Archive for the ‘Hermeneutics’ Category

We Become What We Worship: Review – I

Greg Beale‘s biblical-theological acumen is remarkable. Although a self-proclaimed maximalist (24), Beale leaves no stone unturned whether he is tracing an exegetical arguments or redemptive-historical themes. His latest book We Become What We Worship: a biblical theology of idolatry is no exception. The seeds of this book were sewn through several of his seminary courses, including his Use of the OT in the NT, which proved quite challenging my first year of seminary. It required a working knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, and I only had Greek at the time. I eventually dropped the 10 day course. However, I recall spending considerable time in Isaiah 6 tracing its influence on the NT and its description of “sensory organ malfunction,” the pattern of Gentiles and Jews being rendered spiritually blind, deaf, and dumb. Beale makes this text the seminal starting point for a biblical theology of idolatry in WBWWW.

In chapter one, Beale takes Martin Luther’s definition of idolatry and slightly tweaks it: “whatever your heart clings to or relies upon, that is your God; trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and idol.” Beale adds “whatever your heart clings to or relies on for ultimate security.” (6) This is an excellent definition of idolatry, both heart-focused and God-centered, perceiving idolatry to be a matter of heart not just action. The rest of the chapter outlines Beale’s hermeneutic, which is a good, concise introduction on how to do biblical theology. WIthout wading into the frey of sensus plenior debate, Beale notes his hermeneutical preferences summarizing his position as canonical, gentic-progressive, and intertextual. Typical Bealian verbosity!

Chapter Two lay the biblical-theological groundwork for his thesis: “we resemble what we revere, either for ruin or for restoration.” Isaiah 6 portrays Israel as deaf and blind, like the idols they worship. Their idolatry has rendered them idol-like, a judgment for idolatry. We become like what we worship. Beale convincingly traces this dynamic throughout the rest of Isaiah. Chapter three extends this examination to the rest of the OT, overtuning a host of exgetical gems through rigorous biblical digging. In particular, Beale notes the prominence of the Golden Calf rebellion in Deuteronomy 29 as programmatic for idolatry themes and dynamics in the rest of Scripture. Chapter four continues tracing the become what you worship dynamic through Judaism, with chapter five turning the corner into the New Testament. It is in the Gospels that we begin to see the resemble what we revere for restoration more prominently. I will pick up with the review here in the next post.

For another review, see Josh Otte’s blog.


Hermeneutical Method for Biblical Theology

Richard Hays’ pioneering work in narrative theology, especially in Paul, has proven to be a massive contribution to Biblical Theology. Hays’ had a significant influence on N.T. Wright’s hermeneutic. In Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, Hays outlines seven helpful criteria for detecting intertextual echoes:

  1. The text echoed must be available to the original recipients/readers.
  2. A significant volume of intertextual echo should be present, determined by repetition of words, syntactical patterns and general prominence in author’s overall thought.
  3. Recurrence, how often does the author cite or allude to the scriptural passage?
  4. Thematic coherence, does the alleged echo square with the author’s argument?
  5. Is the allusion historically plausible, could the readers and hearers have understood the allusion?
  6. Does the interpretation align with the history of interpretation?
  7. Does the allusion provide a satisfactory explanation with the other six criteria, illuminating the surrounding discourse?

It is rare that all seven criterion will apply in any given allusion or echo. Moreover, shades of certainty vary with the number and degree of criterion which are met. However, as Hays points out, texts are not inert and can not always be contained by our hermeneutical methods. Nevertheless, these seven criterion are valuable–critical–hermeneutical guide in doing Biblical theology

Beale’s Old in the New Categories

With the dawn of Beale and Carson’s New Testament Use of the Old Testament Commentary I thought I would post Greg Beale’s Old in the New hermeneutical categories for exegesis. These are taken from his Old in the New course taught variously at Gordon-Conwell and Wheaton College.

I. Proof-texting for fulfillment

A. Direct prophetical fulfillment – Basic understanding of Prophecy.

B. Indirect fulfillment/ Event prophecy – (Mt 2:15/Hs 1:10) This is first Exodus that Hosea is reflecting on as an anticipation of Christ’s exodus to Egypt. Jesus is central, fulfilling everything that Israel failed to do. Corporate solidarity in action.

II. Analogical/universalizing – this use may be conceptual or textual as will be seen below.

A. Rev 2:14,24 – Balaam’s prophecy indicative of a group of false teachers. Moabites and Israelites combine to produce harlotry which is spiritually pictured here. This is motivated by economic motive just as Balaam was.

B. I Cor 9:9/Deut 25:4 – “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely pantws he says this for us, doesn’t he?”

III. Symbolic Use – difference from analogical use is that there are not 2 things compared. The symbol may or may not describe an event. Could be a subset of II.

These symbolic uses denote continuity from the OT to the NT.

IV. Abiding Authority – Rm. 3:4/Ps God is trustworthy; 3:10 Man is sinful and fallen.

V. Stock-in-trade – something done often, repeated use of a word/phrase so much that it comes to have a common meaning without reference to the original context. Ex. That was her waterloo. Many would recognize that this has to do with a loss, fewer would know the original context. This occurs in the OT “Edom, Moab and the Sons of Ammon” is used to refer to the enemies of Israel even though the enemies are dead. Seen in II Macabees etc.

VI. Rhetorical Use – impressive language included for rapport and inauthentic, but not necessarily. Paul may have incorporated the OT texts for rapport, this would not disqualify the use.

VII. Midrashic Use – Scripture interpreting Scripture. “Literature about literature,” Prabhu, p. 117. There may be 4 or 5 uses…. 1QM the Q War Scroll, in the beginning of the scroll the author explains in apocalyptic language the last battle of time, drawing from Dan 11, Zech 14, Is 41, etc…there appears to be a main text. In this case it is Daniel 11, the hermeneutical magnet. Both outline and content follow Daniel, see handouts. Mt 24 synoptic eschatological discourse is dominated by Daniel.

VIII. Textual Use – Authors quote from various texts in order to bring out an intended theme more explicitly

IX. Assimilated Use – author expresses biblical language simply because it is a function of the way he thinks. Scripture becomes a way of speaking.

X. Ironic Use – saying of one thing to intend the opposite in order to ridicule, often to stress ironic judgment or redemption. Rev 5:6 the 7 horns of Christ contrasted/compared with the 7 horns of the beast/Satan in order to emphasize the superior power of Christ over and against Satan. This is an example of judicial irony.