Johnson: Were The Apostles Irresponsible Interpreters Of Scripture?

Old Testament texts may both refer (even retrospectively) to an Old Testament event (type) and find fulfillment (prospectively) in a New Testament event (antitype). Matthew’s application of Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I called my son,” to the sojourn of Joseph and Mary with the child Jesus in Egypt is often cited as an egregious example of the irresponsible absurdity of apostolic hermeneutics (Matt. 2:15). Hosea plainly spoke not prospectively of the Messiah but retrospectively of the exodus, say Matthew’s critics. In one sense they are right: Hosea’s text does indeed look back to the exodus. But Matthew’s critics ignore (or simply reject) a more foundational conviction to which Matthew is leading his readers: Jesus is the true Israel, delivered from infant death, brought out of Egypt, tested in the wilderness, and finally exalted as Son of Man, invested with all authority as representative head of the eschatological “saints of the Most High” (Dan. 7:13–14 is echoed in the Great Commission, Matt. 28:18–20). By affirming that Hosea’s words are “fulfilled” in the young Jesus’ return from Egypt with his parents, Matthew is not claiming that Hosea’s words fit Jesus instead of Israel but that they fit Jesus because he is Israel’s fulfillment.

Dennis Johnson | Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, ed. John J. Hughes (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 207–08.


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Posted by Tony Phelps | Saturday, October 7, 2023 | Categorized HeidelQuotes, Hermeneutics, Scripture | Tagged Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Phelps

Tony grew up in Rhode Island. He was educated at BA (University of Rhode Island) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He worked in the insurance industry for ten years. He planted a PCA church in Wakefield, RI where he served for eleven years. In 2015–18 he pastored Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Colorado Springs. He is currently pastor of Living Hope (OPC). Tony is married to Donna and together they have three children. Meet all the Heidelberg contributors»


  1. Reverend Phelps,
    Do you recommend this book for laymen? Or is it more geared towards seminary students and pastors?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Molly,

      This is a wonderful book. Many lay Christians have read it with profit but there are two other versions, the middle, and the little: Walking With Jesus Through the Word and Journeys With Jesus. Highly recommended!

  2. I just finished this wonderful book. I’m just an ordinary layman, but the benefits for me were double. Johnson’s discussions of hermeneutics and history of interpretation are invaluable tools even for lay-folk. But knowing what my pastor is doing behind the scenes for his flock is equally helpful.

    I’m really glad that the HB team is promoting this book.

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