There are varieties of Dispensationalism, e.g., classic (Darby, Scofield), modified (Chafer, Ryrie), and progressive (Bock, Blaising). To be sure there are varieties of covenant theology, e.g., classic e.g., that taught in the classical period that taught the covenant of redemption (pactum salutis), the covenant of works (foedus operum), and the covenant of grace (foedus gratiae) and revised (which omits the covenant of works and/or the covenant of redemption). Nevertheless, despite the significant differences between revised and classic covenant theology, they are united in their conviction that the history of redemption is united by a single, typological, covenant of grace progressively revealed in the Old Testament, beginning in Genesis 3:15 and ratified by Christ’s obedience and death.
For a century, beginning in the 1870s, American evangelicalism was heavily influenced by Dispensationalism. Advanced through Dispensationalist prophecy conferences, Bible Colleges, seminaries and perhaps most of all, through the Scofield Bible (1909), it became the dominant paradigm for the interpretation of redemptive history among those influenced by revivalism and fundamentalism, which is to say most evangelicals in the period. Dispensationalism appeared to be at the peak of its influence in the 1970s with the publication of Hal Lindsey’s, The Late, Great Planet Earth (1970), John Walvoord’s Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis (1976; rev. 1990), and the Ryrie Study Bible (1976) seemed to signal that the influence of Dispensationalism, especially the modified Dispensationalism was only continuing to grow.
In retrospect, however, it appears that 1970s were not a staging ground for further growth but the zenith of Dispensationalism. Its influence began to wane through the 1980s. In 1990 Bock and Blaising published Progressive Dispensationalism, which signaled a movement away from the Dispensationalism of not only of Scofield but also of Chafer, Ryrie, and Walvoord. There are bastions of modified Dispensationalism, however, that are continue to hold the fort but they seem to feel beleaguered not without and within.
I. Covenant Theology Began in the 1640s?
Perhaps in reaction, some defenders of modified Dispensationalism are prone to make certain exaggerated historical and theological claims as part of their defense. One of them is that covenant theology arose in the 1640s (or 1670s).
C. Fred Lincoln made this claim in a series of articles published in Bibliotheca Sacra beginning in 1943. His work has been further reduced to the bald claim, as one pastor puts it on his website: “Covenant theology is a system developed by two men, Johannes Cocceius (1603–1669) and Hermann Witsius (1636-1708).” I have heard this claim repeatedly.
However comforting such a narrative might be to Dispensationalists it is demonstrably false. Covenant theology did mature in the 17th century but the very system of a prelapsarian (pre-fall) covenant of works and a postlapsarian covenant of grace, which allegedly arose in the 1640s, existed explicitly as early as 1561 and implicitly much earlier than that. In the transitional period from 1561 until 1600 one sees multiple writers doing explicitly what some Dispensational apologists claim did not exist until the 1640s.
Further, there is good evidence to think that the roots of the explicit covenant theology of the early 1560s were in in the magisterial Reformers as they worked out an account of redemptive history from the 1520s. forward By the early 17th century the Reformed themselves believed that the roots of their covenant theology were in Oecolampadius (1520s). Certainly Zwingli and Bullinger were working out a covenant theology in response to the Anabaptists. The latter published a treatise on the covenant of grace in 1534. Ursinus taught the covenant of works or a covenant of nature in 1561. Caspar Olevianus published a series of treatises on covenant theology in the 1560s, 70s, and 80s culminating in his work, On The Substance of the Covenant of Grace Between God and the Elect (1585). Arguably, Olevianus taught a legal, prelapsarian covenant between God and Adam which was substantially identical to that found in Ursinus and later in Rollock and Perkins. He also taught something very much like the pre-temporal covenant of redemption. See Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant for a survey of his theology.
Long before the Reformed developments in the late 16th century there had been covenant theologies current in the medieval and patristic periods. Much of what the Reformed argued in their account of the substantial unity of salvation was influenced by those earlier responses, e.g., to the Albigensians in the 13th century and to the Gnostics and Marcionites in the 2nd century. Among the second-century writers Barnabas, Irenaeus, and Justin were clearly proponents of a covenantal explanation of redemptive history, which the Reformed would repeat in the 16th century against the Anabaptists. In short, the evidence that a developed covenant theology pre-existed the mid-17th century is overwhelming and claims that Reformed covenant theology arose as a system in mid-17th century are not tenable.
Part 2: Is Reformed covenant theology a “replacement theology”?
R. Scott Clark, “Christ and Covenant: Federal Theology in Orthodoxy,” in Herman Selderhuis, ed., Companion to Reformed Orthodoxy (Leiden: Brill, 2013).
R. Scott Clark, A Brief History of Covenant Theology.
Here’s the syllabus for my course on the history of covenant theology (with a bibliography).
II. Covenant Theology Is Replacement Theology
Our English word canard is actually a French word for duck (the noun, not the verb). Used figuratively in both French and English it signals “an unfounded rumor or story” (Oxford American Dictionary). In this brief three-part series I am addressing three canards, i.e., three unfounded claims that Dispensational apologists make about Reformed theology. This series should interest those more irenic Dispensationalists who seek to build bridges between the Reformed and Dispensationalists. It should also interest those who, though they have been raised in Dispensational congregations, are investigating Reformed theology or who are in transition between Dispensationalism and Reformed theology, piety, and practice. In part 1 we looked at the claim by some Dispensationalists that covenant theology arose in the mid-17th century.
The second thing that Dispensational apologists should stop saying that Reformed theology is a “replacement” or “supersessionist” theology. According to this criticism Reformed theology is supposed to teach that whereas the Jews were God’s visible people under the Old Testament, under the New Testament, they have been replaced or superseded (hence supersessionism) by the New Testament Church. This is a gross mischaracterization of Reformed theology and it begs the question, i.e., it assumes what it must prove.
The charge is loaded with a premise that we do not accept: that “Israel” and “the church” are two distinct or parallel things. As we understand redemptive history the church has always been. There was a church, of sorts, even before the fall. The garden was a temple, a holy place, which Adam as prophet, priest, and king was to rule, guard, and administer. He failed. There was a church after the fall, beginning with Adam, then Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, etc.
This is not some theory that the Reformed impose upon Scripture. The doctrine that the church has always been is a biblical idea. According to Deuteronomy 4:10, when Israel was gathered at the foot of Sinai (Horeb) they were gathered, before the face of Yahweh (לִפְנֵ֨י יְהוָ֣ה) as the covenant assembly (קהל). The Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which was highly influential upon the vocabulary of the Greek NT uses the expression “on the day of the assembly” (τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς ἐκκλησίας). The noun that the LXX uses there and in Deuteronomy 9:10, 18:16. In Deuteronomy 23:3 (LXX) the same noun is used for the “assembly ( (קהלof the Lord” (ἐκκλησίαν κυρίου). Deuteronomy 31:30 speaks of the “assembly of Israel” (ἐκκλησίας Ισραηλ). This is the noun which, in the New Testament, is translated “church.” When our Lord says, in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church” he uses this noun (ἐκκλησίαν). In v. 17, when he says “tell it to the church” (ἐκκλησίᾳ), he is saying, “tell it to the covenant assembly.” It is the very same idea, the very same sort of assembly in view in Deuteronomy 4, 9, 18 (as surveyed above) that is being invoked in Matthew 16. Here is a longer, more detailed explanation of the biblical doctrine of the church as the Christ-confessing covenant community. The Biblical understanding would be clearer if we used the same terms in both cases. We could speak of the church gathered at Sinai etc or Jesus building his covenant assembly.
In the Reformed understanding, the church gradually became predominantly and distinctively Jewish with the institution of the sacrament of circumcision, as Paul says in Rom 4:–12. Abraham believed before he was circumcised, i.e., while he was a Gentile and he believed after he was circumcised, when he became a Jew. So it is with the history of redemption. God had his people under Noah and Abraham but, in the providence of God, the focus of redemption gradually narrowed, like a funnel, through redemptive history as it became focused for about a millennium, temporarily, on national Israel. From Israel would come the Savior of the world. So, for a time the church was predominantly Jewish. In no way do we diminish the importance of this administration of the church or the outward administration of the covenant of grace under national Israel. We agree with Paul who wrote, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Rom 9:4–5; ESV). In Ephesians 2:12 Paul says that to national Israel was given “the covenant of promise” (διαθηκῶν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας). They had the highest privilege.
The very notion of a “replacement” or “succession” assumes that God is no longer saving Jews. This is contrary to Paul’s teaching in Romans 11:
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace (Rom 11:1–5; ESV).
Paul appealed to himself as a proof that God was still honoring his promise and still saving his people, his elect, from among the descendants of Abraham. Further, it is held by many faithful Reformed theologians, on the basis of Romans 11, that there will a future, great conversion of Jews to new life and true faith in Jesus as the Messiah. That would be a glorious thing indeed.
We must also remember, however, that Paul also says that, in Christ, the dividing wall erected by the 613 commandments (of the Mosaic law) has been broken down. It’s worth quoting at length:
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph 2:11–22; ESV).
According to Paul, though there was a temporary dividing wall, under Moses and David (for about 1,000 years). That dividing wall has been demolished by the death of Christ. Now, for those who are in Christ there is only “one man,” as it were. Peace has been made. Reconciliation has been accomplished. Even under the Mosaic and Davidic administrations of the covenant of grace (the church) there were some Gentiles grafted in to the body as a foreshadow of the future ingathering of the Gentiles. Remember Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5)? He was a Gentile but he was received by the prophet as a member of the covenant community. Rahab is another case (Matt 1:5; Heb 11:31). In the NT we see that the Old, Mosaic covenant (2 Cor 3:14) was fulfilled and cancelled (Col 2:14) by the death of Christ. In the New Testament the nations, Gentiles, would be called to faith in Jesus the Messiah just as the Jews had been (Isa 52:10, 15; 60:3). Indeed, the actual inclusion of Gentiles into covenant communities (into the church) created a crisis that had to be resolved by a formal assembly (Acts 15). Paul had to address the problem repeatedly (e.g., in Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians to name but a few).
Now, in Christ, there is no longer any distinction between Jew or Gentile (See Rom 10:12; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11). The wall, erected in the temporary national covenant with Israel, has been destroyed never to be rebuilt. God is saving all his elect, Jew and Gentile alike (See Rom 11) and shall continue to do so until Christ returns. Reformed theologians and the Reformed churches have always believed this. The very category “replacement” is alien to Reformed theology. Like all Christians we pray for the conversion of Jews and Gentiles by the sovereign, gracious work of the Holy Spirit. With Paul, we pray for the conversion of Israel to saving faith in the ascended and glorified Messiah Jesus of Nazareth.
We reject the idea that there are two peoples, an earthly and a spiritual people. God’s spiritual promises were temporarily administered through an earthly national people but, as Paul says in Galatians 3:17, the Mosaic covenant was 430 years after Abraham and the Mosaic covenant did not change the Abrahamic. Agreeing with Paul in Galatians is hardly “replacement theology” or of “supersessionism.”
If Dispensationalists are genuinely interested understanding Reformed theology and it representing it accurately to others, they must stop saying that Reformed theology teaches “replacement theology.”
Here are some resources on the so-called “replacement theology.”
- Covenant Theology Is Not Replacement Theology
- Has The Church Replaced Israel?
- The Christ-Confessing Covenant Community
- The Israel of God
III. Reformed Covenant Theology Allegorizes?
“For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6b)
It was widely held in the early church that 2 Corinthians 3:6 intended to distinguish between the literal sense of the text of Scripture and its figurative sense. The literal sense is that sense the text had in its original context, to its original readers (or hearers). The figurative sense referred to metaphorical or symbolic truth contained in the text, which might take a variety of shapes. There was never any doubt, even by that most prolific scholar of the figurative senses Origen (c. 184–c.254), that the literal sense is always present and most basic. What varied, however, was the degree to which a writer was interested in one category or the other. Thus, whereas Origen was much more interested in the figurative (theological and moral) senses, John Chyrsostom (347–407) was much more interested in the literal sense.
Over time, the figurative sense developed. Initially it was said to contain the doctrinal (allegorical) and the moral (tropological). Eventually, by the 7th century writers were speaking of a third sub-category of figurative meaning, the eschatological (analogical). Together, these 4 senses came to be known as the quadriga. The development of the three sub-categories of the figurative sense was not arbitrary. It was driven by two impulses. First, there was a correlation with 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Faith refers to the doctrinal sense (allegory) or what is to be believed (credenda), hope refers to what the text teaches about heaven (eschatology) or what is to hoped (speranda), and love to what is to be done (agenda). Each of these correlated to a cardinal, basic, pivotal (cardo = hinge) Christian virtue: faith (fides), hope (spes), and charity (or love; caritas). The medievals developed a song to help students remember how to keep the senses distinct:
Litera gesta docet, (The letter teaches of deeds)
quid credas allegoria; (allegory of what is believed)
moralis quid agas; (morality of what is done)
quo tenda anagogia. (anagoge of things to come)
Sometimes one is given the impression that users of the quadriga sought to find every sense in every text. This is not likely. In his commentary on Job (Moralia in Job), Gregory the Great (c. 540–604) wrote,
Let it be known that we survey some passages with a literal interpretation. Other passages we examine by means of allegory in a figurative interpretation. Still others we study through the exclusive use of moral comparisons. Finally, some passages we investigate with greater care through the combined use of all three ways. Thus, we first lay a foundation of literal meaning. Then, through the figurative sense, we raise the structure of the mind into a citadel of faith. Finally, through the moral interpretation, we clothe our building with an additional shading.
The second driver of the expansion of the figurative sense was the influence of the spirit/matter dualism of middle and neo-Platonism. In this scheme the material is less real and less significant than the spiritual. To the degree this bias influenced Christians, it is not surprising that they (e.g., Origen) came to see the literal sense of the text as superficial and the spiritual (or figurative) senses of the text as more significant. Thus, for Origen, the literal narrative about the ark in Genesis 6–9 was undoubtedly true (contra critics like Celsus) but the literal sense was obvious. What was less obvious, what required more skill, more insight was the figurative (spiritual) senses of the narrative, particularly the theological (or allegorical) sense of the narrative. Origen was most interested in the theological sense of the ark because it suited his apologetic program. For Origen, Celsus and the critics missed the point of the ark by focusing on its size and the number of animals on board. We see analogous use of Scripture by apologists today in the way some make us of “every thought captive” (2 Cor 10:5). In context Paul does not mean to teach immediately what that text is often used to say. If there is a connection, it is via the theological implication of the text.
By the fourth century, under Origen’s considerable influence—Origen was not condemned until 553—it became fairly commonplace for interpreters to assign multiple senses to an important term such as Jerusalem.
Literal = the actual city
Allegorical = Christ’s church
Tropological = Human souls
Anagogical = The heavenly city
In this approach, Jesus did not get into a boat to teach (Luke 5:3) for practical reasons but in order to send a symbolic message about the centrality of the visible institutional church. The boat was said to represent the visible church. Again, we recoil against such a reading (or we should) because it is arbitrary, because it ignores the context and the grammar but one can see how, under the influence of Platonic dualism and the ordinary pastoral need to try to impress God’s people with the significance of the narrative, or to apply the text, or even to maintain the congregation’s interest in a sermon—it is not as if evangelical pastors do not allegorize in precisely this way every Sunday across the globe for precisely these reasons—such an approach would have been attractive. Again, this approach, however misguided it might seem to us, it is not as if Paul did not invoke allegory (in some sense) in Galatians 4 in his explanation of the flow of redemptive history. Add a little Platonic dualism to one’s hermeneutic and voilà and the text becomes, in the tropological sense, about the journey of the soul to God. We would be less than honest if we did not recognize at least a little popular contemporary evangelical preaching and teaching in the very approach that many have been taught to condemn.
By the 13th century Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224–74) recognized the excess to which the quadriga had been taken and attempted to rein it in by leading a sort of back to the Bible movement wherein the spiritual senses were said to be embedded in the text itself, rather than derived outside the text and imposed upon it but he continued to read the text in ways that the Reformation would ultimately find unsatisfying and arbitrary.
In The Reformation the Protestants not only affirmed the primacy of the literal sense but they rejected the quadriga as an abuse of Scripture. This is not to say that they did not themselves find “spiritual” or figurative senses from time to time but that they were so committed to the notion that the text has one intended sense that rhetorically and in practice were highly critical of the quadrigal system. When the text was intended by the divine and human authors to be taken figuratively, they sought to do so. When the text was intended (as in the case of Luke 5:3) to be taken as a straightforward historical narrative), they did so. They certainly made theological and moral applications of the text but that was a rather different thing than finding multiple senses in the text.
I offer this narrative to help our Dispensationalist friends understand why it is so wrongheaded for them to continue to criticize Reformed covenant theology for “allegorizing.” What the Dispensationalist critic typically means by this criticism is not that the Reformed are guilty of looking for the doctrinal sense of the text, as the fathers and medievals did, but rather that the Reformed have reached a different conclusion than the Dispensationalist. In my experience with Dispensationalists there is not a great awareness of the history of hermeneutics, the quadriga, or even of what the allegorical sense really was. “Allegory” is used a synonym for figurative or even as a synonym for typology. In the classic and modified dispensational schemes, the promises made to national Israel are central to the unfolding of redemptive history. By contrast, in classic Reformed covenant theology, Christ is said to be at the center of the unfolding history of redemption. According to some Dispensationalist critics, any scheme which fails to read the divine promises to be chiefly about national Israel (e.g., in a millennial kingdom including the institution of the memorial Levitical sacrifices) is said to be guilty of “allegorizing.”
This charge is false. The reality is that Reformed interpreters are committed to the original, intended literal sense of Scripture. Historically, however, we have recognized that Scripture intends to use a variety of forms of speech and genres and we interpret Scripture in light of the human and divine authorship of Scripture. We let the clearer interpret the less clear. The prophecies of Daniel and Ezekiel are manifestly less clear insofar as symbolic language is inherently less clear than didactic and narrative discourse. We let the newer teach us how to interpret the older. Thus, when Jesus said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25, 26; ESV) and Luke adds, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27; ESV) and further that when Christ “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45; ESV) it was to see that the central message is, as Luke writes, “that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46, 47; ESV). In other words, it is not “allegorizing” to see all of Scripture chiefly pointing to Christ as the fulfillment of divine promises but rather it is the intended sense of Scripture understood as Jesus and the Apostles would have it. That this is so seems abundantly clear to those who are not burdened with the a priori that God’s plan for national Israel and its restoration must be at the center of redemptive history and therefore the hermeneutical key to Scripture. As we understand the literal sense of Scripture, Jesus said, “Abraham saw my day and rejoiced” (John 8:56). Abraham literally believed in Jesus. Contra Dispensationalism, the “content” of faith has not changed throughout redemptive history. Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David all believed in Jesus. That is the literal, intended message of Hebrews 11 and Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “all the promises of God are amen in Christ Jesus.” Paul literally teaches in Ephesians 2 that Christ figuratively tore down the dividing wall that separated Jew and Gentile and that all those who believe in Christ form one, new covenant, man.
Scripture uses “types” (τύπος) and shadows (σκιὰ). Paul says that Adam was a “type” of Jesus (Rom 5:14). Paul teaches that the 613 Mosaic laws were a “shadow” of Christ (Col 2:16–17). Hebrews 10:1 says exactly the same thing in exactly the same terms. They were anticipations of the reality. They prefigured the coming of Christ. Heaven is a reality. Arguably, in John and Hebrews, it is the reality. After all, the true bread comes from heaven (John 6:32). On this see Geerhardus Vos, “True and Truth in the Johannine Writings” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation).
Hebrews 8:5 says that the Levitical priests serve at a copy and shadow (ὑποδείγματι καὶ σκιᾷ) of the reality, i.e., of the heavenly temple, where Christ is now. In other words, unless we are to accuse Hebrews of Platonism, which charge is nothing but rationalism, then we must say that the earthly temple was only and ever intentionally an illustration of something else. Thus, it is not allegorizing to recognize, as the fathers and the Reformed did, that when Jesus said “destroy this temple, and in thee days I will raise it up” (John 2:19) he was speaking figuratively, he was saying that he is the temple. He was saying that he is the fulfillment of the temple. This is not Reformed allegorizing. It is the patent teaching of God’s Word: “But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:21). The true sense of Jesus’ words is a figure of speech. It is on the basis of our union with Christ that believers become corporately and individually, figuratively, the temple of God (1 Cor 3:16, 17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16). The dividing wall having been broken down by Christ’s death, Jewish and Gentile Christians are being made into one figurative temple (Eph 2:21). The Spirit of God and of Shekinah glory rests upon us corporately (1 Pet 4:14).
As Hebrews says, he is our high priest (Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:15, 15; 5:5, 10, 6:20; 7:26; 8:1, 3; 9:11). That is why Jesus “once for all” (ἐφάπαξ) offered himself up as the sacrifice for sin (Heb 7:27). He entered “once for all” into the holy of holies (Heb 9:12). He appeared “once for all” to put away sin by his sacrifice (Heb 9:26). Believers have been sanctified by his “once for all” offering (Heb 10:10). There were literal sacrifices, priests, and temples but they prefigured the literal reality of Jesus’ perfect, active suffering obedience, which he accomplished for all his elect (Jew and Gentile) and which has been graciously imputed to all who believe by grace alone. His literal obedience made him figuratively the “lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36). He is the lamb who was led before its shearer (Acts 8:32). He is our Passover lamb (1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:19; Rev 5:6).
In short, as Hebrews teaches, Moses and the entire typological system, worked for (i.e., pointed to and was fulfilled by) Jesus:
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (Heb 3:1–6; ESV).
Jesus is the literal Son, the literal heir, and the literal owner of God’s figurative house. Moses was a worker, a servant in that house. The whole Israelite arrangement was never anything but a type and shadow of the reality to come: Christ. That is not allegorizing. That is the way holy Scripture itself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, inerrant in every syllable, intends to be interpreted. Fidelity to Scripture requires that we distinguish properly between the literal and the figurative, that we recognize literary devices, that we recognize what is a type and what is a fulfillment. Fidelity to Scripture requires that we not only see where Scripture explicitly finds a fulfillment but that we learn from Scripture how to interpret Scripture. J. Dwight Pentecost was wrong (Things to Come, 17). The rabbis did not have the right hermeneutic but the wrong conclusions. Their system meant that Jesus could not be the Savior because he did not meet their expectations. The question we might ask, in light of the clear, repeated, and abundant testimony of Scripture is whether the hermeneutic of our Dispensationalist friends is more like that the Pharisees than it is like that of Jesus and the Apostles?
My understanding of the history of the quadriga is influenced by a number of sources beginning with the work of Beryl Smalley (e.g., The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 1940). The Song of the Exegete is taken from Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), s.v., “Quadriga.”
- Straining At Hermeneutical Gnats And Swallowing Exegetical Camels
- Reading Scripture As The Apostles Did Or Some Other Way?
- Is There An Apostolic Hermeneutic And Can We Imitate It?
- What The Bible Is All About