Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NT Use of OT and Biblical Authority

Below is a helpful article by Michael  Vlach.  I would add another category that I would call "Single Meaning, Fuller application" and place this in between #1 and #2.  the reason for this is that I don't think that Michael captures the position that believes in a single meaning in the New Testament use of the old, but applies it to different or multiple referents.  One can see this position in the book Three View of the New Testament use of the Old Testament which is called Single Meaning, Multiple Referents by Darrell L, Bock .  This position holds that it is important to be faithful to use the Grammatical, Historical, Literal, Theological hermeneutic in interpreting any passage.  It is also important to understand the human authors meaning of the Old Testament, so that one can understand the New Testament's fulfillment.  

personally would agree that the New Testament is the best commentary on the Old Testament, because previous revelation must be understood in light of later revelation as God unfolds his plan of redemption in time.  One person has said that the New Testament passages are the footnotes to the Old Testament - testifying to what the Old Testament meant all along.  

It is also very difficult to hold to #1 if one believes in the concept of progressive revelation.  #1 would flatten out the Bible and make the Old Testament take priority over the New Testament, which destroys the picture/fulfillment or promise/fulfillment in Biblical Theology.     Position #7 may ultimately be the way to go.  A Christian must remember that if we get our hermeneutic from outside the Bible we are essentially denying the authority of Scripture and "Sola Scripture" because now the outside (human) hermeneutic has be given the place of preeminence (on our stage of truth) over all other authorities and essentially has become authoritative over the Bible.  an main question in all of this discussion is "does our hermeneutic come from the Bible (like using a apostolic hermeneutic) or does it come from another authority and is placed over the Bible?" or "How do we develop a Biblical hermeneutic?"  These are not easy questions to answer as they may first may seem.  

If I had to pigeon hold myself into one of Michael's categories then I would uncomfortably place myself in position #2 because Michael uses a pejorative description of #4 in using the word "reinterprets".  If he would have said (more correctly that the New Testament expands the meaning of the Old Testament then I would find my self in position #4 with George Ladd.  If I could put together a combo position I would be #2, #4, #7.

Additional note: In reading #5 now and Bruce Waltke's views, I now find myself more in agreement with this approach than #2 (Sensus Plenior).  I need to unpack what he means by "...combines further revelation with the sharpening focus of history itself and disallows the possibility of reinterpretation."  My question that I need to unpack more on this quote is whether Dr. Waltke is making history as authoritative as Scripture in the process of interpretation.  I need to understand this more in light of Dr. John Sailhamer's view of salvation history as Biblical history and not all of God's activity in history.

 I find articles like this very useful even though I believe that Michael here confuses categories and would have been helped to read more direct sources concerning the positions directly from the authors that he sites.

Before you read the article take this quiz:  I believe it will help you see where your are functionally rather than where you want to be.  It will make you more honest as you read the following helpful article by Michael Vlach:

Where are you in your theological development concerning the New Testament use of the Old Testament?.

by Michael Vlach
With this blog entry I want to survey what I believe are seven different approaches used by scholars to understand how the NT uses the OT. This is not a defense or refutation of any of these approaches, but an explanation of the main positions. Note that these are brief and broad descriptions and do not indicate nuances and subdivisions that could exist within each camp. But I do think the list below gives a basic understanding of the main camps or approaches that exist in regard to how the NT authors used the OT. I will comment on each of these camps at a later date:

1. NT Adherence to OT Meaning Approach (or Single Meaning Approach). While applications of the OT passages may be varied, the NT always adheres to the human authorial intent (which is also God’s inspired intent) of the OT passages. The NT writers do not add new or different meanings to OT passages or alter/transcend the original OT meanings as determined by historical-grammatical hermeneutics. The NT authors may apply the OT passages in a variety of ways, and concepts such as corporate solidarity, typology, and antecedent theology must be taken into account, but the NT authors never quote the OT out of context or in ways inconsistent with the original meaning. This view also rejects the concept of sensus plenior in which there is added meaning beyond the meaning offered by the OT human author (key representative: Walter Kaiser)

2. Sensus Plenior (Fuller/Deeper Meaning) Approach. There are additional fuller/deeper meanings in OT passages intended by God but not intended by the OT human authors. Thus, the human OT author did not always fully comprehend the meaning of what he wrote, although God did. God, at times, intended more meaning than what the human author knew. Further NT revelation reveals these added or deeper meanings that go beyond what the OT authors understood. This approach does not deny the importance of historical-grammatical interpretation of OT passages and actually acknowledges its importance, but argues that this alone does not uncover the full meaning of what God intended. (key representatives: S. Lewis Johnson; J. I. Packer)

J. I. Packer: “The point here is that the sensus plenior which texts acquire in their wider biblical context remains an extrapolation on the grammatico-historical plane, not a new projection on to the plane of allegory. And, though God may have more to say to us from each text than its human writer had in mind, God’s meaning is never less than his. What he means, God means.” (J. I. Packer, “Biblical Authority, Hermeneutics, and Inerrancy,” in Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussions on the Philosophy and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, ed. E. R. Geehan (Nutley, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1977), 147–48.)

3. The Contemporary Judaism/Second Temple Judaism Approach. The NT authors often relied upon interpretive principles of the period of Second Temple Judaism including midrash, pesher which often apply OT passages in ways not in accordance with the historical-grammatical contexts of the OT passages. The Bible student must keep in mind that the writers of the NT were not bound by modern conceptions of how the OT should be used. Instead they used the OT to support their understanding that Jesus was the Messiah and the fulfillment of the OT. Thus, the NT writers were not bound by historical-grammatical hermeneutics to show the connection between the OT and the NT. (key representative: Peter Enns; Richard Longenecker)

4. NT Reinterpretation of OT Approach. The Christ-event now means that OT passages and themes about physical and national matters have been reinterpreted to refer to greater spiritual realities and truths now being revealed in the NT. Thus, the NT is viewed as the divine interpreter and reinterpreter of the OT and the lens through which the OT must be viewed. One should not start with the OT to understand the OT; one must start with the NT to understand the OT. (key representative: George Ladd). Although we are not saying that the authors below consciously adopt the title, “NT Reinterpretation of the OT,” below are statements in line with this idea that the NT “reinterprets” the OT:

George Ladd: “The Old Testament must be interpreted by the New Testament. In principle it is quite possible that the prophecies addressed originally to literal Israel describing physical blessings have their fulfillment exclusively in the spiritual blessings enjoyed by the church. It is also possible that the Old Testament expectation of a kingdom on earth could be reinterpreted by the New Testament altogether of blessings in the spiritual realm.”(George E. Ladd, “Revelation 20 and the Millennium,” Review and Expositor 57 (1960): 167. Emphasis mine.)

Kim Riddlebarger: “But eschatological themes are reinterpreted in the New Testament, where we are told these Old Testament images are types and shadows of the glorious realities that are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. (Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 37. Emphasis mine.)

Kim Riddlebarger: “This [literal interpretation of the Bible] leaves dispensationalists frequently stuck in the awkward position of insisting on an Old Testament interpretation of a prophetic theme that has been reinterpreted in the New Testament in the light of the messianic age which dawned in Jesus Christ.”(Ibid., 38. Emphasis mine)

Stephen Sizer: “Jesus and the apostles reinterpreted the Old Testament.” (Stephen Sizer, Zion’s Christian Soldiers: The Bible, Israel and the Church (Nottingham, England: InterVarsity, 2008), 36. Emphasis mine.)

Gary Burge: “For as we shall see (and as commentators regularly show) while the land itself had a concrete application for most in Judaism, Jesus and his followers reinterpreted the promises that came to those in his kingdom.” (Gary M. Burge, Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010), 35. Emphasis mine.)

5. Canonical Approach. The canonical approach asserts that the OT text’s intention became deeper and clearer as the parameters of the canon were expanded. Older texts in the Bible underwent a progressive perception of meaning as they became part of a growing canonical literature. Thus, the NT has priority in unpacking the meaning of the OT. (key representative: Bruce Waltke)

Bruce Waltke: “The Christian doctrine of the plenary inspiration of Scripture demands that we allow the Author to tell us at a later time more precisely what he meant in his earlier statements.” (Bruce K. Waltke, “Is it Right to Read the New Testament into the Old?” Christianity Today (September 2, 1983): 77.)

Bruce Waltke: “This approach is similar to sensus plenior in that both methods depend on further revelation to find the full meaning of an earlier text. But the distinction from it lies in this: whereas the supposed sensus plenior depends exclusively on further revelation and may allow a reinterpretation of the prophecy, the canonical process approach combines further revelation with the sharpening focus of history itself and disallows the possibility of reinterpretation.” (Bruce K. Waltke, “Kingdom Promises as Spiritual,” in Continuity and Discontinuity, ed. John S. Feinberg (Crossway, 1988), 284.)

6. Inspired Subjectivity Approach (or Inspired Sensus Plenior Application). This approach asserts that OT passages have only one meaning as discovered by historical-grammatical hermeneutics but the inspired NT authors sometimes applied OT passages to present events and circumstances in ways not consistent with original meaning of the OT passages. Thus, the NT writers subjectively applied OT passages in non-literal ways to convey new revelation that went beyond what the OT authors intended or knew. This inspired subjectivity method, however, was limited to the NT writers because they operated under inspiration and is not allowable for Christians since they are not operating under inspiration. (key representatives: Robert Thomas; John Walton)

Robert L. Thomas: “In such cases, New Testament writers applied Old Testament texts to situations entirely different from what was envisioned in the corresponding Old Testament contexts. The New Testament writers disregarded the main thrust of grammatical-historical meaning of the Old Testament passages and applied those passages in different ways to suit different points they were making. They usually maintained some connecting link in thought to the Old Testament passages, but the literal Old Testament meanings are absent from the quotation.” (Robert L. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics: the New Versus the Old (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2002), 247.

Robert L. Thomas: “Clearly the New Testament sometimes applies Old Testament passages in a way that gives an additional dimension beyond their grammatical-historical meaning. This does not cancel the grammatical-historical meaning of the Old Testament; it is simply an application of the Old Testament passages beyond its original meaning, the authority for which application is the New Testament passage.” (Ibid., 251).

7. Eclectic Approach. This approach takes a some-of-the-above approach and believes that several methods are needed to address the complexity of the NT use of the OT issue. (key representatives: Darrell Bock; Douglas Moo)

“The author [Bock] also hopes that in being rather eclectic with the various approaches, the wheat has been successfully retained from each view while the chaff has been left behind.” (Darrell L. Bock, “Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New, Part 2” Bibliotheca Sacra 142 (Oct. 1985): 302-19)

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