition. Unlike the surrounding chapters, Psalm 33 does not have a title in the Hebrew text. In fact, a few Hebrew manuscripts connect this psalm with Psalm 32. Moreover, connections between 33:1 and 32:11 cannot be missed. Consider the following:
32:11 Rejoice in Yhwh and be glad, righteous ones! And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
33:1 Shout for joy in Yhwh, righteous ones! Praise is becoming to the upright.
Furthermore, it seems that 32:10 forms the basis for the response in 33:21–22:
32:10 There are many sorrows for the wicked one, but the one who trusts in Yhwh, loyal love surrounds him.
33:21–22 For in him our heart will rejoice, for in his holy name we have trusted. Yhwh, may your loyal love be upon us, according to how we have waited for you.
Therefore, the connections with Psalm 32 appear at both the beginning and ending of Psalm 33, which is an appropriate place for such relationships to be made so that the reader does not fail to observe them.
Second, recognition of these connections guides the reading of the psalm; that is, I don’t believe we should simply consider this mere coincidence. The primary answer to the significance of this connection seems to be that Psalm 33 is given as an appropriate response to the exhortation of Psalm 32. The righteous ones—i.e. those who (within the context of the Psalter) meditate upon Torah (Ps 1) and find refuge in the Son (Ps 2)—are called upon to shout for joy in the Lord.
Third, the psalm is corporate in its nature. As such, it guides the response of the readers/worshipers, informing theologically their response to Yahweh. The corporate response is most specifically seen in the change from third person (vv. 1–19) to first person plural (vv. 20–22). So, what began with a call to worship in vv. 1–3, continued with the author’s reasoning of why such praise and reverence for Yahweh is fitting, ends with the response of the forgiven (see Ps 32). Their response is one of waiting, hoping, and trusting in God’s commitment to His promises. I like what Goldingay says about this in his commentary (p. 474):
The frame of the psalms suggests an equivalent comprehensiveness about our human response to God. Worship involves looking away from ourselves to an object. It involves the making of music and noise. But when we have seen who Yhwh is, it involves an expression of reverence, hope, joy, and trust.
This morning as I sat here in my study preparing for next Sunday’s sermon, it occurred to me that the choice of whether or not to preach the Bible simply comes down to this: Do I think more highly of what I have to say or of what God has already said in His Word? Put another way, whose words do I truly believe are more trustworthy, authoritative, and efficacious in the hearts of the people? Mine? Or God’s?
I’m reminded of the words of Jesus in John 7:16-17 where He explains to the Jews that His teaching is “of God”—that it has its ultimate source in the Father—rather than being “from Himself.” In the very next verse, Jesus draws out a universal principle and says: “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory” (John 7:18). Isn’t that precisely what’s taking place when a preacher proclaims something other than the Bible? Isn’t he speaking “from himself” rather than “of God”? And isn’t he therefore, according to the words of Jesus in John 7:18, seeking his own glory?
May God strengthen our confidence in His Word and protect us from this kind of pride.
Have you heard about this new book due out on November 1? Paul Lamey just pointed it out to me, and it looks to be a very helpful contribution to the issue.
During my first year of seminary, I took a hermeneutics class which required me to read two books: Let the Reader Understand by Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton and Basic Bible Interpretation by Roy Zuck. Although I was largely ignorant of the various controversies in the field of hermeneutics at the time, I was quickly introduced to two distinctly different approaches to interpreting the Old Testament:
Approach #1: “To understand the OT properly, it must be read in the light of the NT” (McCartney and Clayton, Let the Reader Understand, 48).
Approach #2: “Recognizing the progress of revelation means that the interpreter will be careful not to read back into the Old Testament from the New” (Zuck, Basic Bible Intepretation, 73).
What struck me then (as it does now) is how the first approach insists that we do precisely what the second approach warns us not to do. Hardly a subtle contrast. What I didn’t realize at the time is that the first approach is generally taken by covenant theologians, whereas the second approach is characteristic of most dispensationalists.
The reason this came to mind is that I just stumbled across a blog article by a recent transfer to Westminster Theological Seminary who describes how the hermeneutics of covenant theology were misrepresented during his previous time at a dispensational seminary. Unfortunately this new convert to covenant theology inadvertently returns the favor by misrepresenting dispensationalism as a child of the Enlightenment. He writes:
The dispensational method of interpretation actually began in the Enlightenment when exegetes who denied the inspiration of the Scriptures, and therefore denied a complete canon, interpreted each individual text solely in light of its original context. No later revelation could be used to interpret a particular text because the Bible is not inspired and has no inherent unity. God cannot use later revelation to shed light on earlier revelation because God did not write the Bible, so says the Enlightenment. For some reason dispensationalists, some of the staunchest defenders of the inspiration of Scripture, have adopted this Enlightenment hermeneutic.
In reality, the dispensational approach to reading the Old Testament has nothing to do with the Enlightenment and everything to do with the perspicuity of Scripture. Put simply, if the OT cannot be understood apart from the light of the NT, the original readers of the OT were left in the dark (and even misled) regarding the true meaning of God’s promises. This is an utter denial of the perspicuity of the Old Testament. In my understanding of the nature of Scripture, God’s intention was to reveal truth in His Word, not conceal it. For this reason, I have a difficult time adopting a hermeneutical approach which says, in effect, that much of the Old Testament was intended to be an indecipherable mystery, at least until new light was provided hundreds of years later.
In the end, the main problem I have with the hermeneutics of covenant theology is that “shedding light on earlier revelation” often means reinterpreting the Old Testament in a way that completely alters the meaning of the passage in its original context. It’s one thing for a NT passage to bring a clearer understanding of an OT passage by providing more details or by fitting more pieces into the overall puzzle. But it’s quite another to use the NT to completely change the meaning of the OT as communicated to its original audience. The former is the necessary task of every theologian; the latter is a rejection of the perspicuity of the Old Testament.
I just got back from vacation and thought I would recommend a book that I read aloud to the kids while we were gone: The Little Preacher by Elizabeth Prentiss. We have five children ages 11 and under, and not only did they love the book, but it also proved to be a springboard to some good conversation. Check it out.
The audio from Grace Community Church-Huntsville (Fall Men’s Bible Conference) with Rick Holland is now online here (there is also a link for the podcast of the conference).