Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hermeneutic of suspicion

I’m going to selectively comment on these two posts:

It reflects an inability to believe that Steve procures his view of OT typology without any regard to his interpretation of the NT.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not saying he is lying.  We are both presuppositionalists and we both know that when confronted on some central issues we have reasons which we hide from ourselves for believing what we say we believe.  I have admitted my presuppositions.  Steve is less forthcoming.  But anyone who has even a little familiarity with the writings of covenant theology or Bible typology knows that you cannot keep the NT out of it.

Like Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, Henebury operates with a hermeneutic of suspicion. No matter how carefully I explain myself or distinguish my argument from other arguments, Henebury can’t shake the deep-seated suspicion that I must have an ulterior motive, a hidden agenda. My stated reasons couldn't possibly be my real reasons. It’s Kafkaesque.

Although, by his own admission, dialoguing with Henebury is futile, our exchange my still benefit onlookers.

It comes from the title of chapter 5 of G. K. Beale’s The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism. 
A Specific Problem Confronting the Authority of the Bible: Should the New Testament’s Claim That the Prophet Isaiah Wrote the Whole Book of Isaiah Be Taken at Face Value?
I feel like saying,” I don’t know.  What do you mean by ‘face value?’”
Greg Beale, in his A New Testament Biblical Theology speaks of “literal fecundity” (97), and of “literal expectation” (155).  For more examples see 113,150-151.  He also speaks of “the NT transformation of the OT storyline” (16).
Henebury can’t be serious. One of Beale’s primary interests is how the OT is fulfilled in the NT. He’s devoted years to refining a highly nuanced explanation. Consider just a few of his many writings on the subject:

Hidden But Now Revealed: a Biblical Theology of Divine Mystery; co-authored with Ben Gladd (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, forthcoming).

“Christ and the Church as the Emerging Eschatological Temple: James Testimony in Acts 15.” In Christ, Salvation, and the Eschaton, Essays in Honor of Hans K. LaRondelle, 349-366. Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 2009.

“Did Jesus and the Apostles Preach the Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? Revisiting the Debate Seventeen Years Later in the Light of Peter Enns’ Book, Inspiration and Incarnation,” Themelios 32 (2006), 18-43.

“The Use of Old Testament Prophecy in the New: ‘Literal’ Fulfillment, Allegory or Metaphor?  A Case Study of 
 the Temple.” Presidential address at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, November 17-19, 2004.

“Questions of Authorial Intent, Epistemology, and Presuppositions and Their Bearing on the Study of the Old Testament in the New: a Rejoinder to Steve Moyise,” Irish Biblical Studies 21 (1999), pp. 1-26.

"Did Jesus and His Followers Preach the Right Doctrine From the Wrong Texts?  An Examination of the Presuppositions of the Apostles' Exegetical Method," Themelios 14 (1989), 89-96.

Vern Poythress assumes a plain-sense when writing about the 8th Commandment in his paper on “Contracts and the Destructive Effects of Unfaithfulness” (6) when he writes,
So the eighth commandment comes in a context where God’s will defines its scope and purpose. We do not have the right to re-interpret and re-define it according to our own selfish desires.
Poythress’s whole argument rests on the assumption that the plain-sense of Scripture is known.

With all due respect, it’s simply ridiculous for Henebury to attribute a “plain-sense” hermeneutic to Poythress. For starters, just consider his critique of dispensational hermeneutics in his book Understanding Dispensationalists

Steve’s advocacy of types and tokens comes from the recent work of scholars delving into semiotics and philosophical hermeneutics.  To think the biblical authors had these things in mind, and that they supposed they could be easily picked up by their readers stretches credulity.  

i) This reflects a misconception of philosophy on Henebury’s part. Much of philosophy (and semiotics) is devoted to analyzing our preanalytical beliefs and practices. It doesn’t assume that people must be conscious of these distinctions to subconsciously deploy with these distinctions. Henebury fails to distinguish between theoretical and pretheoretical knowledge or belief. But there’s such a thing as tacit knowledge.

ii) In addition, Bible writers and readers could certain pick up on type/token relations. They don’t have to use the technical terminology to be acquainted with stock characters, stock plot motifs, type-scenes, and emblematic geography, viz., garden, mountain, valley, river, desert.

iii) Likewise, there’s nothing terribly recondite about distinguishing between Venus in the East at daybreak and Venus in the West at night. It’s the same star (referent), yet “morning star” is not synonymous with “evening star.” Different names to distinguish different vantage points.

Space prohibits saying much more on this.  I recommend a close reading of D. Moo’s essay “The Problem of Sensus Plenior” in the Carson and Woodbridge book, Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon for those who wish to see something close to my position (esp. 195-198, although noting that Moo falls foul of Sailhamer’s critique of the usual promise-fulfillment schema).

Since I set my own position in explicit contrast to the sensus plenior, how’s that relevant?

In addition, does Henebury endorse Moo’s section on typology?

I shall content myself with a quote:
Second, we observe in Scripture itself that typological understanding never creates new revelatory data.  It only underscores, illustrates, and amplifies what has already been stated clearly.  In other words: typological understanding enriches but does not replace a previous understanding of revelation.  It is checked by philological-grammatical understanding. – Gerhard Maier, Biblical Hermeneutics, 87.
For Maier, proposed types must wait their turn till the exegetical understanding is in hand.

This fails to distinguish between words and events:

I close by noting that although I have never read Frege (and do not intend to mend the deficiency any time soon), I am familiar with work on sense and reference.  My observations about words and motifs overlap with it.  Steve thinks it is important.  Most hermeneutics manuals demur.  Hardly any of them pay much attention, if any, to Frege.  Hays’s stress on Frege sounds more impressive than it is.  To read him one might think that to know Frege the philosopher is to agree with Hays the interpreter.  That simply does not follow.

i) I have to wonder how much (or little) Henebury has actually read on the subject. The sense/reference (or intension/extension) distinction is pretty mainstream in hermeneutics and semiotics. This distinction is important in the work of Quine and Ricoeur. This distinction is also acknowledged in many standard evangelical monographs, viz.

Thiselton's Thiselton on Hermeneutics: The Collected Works and New Essays of Anthony C. Thiselton, Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in This Text?: The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge, Vern Poythress's, The Supremacy of God in Interpretation, Carson's Exegetical Fallacies (2nd ed.), Silva's Biblical Words and Their Meaning (2nd ed.), Louw & Nida's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, Cotterell & Turner's Linguistics & Biblical Interpretation.

For instance, to quote the definition supplied by Cotterell & Turner, under the heading Meaning and Reference:

Denotation is the term used for the relationship which exists between words and the corresponding entities in the world (83).
We may now define reference more closely: the referent of a word or expression in an utterance is the thing in the world which is intentionally signified by that word or expression. The thing may be an object, an event or a process (84).

And this is obviously relevant to promises and prophecies.

BTW, here are two online expositions of the Fregean distinction:

He also seems to think that with the passage of time God’s words can undergo drastic changes in meaning and begin to mean different things to different readers depending on where they sit on the timeline of history.

Henebury seems to be blurring the distinction between authorial meaning and audiencial meaning, although I carefully distinguished the two.

I reply, both Ezekiel’s listeners; Jews after that (otherwise the efforts of Hananiah ben Hezekiah to reconcile it with the Torah were pointless); and us today!  Why would the sense change?

All readers aren’t born equal. That’s why we have the grammatico-historical method. The temptation of a modern reader is to unconsciously filter the text through his own cultural lens.

In all candor, I cannot see how Steve’s argument is not anchored to his understanding of how the NT interprets the Old – a conclusion he has studiously avoided.

In all candor, I think Henebury is oblivious to how the NT is conditioning his own interpretation of Ezekiel. To situation Ezekiel’s temple within a premillennial eschatology is hardly something he could get from the text of Ezk 40-48 alone.

Just what does Hays have in mind when he speaks of a “new Eden motif”?

Asked and answered.

What does he mean, “dovetails with typology”?  If he means typology depends on recurring patterns that’s fine.  But does that prove there is a typology in play in his passages?  Of course it doesn’t.  Only if motifs (viz. recurring patterns) equaled types would that be true.  Since he has declared against that position he cannot rest his case with “dovetails.”

I didn’t say motifs can’t equal types. I specifically said it depends on the kind of motif. One of Henebury’s persistent problems is that I will make a qualified statement, then he will disregard the qualification.

Yes, but unless he is going to try to prove “comparative relation” always includes typology what has he proved?  He doesn’t seem to see that he has yet to prove a typology in the motifs he’s used...

I don’t need to prove that a comparative relation always includes typology. Rather, I was responding to Henebury’s dichotomy. He needs to keep track of his own argument.

So, in spite of Steve’s insistence to the contrary, Eretz-Israel is constant!  And Israel as a people is constant.  The only change is when and where they’re returning from!  Steve wants to find “emblematic significance” there and I must inquire “what for?” Emblematic of what?   The only reason I can see is that he wants to say that Eretz-Israel is typological and its (NT) antitype is not the land covenanted to Israel spoken of in these passages.  And all the talk in the world about motifs and Frege doesn’t change that fact.
He thinks that as “we’re dealing with one of the master plot lines of Scripture: banishment and restoration,” that he now can use it to draw his desired conclusions.  I’m saying that’s a faux pas.

i) Notice how he arbitrarily isolates the land of Israel from land generally. But when we’re dealing with a plot motif that involves more than one plot of land, where there’s the theme of leaving one place for another place (e.g. Egypt, Babylon), then returning, it’s highly artificial to compartmentalize one territorial referent while ignoring the other. For both territorial referents are part of a thematic narratological unit.

ii) Likewise, where the new Eden motif is concerned, Israel stands for Eden.

He assuredly doesn’t believe plot-lines necessitate typology.

As usual, Henebury can’t follow the argument. I didn’t say plotlines necessitate typology. What I said, rather, is that when the same plot motif is repeated with variation, then that’s a type/token relation.

Types are analogous to abstract universals while tokens are analogous to concrete particulars. A new Eden or new Exodus motif is variation on a common theme. They exemplify the same plot, have the same structure, but with differences in time, place, and people.

The underlying exemplar’s the thing!  That is what is constant for Hays.  The land of Israel is secondary to this.  This beneath-the-surface “key” has power over covenants, oaths and words in context.  Steve may cry “foul,” but again these words carry a surface meaning which cuts across the meaning he sees in his motifs.  It is as though these motifs are more important than the words and paragraphs in context.  It is no longer “Thus says the LORD,” but “Thus prefigures the LORD.”

Actually, it’s just a case of taking narrative theology seriously. Biblical narratives often embed a metanarrative that’s driving the action.

I’m assuming Israel means Israel, Zion means Zion, Ezekiel’s Temple is a real temple; that the covenants mean precisely what they say, etc.  To me, Steve’s position is like saying “a car is a car” is begging the question. 

Well, that’s catchy and cute, but is it true? To take a few examples:

i) Is Henebury assuming that grass means grass? “All flesh is grass” (Isa 40:6). Therefore, human beings are herbaceous plants.

ii) Is Babylon Babylon in the Book of Revelation? Or does it stand for something else?

iii) Is David David in Ps 89? Don’t dispensationalists think Ps 89 is a messianic Psalm? Yet it doesn’t talk about Jesus–only David!

BTW, this is a good example of why we need to distinguish between sense and reference. Even if David means David, the David redivivus theme in Ps 89 points to Jesus.

We are back to types and tokens.  The literal temple [tabernacle] and the NT church instantiate the people of God type.  But I want to ask how he knows “the people of God” – something we’ll be returning to – is a type?  A type of what?  The people of God?  Where in the text is he getting this from?

i) In a type/token relation, a type is not a type of something else. Rather, a token is a token of a type.

ii) In addition, the church, tabernacle, and temple are partial, temporary instances of God’s presence with his people in a fallen world. A foretaste of the consummation.

This is a real hang up for Steve.  I don’t know why.  The procedure is logical enough.  I have said already that fulfillment comes at the time Israel is redeemed and dwells safely (e.g. Jer. 30-33; Ezek. 34, 36-37) which hasn’t happened yet.

But when he says it “hasn’t happened yet,” that’s not based on the wording of the text. That’s not exegeting the text.

Likewise, Henebury isn’t putting himself into the historical situation of the original audience. He’s not hearing the text the way the first hearers heard it. Rather, he’s using his own timeframe as the frame of reference.

He says, “Fulfillment comes at the time Israel is redeemed and dwells safely.”

Well, wouldn’t Jews in exile hear that as having reference to the postexilic period, when Yahweh delivered them from Babylon and restored them to the land of Israel?

They didn’t need to know how long.

Didn’t they have a 70-year countdown from the time they were deported? Cf. Jer 25:12; 29:10; Dan 9:24-27.

The church was a mystery not revealed to them (Eph. 3:3-6; Col. 1:26).  All they needed to know was that it would be fulfilled.

Oh dear. I hope Henebury isn’t using the NT to interpret or “reinterpret” the OT. Surely he’s not reading the NT back into the OT to tell us what the exiles were in a position to anticipate. Doesn’t sound very dispensational to me.

Steve acts as if the OT saints understood all these underlying patterns and believed it.  If that is true I don’t know what to make of the disciples’ question in Acts 1:6;

There’s a schizophrenic quality to Henebury’s objection. On the one hand he often suggests that Jews to be able to grasp the OT on its own terms, without reference to the NT. When, however, I confine our analysis to the historical horizon of OT believers, Henebury suddenly introduces extraneous considerations. So which is it? 

or Hess’s opinion about Ezekiel’s Temple (which was ignored but for a quip about preterism).

I offered a lengthy discussion of Ezekiel’s temple.

Again notice how Steve equates his new Eden motif with “a typological view of the land.”  I repeat.  Motifs do not equate to types.

A straw man.

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