Monday, October 19, 2009

Examination of the Purpose of Job and the Arguments of Job’s Friends

Examination of the Purpose of Job and the Arguments of Job’s Friends

David Q. Santos

In the Gospel of John Chapter 15 verses 1 and 2 Jesus refers to himself as the vine and His audience as the branches. He refers to God the Father as the Husbandman or vineyard’s keeper. These verses read, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” These verses tell that the dead branches are taken away but the fruit bearing branches are pruned so that they may produce even more fruit.

Verses 5 and 6 read, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” These verses continue the analogy of the vine and branches. They make the point that our Lord Jesus Christ is the vine that allows us to exist. And apart from the vine branches do not grow and certainly do not produce fruit. This is also true for us; we cannot produce fruit or glorify God without our vine who is Jesus, the messiah, the Lamb of God.

Verse 11 gives us some real encouragement. It says, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” The previous verses should bring us great joy. Jesus has given us many truths about our relationship with Him. It should encourage us that God has told us in advance that we will encounter pruning or difficult situations. But because of these words we know that trials in our lives are only the husbandman pruning us so that we can become more productive servants of God.

The Old Testament contains an entire book devoted to giving a clear picture to this New Testament principal. A man named Job was walking in the ways of the Lord. Job was very blessed. He had a large family and was wealthy.

Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

According to the scriptures Job lived in the “land of Uz.” Charles Ryre suggests that the land of Uz is in the area to the south east of the Dead Sea. He says that Uz is referred to as the same territory as Edom. Ptolemy, a Greek general under Alexander the Great, also identified this area with Uz in the third century B.C.[1]

Job 1:9-12 explains to us, “Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.”

Satan attacks nearly everything that Job has. All of Job’s wealth is removed from him. His children are all killed. Through all of this Job continues to worship the Lord saying in chapter 1 verses 20 and 21, “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Then Satan inflicts Job with sores and boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet (Job 2:7). Satan makes the accusation that Job will curse God to His face if Job’s health is taken away (Job 2:5).

In Job chapter 2 verses 8-10 Job’s wife tells him to “Curse God and Die.” But Job holds fast to his integrity and tells her that she is speaking foolishness. Job asks his wife if they should accept good from the Lord and not adversity. Job still did not sin against the Lord with his lips. At the end of chapter two, three men come with the intent to comfort Job. For seven days they did not speak to Job. They just wept for Job.

Chapter three begins a long discourse that more closely resembles a debate than friends counseling and encouraging a person in need. Job does not have the benefit of chapters one and two to allow him to see that he has become a battle ground between God and Satan. All Job knows is that he is in pain. He says in Job 3:25, “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.”

The dissection of Job’s and his friend’s speeches are a powerful and relevant study. The book of Job teaches about the nature of suffering and the divine sovereignty of the one true living God of heaven. It is important to take notice that not everything said by Job and his friends is a true statement. This is the case with many modern bible ministries and Christian authors. Their doctrine and comments differ from what the scriptures say. And just as Job’s friends made some good points these authors and teachers at times do too. But in both cases it is too difficult to divide the good points from the part that is deviant from scripture. It is best to not derive doctrine from this type of material.

Certainly some of these teachers have sincere hearts and love the Lord but they must be rebuked. Job’s friends accused him of many things. But in the end Job is vindicated and God reveals that it was the friends who needed to be straightened out.

JOB’S Soliloquy

Following a week of silence Job opens the dialog with his Lament, found in chapter three. Job focuses on his pain in this opening Lament. He wishes that he had never been born (3:1-10). Then Job wished that he had died at birth (3:11-19). Finally Job desires to die now (3:20-26). Satan had predicted that Job would curse God (1:11, 2:5) but Job does not commit that sin.

THE DEBATE BEGINS

Job had four friends who were there with him. They were Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu. There are three cycles of speeches by each of Job’s first three friends. Eliphaz and Bildad each give three speeches while Zophar gives only two. Elihu jumps in at the end of the third cycle of speeches almost as though he is taking Zophar’s final turn. Elihu, the youngest of the friends gives four speeches.

Eliphaz
1st speech 4-5/Job’s reply 6-7
2nd speech 15/Job’s reply 16-17
3rd speech 22/Job’s reply 23-24

Bildad
1st speech 8/Job’s reply 9-10
2nd speech 18/Job’s reply 19
3rd speech 25/Job’s reply 26-31

Zophar
1st speech 11/Job’s reply 12-14
2nd speech 20/Job’s reply 26-31

Elihu
1st speech 32-33
2nd speech 34
3rd speech 35
4th speech 36-37


ARGUMENTS OF ELIPHAZ

1st speech chapter 4-5 (Job’s reply chapter 6-7)

Eliphaz’s first speech is broken into four divisions. The first division is the introduction found in chapter 4 verses 1-7. The second division is the foundation of Eliphaz’s argument in chapter 4 verses 8-11. The third division is found in chapter 4 verses 12 through chapter 5 verse 16. In the fourth and final division of this first argument Eliphaz gives Job a warning.

Eliphaz begins the first round of debate by asking Job if someone could venture a word without him getting impatient (4:1). The Bible Knowledge commentary says that Eliphaz “could not let Job get by with such an affront to the Almighty”[2] that was found in the Lament. He goes on to commend Job for having done good works such as strengthening and supporting others (4:3-5). Eliphaz finishes his introduction by asking Job a question that seems to reveal his self-righteousness. He asks if Job has placed his confidence in the fear of God (4:6). Following this statement Eliphaz will imply that Job could not have because of the affliction on Job.

The foundation of Eliphaz’s argument is that the innocent don't suffer, the wicked do.[3] In Eliphaz’s first speech he presents as evidence to his argument a “vision” (4:13). Charles Ryrie states, “Eliphaz tried to bolster his argument by relating it to a vision he had.”[4] Later in his argument he calls upon his experience to build support for his case. He sites seeing the foolish cursed (5:3) and tells Job that if their places were reversed he would seek God (5:8). Eliphaz does go on to illustrate the greatness of God in chapter 5 verses 8-16. This speech ends with a discourse urging Job to repent and submit to God.

2nd speech chapter 15 (Job’s reply 16:1-17:16)

Eliphaz’s second speech has three parts to it. The first division is chapter 15 verses 1-6. The second division is verses 7-16. The final division of this speech is found in verses 17-35.

In the first division he attacks Job personally. He tells Job he is answering with “windy knowledge” (15:1). In chapter 15 verse 6 he says, “Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; And your own lips testify against you.” It is striking to see that in verse 11 Eliphaz suggests that he is giving gently spoken words to Job. But it is obvious that Eliphaz’s tone is not gentle or consoling. The main theme of the third portion of this speech is to refute Job’s statement that wicked do prosper sometimes. Charles Ryrie sums up this portion of the speech very eloquently. He says, “Eliphaz now debates Job’s statement (12:6) that wicked men prosper. Rather, he says, they experience pain (15:20), threat of calamity (15:21), anguish (15:22-24), and premature death (15:32). He numbered Job among this group.”[5]

3rd and final speech chapter 22 (Job’s reply 23-25)

There are three divisions in Eliphaz’s third speech. The first division is chapter 22 verses 1-11. The second portion is from chapter 22 verses 12-20. The third and final portion of this speech and Eliphaz’s argument is found in chapter 22 verses 21-30.

In the first portion of Eliphaz’s speech the focus is on proving that Job is a sinner. In his mind Job is getting what he deserves. Eliphaz accuses Job of many things contrary to God. He says that Job’s “wickedness is great, and iniquities without end” (22:5).

Beginning in verse 12 of chapter 22 Eliphaz changes tactics. In verses 12-14 he puts words into Job’s mouth. Eliphaz declared that Job’s view of God was too small, and he criticized Job for thinking that God was too far removed from earth to care about him. The Life Application Bible points out that Eliphaz does have a point. Some people do think that God is too far away to see their sin. However, that is not the case with Job or anyone else.[6] Eliphaz finishes his speech with a powerful appeal to Job to repent.

Job's response is to once again express his longing to find God so he can present his side. While maintaining his claims of integrity and how he has treasured God's words, he admits he is awed by God's dealings. He wonders why the wicked often sin with impunity, but then says what he thinks should and will eventually happen to them. He concludes his response to Eliphaz with a challenge to show him where he has spoken falsely.[7]

ARGUMENTS OF BILDAD

1st speech chapter 8 (Job’s reply 9-10)

Bildad the Shuhite’s first speech contains three parts. The first is found in chapter eight verses 1-7. The second division is chapter 8 verses 8-10. The final division of this speech is chapter 8 verses 11-22.

The first division of Bildad’s argument contains a strong personal attack on Job and his family. Ryrie’s study notes point out that Bildad implies that Job’s children died because of their sins and Job is suffering because of his sin.[8] In the second division of his argument Bildad begins to present evidence in an attempt to strengthen his case. He suggests that Job should seek wisdom from “past generations” (8:8). The third division of this speech is Bildad’s attempt to convince Job to repent of his sins.

Bildad accused Job of impugning the justice of God (8:3) whereas Eliphaz had accused Job of resenting God’s discipline (5:17). Both of these self-appointed consultants held the view that a man’s calamities are the consequences of his crimes (8:11-13; 4:7-8). Bildad, like Eliphaz, invited Job to repent as the way to recovery (8:5-7; 5:8).[9]

2nd speech chapter 18 (Job’s reply 19)

Bildad’s second speech has two divisions. The first is chapter 18 verses 1-4. The second division is comprised of chapter 18 verses 5-21.

The first section of this speech is a direct attack on Job. Bildad implies that Job is “looking for words” endlessly and that Job should show some “understanding” so that they can talk to him (18:2). In his second division of this speech, Bildad “paints the fate of the ‘wicked’ Job as being consumed by the first born of death (18:13), as going into oblivion (18:16-19), and as being cursed by God (18:15).[10]

3rd and final speech chapter 25 ( Job’s reply 26-31)

Bildad's third speech is short, adding little and only has one division. Speaking briefly of God's greatness, he posits how anyone can be righteous before God (25:1-6). Job replies with questions which imply that he considers Bildad's counsel to have been of no help. Perhaps to illustrate how they have not been much help, Job demonstrates his own ability to describe God's greatness (26:1-14).[11]

ARGUMENTS OF ZOPHAR

1st speech chapter 11 (Job’s reply 12-14)

Zophar, is the last of the three friends to speak. His first speech has three separate divisions. The first division is found in chapter 11 verses 1-6. The second division is located in chapter 11 verses 7-12. The third division is found in chapter 11 verses 13-20.

The first division of this speech has Zophar angrily attacking Job. He accuses Job of speaking many words without answering any of the questions that have been posed (11:1-3). He then suggests that if God were to answer Job’s request to speak the reason for his problems God would rebuke Job (11:5). The final verse of this division is interesting. Charles Ryrie says about this verse, “Zophar says that Divine wisdom has two sides to it: one which man sees, and another known only to God.”[12] John Trapp points out the thought of Zophar in this verse. He wrote, “if God would show Job, he should at once see that he mistook much, and knew little of those many mysteries that are both in the word and works of God, in all divine dispensations, which are such as none can unriddle but God himself; neither can we see them till he show them.”[13]

The next two divisions focus on Zophar’s attempt to convince Job that he has spited God with iniquity and should repent now. Verses 7 through 10 focus on convincing Job that God is beyond understanding. But in verse 11 and 12 it seems that Zophar’s statements only apply to Job and other wicked individuals. The final division, verses 13-20, is Zophar’s attempt to convince Job to say that he repents and admit that he has sinned.

2nd and final speech chapter 20 (Job’s reply 21)

Zophar’s second speech is the final contribution to the main portion of the three cycles of debate. This speech has three divisions to it. The first is found in chapter 20 verses 1-11. The second is in chapter 20 verses 12-19. And the final division is contained in chapter 20 verses 20-29.

Zophar’s second speech is full of anger and self righteous indignation. He must respond (20:2) to Job’s insult (20:3) of the “spirit of understanding” (20:3) held by Zophar. Ryrie points out that Zophar was angry due to Job’s warnings from chapter 19 verses 28-29. Zophar tells Job that a wicked man can prosper, but only for a time.

The second division of this speech focuses on implying Job’s guilt though there is no evidence. In verse 19 of chapter 20 Zophar goes so far as to accuse Job of oppressing the poor and taking their property. In the third and final division of this speech Zophar uses the predicament that Job is in as evidence of his iniquity. The point made by Zophar is summed up in verse 19 “This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God.” Zophar is actually saying that Job’s children were killed because of his sin. Zophar is in effect trying to apply the anger of God himself upon Job.

ARGUMENTS OF ELIHU

Elihu enters the discussion after Bildad’s third speech, seemingly cutting off Zophar from his turn is the third cycle of speeches. Elihu gave four speeches that are all found in consecutive order. Job, nor the three accusers, give any type of response to Elihu.

Elihu begins by describing his anger at Job and the three friends who have been debating with Job. He is angry at Job who tried to justify himself in lue of God. He is angry with the three friends because they provided Job with absolutely no answers (32:2-5). Elihu then establishes his authority to speech by suggesting that wisdom is not limited to those who are his elder (32:6-14).

Elihu differs from the other three by accurately describing Job’s contention. He sums up Job’s position is chapter 34 verses 5-9. He points out that Job claims that God has wronged an innocent man (34:5-6, 35:1-4). He goes on to point out Job’s argument that it is useless for man to become a friend to God because the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (34:9).[14] Elihu illustrates God’s complete sovereignty (34:10-28). Elihu argues that because Job “answers like wicked men” (34:36) he should continue in his trial until he repents and changes or until he dies (34:36-37).

As part of the third speech Elihu argues that God is beyond mankind being able to affect Him (35:5-8). Elihu is truly speaking about the sovereignty of God again. This is an issue that only Elihu comes close to fully stating. While Elihu is doing very well, it is at this point that he goes astray in his argumentation. In chapter 36 verses 9-16 he argues that unanswered prayers are due to lack of faith both in the righteous and wicked.[15] The Bible Knowledge Commentary titles this portion of Elihu’s speech, “Man’s inability to influence God because of man’s pride.” It paraphrases Elihu’s position by saying, :God does respond to empty cries for help. Elihu felt that Job could not be cleared by God (35:2) as long as he questioned the value of serving Him (35:3) and prayed from a heart of pride (35:12) while thinking that God does nothing about wickedness (35:15).[16]

Elihu’s final speech found in chapters 36 and 37 contains a very powerful discourse on the justice and power of God in matters of men. Elihu claims to be speaking on God’s behalf (36:2) and suggests that his words are not false (36:4). Elihu speaks wisely when discussing the greatness of God. However, he goes astray like the other three when the topic of divine retribution comes up. Elihu agrees with the doctrine that God does not let the wicked continue to live (36:6-16).

Elihu completes his argument by appealing to Job to consider the wonders of God (37:14). He suggests to Job that he repent of his sins. Through all of Elihu’s speeches Job and the three friends are silent.

GOD SPEAKS TO JOB

The climax of the book is contained in chapters 38 to 41. In this section God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind (38:1). Job is getting what he has asked for all along; for God to answer him and give him a reason for his affliction.

At last, Job is finally given his desire to have an audience with God. It is not what he expected. Speaking from a whirlwind, the Lord charges Job with darkening counsel by words without knowledge. A challenge is then made for Job to answer questions posed to him. A series of questions follow in rapid succession regarding the creation and nature that certainly contrast God's great power and wisdom with Job's limited ability and understanding. God ends His first discourse then with a repeated challenge for the one (i.e., Job) who contends with the Almighty and who rebukes God to answer these questions. Overwhelmed, Job admits his unworthiness and inability to answer. He admits he has spoken before, but will do so no more (38:1-40:5). The Lord is not through with Job, however. A second discourse begins with another challenge for Job to answer God's questions. Job is asked whether he truly thinks he can annul God's judgment, or condemn Him so that he can be justified (cf. Elihu's charges, 32:2; 33:8-13). If Job can thunder with a voice like God's, adorn himself with majesty, splendor, glory and beauty, bring the proud down low, then God would confess that Job could save himself. To once more illustrate the power and wisdom of God, Job is asked to consider two great creatures, the behemoth and Leviathan. If man is fearful before them, how then could one stand against God (40:6-41:34)?

Job's final response is to humbly acknowledge God's ability to do everything, and that no purpose of His can be withheld from Him. He also confesses that he has spoken of things he did not understand, and beyond his ability to comprehend. Having now heard and seen God, Job abhors himself and repents (42:1-6).[17]


EPILOGUE – JOB IS BLESSED

The epilogue of the book of Job is found in chapter 42 verses 7-17. These verses pertain to Job’s redemption and blessing. Job now understands that he had been speaking on things that he did not understand. God had rebuked Job’s accusers for not speaking what was right (32:3). While Job had repented of his prideful statements the three accusers had not. The accusers were told by the Lord that they should offer burnt offerings of seven bulls and seven rams and have Job pray for them.

CONCLUSION

The book of Job is an important book. It teaches us about the nature and sovereignty of God. We are shown how to respond to tests and trial. Job’s friends are guilty of pride and speaking of things that they did not understand. They mixed up theology or spiritual wisdom with the wisdom and knowledge of the world. Often the three accusers spoke of the “light of the wicked goes out” (18:5). But that is not always true in our world. We live in a fallen world where sometime the wicked do prosper. It has been said that the rain falls on the righteous and the wicked. The rain is a symbol of blessing because we can not survive without water for crops. Some will argue that a righteous god cannot allow the wicked to prosper. But God points out to Job that He is the creator and what right do we have as a creation to question Him.

Often times trials are designed to change our hearts just as Job was changed. Even as the most righteous man on earth he needed to be shown his condition as a fallen man who needs a savior. James chapter one verses 3-4 speaks of changing us through trails. It reads, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

It appears that Job sinned because of his friends. His friends accused him of living a sinful life so he sought to justify himself in their eyes. But in justifying himself Job revealed what was really within his heart. He was a man who had sin in his life even though he was doing his best to seek the ways of the Lord. It comes down to the fact that we need a savior. James 5:16 tells us how men should act to one another when discussing trials. It says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

All men have a little bit of Job in them. It is also easy to fall into the trap of judging each other like Job’s friends did. By the standards of men the arguments of the three friends seems right. However, they forgot that our Lord is the great husbandman. We serve at His will and if He desires us to be changed by trials we can not question His authority. It is for men to submit to His will.

WORK CITED

Copeland, Mark A. Executable Outlines, The Book of Job – The Great Debate: 2004. http://www.ccel.org
Life Application Study Bible, New American Standard-Updated Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan. 2000

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978

Trapp, John. John Trapp’s Commentary. The Online Millennium Edition Version 1.2. Winterbourne Ontario, Canada. 2001

Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Old Testament. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cook Communications Ministries, 2004.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978. pg 748
[2] Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Old Testament. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cook Communications Ministries, 2004. pg 725.
[3] Copeland, Mark A. Executable Outlines, The Book of Job – The Great Debate: First Cycle of Speeches. 2004. http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/job/job_04.htm
[4] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978 Pg. 752.
[5] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978 pg. 765.
[6] Life Application Study Bible, New American Standard-Updated Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan. 2000. pg 864
[7] Copeland, Mark A. Executable Outlines, The Book of Job – The Great Debate: Third Cycle of Speeches. 2004. http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/job/job_06.htm
[8] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978. pg 756.
[9] Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Old Testament. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cook Communications Ministries, 2004. pg 729
[10] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978. pg 768
[11] Copeland, Mark A. Executable Outlines, The Book of Job – The Great Debate: Third Cycle of Speeches. 2004. http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/job/job_06.htm
[12] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978. pg 761
[13] Trapp, John. John Trapp’s Commentary. The Online Millennium Edition Version 1.2. Winterbourne Ontario, Canada. 2001
[14] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978. pg 786
[15] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978. pg 788
[16] Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Old Testament. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cook Communications Ministries, 2004. pg 762
[17] Copeland, Mark A. Executable Outlines, The Book of Job – The Great Debate: Third Cycle of Speeches. 2004. http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/job/job_08.htm

Monday, October 12, 2009

Neo-Replacement Theology by Dr. Thomas Ice

Pre-Trib Research Center
http://www.pre-trib.org/article-view.php?id=401

"Supersessionism is the view that the New Testament Church supersedes, replaces, or fulfills the nation Israel's place and role in the plan of God,"[1] notes Mike Vlach, who has written a PhD dissertation on the topic.[2] Supersessionism is another term, often found in academic circles, for replacement theology. Today there is a growing trend for some who teach replacement theology to deny that their views should legitimately be classified as supersessionism.


Walks Like, Talks Like

We have a number of expressions within Americana that illustrate one who is not willing to exercise truth in labeling. For example we may say, "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and smells like a duck, then it must be a duck." Or, Shakespeare said it more eloquently: "A rose by any other name is still a rose." That dictum is true when it comes to some evangelicals who teach replacement theology but then will not own up to what they actually advocate.

Amillennial and covenant theologian Samuel Waldron wrote a response to a lecture by John MacArthur in which he made a case for premillennialism. Waldron vigorously denied that he was a replacement theologian, even though he holds the classic beliefs of replacement theology. He says, "the Church is Israel in a newly reformed and expanded phase of existence. . . . the Church is really the continuation of Israel."[3] How can someone with a PhD in theology, as Waldron has, not realize that the statement noted above and the rest of his book demonstrates that he advocates a form of replacement theology? The fact is he states that the Church represents a new "phase of existence" and then defines the New Testament "phase" of Israel as including Gentiles.[4] This is classic replacement theology since the outcome and logic of his position is that ethnic and national Israel have been replaced by the Church. Such a view teaches that Israel has been disinherited and does not have a future that includes a national future for a redeemed Israel. Waldron displays a blindness that does not allow him to see that two plus two equals four.

Hank Hanegraaff is another neo-supersessionist who said, "I have never argued for Replacement Theology."[5] This is a surprising statement since his book The Apocalypse Code is filled with replacement theological statements and arguments.[6] He gives the following reason for denying that he holds supersessionist views:

God has only ever had one chosen people who form one covenant community, beautifully symbolized in Scripture by one cultivated olive tree. Indeed, the precise terminology used to describe the children of Israel in the Old Testament is ascribed to the church in the New Testament. . . . As such, the true church is true Israel, and true Israel is truly the church—one cannot replace what it already is. Rather than reason together in collegial debate, dispensationalists have coined the phrase "Replacement theologian" as the ultimate silencer.[7]

For some reason, the new trend by some today is to reject the label but teach the historic viewpoint of replacement theology.

Replacement Reasons

Hanegraaff errs in thinking that replacement theology is something invented by dispensationalists by which they might name-call those who disagree with them. "While it is true that Israel occupies an important place in dispensational theology, it is also true that reflection concerning the place of Israel in God's plan predates this school of thought by many centuries,"[8] notes Ronald Diprose. While noting that an early form of replacement theology began in the second century with Justin Martyr, Diprose describes it as consisting of the belief that "Israel has been repudiated by God and has been replaced by the Church in the working out of his plan. A variation of this idea is that true Israel always has been the Church,"[9] which is the view expressed by Waldron and Hanegraaff throughout The Apocalypse Code (AC).[10]

Mike Vlach, in his Ph.D. dissertation on the subject, describes both the method of replacement theology and the theology or outcome it produces. "In the realm of hermeneutics, supersessionists argue that: (1) the New Testament has interpretive priority over the Old Testament; (2) national Israel functioned as a type of the New Testament church; and (3) the New Testament indicates that Old Testament prophecies regarding national Israel are being fulfilled with the church."[11]

It is obvious that Hanegraaff has adopted the hermeneutics or method, and then the conclusions of replacement theology.

That the New Testament has interpretive priority over the Old is seen throughout AC as Hanegraaff dismisses Old Testament prophecy that has never been fulfilled for Israel by subsuming it into a supposed New Testament fulfillment. For example, by characterizing Israel in the Old Testament as "the prostituted bride" who is replaced in the New Testament by "the purified bride," which is the church, Hanegraaff reinterprets the Old in light of the New.[12] After comparing a number of Old Testament characters with Jesus of the New Testament (for example, Joshua and Jesus), Hanegraaff says, "In each case, the lesser is fulfilled and rendered obsolete by the greater."[13] I agree that the New Testament often notes God's progress in revelation by noting Christ's fulfillment of the Old, but nowhere does the New indicate that Old Testament promises to ethnic Israel are superceded by Christ's work. Instead, Christ is the basis for the fulfillment of Old Testament promises. Hanegraaff says, the "old covenant shadows find their final consummation in the person and work of Jesus Christ."[14] It is not an either/or situation; it is best to see the relationship between the testaments as a both/and.

Vlach's second methodological point is that advocates of replacement theology see national Israel as a type of the New Testament church. "Jerusalem symbolized all that Israel was to be. . . . Jerusalem is typological of the greater purposes of God,"[15] declares Hanegraaff. He speaks of Paul illustrating a "typologically heightened fulfillment . . . that all who fixate on an earthly Jerusalem with a rebuilt temple and reinstituted temple sacrifices are in slavery to types and shadows."[16] Hanegraaff speaks of "the typological fulfillment of the temple and the rest of the old covenant."[17] His views are summarized as follows: "The New Testament's typological interpretation of the Old Testament thus stands as the ultimate corrective to Zionist zeal."[18]

The third point, that the Old Testament promises to Israel are fulfilled with the church is also evident in Hanegraaff. He says, "the land promises are fully and finally fulfilled in the final future through Jesus. . . . the promise is typologically fulfilled in the in the Lord."[19] Again he says, "Peter uses the very language once reserved for national Israel and applies it to spiritual Israel."[20] "Furthermore, the land promises are fulfilled in the far future through Jesus who provides true Israel with permanent rest from their wanderings in sin."[21] Hanegraaff uses the term "true Israel" as a reference to the church.

Vlach also describes the theological arguments that supersessionists construct as follows: "(1) the New Testament teaches the permanent rejection of national Israel as the people of God; (2) application of 'Israel' language to the church shows that the church is now the true Israel; (3) salvific unity between Jews and Gentiles rules out a restoration of national Israel; and (4) fulfillment of the new covenant with the church shows that the church is now the true Israel."[22] Cleary Hanegraaff and Waldron hold to these theological beliefs.

Conclusion

Hanegraaff even uses the term "superseded" in the following statement: "History, like the New Testament, reveals that the Holy City—turned harlot city—is superseded by the holy Christ. Jesus is the antitype who fulfills all of the typology vested in Jerusalem."[23] Hanegraaff says that Genesis 12:3, which I take to include ethnic Israel, refers instead "to true Israel, which consists of every person who through faith has been adopted into the family of God."[24] When speaking of the land promises which have never yet been completely fulfilled, he insists that they are "fulfilled and rendered obsolete by the greater."[25] Such are classic replacement theology statements.

It is safe to conclude that in spite of their denials, Hanegraaff and Waldron are clearly advocates of replacement theology. Norm Geisler also understands that Hanegraaff's AC teaches replacement theology when he notes the following: "In general The Code repeatedly takes the Old Testament promises to Jews out of their original context by replacing Israel with the New Testament church. The 'Replacement Theology' is a classic example of taking texts out of their context."[26] Even though they vigorously reject the label, both Hanegraaff, Waldron and others today have some form of replacement theology, whether they will admit it or not. Maranatha!

Endnotes
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] Michael J. Vlach, "12 Reasons Why Supersessionism/Replacement Theology Is Not a Biblical Doctrine," www.theologicalstudies.org/page/page/4425336.htm.
[2] Michael J. Vlach, "The Church as a Replacement of Israel: An Analysis of Supersessionism," PhD Dissertation, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, May 2004.
[3] Samuel E. Waldron, MacArthur's Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response (Owensboro, KY: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2008), p. 7. [emphasis original]
[4] Waldron, Manifesto, pp. 35–55.
[5] Hank Hanegraaff, "Response to National Liberty Journal article
 on The Apocalypse Code, www.equip.org/site/apps/nl/content2.asp?c=muI1LaMNJrE&b=2616123&ct=3839317.
[6] Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code: Find Out What the Bible Really Says About The End Times and Why It Matters Today (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007). For a book-length rebuttal of Hanegraaff's book see Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice, Breaking The Apocalypse Code: Setting The Record Straight About The End Times (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word For Today).
[7] Hanegraaff, "Response."
[8] Ronald E. Diprose, Israel In The Development of Christian Thought (Rome: Instituto Biblico Evangelico Italiano, 2000), p. 3.
[9] Diprose, Israel, p. 31. [emphasis original]
[10] Hanegraaff calls the church the "true Israel" (p. 116, 124, 127, 180, 199, 200) or "spiritual Israel" (p. 221) a number of times in AC.
[11] Vlach, "Replacement of Israel," p. xvii.
[12] Hanegraaff, Code, p. 124.
[13] Hanegraaff, Code, p. 201.
[14] Hanegraaff, Code, p. 174.
[15] Hanegraaff, Code, p. 190.
[16] Hanegraaff, Code, pp. 202–03.
[17] Hanegraaff, Code, p. 223.
[18] Hanegraaff, Code, p. 223.
[19] Hanegraaff, Code, p. 182.
[20] Hanegraaff, Code, p. 221.
[21] Hanegraaff, Code, p. 180.
[22] Vlach, "Replacement of Israel," p. xvii.
[23] Hanegraaff, Code, p. 197.
[24] Hanegraaff, Code, p. 200.
[25] Hanegraaff, Code, p. 201.
[26] Norman L. Geisler, "Review of Hank Hanegraaff's The Apocalypse Code," www.ses.edu/NormGeisler/ReviewApocalypseCode.html.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dispensational Overview of Biblical History

Dispensational Overview of Biblical History
David Q. Santos

The Bible is God’s word to man. It is authoritative in all that it says from the creation to the end of this age. God’s plan for this world is revealed as a God centered doxological program. This program is contained in His progressive revelation. As students and scholars approach the Bible they must first understand the full scope or “big picture” of God’s progressive revelation. There are several methods that can be used to understand God’s progressive revelation. The most comprehensive method is to observe the dispensations that are found in Scripture. This work will present evidence for the observation of dispensations as well as use these dispensations to provide a synthetic overview of Scripture.

The Moody Handbook of Theology says that a dispensation may be defined as “a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose.”[1] Chafer adds to this definition writing, “As a time measurement, a dispensation is a period which is identified by its relation to some particular purpose of God—a purpose to be accomplished within that period.”[2] A dispensation has two key components; 1) a time period in which man has been assigned a stewardship within God’s economy; and 2) This stewardship is designed to advance God’s doxological purpose for mankind. Paul used the term dispensation in his writings. One author summarized this by writing’

Several distinct examples of dispensations can be seen in Paul’s usage. In Ephesians 1:10 Paul indicates that God planned a “stewardship” or “dispensation” in which all things would ultimately be summed up in Christ. Paul describes this future dispensation as “the fullness of the times,”[3]

Both dispensational and covenant theologians find it useful to recognize multiple “dispensations” in Scripture. There have through history been many different dispensational schemes.[4] Ryrie notes that “the number of dispensations in a dispensational scheme and even the names of the dispensations are relatively minor matters.”[5] This can be seen in the writing of Charles Hodge (1797-1878) who breaks the Covenant of Grace into four dispensations”[6] giving Hodge a scheme of five dispensations. In short, many theologians, both dispensational and non-dispensational find it useful to recognize multiple “dispensations” in their theological system.

A number of schemes have been used over time. For example, the Scofield Reference Bible identifies seven dispensations.[7] Cone uses a more complex system that may provide clarity to the “recognition of the cumulative nature of revelation”[8] It is most critical to recognize this cumulative nature of God’s revelation. Cone lists twelve dispensations[9] which will be used in this overview of the Bible.

Planning-Eternity Past (John 17:24; Acts 4:28; Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:20); God existed before He created the universe. He is eternal and self existent. Ryrie describes this attribute of God writing, “The attribute of eternity means that God exists endlessly. His existence extends endlessly backward and forward (from our viewpoint of time) without any interruption or limitation caused by succession of events.”[10] It is God’s nature to be creative and to be glorified. Prior to the foundations of the world the creator God set a plan into action designed to create beings in whom all of His attributes could be revealed allowing for this creation to glorify Him simply for who He is. He knows the entire plan from beginning to end. Acts 15:18 says “Known to God from eternity are all His works.” God set His plan in motion at the point of creation knowing all that would take place.

Prelude-Innocence of Man (Gen. 1:1-3:6) (Scofield-Innocence): This is the first dispensation involving God’s creation. According to Chafer it “extended from the creation to the fall of Adam”[11] although in the twelve dispensation system the duties and the fall of man are separated. The creation was the entire universe which included man whom God placed in a perfect garden with only one rule; which was “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Adam, who was created in God’s own image, lived in direct fellowship with God. But as man’s champion Adam fell to sin, illustrating that man does not possess an intrinsic ability to live up to God’s standards.

Plight-Failure of Men (Gen. 3:6-6:7) (Scofield-Conscience): This dispensation spans from Genesis 3:6 all the way to the account just prior to the flood. Man’s conscience and his in ability to live up to God’s standard is seen again. During this dispensation “…conscience was, apparently, the dominating feature of human life on the earth and the basis of man’s relationship with God.”[12] This conclusion of this dispensation is “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil.” God sent a messenger, Noah, to warn of the coming judgment that was rejected causing all mankind to be cleansed, leaving only the remnant of Noah and his family.

Preservation & Provisions-Common Grace & Human Government (Gen. 6:8-11:9) (Scofield-Human Government): This dispensation spans from the calling out of Noah and preservation of he and his family from the world wide flood to the call of and promise to Abraham. Chafer summarizes this dispensation, writing that it is “characterized by the committing of self-government to men, and is terminated by the introduction of a new divine purpose.”[13] Mankind chose to rely on their might and turn from God as seen in the building of the tower of Babel. This even led to a judgment where “God confused the one language men were using, then scattered them across the face of the whole earth.”[14]

Promises Pronounced (Gen. 11:10-Ex. 18:27) (Scofield-Promise): This dispensation provides a turning point in God’s revelation. Couch points out that, “It is important for theological understanding, from this point on to look first at the covenants before analyzing the dispensations that rest upon them. In a sense, the covenant is the base or ground floor with the dispensation built upon it.”[15] At this point in time God lays the foundation for his “soteriological and kingdom schematic.”[16] God makes a covenant with Abraham and his family that will provide the framework for His entire doxological plan.

Prerequisite Portrayed-The Broken Covenant: the Tutor (Ex. 19:1-Mal 4:6; Gal. 3:24-25) (Scofield-Law): This dispensation contains two contrasting elements. First, the Mosaic covenant which is a conditional covenant that serves as a test of Israel. The people of Israel were commanded to keep every point of the law. The law served as a tutor in order to show the need for a savior. In contrast, is the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant with its three points; land covenant, Davidic covenant, and a covenant of inhabitants to fill the land which becomes the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31.

Promises Proffered-The Kingdom Offered (Mt. 1:1-12:45) (Scofield-Grace): From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” God had sought a holy people to dwell with since the beginning creation. God became a man (Jn. 1:1; 14-18; 14:8-9; Heb. 10:20) in order to establish the kingdom of God at which time He could dwell with mankind.

Postponement & Propitiation-The Kingdom Postponed & New Covenant Ratified (Mt. 12:46-Acts 1:26): The nation of Israel rejected their God who came in the flesh therefore postponing the kingdom of God. During this period Jesus begins to teach exclusively in parables in order to hide the truth from those that rejected Him. This dispensation ends with Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.

Participation-The Church Age (Acts 2:1-Rev. 3:22): After Christ ascended to heaven the Holy Spirit came to empower believers in a new dispensation; the church age. In this dispensation the Holy Spirit maintains a unique ministry of empowering believers and giving gifts to the church for its edification as well as convicting believers and nonbelievers of sin. The church is a unique to this era and is not found in the Old Testament. Being separate from Israel, the church cannot advance Israel’s prophetic program nor take its inheritance. This era ends with the rapture of the church and the continuation of Israel’s program.

Purification-The Tribulation, Jacob’s Trouble (Rev. 4:1-10:10; Jer. 30:7): Daniel’s Seventieth week will begin the day of the Lord or the time of Jacob’s trouble in which Israel will be refined by fire with the rest of the unbelieving world. In this era God will pour out his wrath on a world that rejected Christ and continues in sin. It concludes with the second coming of Christ to preserve the remnant of Israel.

Promises Performed-The Kingdom Initiated-(Rev. 19:11-20:6) (Scofield-Kingdom): The kingdom dispensation begins with the marriage supper of the Lamb and the establishment of the Davidic kingdom where Christ will rule and reign from Jerusalem. Satan is bound for most of this time period only to be released for a final revolt and subsequent judgment on mankind who will once again reject their king. During this period the Church will rule and reign with Christ while Israel inhabits the Earth and gives instruction to the surviving Gentiles.

Acts 15:13-17 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:

16 ‘After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up;
17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
Says the Lord who does all these things.’

Postscript-Eternity Future (Rev. 20:7-22:21). At the end of the millennial Kingdom a final and complete judgment will take place called the “great white throne judgment” in which all the dead not previously resurrected will rise from the dead. The Lamb’s book of life will be examined for each person’s name. If they are not found in Christ they will receive punishment. The world known now will pass away with a fervent heat prior to the creation of a new heaven and earth with a New Jerusalem where God can finally dwell with His holy people.

The Bible provides God’s progressive revelation. Throughout history He has chosen to give his program to mankind piece by piece allowing them to fail. This served the purpose of allowing man to fail which in turn illustrates the need for a savior as well as man’s inability to live up to God’s most holy standard. This understanding should lead men to repent of sin and turn to their savior Jesus Christ the Son of God Most High. Maranatha!!!

Work Cited

Chafer, Lewis Sperry, Systematic Theology, Originally Published: Dallas, Tex. : Dallas Seminary Press, 1947-1948. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993).

Cone, Christopher, Dispensational Definition & Division Revisited. Dispensationalism Tomorrow & Beyond: A Theological Collection in Honor of Charles C. Ryrie, (Fort Worth TX. Tyndale Seminary Press. 2008).

_____ Four Pillars of Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism Tomorrow & Beyond: A Theological Collection in Honor of Charles C. Ryrie. (Fort Worth TX. Tyndale Seminary Press. 2008).

Couch, Mal, “The Relationship Between the Dispensations and Covenants,” Conservative Theological Journal Volume 2 (Tyndale Theological Seminary, 1998; 2002).

Enns, Paul P., The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997, c1989).

Hodge, Charles, Ed. Edward N. Gross. Systematic Theology: Abridged Edition, (Grand Rapids. Baker Book House. 1988).

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell, Basic Theology : A Popular Systemic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1999).

_____ Dispensationalism. (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute. 2007).

Scofield, C.I. Rev. D.D. Scofield Reference Bible-Reproduction of 1917, (Greenville, SC. Stonehaven Press).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1]Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997, c1989), 517.
[2]Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Originally Published: Dallas, Tex. : Dallas Seminary Press, 1947-1948. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 1:40.
[3] Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, 517.
[4] Seven of such schemes are illustrated very well in Ryrie’s Dispensationalism. Charles Caldwell Ryrie. Dispensationalism. (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute. 2007), 81.
[5] Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 51.
[6] Charles Hodge, Ed. Edward N. Gross. Systematic Theology: Abridged Edition, (Grand Rapids. Baker Book House. 1988), 348-350.
[7] C.I Scofield. Rev. D.D. Scofield Reference Bible-Reproduction of 1917, (Greenville, SC. Stonehaven Press), 5.
[8] Christopher Cone,. Four Pillars of Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism Tomorrow & Beyond: A Theological Collection in Honor of Charles C. Ryrie. (Fort Worth TX. Tyndale Seminary Press. 2008), 28.
[9] Christopher Cone. Dispensational Definition & Division Revisited. Dispensationalism Tomorrow & Beyond: A Theological Collection in Honor of Charles C. Ryrie, (Fort Worth TX. Tyndale Seminary Press. 2008), 151-61
[10]Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology : A Popular Systemic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1999), 41.
[11]Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Originally Published: Dallas, Tex. : Dallas Seminary Press, 1947-1948. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 1:40.
[12]Ibid, 1:40.
[13]Ibid, 1:40-41.
[14]Mal Couch, “The Relationship Between the Dispensations and Covenants,” Conservative Theological Journal Volume 2 (Tyndale Theological Seminary, 1998; 2002), 2:418.
[15]Ibid, 2:418.
[16] Cone, Dispensational Definition, 153.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

CONTRAST LITERAL HERMENEUTICS WITH ALLEGORICAL SPIRITUALIZATION, AND GENRE HERMENEUTICS

CONTRAST LITERAL HERMENEUTICS WITH ALLEGORICAL
SPIRITUALIZATION, AND GENRE HERMENEUTICS
David Q. Santos

The method that is used to approach the Bible will determine the outcome of any Biblical study. “Hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation. Exegesis consists of the actual interpretation of the Bible, the bringing out of its meaning, whereas hermeneutics establishes the principles by which exegesis is practiced.”[1] There are many different systems of these principles that direct the exegesis, interpretation, and conclusions of a Bible passage. Central to all debates over Biblical doctrine is this one question; which is the correct system of Biblical hermeneutic? Four of the most common systems of hermeneutics are the literal grammatical-historical, allegorical, spiritualization, and genre. This work will contrast the allegorical, spiritualization and genre hermeneutical system to the literal system.

Literal

The literal hermeneutic system is not literalistic or the application of wooden literalism as some of the system’s antagonists would argue. Rather, it is a system that merely lets Scripture says what it is meant to say in its normal plain meaning. It accepts that any given passage has only one meaning and does not have a multitude of meanings. Charles Ryrie defines the literal system writing, “A normal reading of Scripture is synonymous with a consistent literal, grammatico-historical hermeneutic. When a literal hermeneutic is applied to the interpretation of Scripture, every word written in Scripture is given the normal meaning it would have in its normal usage. This phrase, “a normal reading of Scripture,” is preferred to establish the difference between literalism and letterism, which is the straw man of those who oppose a consistent literalism.”[2] The application of this system is the only system that is able to maintain a God centered Biblical interpretation because it seeks to honor what God said rather than a human interpreter seeking to find deeper meaning. Other systems give alternate meaning to Scripture based on the interpreter’s imagination or type of literature rather than accepting God’s word for what it is. The literal system is a consistently literal system. Using the literal system consistently is the key and what sets all other systems apart from it.

Allegorical

The allegorical system began in the first century and is steeped in pagan roots and was introduced to the church by Philo. “The personality most cited for the change to allegorical interpretation is Philo (ca. 20 B.C.-A.D. 54).”[3] “This form [allegory] of interpretation arose in Alexandria late in the first century or early in the second century with a Jewish scholar, Philo as one of its major proponents.”[4] Few people if anyone would argue that Philo’s writings are based on a system of allegorization. Mal Couch notes that, “In Philo’s writings are thousands of examples of his allegorization of the Old Testament.”[5] Even Yonge who translated much of Philo’s works recognizes that, “most of his other writings are allegorical commentaries”[6]

The allegorical system of hermeneutics has been one of the most popular methods of interpreting Scripture since the end of the apostolic time. It is a system that allows the interpreter to make clear statement of Scripture into an allegory; giving the passage a second meaning. Ronald Johnson notes that, “those who interpret Scripture allegorically assign secondary meanings to the literal words in the text that are not expressly taught by the words. “Allegorical interpretation believes that beneath the letter (rhete) or the obvious (phanera) is the real meaning (hyponoia) of the passage.”[7] “The problem with an allegorical interpretation is determining whether or not the secondary, or hidden meaning was an intended meaning of the original writer or merely something imported by the interpreter.”[8]

One of the greatest mistakes made by those who use this system is to wrongly make the observation that the church was in the Old Testament and now replaces Israel. This can be seen in the writings of Thomas C. Oden who wrote, “The new Israel stands steeped in continuity with the people of Israel.” Oden goes on to write, “[9]The gradual weaning of the church from its Jewish matrix would take many decades. It would await the fall of Jerusalem and the diaspora before the new Israel would come to full self-identity and separate existence.”[10] Oden allegorically uses the phrase then the “elder serve the younger”[11] from Genesis 25:21-34. There are serious difficulties with Oden’s interpretation. He applies this passage to Israel and the Church, yet, the original context makes it clear that the statement made is speaking of Jacob and Esau. This passage does have prophetic implications, but that relates to Israel and Edom.

It is obvious to see what would happen if this system was used throughout Scripture. If any interpreter can allegorize any passage any time then man becomes the authority rather than God. Ryrie points out the danger of the allegorical system. He wrote, “If used consistently, allegorical hermeneutics would reduce the Bible to near-fiction, for the normal meaning of words would be irrelevant and would be replaced by whatever meaning the interpreter gives to the symbols. However, for the most part, allegorical hermeneutics is not practiced consistently or thoroughly. Evangelicals who use this system do so usually in the area of prophecy, while using normal or literal hermeneutics in other areas of biblical interpretation.”[12]

Spiritualization

Origen followed the influences of Philo in developing his allegorical system that sought to find deeper spiritual meanings in Scripture. This system “seeks a deeper meaning in the text, and uses allegorical method to accomplish that end.”[13] Dr. Couch summarizes the encroachment of spiritualization into Biblical theology writing;

Origen (ca. A.D. 185-254), often called “Mr. Allegorism,” followed Philo in searching both Old and New Testaments for the deep and hidden spiritual meanings. Origen’s work, On First Principles, argues that if no spiritual significance is found on the surface of a bible passage, it may be concluded that the verses are to be taken symbolically. Allegory, which was the legacy from Greece, dominated much of Origen’s biblical thought.”[14]

Origen wrote clearly that he did not feel it necessary to take Scripture in a literal fashion. In one example Origen wrote, “I do not quote these words, however, as taking them in their literal signification, but, agreeably to the title of the book (for it is inscribed “Proverbs”), I investigate them as containing a secret meaning. For it is the custom of these writers (of Scripture) to distribute into many classes those writings which express one sense when taken literally, but which convey a different signification as their hidden meaning.”[15] Origen places a higher emphasis on the so called “hidden meaning” than the literal meaning. Origen even ridiculed those that took a literal approach. This can be seen when he wrote, “although Celsus regards the books of the Jews and Christians as exceedingly simple and commonplace, and imagines that those who give them an allegorical interpretation do violence to the meaning of the writers. By what we have said, then, let it appear that Celsus calumniates us in vain.”[16]

Genre

Another hermeneutic system that is at odds with the literal system is the genre or literary form hermeneutic. “Genre, or literary form, hermeneutics sees recognition of literary form as the overriding factor in the hermeneutic process. By redefining the structure of various books, genre hermeneutics provides a means whereby the literal grammatical historical approach can be abandoned.”[17] This system places style of writing above the words themselves. This system of hermeneutics gives the interpreter the authority to essentially allegorize passages based on the type or style of literature the passage is written.

There is no question that the Bible employs many kinds of literary devices to convey its inspired message. Dr. Geisler notes these forms of writing;

The Bible not only reflects different literary styles but it also employs various human literary forms of speech. These include narrative form, as in Samuel and Kings; poetry, as in Job and Psalms; parables, as in the Synoptic Gospels; some allegory, as in Galatians 4; the use of symbols, as in the Revelation; and metaphors and similes abound in Scripture (cf. James 1–2). Even satire (Matt. 19:24) and hyperbole are found (Col. 1:23). Like other human writings, the Bible uses a wide range of literary forms to convey its meaning.[18]

Those that use the genre hermeneutic argue that the type of literature being employed leads the interpreter in a particular direction. They would say, for example, that the book of Revelation is written in an apocalyptic genre that uses symbols to convey a message. They can then jump the rail and make those symbols say anything they want them to. They fail to realize that the principals of consistent literal hermeneutics apply in all types of genre. The literal interpreter must understand what these literary devices are while honoring God’s word by taking it at its normal plain meaning and submitting to that meaning under all circumstances.

Work Cited
Christopher Cone, Prolegomena; Introductory Notes on Bible Study & Theological Method, (Ft. Worth, Tyndale Theological Press, 2007)

Cooper, Kenneth R., “A Survey of the Case for Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures,” Journal of Dispensational Theology Volume 10 (Tyndale Theological Seminary, 2006; 2007)

Couch Mal, An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics: A Guide to the History and Practice of Biblical Interpretation, (Grand Rapids, Kregel Publications, 2000)

Geisler, Norman L., Systematic Theology, Volume One: Introduction, Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2002)

Johnson Ronald M., “Systematic Theology is the Hermeneutic,” Conservative Theological Journal Volume 1 (Tyndale Theological Seminary, 1997; 2002)

Oden, Thomas C., Life in the Spirit : Systematic Theology, Vol. III. (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992)

Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson and A. Cleveland Coxe, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV : Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997)

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell, Basic Theology : A Popular Systemic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1999)

Yonge. Charles Duke, The Works of Philo : Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1993)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1]Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology : A Popular Systemic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1999), 125.
[2]Ronald M. Johnson, “Systematic Theology is the Hermeneutic,” Conservative Theological Journal Volume 1 (Tyndale Theological Seminary, 1997; 2002), 1:222.
[3] Mal Couch, An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics: A Guide to the History and Practice of Biblical Interpretation, (Grand Rapids, Kregel Publications, 2000), 97.
[4]Kenneth R. Cooper, “A Survey of the Case for Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures,” Journal of Dispensational Theology Volume 10 (Tyndale Theological Seminary, 2006; 2007), vnp.10.30.22.
[5] Mal Couch, An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics: A Guide to the History and Practice of Biblical Interpretation, (Grand Rapids, Kregel Publications, 2000), 97.
[6]of Alexandria Philo and Charles Duke Yonge, The Works of Philo : Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1993), 4.
[7]Ronald M. Johnson, “Systematic Theology is the Hermeneutic,” Conservative Theological Journal Volume 1 (Tyndale Theological Seminary, 1997; 2002), 1:225.
[8]Ibid.
[9]Thomas C. Oden, Life in the Spirit : Systematic Theology, Vol. III. (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), 267.
[10]Ibid
[11] Ibid
[12]Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology : A Popular Systemic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1999), 126.
[13] Christopher Cone, Prolegomena; Introductory Notes on Bible Study & Theological Method, (Ft. Worth, Tyndale Theological Press, 2007), 138.
[14] Mal Couch, An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics: A Guide to the History and Practice of Biblical Interpretation, (Grand Rapids, Kregel Publications, 2000), 99.
[15]Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson and A. Cleveland Coxe, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV : Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 536.
[16]Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson and A. Cleveland Coxe, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV : Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 536.
[17] Christopher Cone, Prolegomena; Introductory Notes on Bible Study & Theological Method, (Ft. Worth, Tyndale Theological Press, 2007), 140-41.
[18]Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume One: Introduction, Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2002), 255.