On Sunday, January 24th, 2016, I began a Core Seminar on Redemptive History & Biblical Theology at my church, Lake Drive Baptist Church. During the course of this series I’ll be sending out emails recapping lessons and directing recipients to resources for further study.
Rather than just share these recaps with my church family, I’ve decided to share them here on the blog for anyone else who might be interested. I will be posting them occasionally over the next couple of months on a weekly basis or so.
See previous posts:
This past week we did two things:
- First, we finished up our section on foundational matters by laying out some principles of interpretation (hermeneutics) that are particularly relevant for studying and understanding redemptive history and Biblical theology.
- Second, we began our survey of redemptive history itself.
I’ve decided to break up our recap/review this week into two segments. The first one (this one), will cover the principles of interpretation we discussed. The second one will review our initial embark into redemptive history.
I was having a conversation with some individuals yesterday regarding Old Testament hermeneutics and the relationship between the Old Testament and the New.
As we were discussing the interpretation of the Old Testament, and particularly an insistence on literal interpretation of the Old Testament, I brought up the fact that too often of this sort discussion neglects how the New Testament develops and progresses what the Old Testament said. Further, it ignores the New Testament’s very use of the Old Testament (e.g., citations, allusions, calling things “fulfilled,” etc.).
Although the New Testament doesn’t violate or contradict the Old Testament voice, it often interprets and applies the Old Testament in non-literal ways (if by “literal” we mean an exact correspondence in meaning). Again, I would argue that the New Testament doesn’t violate or contradict the Old Testament. But it does use it and relate to it in such a way that it develops it, complements it, and applies it in light of the progress and unfolding of God’s plan in Christ and the Church.
The Old Testament (OT) anticipates Christ and is an unfinished story without Him. Christ fulfills the hopes of the OT, which is another way of saying that the OT is about Christ (Lk 24:25-27, 44-45; Jn 5:39-40). Therefore, when the realization (i.e., Christ) of what was anticipated in the OT arrives, it actually illuminates and clarifies the expectation. In other words, Christ’s person and work specify what was anticipated in previous revelation. As such, the revelation of Jesus is a revelation on previous revelation (cf. Heb 1:1-2). Only in this sense is all previous revelation understood with all its implications, in its fullest meaning. In light of progressive revelation culminating in Christ, the significance of OT passages develop, they undergo an organic expansion, and they receive a fuller, but not contradictory, meaning. And as Christians who affirm the centrality of Christ in scripture and desire to read scripture in context, including its ultimate canonical context, we must read the OT in light of its consummation in Christ.
There has been some talk within dispensational circles lately about “Biblical theology without typology” (see “Warrant for the Analogical Interpretation of Select Scriptures, Part I” and “Part II” by Mark Snoeberger). The following is a response to Snoeberger’s position.
For those unfamiliar to these issues, we might provide the follow basic definitions of analogical and typological interpretation. Analogical interpretation occurs when a biblical writer draws an analogy between and compares (or maybe contrasts?) a reality from previous revelation to a current reality. Typological interpretation is the interpretation of historical events, institutions, persons, things (type) recorded in previous revelation in terms of their prophetic correspodence to later realites (antitype). So for example, the Old Testament sacrifices anticipated and served as a type which was ultimately fulfilled in Christ, the ultimate sacrifice, the antitype.
Attempting to pinpoint the issue of debate
In fairness to Snoeberger, I want to represent his articles’ purpose accurately. It would seem that Snoeberger’s goal in these articles is to demonstrate that typology is not the only viable basis for valid biblical theology. And he attempts to do so by demonstrating the warrant for an analogical New Testament (NT) use of the Old Testament (OT).
In a lecture on Biblical theology, 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.