Robert Reymond Contra Walt Kaiser On Hermeneutics

But the one area of his proposed methodology where I believe Kaiser will receive the most interaction from his critics (and with which I personally would plead that the Church must not follow Kaiser) is his insistence in many places (for example, 82, 134–40) upon what he calls “the analogy of (antecedent) Scripture.” What he means by this phrase is this: in determining the author’s intended meaning in a given passage, in no case is the preacher, in order to “unpack the meaning or to enhance the usability of the individual text which is the object of [his] study” (140), to use teaching from a passage written or spoken later than the biblical statement being analyzed. In arriving at the author’s intended meaning, the exegete must restrict himself to a study of the passage itself and to “affirmations found in passages that have preceded in time the passage under study” (136, emphasis original). Kaiser’s canon here grows out of his concern to give the discipline of biblical theology its just due with its vision of the progressiveness of revelation (137). To permit subsequent revelation to determine a given author’s intention is to “level off” the process of revelation in a way overly favorable to the interests of systematic theology.

Aside from the vexing fact (that in itself tells against Kaiser’s canon) that we just do not know for sure the chronological relationship that exists between some portions of Scripture (for example, Was Obadiah written before or after Joel? Was Psalm “x” written before or after Psalm “y”? Was Mark written before or after Matthew? Was Colossians written before or after Ephesians? Was 2 Peter written before or after Jude?) and hence we could fail to use an antecedent bit of revelation or “misappropriate” a subsequent piece of revelation for exegetical purposes, there are passages where clearly there is no way the exegete can discern what the author or speaker intended without the benefit of subsequent revelational insight. For example, apart from John’s later teaching in John 2:21, there is no way that the preacher can read Jesus’ words: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days” (John 2:19) and determine that it was his body to which Jesus referred. (It should be remembered that Christ’s statement in John 2:19 was spoken some years before his resurrection and a good many years before John wrote his Gospel.) Another example: apart from Peter’s authoritative insight in Acts 2:24–31, there is no way, I would contend, that the exegete can discern, on the grounds allowed him by Kaiser, that David was not speaking of his own (and others’) resurrection when he wrote Psalm 16, but that he wrote specifically and exclusively of Messiah’s resurrection. Grammatical/historical exegesis of Psalm 16 and comparison of this Psalm with previous revelation just simply do not disclose that David, “seeing what was ahead, … spoke of the resurrection of the Christ” (Acts 2:30, 31). One more example: apart from the historical facts of the Incarnation of God the Son and the special manifestation of God the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and then subsequent New Testament revelation, it is extremely doubtful that an exegete could discover all the balancing elements of the doctrine of the Trinity from the Old Testament alone, and yet I feel sure that Kaiser believes that these elements are there and the Old Testament intends to reveal the fact of the Trinity throughout (for example, Gen. 1:26; Pss. 45:6; 110, etc.). I would urge that we take seriously Warfield’s (I believe, correct) insight that the Old Testament is like a room richly furnished but dimly lit. The New Testament does not bring “furniture” into the Old Testament “room” that was not there before, but it does illumine the “room” so that we can see the “furniture” that was there all the time, and that was doubtless intended to be there all along by the Old Testament writer himself.

I agree with Kaiser that there can be an undisciplined employment of the New Testament to discern the intention of the Old. But I would suggest that Kaiser, by his canon of “analogy of (antecent) Scripture,” has overreacted against one abuse and fallen into the ditch on the other side of the issue. I would urge that the exegete must never conclude that he has properly understood a given Old Testament author’s intended meaning until he has taken into account the entire Scripture, especially the New Testament. This is only urging a stance in harmony with the time-honored hermeneutical axiom: “The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.”
Reymond, R. L. (2005). Contending for the Faith: Lines in the Sand that Strengthen the Church (364–365). Fearn, Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications.

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About lalvin1517

I'm married with two children and pastor McCall Baptist Church in McCall, Idaho.
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