The Apostles’ System of Interpretation ~ Part 2

I have been quite disappointed with the whole system of dispensationalism for the past few years.  I am currently reviewing Progressive Dispensationalism to see if it has any merit to it.  There are some good points, but the whole system just seems too full of flaws.  It is dispensational thinking that relegates huge portions of scriptures as being completely inapplicable to the church.  The problem is that the apostles quoted profusely from the OT establishing a hermeneutic that saw prophecies being fulfilled in the church.  After my comment on this very nice man’s blog which I posted a few days ago, he responded back pointing out that I did not deal with some of the issues that he had raised.  For an Amillennialist, there were some issues that were unanswerable, but here’s the kicker, I’m PreMillennialist!  So the issues that he raised are not really issues to me at all since I agree on those points.  Here is some more of the dialogue, whether or not this is helpful to you to understand what type of hermeutic to use, I haven’t the slightest.  I just know it’s an eye-opening experience for me to be put into the category where folks think I am claiming apostolic authority simply because I interpret the scriptures in the same way that the apostles did.
Blogger responds to me:
I still don’t think you’re getting my point, if you approach passages like Is. 11:11ff, which ARE LEFT UN-INTERPRETED BY THE NT AUTHORS, then you must assume the same objectivity and “accuracy” of interpretation that the NT authors operated with relative to discerning the intended meaning of Isaiah, for example, relative to its eschatological referent . . . which makes your approach “subjective”.
My question to you, is which 1st century interpretive paradigm will you apply to Is. 11? Will it be:  midrash, pesher, atomization, type/anti-type, etc.?

And once you decide on an “apostolic paradigm”, sense the above were the ones available to the NT authors within their historic milieu, which approach will you use, and why? And once you choose an approach, then WHY should I agree to that approach? I.e. lets say you choose type/anti-type, why should I go with that, instead of pesher or midrash? Do I simply go with your type/anti-type merely because it seems to fit your whim . . . or do you have some sort of objectivity and authority that I am unaware of, and thus should submit to YOUR chosen approach?

It almost appears that you completely ignored this, Orange. You actually are agreeing with me, Orange, when you say that Paul had a herm. or Phillip, et al. My point is that they did indeed, and that we have to strictly stick to WHAT THEY INTERPRETED FOR US . . . THERE IS NOTHING NORMATIVE ABOUT THEIR HERM. FOR US (if so then our interp. of uninterpreted OT passages should qualify as “sure” as scripture [NT}).

Also keep in mind, the NT authors minds and hearts were so saturated with OT concepts and framework that often they fluidly write their thoughts informed by a thoughtworld that allows them to conversantly articulate and unfold OT truth in informal ways.  The normative NT herm. was historically located and oriented within the peradventure of the NT authors . . . if this is true, then we cannot assume their hermeneutical framework as our own, since we live in the 21st century and not the 1st.

Anyway study on . . . I plan on it,


I respond back:

Well hello XxXxX-

Thank you for the response, although I didn’t intend to enter into a debate. I simply thought I would post some thoughts on points that I agree with in XXXX’s posts, although I disagree with his view of the Millennium. But perhaps I could respond to your points although you may be disappointed as I am not very educated and am unfamiliar with your terminology.

Yes, we have everything that God wanted included in the NT. But within the NT we have a hermeneutic as I demonstrated within my post. We have passages that show us that the apostles went beyond quoting a certain passage and bringing out a deeper meaning. Especially in Acts 17 where Paul goes into the synagogue, opens up the Hebrew scriptures and proclaims from them that Messiah had to suffer, die, be resurrected, and ascend. We have no specific passage, only a way of approaching the Hebrew scriptures that should result in the normative approach for us. Why can’t you and I go to the OT scriptures and prove that Messiah had to suffer, die, be resurrected, and ascend. Were only the apostles allowed to do this? As soon as the last apostle died, did the church lose the ability to go to the OT and prove that Jesus is Messiah based on the OT teachings that Messiah had to suffer, die, and be resurrected?

As for approaching OT passages, yes we do have an issue of serious importance. I agree that many A-Mills spiritualize the entire OT and view the church as having inherited the legacy of the nation of Israel. Not all A-Mills do this as I’m finding out. There are some who agree that national Israel has a future. A-Mill represents a broad band of which I’m being more careful not to label everyone who is A-Mill as having a certain view as they vary so greatly.

As far as your example in Isaiah 11:11, I think the choice is lost on me as I am Pre-Mill and see the passage as fulfilled eschatologically as you imply it should be. You are correct that the NT authors left this passage uninterpreted in particular, but also uninterpreted in general as well. There are no passages whereby the regathering passages of Israel are explained as being fulfillled in the church, I’m thinking of Ezekiel 39:25 and Zechariah 10:10 off the top of my head. So we have no principle in the NT whereby NT authors revealed this type of hermeneutic. Jesus did allude to a gathering which parallelled the regathering passages of Israel, but He brought out the deeper truth of being gathered into the kingdom of God, then further revealed the gathering would occur at His glorious coming. But we have no record of the fulfillment of these passages as of yet.

As far as interpretive paradigms, I am ignorant of these systems that you name. The only systems I know of are the ones that the apostles themselves used, and I use these same normative principles (even though you say they don’t exist). The disadvantage that I have is something that you allude to, namely, I don’t live in the first century. So my studying consists of attempting to place myself there and see things from their viewpoint first, then try to apply those things to myself that are applicable. It’s the same thing with the OT. It’s the desire to see things through the prophet’s eyes first. What did the prophets see without the NT lens? Can we see Christ? It’s hard to forget everything you know, but sometimes reducing knowledge to what was originally there can increase our knowledge of what the prophets themselves saw. Then when we come to the NT, we will be able to agree with the apostles’ conclusions since they were "immersed", or wait, you used the word "saturated", same thing. Note: The same Holy Spirit who saturated the apostles can saturate us.

I disagree strongly with the quote that "the amil exegete must assume an "apostolic inspired mantle" in order to assert an "normative New Testament hermeneutic" ". Here when someone disagrees with us our first reaction is to say, "well you’re not an apostle so you don’t have the authority to interpret scriptures in that way". That’s just avoiding the issue. The issue is superior interpretation. If the interpretation is inferior, go to the scriptures and prove it. Don’t simply say that the person is not an apostle and can’t interpret the scriptures in that way.

Quote: "The NT authors didn’t even always interpret OT passages, they simply used or alluded to a line here or there, apparently in an "atomized" or "midrashic" way . . . which once again places the burden of proof on you, to show how, in any meaningful way, we could ever assert an normative NT hermeneutic?"

My answer to this is subjective and I do not claim to have apostolic authority. The prophets saw things happening in the future. They saw a cause and effect many times without the constraints of time. They didn’t necessarily see, first A will happen, then B will happen, then C will happen. Sometimes they saw the time factor, but many times it appears as if things were floating out in front of them in a gray hazy fog. Truths would be revealed to them as God determined should be revealed. Since God is outside of time, He is free from having to explain Himself in a chronological way. It may appear to us as if only a line here or a line there has been fulfilled, but God sees it all fulfilled at some point in time.

Since the apostles are prophets as well, they saw the fulfillment of these prophecies in their day. They were directed by God to write down the things that were fulfilled at Christ’s first advent, namely His suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. What you say cannot be asserted as a normative hermeneutic, has been revealed to us by the apostles as a normative hermeneutic. We have the authority to see the suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ in the OT. And we can safely apply this hermeneutic to the future events as we have them laid out in the pattern of the lives of Moses and David. Moses’ life I have already shown to be a pattern for the life of Messiah. David’s is the same. He was mighty in words and deeds before the people. He was rejected by the leaders of Israel. He went into exile. At the appointed time he returned to Israel, this time his people were willing to follow him and crowned him their king. The nations gathered against Israel led by David, and he smashed them. What followed was an era of peace.

The Psalms are the testament to David’s afflictions, rejection, sufferings, etc. and contained within them are the prophecies of the rejection, sufferings, and death of the Messiah (the Anointed One). Also contained within them are the prophecies for the enthronement, glory, and reign of this Messiah that will last for a period of time after which will be the final rebellion as typified in Absalom’s revolt.

So anyway, I didn’t intend to get into a debate, but I do believe the apostles had a normative hermeneutic, I believe we can study their hermeneutic, and I believe we can apply that hermeneutic without having to claim apostolic authority. You are right in saying that this goes beyond the scope of Pre-Mill versus A-Mill or Dispensationalism versus Covenant Theology. I hope I have addressed the issues that you directed toward me. If you would like me to clarify on a specific topic, I can try. Anyway…

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

P. S.  Unless there are questions, I’ll leave this subject alone for a while.

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4 Responses to The Apostles’ System of Interpretation ~ Part 2

  1. pjmiller says:

    I have
    been quite disappointed with the whole system of dispensationalism for
    the past few years.  I am currently reviewing Progressive
    Dispensationalism to see if it has any merit to it.  There are some
    good points, but the whole system just seems too full of flaws.  It is
    dispensational thinking that relegates huge portions of scriptures as
    being completely inapplicable to the church. ———Join the club Orange..Believing myself to be a dispensationalist for over 25 years to only find out, after digging deeper into the beliefs, that i could not in good conscience agree with the basics, came as a huge shock to me. My "theology tree" was shaken to its roots.I believe there are many Christians today, who will say they are dispensationalists, but like me, never really looked into what it means. It was only after finding myself in disagreement with others concerning their relegating, as you pointed out, huge portions of scripture  as not being for us–the Church, that i looked into the belief system.To be frank, i felt like i was being robbed! Robbed of the comfort and instruction which was given to us in God\’s Word. Like you i also looked at the more progressive form of Dispensationalist teachings, but found that too still held on to too much from the classic approach for me to embrace it.———The
    problem is that the apostles quoted profusely from the OT establishing
    a hermeneutic that saw prophecies being fulfilled in the church. ———Exactly.  God blesspj

  2. Glen says:

    Hi Orange,
    Only just found this post on our famous old discussion!  Anyway, thought you might be interested in my new blog.  I\’ve just posted on "the mystery" and about to post on "The Trinitarian OT".  A lot of my concerns will be about \’Christian\’ faith in OT.  Anyway – thought you might be interested.
    God bless,
    PS – Bobby\’s blog is closing down!  Big shame!

  3. Glen says:

    oops – forgot to post address:

  4. Darrin says:

    Thanks Glen.  The discussion on Stumbling Block was an eye opener for me.  I had the same experience a couple years back which I blogged about here.  I\’ll check in with your blog now and then.
    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
    -The Orange Mailman

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