Watch this video:
The Scriptures and the Shrine: On the Keeping of an Authoritative Copy of the Scriptures at the Temple
Some questions have been raised by Charles Halton and T. Michael Law about the suggestion that an authoritative copy of the Scriptures would have been maintained at the temple in Jerusalem, making discussions of the canon unnecessary prior to the destruction of the temple in AD 70. Law tweeted that there is “not a shred of evidence.”
I think there is abundant evidence for this already in the Old Testament, and then the indications that the Scriptures were kept at the shrine continue in extra-biblical Jewish literature.
- Exodus 40:20, “[Moses] took the testimony and put it into the ark . . .”
- Deuteronomy 31:9, “Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel.”
- Deuteronomy 31:24–26, “When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, ‘Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you.’”
This explains why the king was to write a copy of the Torah that would be “approved by the Levitical priests” (Deut 17:18). The priests had the authoritative scroll and were its stewards.
This process continued after Moses:
- Joshua 24:25, “So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD that he spoke to us. . .’”
And the reality of the Word of God being kept in the temple is attested in Kings:
- 1 Kings 8:9, ”There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.”
This also explains why there was a scroll for Hilkiah to find in the temple in 2 Kings 22. Incidentally, in view of the reference to the “lying pen of the scribes” in Jeremiah 8:8, I would suggest that the significance of the scroll that Hilkiah found was not that it was the only one in existence but that it was the authoritative one that could demonstrate the falsehood of the lies against which Jeremiah contended.
Milton Fisher writes:
“There is now abundant evidence from the ancient Near East of a ‘psychology of canonicity’—viz., a sensitivity to the inviolability of authoritative documents as far back as early second millennium B.C. This will not surprise the careful reader of the Bible. He finds no difficulty in statements that Moses (Deut 31:9ff. ), Joshua (Josh 24:25, 26), and Samuel (1 Sam 10:25) placed written covenant documents in the sanctuary, for this paralleled the common practice among surrounding peoples of that day” (Fisher, EBC 1:387).
R. K. Harrison notes
“Such language was also found in Hittite suzerainty treaties, which contained a clause requiring deposition of the text in some secure location so that in subsequent generations the treaty would be available for public reading” (Harrision, ISBE 1:593).
2 Maccabees states that Nehemiah had “founded a library,” probably a reference to the collected canonical Scriptures, and like him Judas Maccabee “collected the books that had been lost on account of the war . . . and they are in our possession.” The text reads as follows:
- 2 Maccabees 2:13–15, “The same things are reported in the records and in the memoirs of Nehemiah, and also that he founded a library and collected the books about the kings and prophets, and the writings of David, and letters of kings about votive offerings. In the same way Judas also collected all the books that had been lost on account of the war which had come upon us, and they are in our possession. So if you have need of them, send people to get them for you.”
Roger Beckwith cites texts from Josephus, the Mishna, and the Tosephta on the point that there was “a copy of the Pentateuch in the Temple called ‘the Book of Ezra’. This was probably the oldest and most revered copy of all, traditionally believed to have been written by Ezra the Scribe. If the standardization of the Massoretic text was a process which began in Temple times, as it now seems to have been, the existence of the ‘Book of Ezra’ and the other Temple Scriptures probably had much to do with it” (OT Canon of the NT Church, 83–84).
I think this evidence shows that Moses initiated the preservation of God’s word in the ark of the covenant, making the Levitical priests the stewards of the Torah. Later OT texts indicate that God’s authoritative word was kept at the temple, resulting in it being there for Hilkiah to find in Josiah’s day. Ezra’s significance in his return to the land, seen in both Ezra and Nehemiah, included his being “a ready scribe,” one who thoroughly knew the Scriptures and could quickly find his way in them.
What evidence is there that this canonical consciousness seen in the OT texts suddenly disappeared? What evidence is there that the practice of keeping God’s authoritative word at the temple ceased to be a concern of the Jews who lived between Malachi and Jesus?
Arguments from silence based on deductions from fragmentary evidence or translation practices do not overturn the asseverations in 2 Maccabees and Josephus (along with other texts) that there was an authoritative scroll kept at the temple. See Beckwith for full documentation.
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.
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.
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.
There is an ongoing debate about when the books of the Old Testament were recognized as Scripture and when, or whether, there was a closed circle of books that were recognized to be inspired by the Holy Spirit prior to the time of Jesus. Related questions include where the additional material found in the Greek translations of books such as Daniel and Esther came from, why it was added, and what this material might indicate about the status of these books.
Jason Parry is doing his dissertation here at SBTS under Peter Gentry on “The Character of the Greek Version of Daniel Attributed to Theodotion.” As we corresponded on his prospectus, I asked his thoughts on the deuterocanonical material in Daniel. His reply was so good I asked him if he would reformat it for a blog post, which he graciously did.
Here’s Jason Parry’s take on the evidence:
The arguments for textual pluralism and literary development of biblical texts in Hellenistic Judaism, and for standardization of the text and formation of the Hebrew canon in the second century AD, often seem impressive because much evidence can be cited to demonstrate that the Jews were developing various versions of biblical texts in the period prior to the second century AD.
The Old Greek version of Daniel, for example, not only departs significantly from the MT in several chapters, but even inserts an apocryphal side-story right into the middle of the plot in chapter 3. The Greek version of Daniel attributed to Theodotion is much closer to the MT than the Old Greek version, but nevertheless retains this apocryphal story found in the Old Greek.
The fact that the translators felt free to deviate from the Hebrew-Aramaic text and to insert apocryphal material could be considered evidence that textual pluralism was in the air and that no canonical boundaries were known to these translators.
However, this same evidence could be interpreted differently. It is possible that the translators were well aware of a standard, authoritative version of the text and of canonical boundaries, but felt free to deviate from that canonical text on account of its official preservation at the Temple. The goal of the Temple scribes was to preserve the authoritative textual tradition of the canonical text in its original language, while the scribes and translators outside of Temple circles were free to develop popular alternative versions of the texts which potentially deviated from the original in language, narrative style, and even in some content, with the goal of appealing to the Jewish and Gentile masses. The distinction between the standard canonical text and the popular deviating versions was not subject to confusion in the period prior to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, since the standard text was in all probability stored at the Temple.
The latter explanation of the textual plurality of the Hellenistic period is more probable than the claim of a late date for the standardization and canonization of the text, because it accounts not only for the evidence of multiple versions of texts, but also for the evidence of a canonical consciousness prior to the second century AD.
Thus the fact of textual plurality does not necessarily imply a philosophy of textual pluralism among Hellenistic Jews, since they could simultaneously preserve a canonical textual tradition at the Temple while producing accessible and appealing popular texts for the masses. After the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, however, the Jews had to become more intentional about articulating their canonical boundaries and guarding their textual tradition in order to avoid confusion between the two types of texts.
My understanding of the period, then, could be summarized as follows:
2nd/1st century BC – Diverse Jewish groups, some of whom (like OG-Dan) are interested in popularizing the stories and texts and creating new literature which was loosely connected to the canonical material. Perhaps this reflects a “seeker-friendly” approach to promoting Judaism. Other Jews are more interested in preserving the textual tradition and sticking close to the proto-MT. The official canonical texts are guarded in the Temple so there’s no confusion as to what’s what in any case.
Late 1st century BC and early 1st century AD – At least some Jews are editing their Greek texts towards the proto-MT, the prime example of which is the oft-cited Greek Minor Prophet Scroll from Nahal Hever which Barthélemy published and analyzed in Les Devanciers d’Aquila. The scroll can be dated to the 50 BC to AD 50 range. However, there’s probably still a willingness to retain apocryphal (or deuterocanonical) material during this period, which has become popular in the preceding two centuries, and there’s still no confusion as to the official text since the Temple is standing. Theodotion, or at least the Greek version attributed to him, probably belongs to this period.
Late 1st century AD and 2nd century AD – Jews as a whole become more intentional about declaring their canonical boundaries and textual tradition since the Temple is lost and the Christians are gaining ground using Jewish writings and Scripture. The Jews discuss their canonical boundaries by asking themselves which books have always been in their canon; these discussions were previously unnecessary because the canonical text had been stored at the Temple. The Temple text presumably is preserved from destruction in AD 70 and is handed down to become what we now call the MT.
It is thus possible to account for diversity and even literary development in biblical texts of Hellenistic Judaism without abandoning the long-held belief that our MT for the most part preserves a reliable tradition from before the Hellenistic period.
My oldest son drew this picture of Janner after we watched the kickstarter video on the new book.
This kickstarter is the most successful one I’ve ever seen (not that I’ve paid that much attention to many others), and I think it’s a tribute to the way Mr. Andrew Peterson serves us all with beautiful and edifying stories.
May his tribe increase.
You can still contribute to the cause, and if you’re looking for books to read to your kids or for them to read, we like these:
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.
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.
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.
Greg Thornbury, President of King’s College, nails it in this interview with Forbes. Commenting on how Christians can be relevant to our culture, Thornbury says of the post WW2 situation:
‘Those who looked in the face of totalitarianism and fascism and a century of holocaust and said, “What are the ideas that keep people free?” The point that I was making was that Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom was a bestseller. It was pulp nonfiction. They were selling it at supermarkets in the middle of the war; it went through fifteen pressings in the UK. In other words, it answered a fundamental question: what is going to get you through the blitzkrieg? What do you want to have in your hands when you come out of the underground by dawn’s early light? What’s going to steel you in courage to think that, “We’re going to get through this!” It is this notion that after this is over we are going to be able to reboot society on the basis of liberty, and consecrated self-direction, and the kinds of things that lift people out of the bog of collectivist notions that led, certainly, Germany and Italy to the most gruesome and bloody century ever known to man. I see my role as the president of The King’s College as re-enchanting a new generation with those animating ideals that once made Western civilization great in general, and American society distinctive in particular.’
Amen. In the introduction to God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology, I quote Vanhoozer on the point that “the fate of hermeneutics and humanity alike stand or fall together” (39). My attempt to demonstrate the unity of the Bible is my humble contribution to the broader effort to save the west that Thornbury articulates so well. The Bible is the foundation for meaning in this world. Destroy its unity and chaos results. Its coherence, however, stands against all the slanders made against it.
Then Thornbury is asked: “Should a Christian be a Hayekian? Do you see overlap there?” He replies:
‘I definitely see overlap for this reason: I think that when you study the texts of particularly the New Testament, although it has its origins in the Mosaic Law, I think what you see there is the seedbed of freedom of conscience. You see democratic religion in the pages of the New Testament. So whereas some people in Acts chapter 5 see some kind of nascent socialism, actually what you’re seeing is free people electing to gather together in solidarity around key principles and ideals and goals, and the people who joined in that were people like Lydia. There was a mercantile aspect to the early Christian movement. When I read Hayek and I see his argument for the link between private property and freedom, I see a direct line going all the way back to those pages of the New Testament, because what the Apostle Paul and others were representing was an alternative to totalitarianism. When you look at the Apostle John – and whatever else you think the Book of Revelation says about the future—what it definitely was, was the greatest political protest letter ever penned in the history of the world, because he was saying, “The state has no business telling us how we should govern our own life together.” And when I say “society” or “culture”, here’s how I’m defining that, Jerry: I take a nineteenth century definition by Johann Herder, who many recognize as the founding father of modern sociology. He said, “Culture is the lifeblood of a civilization. It’s the flow of moral energy that keeps a society intact.” So, when I see Hayek talking about making sure that we stay free of tyranny, I see the entailments of that going all the way back to the emperor and Domitian and the Apostle John.’
Indeed. This is exactly what you see poignantly in Revelation 13 and other places. More here.
The rest of the interview is available.
Pray for Dr. Thornbury. He’s living out Daniel 11:32, “those who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” Join him in it.
Thanks to Tim Challies for the link to this video, which explains how God programmed the leaves to change color:
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.
Mike Wittmer is one of my favorite theologians. Heck he’s one of my favorite people. So I’m glad to see that he continues to find ways to say Don’t Stop Believing, the latest being a new book entitled Despite Doubt: Embracing a Confident Faith.
Here’s a trailer for the book:
Mike has preached a sermon with this title. I suspect Mike’s preaching will strengthen your confidence and bring a smile to your face.
This is a short book of short chapters. Despite Doubt will speak to those wrestling with big questions and seeking to know the truth.
Denny Burk has an important new book out titled What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Covenant Eyes keeps blocking the Amazon page)
Christianity Today has interviewed Denny about the book. Here’s a bit of the first exchange:
So. What is the meaning of sex?
The reigning sexual ethic reflects a tongue-in-cheek lyric from Sheryl Crow: “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.” This worldview affirms any and all attempts to get sexual pleasure so long as such attempts do not harm others. If it feels good and you’re not hurting anyone, how could it possibly be wrong? Many people see no larger purpose for sex. They have severed their sexuality from the objective order that God has created, and they have lost sight of God’s purpose for our sexuality. So when people ask what they should or shouldn’t do sexually, they are asking a question about purpose—whether or not they realize it.
When Paul commands us to glorify God with our bodies in 1 Corinthians 6, he may as well have said, “Glorify God with your sex.” He clearly has in mind the use of the body for sex, so the ultimate purpose of sex must be the glory of God. To enjoy sex for God’s glory is to enjoy it in the way God has determined.
If you’re subscribed, you can read the rest.
You don’t want to pay for other people’s contraception? Here’s what the editorial board of the New York Times thinks of your freedom of conscience and religious liberty:
If the Supreme Court takes up these cases, it should soundly reject the warped view that some employers can get out of complying with the new law, and in effect use their religious beliefs to discriminate against women.
Got that? You thinking you can avoid being coerced into this is “warped” and you’re trying to “get out of complying” with the requirement that you pay for other people’s “contraception.” Moreover, thinking that this is something you don’t want to pay for is discriminating against women.
Note that it’s not discriminating against men, since only women are responsible, evidently, for contraception. How is that view not discriminating against women? How is it not discriminating against women to hold them solely responsible for something that could not have happened without a man?
What about the discrimination against human dignity, morality, self-control, and uprightness inherent in the assumption that the people who have this “right” to have their employees provide contraception coverage will not be married, will not be able to take responsibility for these decisions themselves, will not want children, and so on?
Remember: these are “liberals,” and here “liberal” doesn’t mean free. It means “free to think and do what we tell you to think and do.”
And if you don’t like what we tell you to think and do? Your views are “warped.” You’re trying to “get out of complying” (as though you’re obviously shirking your duties). And you are using your “religious beliefs to discriminate against women.”
Is football too violent? My fellow elder Owen Strachan says that’s a question Christians need to take seriously, and with characteristic aplomb he argues that the evidence points to the conclusion that football is bad for the people who play it. Jimmy Scroggins and David Prince have responded with an argument that football teaches manhood and risk. [HT: Joe Carter]
I played organized football in full pads between the ages of 11 and 14, at which point I stopped playing football to concentrate on basketball and baseball.
I’m for manhood, toughness, and risk. I have no objection to scraped knees, bruises, even broken bones. I missed one football season because I took a “risk” that had me playing Tarzan, resulting in a snapped right wrist with a hairline fracture in the left. I made a stupid choice and suffered the consequences, but I hope the testimony of my foolhardy bravado will pre-empt the response I anticipate to what I’m about to say (“well, Hamilton’s just a pansy”).
While some of my team-mates were willing to risk their necks–literally, it seemed to me–by launching themselves head first into pile-up tackles, I never could bring myself to do that. I remember one kid in particular who hit so hard everyone grimaced. That dude crushed people. His forehead was like a jackhammer.
Somehow I sensed that wasn’t safe or sane. So I wound up playing tight end instead of d-back.
I loved the hard work and team spirit that went with football. There was an enjoyable machismo about August two-a-day practices in Arkansas heat on a dusty field, grass brown from lack of rain. Sweltering, sweating, strengthening, grimy smash mouth football. But I had heard horror stories of broken necks, and when I think about my own response to those pile-ups, my instinctive reticence to lead with the helmet, and the fact that I’m probably not going to let my own sons to play full-pad football (nothing wrong with flag-football), I sympathize with Owen’s concerns, even as I continue to enjoy watching college football.
Those automated robots you see on the televised games strike me as a good depiction of NFL players, but there’s a lie in the representation. The guys on the field are made of flesh, ligament, bone, not metal. They’re human beings. Most don’t have long careers.
So for myself and my sons, football isn’t worth the risk, especially when the lessons you can learn from football can be gained just as well from baseball and basketball.
If I apply the golden rule, would I choose football for others?
Could the game be modified to be made more safe?
What do you think? Are your kids playing football?
I’m eager to consult these notes and grateful for Crossway.
While Halloween can often be a time associated with ghosts, devils and darkness, this video is designed to share the good news that Jesus is the light of the world!
We are making this film available for free and encourage you share it with your friends via social media as well as showing at church events. Please feel free to download the video for use however you like.
This is the script used on the video:
Vast armies undead do tread through the night and
In hordes march towards hapless victims to frighten.
They stumble in step with glass-eyes on the prizes;
Bunched hither, hunched over in monstrous disguises;
In sizes not lofty but numb’ring a throng;
To unleash on their prey the dreaded DING DONG.
Small faces with traces of mother’s eye-liner,
Peer up to the resident candy provider.
And there to intone ancient threats learnt verbatim;
They lisp “TRICK OR TREAT!” Tis their stark ultimatum.
Thus: region by region such legions take plunder.
Does this spector-full spectacle cause you to wonder?
Just how did our fair festive forebears conceive,
Of this primeval practice called All Hallows Eve?
The answer, if anyone cares to research,
Surprises, it rises from old mother church.
On the cusp of the customary All Saints Day
The Christ-i-an kinsfolk made mocking display.
These children of light both to tease and deride;
Don darkness, doll down as the sinister side.
In pre-post-er-ous pageants and dress diabolic,
They hand to the damned just one final frolick.
You see with the light of the dawn on the morrow,
The sunrise will swallow such darkness and sorrow.
The future is futile for forces of evil;
And so they did scorn them in times Medieval.
For this is the nature of shadow and gloom;
In the gleaming of glory there can be no room.
What force is resourced by the echoing black?
When the brightness ignites can the shadow push back?
These ‘powers’ of darkness, if such can be called,
Are banished by brilliance, by blazing enthralled.
So the bible begins with this fore-resolved fight;
For a moment the darkness…. then “Let there be Light!”
First grief in the gloom, then joy from the East.
First valley of shadow, then mountaintop feast.
First wait for Messiah, then long-promised Dawn.
First desolate Friday and then Easter Morn.
The armies of darkness when doing their worst,
Can never extinguish this Dazzling Sunburst.
So… ridicule rogues if you must play a role;
But beware getting lost in that bottomless hole.
The triumph is not with the forces of night.
It dawned with the One who said “I am the Light!”
HT: Ross Shannon
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:
John Meade is doing a multi-part review of T. Michael Law’s book, When God Spoke Greek. At one level neither Law’s claims nor Meade’s response is new. At another level, these questions are constantly being re-examined, and the re-hashing of the debate can bring things into sharper focus. Like Martin Hengel and Lee Martin McDonald, T. Michael Law claims there was no OT canon prior to the second century AD. Like Robert Hanhart and Roger Beckwith, Meade responds that the evidence can be read another way. Here are some excerpts from Meade, with whom I agree:
“As stated in the first post, Michael Law set out to write a narrative history of the Septuagint, a worthwhile endeavor to say the least. So much goes into writing a history but the first obstacle one must face is that the facts are not self-interpreting. To be sure Law no where claims that they are, but it should be stated in a critique which is going to offer an alternative way of analyzing the data.”
“Law portrays the forming and perhaps closing of the Hebrew Bible as occurring in the 2nd CE. This is not a new view and can be found in many manuals on the Old Testament. As one attempting to read Law’s book carefully, the question is does Law deny even a canonical consciousness or a developing canon in the period before the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE? In the book he does not admit of a canonical consciousness in the the preceding period, but I am open to correction on this point. In his recent blog post on the question he does treat some of the relevant evidence but he still does not speak of a canonical consciousness or developing canon. Here is the problem with Law’s view: during the time of Jesus and long before Jesus the Jews refer to a collection or corpus of books, which means they had at the very least some consciousness of their collection and what that final collection might be; an idea of which books would eventually be in and which books would eventually be out. The assumption is that the authors and readers shared a mutual understanding of what these titles denoted. The alternative assumption is that the author wrote nonsense when using these titles and therefore the titles do not refer to a set collection or corpus of books and therefore they do not communicate to the readers. The following are only the so-called tripartite titles (there are many single and bipartite titles which refer to the same reality as well)”
Meade here discusses evidence from Ben Sira, 4QMMT, the NT Gospels, and Philo, mentioning also Josephus, drawing two conclusions:
“(1) What does this evidence mean? On page 71 Law comments on Sirach, “‘The other ancestral books,’ according to this assumption [complete Hebrew Bible by 132 BCE], would be the Writings (Ketuvim). Most scholars, however, do not accept this hypothesis since the ‘other ancestral books’ could refer to anything, including the books that never became canonical. At best it seems that the Torah and Prophets might have been a known collection by this time, but we should not read this statement in the Prologue as a confirmation of the later canon of the Hebrew Bible” (WGSG, 71). At the opening of chapter 3 (cited at the top of this post), Law claimed that prior to the second century CE there was no way of knowing which books would be included in the collection. Here his skepticism recedes, however slightly, and he now holds out the possibility that Torah and Prophets (and on page 42, the Psalms) were already a collection and perhaps canonical by the end of the first century. If Hanhart’s reading of the Prologue is correct, as I am inclined to think, then there was already a categorization of books into canonical and non-canonical, Sirach already being one of the excluded books–a work of edification and reflection on the Law, Prophets, and other books. This would mean that by 132 BCE there is at least a developing canon or a canonical consciousness, not simply in retrospect but in prospect. Prospectively, then, the Jews had a view as to which books they considered canonical.
(2) Two ways to view the evidence? As in all matters historical, there are different ways to view the evidence. The titles for the Old Testament corpus of books indicate to me that there was at the very least a canonical consciousness, a recognized corpus of books by 132 BCE and more probably a closed canon by that time complete with a categorization of the canonical and non-canonical. There are more reasons such as the numbering of the books and the ordering of the books which corroborate this point. Part of the historian’s difficulty is that there are not allot of sources to examine from this period. There is no list of books from this early period. This fact does not mean there was no canon. In the period of the temple there would have been no need for a list of books since those books were all laid up in the temple following ancient precedent (cf. Deuteronomy 31:26; cp. 2 Maccabees 2:13-14). If a Jew during this early period wanted to know her holy books, she would need to go and inquire at the temple. Therefore there is a good reason why no such list was composed at this time–it was not needed. It is interesting that the first lists appear after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE (Bab. Talmud Baba Bathra 14b).”
Douglas Wilson has translated Beowulf, and a few years back he wrote an essay for Touchstone on it: “The Anglo-Saxon Evangel: The Beowulf Poet Was a Shrewd Christian Apologist.”
Though a heroic poem about pagans that never mentions Christ, Beowulf is the opposite of syncretistic compromise. It is written to highlight the treachery as a way of life that afflicted these pagan societies from within, and the greed and plunder as a way of life that afflicted them from without (whether they were the marauders or the victims).
Our poet shows us this pagan hopelessness in a period of history just before their conversion to the Christian faith. He is recounting the testimony of his people, and, just as with modern testimonies, the sin is highlighted. But it is art to conceal art, and he leaves us hanging just before the explicit moment of conversion. His original listeners knew exactly what was going to happen next.
The poem shows how necessary was this sequel, and in this lies its shrewd apologetic. Many generations of roistering pillagers had not thought any other way of life either possible or desirable. In Beowulf, this pattern of raids and counter-raids, of vengeance accomplished and vengeance thwarted, is a way of life on its last legs.
The people are (most of them) heartily sick of it, and they keep trying to find ways of fixing the problems created by their cycles of blood vengeance. Their vain attempts to weave peace through arranged marriages, and their frustrated attempts to stay the violence with the wergild (or man-price, a compensation for murder) show that they know they have a serious problem.
Their long-established way of doing things gives them all the civilization-building power of a biker gang. It is hard for us to imagine Viking angst,but the author of Beowulf is delivering us a vision of exactly that.
The rest, including a beguiling suggestion that the poet has created paganism at its best, as it never existed anywhere, is here. Vintage Wilson, with much insight into Beowulf.
Nothing makes me happier than for a student, especially one of my PhD students, to ask how he can improve his writing. It shows humility. It shows awareness of imperfection. And it promises that what I read from his screen might be, well, less painful than it would have been. I hope the PhD students under my supervision surpass me in their usefulness, output, and standing, so I hope they all write, write a lot, and become far more widely read than I could ever hope to be, all in the task of making disciples of all nations for the glory of God in the name of Jesus by the power of the Spirit.
How to become that kind of writer?
Edit your work over and over. That’s my favorite of the ten tips to better writing from Michael Munger at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Here are the others, and I like numbers 4 and 7 almost as much:
1. Writing is an exercise.
2. Set goals based on output, not input.
3. Find a voice; don’t just “get published.”
4. Give yourself time.
5. Everyone’s unwritten work is brilliant.
6. Pick a puzzle.
7. Write, then squeeze the other things in.
8. Not all of your thoughts are profound.
9. Your most profound thoughts are often wrong.
10. Edit your work, over and over.
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- Books from SBTS Faculty in 2013 December 12, 2013
- Interview on and Review of What Is Biblical Theology? December 11, 2013
- We Watch Every Year, by Spencer Haygood December 9, 2013
- The Land of Promise through the Ages December 5, 2013
- May Women Teach Men at Church? September 2, 2006
- Q & A on Paul and Jesus, Women and the Law January 21, 2007
- Three Objections Enns Makes to Mohler: Apparant Age, Authority, and World-Picture November 4, 2011
- How Often Should a Church Take the Lord’s Supper? May 3, 2011