Friday, December 30, 2016

Review of Sproul's "What Is Reformed Theology?"

R.C. Sproul has attempted to write an introduction to reformed theology, a tradition that is most commonly identified as doing theology and reading scripture within the legacy of John Calvin. I do not think he has done a very good job. The following are the major reasons why.

First, Sproul does not give an introduction to reformed theology. Instead, he gives readers an introduction to his theology, or more broadly his own branch of Presbyterianism. I have little doubt that Sproul thinks this is the essence of reformed theology and that his own theology represents reformed theology well. The beginning chapters are certainly some of the best in the book, and in them Sproul identifies one of the pillars of reformed theology as rigorously dependent on the Bible. This is certainly true. The problem is Sproul does not then continue to describe the ways reformed theologians have used, interpreted, understood, etc. Scripture. Instead, he justifies the different points of what he calls “the pillars” reformed theology with scripture. This is not problematic in itself. In fact, I encourage theologians to justify their arguments with the basis that is scripture. However, if reformed theology is not simply the correct interpretation of scripture but is also a way of thinking about scripture, reading scripture, and doing theology that comes from Calvin’s (and other first generation reformers’) legacy, then Sproul has done a poor job of introducing readers to this larger tradition.

Second, Sproul defines reformed theology too narrowly. If Sproul is making an argument about what constitutes genuine reformed theology and what is outside the pale, he needs to make that clear. “This is what I think reformed theology is and should be…” would do just fine. But there is none of that. Sproul suggests that what he is doing is purely descriptive. It isn’t. How does Zwingli fit into the reformed tradition? How does Bullinger? How does Oecolampadius? How does Knox? How does Cranmer? How does Bavinck? Berkouwer? Especially, how does Barth? Perhaps these aren’t “the basics” that Sproul was talking about in the subtitle, but the fact that all of these theologians differ on one or more of “the basics” seems to suggest that the idea of the basics are somewhat misguided.

Third, Sproul attempts to introduce readers to reformed theology, but as any casual look over the endnotes indicates, Sproul does not seem all that familiar with reformed theologians. In fact, the most cited figure in the book is Luther, a theologian who isn’t even considered a reformed theologian! Luther was a great mind and an important figure that every protestant should read. Indeed, Luther was very important for the earliest reformed theologians (except perhaps Zwingli, with whom Luther had a number of harsh words). But why is he quoted, cited, and referenced in a book more often than even Calvin? Why is he cited almost as many times as all of the reformed theologians that are cited combined? Further, the only reformed theologians that Sproul ever cites (as an example of his descriptive purposes) are Calvin and Owen. He also occassionally mentions one theologian or another, but never regarding a serious doctrinal issue. What’s worse, Sproul never references the Canons of Dort, a tragedy in his exposition of the reformed doctrine of perseverance, which dissolves perseverance into the Baptist-bastardized form of “eternal security.” That is not what the reformers taught, and it is not what reformed theology has always taught.

I think the ultimate issue I have with this book is that it doesn’t give reformed theology enough credit. It presumes reformed theology is not a way of thinking, doing theology, and understanding scripture; rather it presumes that it is simply correct interpretation of scripture. By doing so he defines reformed theology too narrowly and excludes all of those who interpret the Bible differently than Sproul yet fall into the parameters of reformed theology. If someone were to ask me what R.C. Sproul believes, I would send them to this book. If, however, someone were to ask me what reformed theology is, I would not. Instead, I would send them to the canons of Dort and the Belgic confession. Then to Calvin’s Institutes. Then to Zwingli and Bullinger. Then to Bavinck. Then to Barth and Berkouwer. Sproul doesn’t even give you where to go afterwards. The idea for an introduction to reformed theology was a great idea, but Sproul did not come through.

{I give this book a 2 out of 5.}

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free from the publisher. I was under no compulsion to write a positive review. All thoughts expressed here are entirely my own.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Markan Maritime Christology

I've uploaded a paper to Academia's site. It's about the significance of the intertextual echoes in the two major Markan lake scenes and their significance for Markan narrative Christology. Specifically I employ the category of "expected readings" in order to suggest some very subtle but weighty Old Testament imagery applied to Jesus. In the end, I determine that the narrative leads the implied reader to the conclusion that by what Jesus says and what Jesus does, Jesus' identity is made equivalent to the identity of the God of Israel. If you find this interesting, perhaps you'll take a look at it here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

What Is New Testament Theology?

This past semester I tried my hand at answering this question in just a few short pages (an impossible task). Before taking this class, I did not realize the vast issues involved in undertaking a NTT or TNT. I had read Bultmann's, Beale's, Dunn's, Goppelt's, and The New Testament and the People of God by Wright, but I had not realized the difficulty in describing the differences between these approaches and why each approach was necessary. Hopefully this paper will shed some light on the issue for some of you who, like me, did not know the issues surrounding NTT. You can find the paper here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Very Short Book Review of Hays' "Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels"

I read Hays' Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels earlier this summer. It is nothing short of magnificent and this review will not do it credit. Hays, in my perhaps uninformed opinion, is the greatest living New Testament scholar today. I say this for a number of reasons, but I'll list just a few here. He has written on every genre (Gospels, Paul/Epistles, Revelation) of the New Testament. Almost all his books have been seminal or watershed works in the field. His dissertation on Galatians and the pistis christou debate is still required reading for any engaging in the New Perspective discussions or any discussions of Pauline theology and justification. His book Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul projected him to a level of scholarly respect and recognition that few will ever acquire in their lifetimes because it is just that good. In it he basically develops a paradigm for how to hear the scriptures in the New Testament in a new yet still authoritative way. Then he wrote an extremely long book on New Testament ethics and theology, which (again) in my opinion is perhaps the best single volume work on New Testament ethics and which makes a genuine contribution to the field of New Testament theology at the same time. He has written/edited two books on how to read scripture, one with the now former dean of Duke Divinity Ellen Davis in the book The Art of Reading Scripture and another with Alkier and Huizenga titled Reading the Bible Intertextually. He has written commentaries, a book on the Apocalypse, an engagement with the work of N.T. Wright, a book on NT christology, and a book on the historical Jesus. This is not to mention the numerous articles and presentations he has delivered. The man is a monster. He's the primary reason I came to Duke. And he has capped off his whole career with this mammoth-sized book, his magnum opus. This book is also a monster, and it is a monster with which I will have to reckon the rest of my life. His ear for listening to the narrative and discerning the smallest hints of scriptural tradition is nothing short of intimidating. But this was the most fruitful book I read all summer in terms of allowing academic work to influence my spirituality.

He takes the same methodological approach that he takes in his famous Echoes in Paul (for short), which looks for "echoes" of scripture rather than direct allusions. Allusions are more difficult to determine because allusion carries with it the implication of intentionality. Authorial intent is not necessary to establish when one identifies an echo. This represents, at least in part, that Hays methodology is not strictly historical. Historical approaches attempt to determine what the author meant. If the author did not mean to allude to the scripture that is a possible allusion, then the original context of that alluded passage bears no interpretive weight on the passage at hand in which the allusion was made. Hays' method is not so concerned with history to reject that texts can have meaning beyond what the author intended. Indeed, this is a primary pillar on which Hays' argument rests. Hays identifies these echoes and determines that many of them do not fit their original contexts (e.g., when Matthew cites the passage about God mentioning that he called his "son" [i.e., Israel] out of Egypt and applies it to Jesus when his parents flee to Egypt from Herod). The biblical authors, however, engage in a practice of metaleptic interpretation, by which the OT text takes on a "figural meaning" that does "not annihilate the earlier pole of the figural correspondence; to the contrary, they affirm its reality and find in it a significance beyond that which anyone could previously have grasped" (Echoes in the Gospels, 14). (See my earlier post here about Hays' understanding of the figural reading.)

The difference between this book and his one on Paul becomes apparent when he discusses the hermeneutical strategies involved in the writing processes. The hermeneutical strategy of the Evangelists is different from that of Paul. Paul, Hays argues, has an ecclesio-centric hermeneutic wherein Paul figurally transforms the meaning of the scriptures of Israel to prefigure the Church in Christ. The Gospels, on the other hand, have a christo-centric hermeneutic, finding Christ, not the Church, prefigured in the scriptures of the OT. This work functions, then, primarily (though not exclusively) as a work in Gospel Christology. [A note of caution here: there is a lot of material from this book that's already in his smaller book on Gospel Christology, Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness. This book (Echoes), Hays notes, should not be read as an extension of that one (Reading Backwards), but instead Reading Backwards should be read as a kind of application of what he says in this book. There was a lot that I had already read, however. Probably a fourth to be more precise. So if you're expecting something brand new, then you'll be 3/4 happy, but you'll have already read about 100 pages of the present work. This isn't a problem, necessarily, but it is something of which readers should be aware.] Hays attempts to see how the story of Jesus is told with an ear toward the narrative and the other toward the Old Testament. Some of his conclusions are somewhat reaching. His section on Mark's account of the sea walking and calming stories comes to mind in particular. I fully agree with Hays and actually wrote a paper arguing the same thing that he argues (even though I hadn't come across him saying it at the time since the book had not yet been published). However, I understand why some would take issue with Hays here since the text does not explicitly echo or allude to any OT text. But Hays seems to want to move past simply seeing OT references/allusions/echoes; he wants to develop a way of reading scripture that is sensitive to the answers that the text may expect of a reader but not supply for her. This is an interesting first step into what will probably be a growing area of study in the next 10-20 years, I would imagine. (One of Hays' proteges, Ross Wagner, attempted to teach a group of us this last semester, so Hays legacy continues to live on at Duke even though he isn't teaching as much nowadays.)

This method of reading scripture is most explicitly at play in Hays' treatment of Mark, which happens also to be my favorite chapter of the book. Hays seems to show a preference toward the Gospel of Luke being the best Gospel. It is certainly the most eloquent and extremely theologically sophisticated, which is probably why Hays makes such judgments. He thinks Luke has the most delicate and intricate way of reading and then rereading Israel's story in light of Christ and finding Christ and his mission prefigured there. That, I think, is the second best chapter. The chapter on Matthew is valuable for its rehabilitation of Matthew's use of scripture, not merely as proof-texting but as genuine, legitimate metalepsis, which all the Gospels writers utilized. He does still seem to see Matthew's use of scripture as more clumsy than the other Gospels, though I think we all can agree that is fair. His chapter on John is superb, but too short. Hays remarks in the preface that he regrets that he could not spend more time with John, but publishing the book quickly was more important than seeing it done to perfection. I think it's still magisterial, but would have liked to see more. There is, however, nothing to complain about here, though. It is a matter worthy of praise and thanks to God that this book ever even made it to the press when one considers Hays' poor health at the time that he was writing this book. I'm so happy it made it to the presses as is, but I'm even more joyful that Hays has been recovering well from his treatments. (At least, this is what I have heard from my last update. I'm sure he and his family would appreciate continuing prayers for his health.)

All things considered, this is a book to which I will return throughout my life to wrestle with in order to learn to read scripture (the OT) in scripture (the NT). I cannot recommend this book more highly. The only genuine problem I have with this book, as I do with almost all of Hays' books, is the blasted endnotes. A demon gets its wings every time a publisher decides to go with endnotes. I don't know if Hays personally prefers them or if he just doesn't want to fight the publisher on them, but they are the worst. Any other book would lose some serious points on this issue, but not this book. Buy it. Read it. Apply it. Read it again. Apply it again. And again. And again.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

To What Extent Is Scripture Revelation?

To what extent is scripture revelation? That may seem like an obvious answer for most of my readers, who would probably reply, "All of it, of course." That's what the 2 Timothy 3:16 suggests, a favorite verse for evangelicals– but still a good verse. My question that I pose here is not one to which I will provide an answer; I don't know what the answer is. My purpose in posing it is twofold. First, 2 Timothy is probably not actually talking about the whole of the Christian canon; it's more likely talking about the Old Testament, the only thing that the earliest church had as scripture. Second, how do we reckon with statements in the New Testament– scarce in number, to be sure– that essentially tell the reader/hearer that what is being said presently is not [direct] revelation, but is only an opinion? 1 Cor. 7:25 is an excellent example. It reads, "Now concerning the virgins, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy." Paul explicitly says that he has not been told this by the Lord (i.e., through revelation), which suggests that the rest of what he says he has in fact received from the Lord (cf. Gal. 1:11-12; cp. 1 Cor. 15:3). How are we to name what is claimed to be opinion in distinction from revelation as revelation? Inspiration is not in question here. I have no problem saying that this was inspired by God, that the Holy Spirit intended for this to be written. But in what way is it revelatory? Is what follows to be considered normative? Is revelation the condition for normativity?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Review of Rescuing the Gospel by Erwin Lutzer

Erwin Lutzer’s seventeen chapter book, Rescuing the Gospel, presents a very, very brief overview of the four branches of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century (Lutherans, Zwinglians, Calvinists, and Anabaptists) and the significance of this Reformation for today. It is a quick, easy read and should take no more than two or three days for anyone who reads at a moderate speed. Aesthetically, the book is appealing. The dust cover is colorful and inviting, the font is attractive, large, and highly readable, the pictures are vivid (and are far better than those I was able to take when I was at those same locations in the summer of 2015), and the binding is solid and does not appear as if it will come loose any time soon. There are, however, endnotes. Anyone who appreciates good research and checking sources– such as myself– will be frustrated by this. I don’t know anyone who likes flipping all the way to the back of the book to see from where a quote is derived.
The map of the Holy Roman Empire on the two pages preceding the title page is extremely helpful as a reference, and readers will wish to make frequent recourse to it as various cities– such as Mainz, Wittenberg, Augsburg, Geneva, Zürich, etc.– are mentioned throughout the volume. Geography does not feature a very prominent role in the narrative that Lutzer lays out, but the map is nevertheless helpful and gives readers a picture of the world of 16th Century Europe.

The first chapter presents the corruptions that had infiltrated the church and the desperate need of reform that presented itself: simony, papal corruption, lecherous priests. The second chapter discusses the proto-Reformers Jan (which he spells ‘John’) Hus and John Wycliff. In this chapter, I think he makes too much of Wycliff’s influence on Hus and, then later, Hus’ influence on Luther. They remain, however, important historical figures and a testimony to the desperate need of reformation writ large in the Church. The next ten chapters are dedicated to Luther. Luther was certainly an important and interesting figure, certainly the most fun of all the Reformers to read, but this book is overwhelmingly disproportionately weighted toward Luther’s life, work, and impact. Then there is a chapter dedicated to Zwingli, a chapter dedicated to the Anabaptists, two chapters dedicated to Calvin (one for his life and ministry and a second for the lasting impact of his theology), and a final chapter assessing the Church-universal’s state and whether the Reformation is over.

I think the book succeeds on multiple levels. Most importantly, a great amount of historical detail is summarized in plain, simple English and presented clearly, if not thoroughly. His description of the Catholic “Babylonian Captivity” or the Avignon Papacy (i.e., the period in which there were simultaneously three popes) was confusing– but, then again, so was the period. Still, Lutzer does a rather magnificent job situating Luther– though, not so with the other so-called Magisterial or Radical Reformers– in his place and time. Lutzer should be commended for writing a book so clear for his target audience (the average evangelical layperson) about an epoch with such a complicated and intricately connected history. My assessment of this book is that it succeeds excellently at what it aims to do: present the basic story of the Reformation to church-goers today and describe what Lutzer believes to be its continuing significance.

Historically, this book was occasionally frustrating, but those frustrations were typically easily forgiven given the book’s goals and target audience. Theologically, I wish Lutzer had been more thorough and somewhat more sympathetic and objective. Throughout the book, I found myself thinking, “This is a very Baptist account of history.” So it is. Lutzer is an evangelical Baptist and one can easily discern that throughout his discussions of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and contemporary Catholic theology. He takes Zwingli’s position as self-evidently the correct position without defending him. There is no real need for him to do so, since that is not the goal of this book, but the reader should be aware. It was also frustrating that Calvin’s eucharistic theology (i.e., theology of the Lord’s Supper) did not feature prominently in the discussion. With regard to baptism, he makes it seem as if Constantine were the reason that children were baptized in the early few centuries of Christianity (152-153). He also takes issue that baptism constitutes (at least at some level) Christian identity, even though credo-baptist (i.e., believer’s baptism) theology (historically) takes this just as much for granted as paedo-baptist (infant baptism) theology. This is why baptist churches do not (or, at least, are not supposed to) admit those who have not been baptized by immersion as believers to communion. He is correct that infant baptism played a role in stately affairs, but that is not the purpose for which it exists nor is that an appropriate interpretation of history. He also says this: “In the midst of this important controversy we must remember that infant baptism is not taught anywhere in the New Testament, nor has an instance of it been recorded in the Scriptures. In the book of Acts, adults were baptized in response to saving faith. And it seems clear that the mode of baptism was immersion.” First, I do think that the Bible teaches infant baptism. Assuming that the household baptisms in Acts didn’t include children is just as much an assumption brought from outside the text as assuming that they did include children. At best the evidence is ambiguous. Therefore, a theological argument will have to be made from the texts. That is not something that is required for this book, again, because that is not the aim. The second statement about the mode is inaccurate and ironic. It’s inaccurate because baptizo does mean “immersion,” but it also means wash. It is not clear that the mode of baptism was immersion. In fact, it’s clear that the mode of baptism was only sometimes immersion. One need only consult the early church fathers for such evidence. But second, it’s ironic because his concern with the mode of the Lord’s Supper is apparently irrelevant, since evangelical baptists almost universally use bread and grape juice, and it is actually certain that the original mode (from the first century until the prohibition era, really) was wine and bread. But that’s beyond the purpose of this review. I don’t think that Catholic theology today was given a fair hearing. Yes, purgatory was viewed as a fiery punishment during that period and proffered as such in order to get money from scared laypersons who would buy indulgences. But often today, it’s viewed as an extended period of sanctification beyond this present existence. It is the period in which those who have died are continued to be perfected before they enter into God’s presence. He also made it seem in the last chapter as if Catholics weren’t Christians or truly saved or whatever lingo one wishes to employ because their gospel is deficient. I’d say that their gospel isn’t deficient, but that their theology of salvation certainly is. Paul said that we were justified by faith alone. This faith is in Christ as resurrected Lord. It is not in justification by faith through Christ alone. Our object of faith is not a doctrine about faith. Our object of faith is Christ and Christ alone. That is something that I think evangelicals are constantly missing. But I do agree with him that there continues to exist a real divide between Protestants and Catholics, and that there is a great deal of theological reformation that needs to take place before the Church can truly come together again.

I do recommend this book to those who are unfamiliar with the Reformation, and, if they are unable to read the whole thing (although I don’t know why not; the book is less than 200 pages long), I would ask them to read at least until chapter 10, which was by far the best chapter of the whole book. The discussion of Luther’s successes and failures is invaluable, though certainly not exhaustive. Among those protestants and evangelicals who have little to no knowledge of the Protestant Reformation, I hope this book gains a wide readership.

*Disclaimer: This book was provided to me for free for review by the publisher and I was under no obligation to write a favorable review in return.

Monday, June 27, 2016

My Experience Thus Far As an MTS Student at Duke Divinity School

I was told (warned) of Duke's "liberalism" by many trusted friends and pastors every time I first informed them that I was applying to Duke with the intention of attending there. Now, these friends and pastors (and pastors who were friends) are conservative evangelicals whom I respect, but they also went to very, very conservative schools. For them, liberalism is ordaining women. It's a lot more than that, but that is the beginning of it.

I've also had a lot of conservative friends ask me about how my experience thus far has been at Duke. These friends are less theologically inclined than the previous group. These, like many conservative evangelicals, have a problem with equating political with theological tendencies (i.e., liberal Christians vote liberally, conservative Christians vote conservatively). They find it difficult to conceive that a school whose professors tend to be very liberal, often socialists, occasionally marxists, could have a divinity school that can supply a quality education. I can't speak for the politics of my professors at DDS since I don't know the politics of any of my professors at DDS, but I can say that my education so far has been excellent (apart from a few classes that I didn't pick).

Are there (very) liberal professors at Duke? Yes. Are there conservative(ish) professors at Duke? Yes. Do you have to take the very liberal professor? No, probably not. Should you take the very liberal professor if you're a conservative? Maybe so. The difference between a divinity school and a seminary is that it's in a university setting. Now, functionally there is little difference; there's just a few more perquisites. But I'm emphasizing the distinction here for a reason. The word university implies a diversity of ideas in a unified location or institution. What makes a university so great is the diversity of belief, knowledge, tradition, etc. What makes DDS great is, likewise, its diversity. It is simply an ecumenical institution. I think every major Christian tradition is represented by the student body. And, besides studying alongside students from conservative to very, very liberal Christian denominations, the faculty is equally diverse– in belief, practice, and denomination. It is a great place to get a very large range of belief. But it is also a great place to figure out which area of Christianity you find yourself most comfortable with. If you're conservative and you think you're getting enough of the liberal point of view from your peers, you can take the more conservative professors (even though many of those who are liberal-leaning still won't force what they believe on you; or if they do, most of them won't penalize you for it). If you are liberal and wish to take more conservative or more liberal professors, you can make that decision. It's a great thing having a diverse faculty.

I can tell you the one major thing I've learned since I've been at duke: read the biblical text closely. In my classes with Kavin Rowe and Ross Wagner, all (or, at least, a whole lot) of my homework has been reading the biblical text closely, looking for what the text wants the reader to see, finding the connections in the narratives, finding the nuanced intertextual echoes and allusions. That is truly an acquired skill and not something that comes naturally. It is detailed attention to the text and it will take many more years to perfect (if ever). This experience has been deeply rewarding so far. I can't wait to see what's coming up this next year.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Beale and Hays

G. K. Beale
Richard B. Hays

Greg Beale and Richard Hays do similar work in the area of biblical studies that has been booming over the last 20 years. Both are concerned with the study of the Old Testament in the New. Beale and Hays also agree on a very important issue within this area, namely that the exegetical methods of the New Testament authors is one which we can utilize and learn from in our own study of the Old Testament. Hays put poignantly it in one place: to deny the authority of the apostles' exegetical methods is to deny the authority of their interpretation. (That's a paraphrase, and I'm pretty sure it comes from Hays. I would have to check to make sure, but I'm away from my Hays books at the moment.) So both appreciate the New Testament's use of the Old. They come at the issue, however, from two very different angles.

Beale is very concerned with retaining the original sense of the text. To a fault, in my opinion. Because there are scholars (unlike Hays) who admit that the NT writers abandoned/disregarded the original sense of the text, who accept the application of their interpretation, and who, nevertheless, deny the authority of the interpretive methods (in other words, because some scholars exist who say that the New Testament is authoritative and valid, but their exegetical methods of appropriating the OT in the NT is not something that we should reproduce because we now recognize the original context of the OT), Beale wishes to push back against the possibility that the New Testament writers disregarded the context of the OT texts in their application of it. But Beale, along with Hays, affirms that affirming the NT authors' methods of using/reading the OT as authoritative and legitimate is as integral to New Testament exegesis and theology as is recognizing the OT allusion, quotation, echo, etc. Like I paraphrased above, they believe that to deny the legitimacy of the NT's use of the OT is to deny the authority of their interpretation of it. So, for Beale, the answer is to argue that the NT authors did not (ever) in fact disregard the OT's original context in their application of it. The Old Testament authors, he argues, must have had some knowledge of what they were writing in addition to their immediate context (e.g., Isa 7:14 actually refers to Hezekiah and Jesus). So Hosea, in writing "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son," knew that he was prophesying that a few hundred years later Jesus and his family would be forced to escape down to Egypt from Herod. While, I suppose, this is possible, it seems unlikely, and it's only argued to preserve the original intent of the text. (As an aspiring narrative critic, which criticism historically has been influenced by the New Critics, I find this to fall headlong into the Intentional Fallacy.)

Beale does good work, and I don't want to diminish that fact– as if I were influential or intelligent enough to do such a thing! But I think this is how Hays' approach is superior to Beale's. Hays is not afraid to admit that the New Testament writers' application of the OT does not, at times, fit its original context. (Some call this doing violence to the OT texts, although I'm convinced not that's an appropriate way to speak about it.) Instead of reading forwards, Hays argues that the NT writers read backwards. That is, instead of reading the OT and finding in it predictions of Christ (reading forwards), Hays suggests that the NT writers read out of the OT prefigurations of Christ. Not predictions; prefigurations. He calls the NT's method of interpretation a figural one. About these sorts of figural readings, he says this: "Figural readings do not annihilate the earlier pole of the figural correspondence; to the contrary, they affirm its reality and find in it a significance beyond that which anyone could previously have grasped" (Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, 14). Figural interpretation does not, says Hays, disregard the original context. It also does not reject the original context. Rather, figural interpretation accepts the original interpretation but finds in it a meaning that no one (including the one who wrote it) could have imagined before some sort of revelatory event. In this case, that revelatory event is the life, death, and resurrection. After such an event, it is now impossible to read the text (exclusively) the same way ever again. Part of the revelatory significance of Christ is that the Old Testament is now shown to speak more clearly of Christ's identity. God's intentions in creation, in electing Israel, in everything that is written in the OT are understood in a genuinely new, different, and unexpected (!) light. The revelation of Christ transforms our way of thinking in such a way that we truly see the original message of the OT and accept it and understand the new significance of the text as we interpret it figurally.

Some may argue that if one believes, as Hays does, that the original context of (some of) the OT passages cited in the NT is something other than how the NT uses them, the NT authors are practicing eisegesis. They are, according to Hays, some might object, reading the Christian message into the Old Testament. But Hays is saying the opposite. Hays is saying that, because of the new revelatory significance, the NT authors are reading from the Old Testament a new significant interpretation, not reading a new interpretation into the New Testament.

Anyway, there's a very brief description of the differences between Hays and Beale, even though they end up saying very similar things about how we should read the Old Testament.

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