From Sam Waldron’s review of Barry Horner’s book Future Israel: Why Christians Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged:
1. Racist Hermeneutics?
The first thing that comes to mind when one reads these chapters is the surprise that hermeneutics could be Anti-Judaic. One naturally assumes that hermeneutics are, well, hermeneutics. People my disagree about hermeneutics, but not because they are racists. Nevertheless, Horner sees a race issue. Hermeneutics that leads to a denial of Israel’s distinctive territorial future are for him racially motivated. This is clear from what, I think, deserves to be called a kind of reverse racism that emerges in his language. He speaks of “Gentile logic” (181), “Gentile blindness and bias…proud Gentile ascendancy” (187), and “a shameful anti-Judaic attitude” (200).
This language seems “racist” in its own way. It conveys prejudice against Gentiles. It is like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s rantings against “White America.” Should we conclude from such epithets that Gentiles are guilty (because they are Gentiles) of twisted logic and blind bias? Suppose we substitute for Horner’s “Gentile” epithet alternatives like “White” and “Black.” Do not expressions like “Black logic” or “proud White ascendancy” seem a trifle racist?
Horner’s language, however, convey’s vividly his thesis. Hermeneutics which do not take the OT literally enough to predict a national ad territorial future in the promised land for Israel are motivated by racism. They are motivated by a racist Gentile prejudice against Jews. This is his thesis. On the face of it, however, such a thesis is difficult if not impossible to prove. Horner may be able to prove that some people who promoted the more figurative to the OT did have attitudes which may be called Anti-Semitic. What he cannot and does not prove is that their Anti-Semitism was the source or cause of their hermeneutics.
2. Reductio Ad Absurdum
But leaving this aspect of Horner’s treatment aside, we meet here a sophisticated discussion of the hermeneutical issues which divide him from the traditional Reformed approach to the OT. He is aware that his opponents believe the Apostles and the NT to interpret the OT differently than he does. He attempts to explain this method of interpretation as an exceptional accommodation of the OT that is not inconsistent with the literal approach he favors. He insists that a literal hermeneutic must be carried through rigorously. He argues that, when it is, a distinct territorial future for ethnic Israel in the promised land is the result. We must examine these claims.
One form of logical argument is called reductio ad absurdum. This way of arguing critiques an opponent’s argument by showing that it actually leads to conclusions that are absurd or impossible. This is one of my major concerns with Horner’s brand of literalism. His kind of literal approach to the OT leads to conclusions that are absurd or impossible. Notice that I have said “Horner’s brand of literalism” and “his kind of literal approach.” I am not opposed to a literal interpretation of Scripture rightly defined and rightly qualified. I am opposed to what Horner and his cohorts think of as literal interpretation.
And I am opposed to it because it leads to all sorts of absurd conclusions. One of the ways-not the only way- to determine if a passage is to be interpreted in a prosaic or a figurative fashion is to ask if a prosaic (non-figurative) interpretation leads to conclusions that are inconsistent with the clear teachings of Scripture elsewhere. If it does, then such a method of interpreting the passage in question cannot be correct. This “clear teaching of Scripture elsewhere” is sometimes called the “analogy of faith.”
What absurd conclusions does Horner’s literalism lead to? Consider, for example, that the mention of David in Ezekiel is to be taken literally. Like Moses and Elijah he will have a great prominence in the millennium. He is the prince mentioned in Ezek. 45:22 who has literal sons and offers literal sin offerings for himself in the millennial temple (65).
Speaking of sin offerings, Horner affirms that in the millennium “purified Judaism will retain a distinctive role as the prophets make very clear” (177). He further asserts , “so this perishing world will be renewed, yet retain essential connection with its original form. Certainly purified Judaism will be a distinctive part of that retained essence” (177). Citing A.B. Davidson’s comments as “judicious,” he agrees with Davidson when he says, ” The Temple is real, for it is the place of Jehovah’s presence upon the earth; the ministers and administrations are equally real, for his servants serve him in his temple. The service of Jehovah by sacrifice and offering is considered to continue when Israel is perfect and the kingdom is the Lords” (178).
Horner clearly adopts a consistently literal interpretation of Ezekiel’s prophecies. It is fair, therefore, to assume that in regards to their other assertions as consistently literal. Thus, we may assume that Horner believes that in the future there are tables for slaughtering burnt and sin offerings and the restoration of sin and guilt offerings and the sprinkling of blood on the altar (40:39, 43:18-27; 44:9-11, 13-15). He believes in the restoration of the Zadokite Levitical priesthood 940:46-47; 43:18-19; 44:9-11, 13-15). He believes that the temple is a holy place to which no one “uncircumcised in flesh” may come (41:4; 43:12, 13; 44:9-11). He believes that there will be holy garments that the priests are to wear only when the minister in the temple (42:14; 44:17-18). He also believes the Shekinah glory overshadowing the temple (43:7). He believes that this system will go on forever in the New Earth (43:7). He believes in the restoration of the ceremonial law in which contact with dead bodies creates ceremonial defilement (43:7). He believes that the altar will have to be cleansed before being used (43:18-27). There are special priestly laws about haircuts, the consumption of alcoholic beverages, and marrying only virgins (44:20-22). The laws about ceremonial purity and defilement are restored, taught by the priests, and enforced by their judgments (44:23-24). There is also the restoration of the religious calendar of the OT including seventh-day Sabbath observance, new moons, and the year of Jubilee (44:24; 45:17; 46:1,3, 16-17). For many the mere enumeration of these consequences of Horner’s hermeneutic is sufficient to show how its absurdity and inconsistency with the analogy of faith.
One of the indications that a passage is not to be taken literally is if its literal interpretation places it on a collision course with the clear teaching of Scripture. The analogy of faith is based on the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. If Scripture is inerrant, then it cannot contradict itself.
… For example, Horner thinks, and must think, that Ezekiel teaches the future re-institution of the Levitical priesthood (40:46-47; 43:18-19; 44:9-11, 13-15). The NT teaches that the Melchizedian priesthood of Christ means the abolition of the Levitical priesthood. Heb. 7:11-24 says :
Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well….For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God….For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
This passage does not merely teach that the Levitical priesthood is suspended until a future time. It teaches that it is replaced by a “better hope,” by the “perfection” of Christ, who holds “His priesthood permanently.”
…There is, of course, a well-known explanation which speaks of the memorial character of these sin-offerings. There are two problems with this. The one is that this explanation is itself a departure from consistently literal interpretation. Ezekiel never qualifies these sin offerings as memorial, but uses exact language that elsewhere occurs with regards to the OT sacrifices. As far as Ezekiel interpreted literally is concerned, these predicted sin offerings are no different than the ones offered in the tabernacle and temple from the time of Exodus. The other problem is that it does not allow types and shadows to be memorials . By definition a type and shadow is fulfilled and abolished by the comings of its fulfillment.
The fact is that the Nt teaches that as shadows sin offerings have been abolished by the death of Christ, the great and final sin offering. Consider Heb. 10:8-18.
When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds,“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.*
*Vol. VI No. 1: The Reformed Baptist Theological Review 2009 (107-112). Owensboro, KY: Reformed Baptist Theological Review.