I’m going to comment on Henebury’s reply to me:
Because of my “indiscretion” in referring to our debate and my basic assessment of his procedure I am now labelled a “proud self-congratulatory bigot.” (And that’s only some of my good points!).
This is what Henebury said:
For those of you who have thought that God doesn’t really expect you to study this protracted description (because, after all, it’s symbolic of something or other), here’s a great chance to correct the deficiency.I am a big believer in the utility of Ezekiel’s Temple vision in Ezekiel 40-48 for dealing with those brethren who want to disbelieve what the Bible says while claiming to believe it. I especially like to call out those who will not be honest enough just to state the obvious truth that they spiritualize the text (as in they claim a concrete depiction of a named entity should be thought of as a spiritual picture of a different concrete entity). In Ezekiel 40ff. you cannot use the “Apocalyptic” card.
Yes, he’s making prideful, self-congratulatory comparisons between himself and those who don’t share his interpretation.
Does he honestly believe scholars like Daniel Block and Horace Hummel, who’ve written massive two-volume commentaries on Ezekiel, think God doesn’t really expect us to study this passage? Does he honestly think they “want to disbelieve what the Bible saying while claiming to believe it”?
These are bigoted comments. Of course, I wouldn’t expect him to recognize that. After all, that’s the nature of bigotry.
He’d already compared me to Don Quixote’s nag. He follows up with a bit of psychology by suggesting I would lose my faith if God didn’t fulfill the temple vision by causing a temple to be erected. I may return to this matter later.
Why not? He says God would be guilty of “prevarication” if an amil interpretation were true. He doesn’t think God “says what he means” if an amil interpretation were true. So, by his own yardstick, Henebury doesn’t think God can be trusted to keep his promises unless God is a dispensationalist.
That’s not psychology, that’s logic. That’s taking Henebury’s position to its logical conclusion.
It’s a shame he gets personal because the man is clever and often seeks to represent the truth to those who read his blog.
It doesn’t even occur to Henebury that he got personal in the way in he chose to introduce his original post. He suffers from a classic bias blind spot. That’s typical bigotry. You view your own team differently than the opposing team. You fail to see in yourself what you’re quick to see in others.
But I don’t think Steve has come anywhere near to presenting a convincing argument against the view that Ezekiel was depicting an actual temple, and that was how the vision was to be understood.
Henebury is not the standard of comparison.
Nowhere in our previous correspondence did Steve explain what he thought Ezekiel 40-48 actually meant. He tried to tell me what it wasn’t, without explaining any verse in the nine chapters in question. And now he informs us that Ezekiel 40-48 is “a word-picture” representing, in some form, “the end of the church age, and the onset of the eternal age.”
That’s a half-truth. As I explained in the very post that Henebury is supposedly responding to, I said it’s also a word-picture of the postexilic restoration.
Fine, but does he present any exegetical evidence for this opinion? Does he interact with these chapters and explain how temple dimensions, materials, rituals, priestly orders, prohibitions, tribal allotments and rivers add up to “the end of the church age” and “the consummation.” Has he explained how he knows they mean this? No, no and no.
Henebury has his personal definition of what constitutes an “explanation.” If you don’t explain things his way, then that doesn’t count as an explanation.
He also frames the issue incorrectly. Take a parable. What the individual elements of the parable signify is distinct from the question of whether the story is fictitious or factual. Classifying the genre of the story doesn’t depend on the meaning of each individual clause. Indeed, classifying the story is, to some extent, a preliminary exercise, based on certain clues or conventions. That, in turn, affects how you interpret individual verses. If you think the parable of the wise and foolish virgins is a historical narrative, then you won’t try to match various elements with something outside the story.
And I don’t think he will. Nor will he explain how he could find out about the church age from only utilizing the OT (he doesn’t believe the church is in the OT). I believe he will create a diversion and reroute the discussion away from the Bible.
Notice the blatant inconsistency. Henebury himself places this passage in the church age. He inserts Ezekiel’s temple into Rev 20:4-6. He reframes Ezk 40ff. in light of Rev 20.
In my various exchanges with Henebury on Ezekiel’s temple, I haven’t “rerouted the discussion away from the Bible.”
Some questions about God and the Bible are out of order for Steve.
Loaded questions are out of order.
Anyone with experience with dealing with those who hold covenant eschatology know that it is excruciating getting them to just tell you what the Bible says. Try this passage or Jer. 33:14-26 on them and see.
That’s a diversion from Ezk 40-48.
I supposedly asked a loaded question (his inner psychologist again).
i) Really? Does Henebury think classifying a question as a loaded question is a psychological diagnosis? Does he think that when logicians classify this fallacy, that they are engaging in psychoanalysis?
ii) BTW, notice, once again, Henebury’s bias blind spot. What about Henebury’s “inner psychologist”? When he says things like “For those of you who have thought that God doesn’t really expect you to study this protracted description…” “…for dealing with those brethren who want to disbelieve what the Bible says while claiming to believe it,” “I especially like to call out those who will not be honest enough…”–isn’t he playing psychologist?
Henebury is oblivious to his double standards. And that’s typical bigotry.
But no, it really is a question, and a good one. And it’s one Hays doesn’t answer.
I don’t answer loaded questions, since loaded questions beg the question.
By fiat he declares. “That’s not a question.”
That’s a falsehood. Did I declare that by fiat? No. I gave a reason. I said:
That’s not a real question. That’s a loaded question. An accusation couched as a faux question. A question that builds a tendentious premise into the formulation. As if those who dare to differ with Henebury don’t think God said what he meant.
Why does Henebury think it’s okay to tell falsehoods about what people say?
But to many Christians it is a crucial question. Steve ought to realize that.
I realize that Henebury posed a loaded question. Having corrected him, how does Henebury respond? By repeating the loaded question.
Look, does God mean what He says and say what He means when He tells us we are justified by faith in Christ (Rom. 5:1)? Yes!
Rom 5:1 isn’t a visionary revelation. Rom 5:1 isn’t picture-language.
Does He mean what He says when He describes Hell as a place of fire (Matt. 25)? Yes!
So Henebury is sure that hell is literally fiery? If the flames are figurative, then God didn’t say what he means? If the flames are figurative, then God is guilty of “prevarication”?
BTW, are dispensationalists committed to literal hellfire?
Okay then, does He mean what He says when He describes a temple to a priest in minute detail and tells him to fix his attention on it?
Okay, let’s measure Henebury’s position by his own yardstick. Consider the following passage:
18 And he said to me, “Son of man, thus says the Lord God: These are the ordinances for the altar: On the day when it is erected for offering burnt offerings upon it and for throwing blood against it, 19 you shall give to the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok, who draw near to me to minister to me, declares the Lord God, a bull from the herd for a sin offering. 20 And you shall take some of its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of the ledge and upon the rim all around. Thus you shall purify the altar and make atonement for it. 21 You shall also take the bull of the sin offering, and it shall be burned in the appointed place belonging to the temple, outside the sacred area. 22 And on the second day you shall offer a male goat without blemish for a sin offering; and the altar shall be purified, as it was purified with the bull. 23 When you have finished purifying it, you shall offer a bull from the herd without blemish and a ram from the flock without blemish. 24 You shall present them before the Lord, and the priests shall sprinkle salt on them and offer them up as a burnt offering to the Lord. 25 For seven days you shall provide daily a male goat for a sin offering; also, a bull from the herd and a ram from the flock, without blemish, shall be provided. 26 Seven days shall they make atonement for the altar and cleanse it, and so consecrate it. 27 And when they have completed these days, then from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer on the altar your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, and I will accept you, declares the Lord God” (Ezk 43:18-27).
This describes the dedication of the altar. Notice who God is commanding. God is directly addressing the prophet Ezekiel. God isn’t commanding the reader. God is commanding Ezekiel. God is telling Ezekiel to consecrate the altar. Ezekiel is supposed to officiate.
Now, since Henebury refuses to distinguish between the world depicted in the vision and the world outside the vision, does Henebury admit that the temple was built in Ezekiel’s lifetime, so that he could personally dedicate the altar?
Once again, He did. Read Ezek. 4:3, 5, 6, 13, 16; 5:5, etc. The explanation is right in the context. Can anyone show me a similar phenomenon in Ezek. 40-48? You see, Steve is equating the temple vision with these other interpreted symbols because he wants the temple to be figurative. The prophet gives him no help with his “word-picture” project. I have easily answered Steve’s counter examples by pointing to what the Bible says.
i) Ezekiel doesn’t have to tell us that he’s drawing word-pictures. Rather, he does that by verbally showing us what he saw. That’s the point of picture-language: telling by showing. In Ezk 40-48, Ezekiel gives the reader a visual description of what he saw. We don’t need an editorial aside to explain that.
ii) I’ve repeatedly appealed to contextual factors to justify my interpretation.
iii) Authors don’t have to explicitly interpret what they write for the reader. Do poets break into a poem repeatedly with parenthetical comments to alert the reader that the imagery is figurative? Do fiction writers periodically remind the reader that this is fictional?
Authors typically rely on tacitly understood conventions and genres. Take movies about werewolves and vampires. You can have a movie about vampires that never uses the word “vampire,” never explains what they are, or informs the audience that this is fictional.
That’s because it’s a familiar cinematic genre. The audience is expected to know the conventions of the genre without a character in the film stepping out of character to directly address the audience.
iv) Apropos (iii), Does Henebury think that everything in Scripture is literal unless the writer explains to the reader that this is figurative? For instance:
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge (Ps 18:2).
Does this mean God is a physical cave? Is God made of stone? Is God hollow? After all, David doesn’t stop to tell the reader that his statement is metaphorical.
And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth (Rev 13:1).
Does Henebury think the Antichrist is actually a feline sea monster with seven heads and bearish feet? After all, John doesn’t inform the reader that this description is metaphorical.
As I said in a footnote to one post, “the Grammatico-historical method” means different things today than it used to. But Steve’s description of it will do for present purposes. You see, I have proved several times to him that the audience understood it to be a real temple, including citing OT scholar Richard Hess‘s opinion that “the fact that every example we have until after the New Testament was written believed in a literal fulfillment of a restored temple.” Steve offered no counter evidence. Twice previously I referred to the efforts of Hananiah ben Hezekiah to reconcile Ezekiel with the Mosaic cultus. See this article for more on that. I do not see how the G-H method transforms these descriptions into “the end of the church age”. I have given evidence that the early audiences didn’t see things Steve’s way.
i) Notice Henebury’s bait-n-switch. This is what I said:
Bible writers (and speakers) generally intend to be understandable to their immediate audience. So meaning is to that degree anchored in the potential understanding of the original audience.
Who’s the “original audience” for Ezk 40-48? That would be the exilic community. Ezekiel’s contemporaries.
How does Henebury respond? By citing a 1C rabbi!
iii) Also notice how Henebury is backpedaling from his own standard:
My main concern in the “40 Reasons” was God’s intention. Second to that is the inspired author. As both are benign communicators, the assumption is that they wanted their first hearers to grasp their intentions. If that were not the case we could not say “truth” was being aimed at. Therefore, there could be no meaning. Of course, if they needed the NT…..What I was trying to get across was; if the NT is needed to decipher the OT; or if Hays’s example of the land-promise was a type of something or other, then the meaning of the communication was not aimed at the original hearers of the prophet.
Well, Hananiah ben Hezekiah hardly represents one of the “original hearers” or “first hearers” of Ezekiel 40-48. He came on the scene about 500 years later.
iii) Moreover, if Henebury is going to cite 1C Jews to interpret Ezekiel, what is wrong with Gregory Beale using Revelation to interpret Ezekiel? The Apostle John was a 1C Jew. Moreover, unlike Hananiah ben Hezekiah, John was divinely inspired.
iv) Here’s a better way of polling ancient Jewish opinion on Ezk 40-48. If this is a divine command to rebuild a physical temple according to Ezekiel’s specifications, then why didn’t Ezra and Nehemiah begin that building project? Or Zerubabbel?
After all, it’s not as if Ezk 40-48 says, “Wait until the Millennium to build this temple.” Ezra and Nehemiah are more reliable judges of Ezekiel’s intentions than a 1C rabbi.
Before we answer that question, we need to lay down some ground rules.Translation: “I’m going to condition the reader by giving qualifications which rule out Henebury’s interpretation before we even read Ezekiel.”
Is this the first time that any of us has read Ezekiel?
We need to distinguish between literal events and literal depictions.Why, unless you’ve decided in advance it doesn’t describe literal events (like building, sacrificing, obeying codes)?
Let’s see. Ralph Alexander, in what I take to be the current standard dispensational commentary on Ezekiel, has a ten page “overview” of 40-48, in which he defends his dispensational interpretation before he proceeds to the commentary proper. By Henebury’s yardstick, Alexander has decided in advance that the dispensational interpretation is correct, and is conditioning the reader by giving qualifications which rule out the amil interpretation before we even read Ezekiel.
Likewise, Robert Thomas, in what I take to be the current standard dispensational commentary on Revelation, has an introductory section on “Hermeneutics for Interpreting the Apocalypse,” in which he defends his dispensational approach. By Henebury’s yardstick, Thomas has decided in advance that the dispensational interpretation is correct, and is conditioning the reader by giving qualifications which rule out the amil interpretation before we even read Revelation.
Once again, Henebury exhibits his duplicity. One standard for his team, a very different standard for his opponents.
But the question is how does Steve know this is what is happening in the last 9 chapters of the Book?
Asked and answered.
I’m sorry? I rather thought I was reading sentences, not looking at a picture. Some propositions in the passage will be listed below.
Is Henebury trying to be cute, or is he really that clueless? Does he not know the difference between an abstract statement and picture-language? Consider the following comparison:
------------------------------------------------------------------God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth (WSC #4).
In my distress I called upon the Lord;to my God I cried for help.From his temple he heard my voice,and my cry to him reached his ears.Smoke went up from his nostrils,and devouring fire from his mouth;glowing coals flamed forth from him.He bowed the heavens and came down;thick darkness was under his feet.He rode on a cherub and flew;he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.(Ps 18:6,8-10).
The first quote uses abstract language. “Spirit” is the closest thing to a concrete noun in that sentence. The other nouns are abstract nouns. By contrast, the second quote uses words to picture God in vivid, metaphorical terms. It appeals to the imagination of the reader. The reader is able to visualize the description.
This is not a picture by an artist. It is a description of a “temple.”
Once more, Henebury is unable to draw an elementary distinction between an abstract statement and picture-language. When someone is that shallow, what more can I say?
The scene doesn’t stand for anything. It doesn’t represent something he saw. Rather, he paints the imaginary scene because he finds it pleasant or interesting.Did he get this from anything said in Ezekiel? Where is G-H hermeneutics? No, he has simply asserted it without warrant.
Is Henebury really that undiscerning? Did I say this applied to Ezekiel? No. At this stage of the argument, I’m drawing a general distinction between pictures and propositions. And I’m pointing out that some pictures don’t even represent anything. That reinforces the potential range of distinction between pictures and propositions.
Did I say Ezekiel’s imagery doesn’t represent anything? No. In fact, my succeeding statement, I went on to say that his imagery is referential.
Why is Henebury completely unable to follow the flow of argument? Or does he go out of his way to misrepresent his opponents?
He’s got you thinking of a painting, but Ezekiel 40-48 isn’t a painting; no more than the tabernacle in Exodus is a painting. It’s a clear description: a floorplan and commands and such
Notice Henebury’s false dichotomy: as if a description can’t use picture language. Why is Henebury unable to comprehend basic concepts?
For instance, John Ruskin was famous for his florid, pictorial descriptions of Venice, the Alps, &c.
Ezk 40-48 is an extended word-picture. A series of images.Voila! Hermeneutics by assertion. Does Ezekiel say it is a word picture? Where?
Is Henebury really that superficial?
i) To begin with, Ezk 40-48 is a record of a vision. So, given the visionary genre, we’d expect this to be, by definition, primarily imagistic. What does Henebury think a vision is–if not a series of images?
Why does one need to continually explain the obvious to Henebury? What accounts for his persistent intellectual deficiencies?
ii) In addition, a word-picture is simply a pictorial verbal description. A word-picture uses visual nouns and adjectives to create a mental image in the reader’s mind.
Is that an alien concept to Henebury? Is he really that ignorant?
Now, some picturesque metaphors are strictly unimaginable because they involved mixed metaphors. They may combine disparate figurative imagery based on several literary allusions.
Suppose you’re shown a picture of a river valley…He’s talking about pictures when Ezekiel isn’t.
Actually, Ezk 47:1-12 is a perfect example of Ezekiel’s pictorial style, depicting a river. Is there something about dispensational hermeneutics that accounts for Henebury’s atrophied appreciation of Ezekiel’s visual description?
God gave Ezekiel a vision. Ezekiel saw many things in his vision. That’s what it means to be a seer.
In recording his vision for the benefit of his contemporaries, Ezekiel employs a pictorial style corresponding to the genre of the revelation (i.e. visionary revelation). Ezekiel described what he saw in terms that enable the reader to form a mental picture what Ezekiel saw.
Is this a foreign concept to Henebury?
Ezekiel is addressing the exilic community. What could this mean to them?A temple maybe? That’s where all the evidence points (cf. Hess above).
Henebury hasn’t cited any evidence from the exilic community–or even the postexilic community.
Notice he’s ignoring the new covenant details in these passages.
Notice that Henebury doesn’t quote any rabbinical authorities to justify his new covenantal interpretation.
And just where. exactly, does Revelation do that? E.g. New Jerusalem is different in a multitude of ways from Ezekiel’s temple; dimensionally for one thing.
Which is exactly what you’d expect if Ezekiel and John are using images and metaphors. Metaphors are flexible. The same metaphor can stand for different referents while different metaphors can stand for the same referent. Same thing with images.
Steve is all about themes, motifs, and types. I pressed him on the subjectivity of this approach before and, true to form, he ignored it. Steve’s “theme” is different than one of his betters.
It’s not subjective. There are many specific textual examples in Scripture. There are entire monographs that trace out theological motifs in their diachronic progression, from the OT to the NT.
Notice Owen’s interpretation is not that of Hays. Once we drift from the natural meaning of the words in context we are on a sea of subjectivity.
i) Let’s see: there are historic premils and dispensational premils. Pretribers, midtribers, post-tribers, and prewrathers. Classic, revised, and progressive dispensationalists. Seems like premillennialism is lost at sea.
ii) Henebury is the one who’s drifted from the natural meaning of the words, beginning with his disregard for visual nouns.
I’ll close by listing 10 reasons for holding my view:
Of course, this is largely a rehash of stuff he’s said before, so I won’t repeat my previous replies. But I will comment on some items:
A sanctuary is mentioned in the new covenant chapters (36 & 37). For example, after Israel has been cleansed, God declares: I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. (Ezek. 37:26. Cf. 43:7). This indicates the timing of the fulfillment of the temple prophecy. This agrees with the timing indicated in the last verse of Ezekiel: “the name of the city from that day shall be, ‘The LORD is there” (Ezek. 48:35)
If you just stick with Ezekiel, the timing would be postexilic. By contrast, Henebury transports this to a millennium near the end of the church age. He’s not getting that from his Ezekielian prooftexts. Henebury is ironically oblivious to how much NT material he’s reading back into Ezekiel to arrive at his timing.
A future temple is necessary in light of God’s everlasting covenant with the Zadokites’ ancestor Phinehas (Num. 25:10-13; Psa. 106:30-31. Cf. Jer. 33:14f., Mal. 3:1-4). Zech. 6:12-13; 14:8-9, 16f., which contra Steve are not angelic messages, describe temple conditions in Israel which have never yet existed, but which match Ezekiel 36-48.
Actually, a future temple would be retrograde from Ezekiel’s perspective. What is the purpose of a temple? To symbolize and mediate the presence of God.
But as the inaugural theophany in Ezk 1 dramatically and forcibly illustrates, God was present with the Jews in exile. You didn’t have to go to the temple to experience God’s presence; the temple came to them. The theophany is a mobile temple. An overwhelming emblem of God’s presence. Indeed, both Solomon’s temple and Ezekiel’s temple are pale imitations of the theophany in Ezk 1. That theophany anticipates and illustrates the principle we find in Jn 4:23-24 and Acts 7.
I have simply allowed the Bible to speak.
Henebury has blinders on. He reads the text, but he doesn’t read the text with a view to seeing what Ezekiel describes. Henebury has a paradigm that blinds him to entering the visual world of the text.
If someone doesn’t believe these evidences and instead wants to interpret a portion of the Bible longer than 1 Corinthians as some “word-picture” which is “mere imagery”, with “no intrinsic interpretation,” then let them explain why from the text.
Notice how he misrepresents what I said. I also said:
Of course, some images are referential. They stand for something else. Ezk 40-48 contains prophetic images.Of course, when imagery is embedded in a text, the text can supply a chronological or geographical frame of reference. A literary image signifies whatever the writer assigns to it.
Henebury’s Pavlovian hostility to my interpretation blinds him from being able to accurately state my actual position.
Nice work Paul. Not only have you responded like a scholar and a gentlemen, you have responded like a Christian! At times I find Hays to be less than charitable in his selection of adjectives to describe the views of those with whom he disagrees.Comment by Ed Dingess
Of course, Ed is a colleague of Henebury’s, so Ed is the loyal team player who turns a blind eye to whatever his teammate does. Notice how Ed is rewriting the history of the exchange. Remember how Henebury started off?
I am a big believer in the utility of Ezekiel’s Temple vision in Ezekiel 40-48 for dealing with those brethren who want to disbelieve what the Bible says while claiming to believe it. I especially like to call out those who will not be honest enough just to state the obvious truth that they spiritualize the text (as in they claim a concrete depiction of a named entity should be thought of as a spiritual picture of a different concrete entity). In Ezekiel 40ff. you cannot use the “Apocalyptic” card. Therefore, those who cannot bring themselves to believe that Ezekiel is really referring to an actual physical Temple…
Is that charitable to those with whom Henebury disagrees? But because Ed has a team player mentality, he has one standard for his teammates, and a different standard for the opposition.
But let me add: if they did theological passages like they do prophetic passages, they’d be Christian Scientists or Religious Scientists.I know this for a fact. I was one, and that was what we did with texts that said what we didn’t want to hear. There was always a “deeper meaning” that fit our dogmas better.Comment by Dan Phillips
Of course, a Lutheran would say the same thing about Dan’s Baptist take on the Bread of Life discourse.