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An Excerpt from What Is Biblical Theology?

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I’m grateful that The Gospel Coalition put up an excerpt from What Is Biblical Theology? Here’s the opening:

What is biblical theology?

I use the phrase biblical theology to refer to the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. So what is an “interpretive perspective”? It’s the framework of assumptions and presuppositions, associations and identifications, truths, and symbols that are taken for granted as an author or speaker describes the world and the events that take place in it.

The rest.

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How Does Genesis Establish the World of Biblical Theology?

It was my privilege to discuss biblical theology and the book of Genesis with Steve Ham of Answers in Genesis.

Just as J. R. R. Tolkien set out the parameters of the world in which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings would take place, so Genesis sets out the parameters of the world in which the true story takes place.

You can have a listen on this page, or download here.

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Spanish Translation of “A Biblical Theology of Motherhood”

I am so thankful that Saul Sarabia Lopez has translated my essay “A Biblical Theology of Motherhood” for his Spanish speaking brethren.

And I’m so thankful for biblical theology and for the role that mothers play in it. What a blessing to have a mother. What a blessing to be a mother. What a blessing to know the true story of the world. What a God! What a Savior! What mercy. What a blessing to have the Book.

Here’s the link to the Spanish translation: Una Teología Bíblica de la Maternidad

And here are good Saul’s other translations:

Were Old Covenant Believers Indwelt by the Holy Spirit?

The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts

Biblical Theology and Preaching

The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham

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Spanish Translation of “Were Old Covenant Believers Indwelt by the Holy Spirit?”

Saul Sarabia Lopez has come through again! Here is his translation of my essay, “Were Old Covenant Believers Indwelt by the Holy Spirit?

¿Estaba el Espíritu Santo dentro de los creyentes en el Antiguo Pacto?

Here are the other essays he has translated (links go to posts where the Spanish translations can be found):

The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts

Biblical Theology and Preaching

The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham

 

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C. S. Lewis and Biblical Theology

In his “Introduction” to Athanasius’s On the Incarnation, C. S. Lewis noted that “Every age has its own outlook.” Reading “the controversies of past ages,” Lewis was struck that “both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. . . . they were all the time secretly united . . . by a great mass of common assumptions.”

I am convinced that the biblical authors have their own outlook and share a great mass of common assumptions. The task of biblical theology is to trace out the worldview that the biblical authors share with one another.

In What Is Biblical Theology?, I’m trying to get at the outlook, shared assumptions, in short, the worldview of the biblical authors, by examining the Bible’s story, symbols, patterns, and the church’s role in it all.

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Interview on and Review of What Is Biblical Theology?

Thanks to Matt Damico (whom you should follow here and here) and Aaron Hanbury and everyone at SBTS Communications who made this happen. Below are some videos that are interspersed in this interview, and Damico’s review is here.

If the task of biblical theology is to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors, what’s an interpretive perspective?

How can biblical theology protect the people of God from Joel Osteen? (that wasn’t really the question, but it comes up in the answer):

How do the narrative and poetic portions of the Bible relate to each other? (HT: Stephen Dempster!)

How does biblical theology affect your preaching?

For more, I invite you to go on an adventure, to join the quest for the answer to the question: What Is Biblical Theology? 

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Once More on the Cover of What Is Biblical Theology?

I gave my take on the cover of What Is Biblical Theology?, and today Josh Dennis alerted me to a post on the same from the photographer who came up with the cover and executed it. Here’s a snippet:

By recreating the image and replacing the apple with a Bible, this application fit so well with “discovering theology.” The author of this book’s intentions involve studying the Bible’s symbols and patterns–thus finding out what is behind the Bible. Everything hides something else, and theology is more than words on a page in a bound book.

You can read the rest here, where you’ll also find the process through which the photographer went, some background photos, and other info, all of which lend further insight into the development of this phenomenal cover–and I can say that because I had nothing to do with it!

Thanks to Crossway Books and Brandon Hill Photos for their fine work.

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How Important Is Biblical Theology?

Credo MagazineHow important is the discipline of biblical theology to healthy local church ministry?

JMH: What could be more important to followers of Jesus than learning to read the Bible the way that he did, learning to read the Bible the way that he taught his Apostles to read it, the way they taught the earliest churches to read it? Being a disciple of Jesus means learning to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. That’s what Biblical Theology is.

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Gunner’s Review of Wenham’s Psalms as Torah

Someone said: Only a Philistine could fail to love the Psalms.

David “Gunner” Gunderson doesn’t just make last second shots, he thinks and writes well, and I’d encourage you to check out his important review of an important book, Gordon Wenham’s Psalms as Torah. Here’s a snippet:

The Burden of the Book: The Shaping Power of Praying the Psalms

Christians often talk about “the power of prayer,” and rightfully so. But what’s usually meant is the power of prayer to change things by summoning the sovereign power of God. This book is all about the power of prayer, but Wenham is taking a different angle. He wants us to see that prayer not only reshapes the landscape of our lives by moving mountains but reshapes the landscape of our hearts by recrafting and renewing our attitudes and commitments.

[P]rayer has an impact on ethical thought . . . If we praise a certain type of behavior in our prayers, we are telling God that this is how we intend to behave. On the other hand, if in prayer we denounce certain acts and pray for God to punish them, we are in effect inviting God to judge us if we do the same. This makes the ethics of liturgy uniquely powerful. It makes a stronger claim on the believer than either law, wisdom, or story, which are simply subject to passive reception: one can listen to a proverb or a story and then take it or leave it, but if you pray ethically, you commit yourself to a path of action (57).

Therefore, it’s not enough for the church to retell the narratives, preach the gospels, and exposit the epistles. We must also pray the Psalms, individually and corporately. [the whole thing]

We love the Psalms. Often in family devos around here we will be reading a Psalm nightly until the whole family can recite it. Right now we’re reading Psalm 29.

I’m hoping and praying for the creatives among us to come up with more and more tunes for singing the Psalms in ways that resonate today. May the Lord bless us with his word.

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Spanish Translation of “The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham”

Saul Sarabia L. has blessed me with Spanish translations of my essays “The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts” and “Biblical Theology and Preaching,” and now he has also translated “The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham.”

If you know Spanish language students of the Bible, please do pass this on to them: “La Simiente de la Mujer y la Bendición de Abraham,” translated by Saul Sarabia Lopez.

May the Lord use us to carry out the great task of making disciples of all nations.

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Yogi Berra and Biblical Theology

Credo Magazine interviewed me on my new book, What Is Biblical Theology?, and Yogi Berra made a contribution to a snippet:

The second of the three main sections of your book is devoted to some of the major symbols found in the Bible, including the Bible’s images, types, and patterns. Why is it imperative for Christians to understand and rightly interpret these symbols?

I happen to have on my desk a copy of Baseball’s Greatest Quotations. Trying to understand the Bible without understanding the symbolism employed by the biblical authors would be like trying to understand Baseball’s Greatest Quotations with no knowledge of the game of baseball.

Even someone with no knowledge of baseball can appreciate Yogi Berra saying “Ninety percent of this game is half mental.”

But what about when Yogi, a catcher, comments on the manager experimenting with playing him at third base: “Third ain’t so bad if nothin’ is hit to you.”

If you know baseball you get it. If you don’t know baseball, as Yogi said: “In baseball, you don’t know nothing.”

Yogi Berra aside, the point is that the biblical authors, borne along as they were by the Holy Spirit, intended the symbolism they employed to convey more than the bare words would bear.

You can read the whole thing here.

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Two Interviews

Shawn Tabatt welcomed me onto his Author Talks program to talk about The Bible’s Big Story. Have a listen.

And yesterday at SBTS Chapel Dr. Mohler hosted an Author Interviews Panel with Tom Nettles, Tom Schreiner, Denny Burk, Heath Lambert, and me. You can watch below or grab the audio.

Here are the books discussed:

Nettles, Living by Revealed Truth

Schreiner, The King in His Beauty

Burk, What Is the Meaning of Sex?

Lambert, Finally Free

Hamilton, What Is Biblical Theology?

I wish we could have turned the questions Dr. Mohler asked us back to him, so that we could have heard about his recent Conviction to Lead.

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The Cover of What Is Biblical Theology?

What’s with the cover of What Is Biblical Theology?

You might find the image vaguely familiar, though it was new to me when Crossway suggested this cover. Turns out it’s a relatively well known piece by the Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte entitled “Son of Man.” I was really impressed when, showing the proposed cover to Mark Coppenger, he immediately recognized it, named the painter, and referred to several other works by Magritte. You can get a rundown of pop-culture references to this painting on the Wikipedia page.

Magritte did a number of paintings of men dressed this way, black suits, bowler hats, and apparently this one was intended as a self portrait.

I’m no art critic, but on the basis of what Magritte himself said about the painting, the imagery used, and its title, I hazard the following thoughts.

The painting is entitled “Son of Man,” which obviously evokes the Bible. Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, and the Scriptures constantly refer to people as “son of man,” “sons of men,” or “children of men.” Magritte was probably aware that the first man’s name, “Adam,” is simply the Hebrew word for “man.” This adds the connotation of “son of Adam” to the phrase “son of man.”

It’s probably no coincidence that a painting entitled “Son of Man” features an apple in front of a man’s face. The Bible does not specify that the one verboten was an apple tree, but those who comment on or symbolize the forbidden fruit pervasively depict it as an apple.

About this painting entitled “Son of Man,” featuring an apple in front of a man’s face, Magritte said, “we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us.”

The painting shows the way that forbidden fruit becomes an object of curiosity and desire. For the man depicted in the image, the forbidden fruit stands between him and the world. That prominent fruit is so close to him–or he has drawn so close to it–that it will dominate his perception, influencing all he sees. For us, looking at the picture, the apple obscures our ability to see the man’s face. Instead of seeing the features of his face, we see the forbidden fruit on which he is so focused.  

For the “Son of Man” in the painting, the world is perceived only in relationship to the forbidden fruit. This captures something profound about our experience as human beings, and that something is what makes this image so appropriate for the cover of What Is Biblical Theology?

Our desires affect our perception. In our fallen condition, we are so distracted by forbidden experiences–knowledge of good and (especially) evil–symbolized here by the apple, that we cease to behold the glory of the world around us, even if we are standing before something so magnificent as the sea.

Glory, beauty, life brims all around us, and we are like the man in the painting so close to the apple he can see little else. Evidently he doesn’t care to see anything else. Nor can he be seen, and one aspect of our tragedy is that often when others look at us, rather than seeing our faces, they mainly see our sin.

Consider the two images together:

 In Magritte’s painting, the son of man’s perception is controlled by his fascination with forbidden fruit. In the cover image, the son of man’s perception is controlled by the Bible. The Bible has become for this man like a frontlet between his eyes (Deut 6:8), his fascination is not with what is forbidden but with the words of life, and his perception is dominated not by desire for evil but defined by the teachings of Scripture.

What is biblical theology? I define biblical theology as the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. We want to understand how they interpreted the Bible and life, and we want to follow in the footsteps of these followers of Christ whom God inspired to write the Scriptures.

We want to read Scripture the way the biblical authors read it. We want to see the world as they saw it. We want the Scriptures to control our perception of the world. When people look at us, we want them to see the Bible being lived out in what we do and how we see.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation, and that power extends to the ability to see the world in a new way.

Do you want to look at the Scriptures and the world the way the biblical authors did?

I invite you to consider this attempt to answer the question What Is Biblical Theology? 

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Authorial Intent and Biblical Theology: A Rejoinder to Patrick Schreiner

Patrick Schreiner responded to my post on Typology, TIS, and BT, so I’m continuing the conversation.

Patrick writes:

First, I find it hard to maintain across the board that the OT authors always “intended” the way they were later used. Part of the rub may come down to what we mean by “intended” (and I am still unsure of the distinction between authorially and literailty intended). Some use the word “intended” to refer to both the human and divine author, while others make distinctions between the author’s communicative intention and the psychological state of the author.

I don’t see any distinction between “authorial intention” and “literary intention.” In fact, I don’t see how you can have literary intention apart from authorial intention.

In my view, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit results in the intention of the human author being the same as that of the divine author. I understand the phrase “sensus plenior” to refer to those cases where the divine author intended more than the human author.

Patrick then writes:

Dr. Hamilton is saying he thinks it needs to be in the author’s intention.

To support the opposite position one only has to show that the authorial intention is not the driving force for one typological example.

Therefore here are some verses that at least put doubt in my mind that authorial intention is always the main factor.

  • Did Hosea intend that when he said “Out of Egypt I have called my son” that this would be applied to Jesus? The obvious answer seems to be no. I would affirm that he is taking Exodus themes and that Matthew capitalizes on them and therefore Hosea would have thought Matthew’s appropriation faithful.
  • Did Jeremiah know that a voice would be heard in Ramah again of weeping (see Matt 2:18)? Again no. But Matthew as a skillful writer and an expert interpreter saw Jesus as the true Israel and therefore highlighted this pattern.
  • Did David know that when he spoke of his garments being divided up and lots cast for his clothing that this would be applied to Jesus (John 19:24)? No, he spoke better than he knew.
  • Did David intend that when he recounts a time when they gave him sour wine to drink that this would be applied to Jesus on the cross (John 19:28-30)? No, he spoke better than he knew.
  • Did Moses intend that the two women Hagar and Sarah are the two covenants (Gal 4:24)? No, Paul makes that jump.
  • Peter (1 Peter 1:10-12) speaks of the prophets searching and inquiring carefully…but it was not revealed to them (for it was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you). What was revealed to them is that this information was not for them.
  • Paul speaks of some things as “mysteries that were kept secret for long ages” (Rom 16:26).

In my view, in doing biblical theology we are attempting to learn and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors, so these examples are very important. I hold that none of the examples that Patrick cites do what he needs them to do, so I will briefly discuss each in turn. My aim is to show that in each case the intention of the human author of the OT text can be seen to match what the NT author claims about that text.

Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15

The question of whether Hosea intends for this to be applied to Jesus demands too much. Obviously Hosea does not know certain things. It is demonstrable, however, that Hosea refers to the exodus from Egypt because he sees it as a guarantor of the prophesied new exodus from captivity/exile. Hosea 11:5 parallels the sojourn in Egypt with the sojourn in Assyria (and Assyria and Babylon are used interchangeably at points in the OT), then Hosea 11:11 speaks of the return from exile. Hosea indicated in 3:5 that the restoration following the new exodus/return from exile would include a new davidic king.

I contend that Hosea references the exodus from Egypt in 11:1 because he has just spoken of the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel, with its shrine of Bethel and its wicked king, in 10:16. The covenant-breaking people will be exiled (Hos 10:16), but God brought Israel out of Egypt (11:1) and that guarantees the prophesied return from exile which will entail a new David (3:5).

Hosea intends, then, to prophesy of the new exodus and return from exile. Matthew intends to claim that the events of the life of Jesus parallel the history of Israel, and he intends to present Jesus as the one who brings to fulfillment the prophesied new exodus and return from exile.

For more evidence in Hosea, please see the notes I wrote on Hosea for the Gospel Transformation Bible or discussion of these passages in God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment (GGSTJ).

Jeremiah 31:15 in Matthew 2:17–18

My comments here are similar to what I said about Hosea 11:1. Jeremiah speaks of the voice of lamentation and weeping in Ramah because the mothers of Israel are going to weep the slaughter of their children when the Babylonians break down the walls. Jeremiah is also at many points looking beyond the coming destruction of Jerusalem to the new exodus and return from exile. That’s what Jeremiah intends to say.

Again, Matthew intends to present the life of Jesus as a typological recapitulation of the history of Israel. The slaughter of the children of Bethlehem brings weeping like what was experienced in Jeremiah’s day, but on the horizon is the new exodus which opens the way to return from exile.

I’ve argued that Matthew intends his audience to understand that he is claiming typological fulfillment in the “fulfillment quotations” in his first  2 chapters in “The Virgin Will Conceive: Typological Fulfillment in Matthew 1:18–23,” pages 228–47 in Built upon the Rock: Studies in the Gospel of Matthew, ed. John Nolland and Dan Gurtner. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008. See also GGSTJ.

Psalm 22:18 in John 19:24 and Psalm 69:21 in John 19:28–30

Did David speak better than he knew? Are these examples of sensus plenior?

John clearly saw a parallel between the words of David and what happened to Jesus, but John meant to invoke more than just these texts. There’s a lot in the Psalms about the righteous sufferer, and I hold that John means for his audience to see Jesus as the fulfillment of the pattern of the righteous sufferer seen in the Psalms (and elsewhere in the OT). John refers to these two passages, but he means for those who know the Psalms to read them all this way.

Did David intend to create (or contribute to) this pattern of the righteous sufferer in the Psalms? I think so. I think David saw himself in a long line of righteous men who were approved by God and who were opposed and rejected and suffered at the hands of the enemies of God (cf. Ps. 2:1–3). This is what happened to Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and many others. I think David saw this pattern in the lives of those who preceded him, saw the pattern in his own life, and understood that the pattern of the righteous sufferer would be repeated, indeed fulfilled, in the life of his descendant who would experience everything promised in 2 Samuel 7.

I see no conflict, therefore, between what David intended and what John intended.

Hagar and Sarah in Galatians 4

Paul calls this allegory, but I content that what Moses intends to communicate matches what Paul intends to communicate.

Moses recounts how God promised a son to Abraham and Sarah, and then they sought to have a son the way that humans ordinarily have children. Sarah was barren, so they used Hagar as a surrogate. The kind of conception acheived with Hagar, though, could happen apart from God’s promise, apart from God’s intervention. Isaac, by contrast, was the child of promise, the child who could only be born if God intervened and gave life to Sarah’s dead womb.

Similarly, Paul is telling the Galatians that they need to receive justification as something that God promises and God accomplishes. They don’t need to achieve their justification in a way that could happen apart from God’s promise and intervention–by keeping selected commands of the law and getting circumcised. They need to receive their justification the way that Abraham and Sarah received Isaac–by faith, with God giving life where there’s death.

I see no conflict between what Moses intends to communicate and what Paul intends to communicate: Paul takes the physical account of Isaac’s birth and applies it to the spiritual issue of justification by faith. Taking something physical and applying it to the spiritual is what allegory does. In both cases, though, the point is that the promise is to be received by faith not accomplished by human power.

The Mysteries

In 1 Peter 1:10–11, Romans 16:26, and we could throw in Ephesians 3:5, NT authors do say that more revelation has been given. Naturally. God has revealed the intended fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies in what he has done in Christ, and this the NT authors explain. At no point, though, has Patrick cited a text where the intention of the human author of the OT has been ignored or overturned.

The Significance of the Arrangement of Psalter or even OT Canon

Patrick asks whether, if one holds (as I do) to authorial intent, we can attribute meaning to the order of the books in the OT canon or the arrangement of the Psalter.

I would suggest that the answer is yes, and that this meaning, too, was intended by an “author” though in this case we’re dealing more with an “editor” or “anthologist.” I have no qualms about suggesting that Ezra arranged the books of the OT into the tri-partite order. I don’t have chapter and verse for that assertion, so I can’t be certain that the tri-partite order was the work of a Spirit-inspired prophet. All I can say is something like this: I think there are good historical reasons for thinking that Ezra, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, arranged the books of the OT into a meaningful order. I acknowledge, however, that I can’t be certain of that . . .

My position on the order of the Psalms is similar. My hunch is that David arranged the Psalms he wrote into a meaningful order, and that the Psalmists who followed him followed the trajectory he set. Whoever arranged the canonical form of the book of Psalms, Ezra seems a likely candidate, did so, in my view, under the inspiration of the Spirit.

In these cases we have authors who are intending to create meaning by the way they are arranging texts.

John 19:15 The only thing I have to say about Patrick’s comments on John 19:15 is that if it was “literarily meant that way,” the person who meant it that way was the author of the literature, in my view John son of Zebedee, whom I hold to have been a literary genius.

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Typology, Biblical Theology, and Theological Interpretation of Scripture

I want to use the topic of Typology to propose a way of thinking about the relationship between Biblical Theology (BT) and Theological Interpretation of Scripture (TIS). The prompt for this is an excellent review by Nicholas J. Moore of Richard Ounsworth’s book, Joshua Typology in the New Testament

Moore writes:

Ounsworth’s attention focusses briefly on Jude 5 and thereafter on Hebrews. He is careful neither to claim an explicit Joshua typology in either text, nor to posit an authorially-intended typology; rather, his concern is with what a plausible first-century audience might have been able to infer. Explicit Joshua typologies in Barnabas, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Aphraates, Ephrem the Syrian, and Origen demonstrate the early development of this thought. The latter three could possibly have been prompted by Hebrews 3–4 given their inclusion of a comparison with Moses (cf. Heb 3.1–6), though this strikes me as too much of a commonplace in any conception of Joshua to be evidence of Hebrews’ influence.

Note that Moore seems to approve of the fact that Ounsworth does not “posit an authorially-intended typology.” Then consider the texts he cites that Ounsworth uses to show that a first-century audience would plausibly have been familiar with Joshua typology: Barnabas, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Aphraates, Ephrem the Syrian, and Origen. These all come after Hebrews, and Barnabas was profoundly influenced by Hebrews (as, most likely, were the others). I wonder where those guys got the idea?

Is it not just as plausible that they learned it from Hebrews, and that the author of Hebrews intended it?

This point about authorial intent is what I’m proposing to be the difference between BT and TIS. To draw it out, a bit more from Moore. He writes in the next paragraph of his review:

The discussion of typology is particularly instructive, and by Ounsworth’s own admission ‘perhaps controversial’ (19). Following Frances Young, he seeks to allow a definition to emerge from NT instances of the τύπος word-group. He notes the polyvalence of this vocabulary, which can refer both to that which is formed by something, and to that which forms something else; a τύπος can thus be a ‘mediating mould’ (37), as for example a cast formed from a statue can in turn be used to make further statues. A survey of NT occurrences (Rom 5; 1 Cor 10; Acts 7; 1 Pet 3; Heb 8–9) identifies several key aspects: correspondences between historical events, personalities, institutions, etc. which are providentially created and may themselves be formative of further correspondences. Such a definition reveals the distinctive flavour of this formulation: the crucial ingredient is ‘an emphasis on divine causation or providence’ (51); typology is thus an ontological rather than a purely literary phenomenon (contra Young). The NT texts assume both the reality of the type and its divine causation in order to foreshadow the antitype: ‘the literal meaning [of the original event] is neither replaced nor effaced but extended’ (52). To be sure, such an event must be ‘inscriptured’ for the correspondences to be available and exploited, so there remains an inexcisable literary aspect to typology. Yet in laying stress on the fundamental importance of perception of divine providence behind historical events, Ounsworth’s account seems to me to be closer to the outlook of the NT.

What I want to highlight from this paragraph is the emphasis on the types being “providentially created,” and the statement that “typology is thus an ontological rather than a purely literary phenomenon.”

I take this to mean that God intended the type, and thus it was inscripturated. It seems from the lack of authorial intent that something like sensus plenior must be at work, where the human author spoke better than he knew. I submit that this way of thinking about typology comes at it from the TIS end of the spectrum. Something theologically significant is happening in the text, and the interpreter feels no compulsion to show that the human author intended it. Appeals to the divine author seem to suffice for TIS.

I have no intention of disparaging TIS or being unfair to it, nor am I trying to prescribe definitions. My intent is to seek clarity on the way these labels are being used, and to foster conversation on these issues.

The sticking point for me about this kind of reading is what Moore means when he writes, “The NT texts assume both the reality of the type and its divine causation in order to foreshadow the antitype.” Who is doing the assuming here? Coming from the perspective of BT, I would argue that the human author of the text intended to communicate the installation in the typological pattern to his readers. If we are not bothering with the intent of the human author, to whose assumption does the phrase “the NT texts assume” refer? The divine author?

One last comment. The final sentence quoted above closes with the words, “Ounsworth’s account seems to me to be closer to the outlook of the NT.” Again, to whose outlook does this refer if not the human authors of the NT?

In What Is Biblical Theology? I argue that biblical theology is the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. It seems that Moore is using this very criterion to evaluate the success of Ounsworth’s proposal, but he wants to use it without reference to authorial intent. Authorial intent may be out of fashion, but I contend that without it we lack meaningful standards by which to demonstrate or disprove interpretations. Appeals to what the divine author intended seem to be more open to operating at theological levels that hover above the text rather than being embedded in the words that communicate the intentions of the human authors.

What do you think? Is the distinction between appeal to human and divine authors a good way to describe the difference between BT and TIS? Am I missing something about whose assumptions and outlook are in view in the phrases “the NT texts assume” and “the outlook of the NT”?

PS: anyone concerned about supercessionism or replacement theology should read to the second to last paragraph of the review.

PPS: The intrepid Sam Emadi has shared with me his review of Ounsworth’s volume, which confirms my reaction to the avoidance of authorial intent. Watch for the review in the next issue of JETS.

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George Eldon Ladd’s Response to Postmillennialism

One of the early “four views” books was edited by Robert G. Clouse and titled The Meaning of the Millennium.

George Eldon Ladd represented the historic premil position, Herman A. Hoyt dispensational premillennialism, Loraine Boettner postmillennialism, and Anthony A. Hoekema amillennialism. Each contributor responds to the presentations made by each of the others, and typically the responses are 3-4 pages. The exception is Ladd’s reply to Boettner’s argument for postmillennialism, which is a mere two paragraphs and 147 words. The first sentence is telling, but I here reproduce the whole of Ladd’s response:

‘There is so little appeal to Scripture that I have little to criticize. The argument that the world is getting better is a two-edged sword. One can equally well argue from empirical observation that the world is getting worse. In New Testament times, civilization enjoyed the great Pax Romana—two centuries when the Mediterranean world was at peace. This has never been repeated. Our lifetime has seen two worldwide wars and an unending series of lesser wars—in Korea, Vietnam, the Near East, Ireland, Lebanon. We have witnessed the rise of Nazism with its slaughter of six million Jews, the rise and fall of fascism, the rise and stabilization of Communist governments. The world today is literally an armed camp.

Boettner makes the mistake of defining premillennialism in terms of dispensationalism. As my chapter shows, I do not pursue the literalistic hermeneutic attributed to ‘premillennialists’ by Boettner.’

That’s all Ladd has to say about it!

I submit that any advance postmillennialism may be making today is attributable entirely to the florid prose of Douglas Wilson. There is no biblical warrant for it.

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Jesus and the Old Testament in John 3:1–15

John presents Jesus claiming to fulfill the Old Testament in dense and various ways in John 3:1–15:

  • He claims to bring in the promised kingdom of God (3:3, 5).
  • He claims to bring the cleansing and renovation of attitude prophesied in Ezekiel 36:24–26 through the new birth (3:5–6).
  • He claims that this renewal partakes of the resurrection blowing of the Spirit prophesied in Ezekiel 37:1–14 (3:8).
  • He claims to be the ascending and descending son of the one who is in heaven from Proverbs 30:4 (3:13).
  • He claims to be the Daniel 7:13–14 son of man (3:13–14).
  • He claims to be the servant who acts wisely who will be exalted from Isaiah 52:13 (3:14).
  • He claims to be the typological fulfillment of the bronze serpent from Numbers 21:4–9 (3:14).

Jesus is the key to understanding the Old Testament.
Jesus fulfills the prophecies.
Jesus matches and exceeds what was typified.
Archetype and resolution of the patterns,
Interpreter of mysteries and himself the solution of them,
Jesus is the culmination of the centuries and the telos of the ages.
Worship him. Love him.
Commit your soul to him and make him your destiny, your purpose, your life’s agenda and meaning.

There is nothing better than what Jesus has done.
There is nothing better than what Jesus makes possible.
There is nothing more powerful that could happen to us than this new birth he brings.
Cleansing from sin with its pure water.
Soul-renewing change at the very spirit of who you are.
Holy Spirit divine power to bring to pass this purifying renewal.
No lack of ability in the Spirit.
No impure motive or purpose at work in what he does.
No possibility of him failing.

Behold the glory of Jesus. Trust him. Be born again.
Forgiveness for all your sin.
Cleansing from all its stain.
Freedom from all its power.
Qualified to see and enter the kingdom.
Enabled to live not just in the flesh but in the sphere of the Spirit.
Illumined to understand the Scriptures.
Given eternal life.
Won’t you believe?
Won’t you savor?
Won’t you hope?
Won’t you cling to these words until the Day?
He is worthy.

–From the conclusion of “You Must Be Born Again” on John 3:1–15, preached at Kenwood Baptist Church on September 29, 2013. For more on what John presents Jesus saying about the new birth, have a listen, or check out the discussion of the passage in God’s Indwelling Presence.

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Coloring Pages for The Bible’s Big Story

The more senses we involve in an activity, the more we learn. I am delighted that Christian Focus has posted three “coloring pages” from The Bible’s Big Story. Here’s hoping these will bring tactile delight and result in deeper awareness of the world’s true story, a story of sin, promise, and triumphant redemption.

We print coloring pages from the web all the time in our house. Now you can print the following three pages, and your little ones can work some crayola magic on them:

Adam and Eve

Abraham and Sarah

David and Goliath

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