In Pursuit of Responsible Typology

As I mentioned yesterday, there has been some discussion within dispensational circles lately about typology and analogical interpretation. In my post yesterday I shared my dissatisfaction and qualms with that view which seeks to remove typology from its typical central role in “doing” Biblical theology in favor of “putting one’s Bible together” by means of analogy. So because I understand typology as fundamental to the unity and promise-fulfillment structure of the Old and New Testaments as well as a central way the New Testament writers use the Old Testament to show its continuity with their message and the work of Christ, I’m in pursuit of something more than an analogical interpretation, that being typology.

But yes, if lacking good definition and hermeneutical safety-rails, typology can easily become something other than typology–imaginative, fanciful, interpretations; finding typology where typology is not really present and connecting dots where no dots are to be found.[1] But, while recognizing the possible “slippery-slope,” I don’t want to be fallacious and equate typology with the slope itself, as many seem to do (e.g., Mark Snoeberger). Typology done legitimately is legitimate, despite hermeneutically unfortunate and irresponsibility decisions that find refuge under the umbrella of typology.

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The New Testament’s Interpretation of the Old Testament–Hermeneutical Model or Inspired “Answer Key”

Edmund Clowney

In a lecture on Biblical theology,[1] Dr. Edmund Clowney states the following,

Now…I was taught that…you can’t find any type in the New Testament that’s not identified as a type in the New Testament. But…that’s certainly safe. You know, it’s like you got a book of math or something; and you can’t solve any problem if it’s not given in the back of the book. I mean, you know the answer’s right ’cause it’s in the back of the book; but you say [conclude], “you can’t work any of the problems yourself; you can only look in the back of the book.” It’s kind of a confession of hermeneutical bankruptcy from one perspective. It’s saying, “the New Testament writers can interpret these things; but we don’t have a clue on how they did it. If we knew how they did it, we could do it. But we don’t know how they did it, so we can’t do it. So to play safe, we won’t identify anything as a type if it’s not already identified as a type.” And see, my argument is that they [the New Testament authors] have taught us a lot by the way they identify types.

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Meet Mr. Complementary Hermeneutic: A Glance at Israel, the Church, and the New Covenant

The New Covenant–Old Testament

A huge theme that pervades all of scripture is the theme of promise and fulfillment. In the Old Testament, many promises were made to the nation of Israel that anticipated future fulfillment. One very significant example would be the promise and provisions of the New Covenant (i.e., Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:22-36).

Now the Old Testament, without any exceptions, explicitly affirms that the parties of this covenant will be God and Israel (i.e., Jeremiah 31:33). That’s key to our discussion, so allow me to state it again. The Old Testament promises that the New Covenant will be made between God and Israel.

The New Covenant–New Testament

But a normal, simple, natural, and literal reading of various texts in the New Testament reveals that the Church participates in the New Covenant. For example, the Lord’s Super, an ordinance of the Church, refers to the to cup of the New Covenant (Luke 22:19-21; Matthew 26:27-28; Mark 14:24; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Paul, the self-proclaimed apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13) and minister of the mystery of the Church (Ephesians 3:6-8), called himself a minister of the New Covenant (presently), saw the New Covenant as having presently superseded the Old Covenant, and spoke of the New Covenant ministry of the Spirit as a present reality (2 Corinthians 3). And the author of Hebrews is explicit about the present reality of the New Covenant and Christ’s present ministry as the mediator of this New and better Covenant (for a brief sampling see Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 8:6-13; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 10:16-17; Hebrews 12:24).

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