A Vine-Laden Discussion

Here are my notes from a discussion we had yesterday at the NSA grad student forum. As expected, the discussion with Peter there answered most of these questions — the only place where a disagreement simpliciter occurs is in my third point below, on the nature of typology. So here are my notes, and sorry if they seem cryptic in places . . .

Of course, Peter is fantastically learned, and a lot of fun to read. I found most of this book very helpful indeed, and these points of questioning and/or critique should not be taken as a rejection of the argument as a whole. In fact, if I don’t say something specific here, agreement elsewhere can just be assumed. And if I do say something, that does not mean disagreement necessarily. In most cases, I think my questions are simply calls for more amplification, along with an urging to what I would consider an adornment to any book, which would be to call postmodernists a lot more names — Foucault and his vermin, that sort of thing.

Husk and Kernel:

I think that the husk/kernel thing needs a lot more development. “As we also saw, Longenecker’s position accepts the husk/kernel model that is at the heart of modernist, post-Kantian hermeneutics” (p. 36). But it is also at the heart of every legitimate attempt to translate the Scriptures. The authoritas divina duplex was something worked out by Reformed scholastics well before Myer. Could it not be said that the real problem with Myer, Kant, and all that crowd is not that they separate the kernel from the husk (which every Bible translator also has to do), but rather that they get the kernel all wrong? Put another way, can I practice a “hermeneutic of the letter” with my English Bible? And if I can, how? In short, which letters?

An Authoritative Book:

“The Bible is closer to poetry than to a scientific manual, and the biblical writers’ use of words is more like that of poets than of linguists or scientists” (p. 108). Well, yes and no. In one sense it must be read as poetry and literature, because that is what it mostly is. But moderns and postmoderns have been trained to read poetry and literature as a form of private edification and appreciation — as in a literature appreciation course. Scientific manuals are closer to ancient poetry than modern poetry is to the extent that they are authoritative — they tell you what you must do.

“Just as clearly, these multiple structures do not render the music incoherent. On the contrary, they make the cantata almost unbearably rich” (p. 157). This sense of rich is exactly right, and applies to the obedient Christian in the pew, seeking edification. But what readings are we willing to excommunicate someone for refusing to accept? What kinds of readings can be used with authority?

Typological Promises:

Another issue that needs amplification is this one. On the one hand, Peter says that “typology is deliberate foreshadowing” (p. 64). This is dead on. Jesus read the Scriptures rightly before the fact, and showed His disciples their failure to read the types beforehand (Luke 24:44). But how can this be reconciled with the following?

“Once Jesus rises from the dead, though, that earlier event becomes something more specific. It becomes a promise of Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, a type and foreshadowing of the great deliverance of Golgotha . . .” (pp. 44, emphasis mine). How can something become a foreshadowing after the fact?

“Similarly, when ‘out of Egypt I called My Son’ transfers from Hosea to Matthew, the original sense remains” (p. 64, emphasis mine). But wasn’t the typological prediction part of the original sense?

“Reading Hosea in the light of the event of Jesus is, in principle, just as ordinary as reading Darwin in the light of Nazism, The Descent of Man in the light of Mein Kampf. The event of Darwin’s text becomes a different event, with a new meaning, in the aftermath of Nazism” (p. 74).

So the question here would be — is typology prophetic? And related to this, does typology require inspiration, or “double authorship?” Is anything fundamentally different happening in our readings of Hosea and Sophocles? “But their reading was also based on their conviction that Jesus is the key to all human history, culture, art, and literature” (p. 180).

“There is no such thing as a timeless text, or a timeless interpretation of a text” (p. 208). Point taken, but we need to work out (in much greater detail) what this does to prediction, promise, and faith. The Israelites in the wilderness drank from Christ, and not from a Rock which future generations of Christians would read as though it had been Christ.

Ditches Past and Future:

“Following Nietzsche, postmodern their has challenged Enlightenment ocularcentrism . . . Following Nietzsche, postmodern theory has attempted to revive the wisdom of Oedipus, the wisdom of the blinded” (p. 191). “John’s repeated emphasis on the Pharisaic knowledge begs for a Foucauldian reading” (p. 199). Does anything in Scripture ever beg for a Cartesian reading? I would be more comfortable with the occasional Foucaldian reading if such were interspersed with Cartesian readings, Belgic readings, and Al Mohler readings.

Anyway, there it is. We had ourselves a vine-laden discussion.

Theology That Bites Back



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