Volume 33 - Issue 3
Shared Intentions? Reflections on Inspiration and Interpretation in Light of Scripture’s Dual AuthorshipBy Jared Compton
It was not too long ago that Kevin Vanhoozer answered the question Is There a Meaning in This Text? by relocating meaning in authorial intention,1 doing so even more robustly (not to mention, evangelically) than E. D. Hirsch had done.2 The difficulty, however, with any general hermeneutical theory, including speech-act, is that on the surface Scripture’s dual authorship seems to fit uncomfortably within any set of interpretive rules, particularly since one of its authors is God.3 While the inherent complexity in and exceptionality of Scripture’s authorship are well noted by evangelicals,4 hermeneutical rules are nevertheless still proposed and, quite often, even mandated. In fact, two particular rules are prescribed with some frequency. On the one hand, some evangelicals (as we shall see) suggest that inspiration demands that what one author intends the other must as well. To suggest, therefore, that God could intend more in a text than the human author runs the risk of being labeled hermeneutical Docetism, for such a proposal denies the full humanity of the text. Moreover, many of these same interpreters also suggest that interpretation demands that what one author intends so too must the other. Suggesting that God could intend more in this case runs the risk of being labeled hermeneutical nihilism, for one has removed the only means for interpretive control and stability. Despite the risks, other evangelicals (as we shall also see) are uncomfortable with this line of argumentation and suggest that these rules are ill-fitting, not least because the apostles themselves, they claim, do not seem to be preoccupied with following them.5 These evangelicals insist that our assumptions about general hermeneutics and dual authorship must be open to revision if Scripture and God’s hermeneuticians consistently transgress our rules.6
The following essay will seek to enter this debate, freshly sketching the issues involved and seeking to justify these latter assertions, though not absolutely and not by directly exploring the apostles’ use of the OT. Rather, the essay will proceed at a preliminary step to that discussion and will argue that (1) inspiration does not suggest that the divine and human authors must share intentions and (2) shared intentions are not the sole means of interpretive stability.
2. Inspiration and Authorial Intention
Two prefatory remarks are necessary. First, Paul introduces the idea of inspiration when he locates the origin of Scripture with God: “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16, niv). Peter further notes the method of this work: “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21, niv). Other texts could be noted; the point is that Scripture signals that its origin involves God and men in a dynamic relationship, so much so, that a passage can be equally said to be from God and the human agent (e.g., Heb 1:6). This relationship is routinely labeled concursive.7 Second, most evangelical interpreters, regardless of their views on shared/unshared intentions, are careful to insist upon the inherent perspicuity of Scripture.8 This insistence requires some basic relationship between the words of the text and the cognition of the human agent; otherwise identifying a text’s meaning (not least its language9) would be quite difficult.10 In other words, no one completely denies at least some form of human agency.11 The disagreement centers, rather, on the precise level of this agency.
Returning to our inquiry, some evangelicals do suggest that inspiration implies a level of human agency in which God means no more than the human author means;12 in fact, some explicitly raise the charge of hermeneutical Docetism if the authors’ intentions are separated.13 Others are not similarly persuaded, variously suggesting that this “idea of confluence in authorial intention is not a biblical one,”14 that B. B. Warfield cautioned against pressing the incarnational analogy too far, and that other theologians, both past and present, have allowed for divided intentions.15 Douglas Moo speaks for these when he asks, “Could God have intended a sense related to but more than that which the human author intended? I cannot see that the doctrine of inspiration demands that the answer to that question be negative.”16 He goes so far as to suggest in another place, “[O]nly if the meaning of Old Testament texts must be confined to what we can prove their human authors intended does . . . a problem arise” for “inspiration and inerrancy.”17
These latter interpreters argue their case by suggesting two lines of evidence that point slightly away from a complete equation of divine and human intentions: (1) there are some cases where we should not expect divine and human intentions to be coextensive, and (2) there are some cases where coextension of intentionalities is denied.
2.1 Shared Intentions not Expected
Raju Kunjummen says that because the human author was at times simply a reporter, there is no reason to think his intentions should match God’s.18 He lists several instances and reflects particularly upon Moses’ relaying of Gen 3:15, a text (now recognized to be) bursting with messianic implications.19 He says, “The meaning of God’s words in Gen 3:15 was determined by God when they were spoken [to Adam and Eve]. . . . [Therefore, Moses’] ‘authorial intention’ is not what determines their truth-intention.”20 Vern Poythress agrees, noting “cases of visionary material (Dan 7; 10; Zech 1–6; Rev 4:1–22:5)” and “historical records of divine speech (e.g., the Gospel records of Jesus’ parables).” He asks, “Why should we have to say, in the face of Dan 7:16, Zech 4:4–5, Rev 7:14, and the like, that the prophets came to understand everything that there was to understand, by the time that they wrote their visions down?”21
Still, the argument rests upon a minor premise that is difficult to prove:
- Major Premise: God knows all he intends in, e.g., Gen 3:15.
- Minor Premise: The human author simply records the divine speech without fully sharing in the divine intention.
- Conclusion: Human and divine textual intentions are not coextensive.
In fact, this is precisely where some urge caution. For instance, Paul Feinberg, reflecting on Walter Kaiser’s warning, says, “[I]t is not unreasonable to think [that our] understanding would be more circumscribed than that of the biblical authors.”22 Perhaps this is the tenor of texts such as John 8:56 and others. Nevertheless, there does seem to be something to this argument, particularly as it relates to the prophetic visions noted above, both because such visions speak of future realities (of which only God is fully aware) and because prophetic language is often highly symbolic.23
2.2 Shared Intentions Denied
Those arguing against fully shared intentions also adduce a handful of texts that they claim specifically predicate some level of ignorance of the human author. The most often cited are Dan 12:6–12 and 1 Pet 1:10–12, the latter occurring in nearly every discussion of this sort.24 The germane section of this text says,
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow (niv).
Kaiser, an advocate of the single-intention paradigm, suggests that the prophetic ignorance mentioned in this text relates only to the temporal implications of OT prophecies. He insists that the prophets’ search “was not a search for the meaning of what they wrote; it was an inquiry into the temporal aspects of the subject, which went beyond what they wrote.”25 To this Elliott Johnson responds, asking what happens when the temporal referent itself is the meaning of the prophecy as, for example, in Dan 9:24–27. He says, “It seems clear that Daniel was ignorant of the date of ‘the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem,’ even though he wrote about it. So it must be that Daniel wrote more than he understood.”26
What makes this matter more complicated is that meaning is something of a catch-all for several components, namely sense, referent, significance, and implication.27 As such, some advocates for shared intentions will concede that the prophets did not, in fact, always know to whom their prophecies referred; still, these will also insist that the prophets shared with God the sense of what their prophecies said about the unknown referent.28 In other words, not all who argue for shared intentions require that all the components of meaning be shared. In fact, none requires the complete sharing of a text’s significances29 and implications.30 The key disagreements turn on whether God ever intends (1) fuller (or more) referents and (2) a fuller sense (a sensus plenior).31
Making matters still more complex is that the distinction between sense and referent is somewhat artificial. That is, normally, as Kaiser notes, “the two are identical”32; therefore, it is difficult to speak simply of an expanded referent without simultaneously talking about an expanded sense, though certain cases of a merely expanded (or narrowed33) referent are nevertheless frequently suggested.34 While some do suggest that the fuller meaning later texts find in earlier texts singularly results from such expanded referents, this too is disputed. The most compelling counterexample is the NT’s descriptions of Jesus using OT yhwh texts. For instance, in Rom 10:13, Paul uses Joel 2:32 to speak of the availability of salvation in Jesus: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord [yhwh] will be saved” (niv; cf. vv. 9, 11). Paul does not appear simply to identify a referent of which the OT author was unaware.35 Rather, as Moo notes, “there is no evidence either from Joel or from ‘antecedent theology,’ that the prophet would have intended his words to refer to Christ . . . . The meaning of the word Yahweh . . . is being expanded and, implicitly, more precisely defined by Paul.”36
In short, while inspiration denotes human and divine agency, the level of the former does appear to be occasionally variegated and this in a variety of ways (i.e., involving both expanded senses and referents). The question that remains is whether objective criteria exist for validating interpretation in such cases where the divine meaning is not coextensive with the human author’s intentions.
3. Interpretation and Authorial Intention
Here a preliminary remark is again necessary. Most admit that completely severing the intentions of Scripture’s authors introduces the potentiality of massive amounts of subjectivity, effectively undermining the grammatical-historical approach. In other words, not only is the human author necessary to underwrite Scripture’s perspicuity, but he is similarly necessary to validate our interpretations. How can the interpreter identify, for instance, verbal definitions if not by an appeal to a semantic domain available to the text’s human author? Moreover, what else may prevent arbitrary (not to mention anachronistic) readings if not the human author and his context?
This potential for subjective and/or arbitrary interpretations has indeed led some to suggest that positing unshared intentions necessarily affects interpretation adversely. Kaiser, for instance, says that a
work like the Bible can have one and only one correct interpretation and that meaning must be determined by the human author’s truth-intention; otherwise all alleged meanings would be accorded the same degree of seriousness, plausibility, and correctness with no one meaning being more valid or true than others.37
Earl Radmacher claims that “hermeneutical nihilism” inevitably follows if we “separate the words of the text from the [intentions of] the author.” In fact, doing so, he insists, will result “in multiple meanings and thus no ‘meaning.'”38 Some disagree. Peter Enns suggests that a desire for control is actually what “incline[s] evangelicals to try to find some other way of explaining apostolic hermeneutics.”39 Douglas Oss goes so far to say that problems arise “if we contend that the NT writers had a univocal view of meaning in texts and used only a narrow, so-called scientific, twentieth-century-style, historico-grammatical exegesis in determining what that single, one-dimensional meaning was.”40
While Moo is surely right when he says that the “difficulties created by a theory are never sufficient to falsify that theory, if it is well-enough established on other grounds,”41 we must nevertheless explore whether the difficulty of interpretive validity without the assumption of shared-intentions is as great as those arguing for shared-intentions indicate. Here we will (1) explore the role of the canon as an alternative criterion for interpretive validity and (2) briefly illustrate how at least one phenomenon in the NT implies such a criterion.
Most of those who allow for fuller meaning suggest that such meaning is controlled (validated) by the canon’s trajectory (i.e., progressive revelation),43 an approach that variously describes the relationship between the OT and NT as an acorn to an oak tree,44 a bud to a flower45 or a seed to an apple,46 among others.47 Darrell Bock puts it this way:
Progressive hermeneutics argues for stability of meaning while also honoring the dimensions that dual authorship brings to the gradual unfolding of promise. The literary-theological argument is that God reveals the outworking of His promise gradually as Scripture unfolds its meaning and introduces new promises and connections.48
He says later: “Often promises by their nature show their outworking by how God responds and directs as time passes. Intention becomes revealed through subsequent action and disclosure.”49 Even those who advocate shared intentions, albeit expanded referents, suggest a canonical control. For instance, Paul Feinberg says, “Where a promise or prediction is expanded or amplified, the amplification is justified in the text itself or in antecedent theology or both. This grows out of the belief that God has a unified plan and that plan is known to him, even if he reveals it to his creatures progressively.”50
The justification for this approach is that progressive revelation’s fuller meaning depends on the occurrence of events—whether the historical identification of a known/unknown (or fuller) referent, the historical fulfillment of a previous promise or the historical filling up of a now-identified type or shadow.51 In other words, the obliqueness of old revelation is almost entirely due to the fact that new events were necessary before clearer revelation was possible. Moo concludes similarly, noting that in this approach
appeal is made not to a meaning of the divine author that somehow is deliberately concealed from the human author in the process of inspiration—a “sensus occultus“—but to the meaning of the text itself that takes on deeper significance as God’s plan unfolds—a “sensus praegnans.” To be sure, God knows, as He inspires the human authors to write, what the ultimate meaning of their words will be; but it is not as if he has deliberately created a double entendre or hidden a meaning in the words that can only be uncovered through a special revelation. The “added meaning” that the text takes on is the product of the ultimate canonical shape—though, to be sure, often clearly perceived only on a revelatory basis.52
3.2 Mystery and Canon
This dependence on further revelatory insight is implicit in Paul’s understanding and use of the term mystery. As D. A. Carson notes in a recent essay, Paul’s category of mystery suggests simultaneously that what he finds in the OT is really there, but also that what he finds was hidden until Christ’s advent and consequent revelatory insight.53 Carson discusses several occurrences of mystery (1 Cor 2; Rom 11:25–27; 1 Cor 15:50–55; Rom 16:25–27; et al.), in each demonstrating that “the content of [the] mystery is a component, perhaps even an entailment, of the Christian gospel, and . . . the basic ingredients are grounded in Scripture itself,”54 while at the same time each is “something that has been hidden in times past, and now revealed.”55 He refers to this paradoxical phenomenon quite appropriately as something “hidden in plain view”56 and observes that the hiddenness operates on two axes. First, the mystery “was hidden salvation-historically,”57 and second, it was (and is still) hidden “to the person without the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14).”58 Both, he suggests, demand revelation and in both there is “moral culpability” for incorrect perception.59 He then adds, “In the wise providence of God the first of these two forms of hiddenness, that which prevailed across history until the coming of Christ, so worked in and through and behind the culpable blindness that the passion and resurrection of the Messiah was brought about simultaneously by human sin and by the wise plan of God (compare Acts 2:27–28 with 1 Cor 2:7–8).”60 “This is why,” he says,
Paul’s handling of the Scriptures, as penetrating as it is, can never partake of scholarly one-upmanship. He is never saying to his Jewish peers, ‘You silly twits! Can’t you see that my exegesis is correct? I used to read the Bible as you still do, but I understand things better now. Can’t you see I’m right?’ Rather, while insisting that his exegesis of the old covenant Scriptures is true and plain and textually grounded, he marvels at God’s wisdom in hiding so much in it, to bring about the unthinkable: a crucified Messiah, whose coming and mission shatters all human arrogance, including his own . . . . Unless one simultaneously preserves the mystery and fulfillment, then both the sheer Godhood of God and the despoiling of human pretensions are inexcusably diluted.61
The significance of these observations is simply that textual meaning went beyond the OT author’s intentions, and necessarily so. If this is denied, we risk, as Carson notes “draw[ing] the lines of continuity . . . [too] tightly,”62 and potentially spoiling the mystery. Thus, while interpretation depends on the existence of overlap between the divine and human authors, its stability does not demand complete overlap.
We may therefore reaffirm that neither inspiration nor interpretive validity demands an unvarying degree of human agency in the production of Scripture. A few lines of evidence, namely, certain genres of revelation and a few specific texts, suggest that inspiration does not require that the divine and human intentions be absolutely coextensive. Moreover, shared intentions do not seem to be the only appropriate means for hermeneutical stability; the completed canon and the progressive revelation it comprises proves sufficient for the interpretive task when necessary. Still, the evidence adduced does point, by and large, to exceptional instances. Thus, the instincts behind the warnings of hermeneutical Docetism and nihilism are well-intentioned and nearly right, even while the charges themselves sketch boundaries Scripture itself admits are not quite precisely drawn.
- ↑ Back Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text? The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 230, 262. For a similar proposal, see Robert H. Stein, “The Benefits of an Author-Oriented Approach to Hermeneutics,” JETS 44 (2001): 456.
- ↑ Back E. D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967). Among other problematic statements, Hirsch affirms in a later essay, “[I]f our current moral sense disagrees with the explicit law or the canonical literary text, then we ought to abandon the canonical text or repeal the law. The absolute cry, “Save the Text!” . . . is a slogan to be resisted” (“Transhistorical Intentions and the Persistence of Allegory,” New Literary History 25 : 565). He also asserts, “Truth [is] that which we happen to believe now” (564).
- ↑ Back Hirsch’s proposal has been critiqued for this very reason. See Raju D. Kunjummen, “The Single Intent of Scripture–Critical Examination of a Theological Construct,” Grace Theological Journal 7 (1986): 87; Peter Enns, “Apostolic Hermeneutics and an Evangelical Doctrine of Scripture: Moving Beyond a Modernist Impasse,” WTJ 65 (2003): 274. Hirsch, however, does talk about dual authorship and even progressive revelation (of sorts, “progress of knowledge”) in his essay on “Transhistorical Intentions,” though his suggestions amount to the claim that past great texts can be forward-looking (i.e., transhistorical). In other words, he says nothing specifically about the relationship between the two authors of Scripture (“Transhistorical Intentions and the Persistence of Allegory,” 562). NB Vanhoozer is not oblivious to this issue; rather, he devotes brief, though insightful, attention to it (Is There a Meaning in This Text?, 263–65).
- ↑ Back See, e.g., Walter C. Kaiser, The Uses of the Old Testament in the New (Chicago: Moody, 1985) and Darrell L. Bock, “Scripture Citing Scripture: Use of the Old Testament in the New,” in Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis (ed. Darrell L. Bock and Buist M. Fanning; Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 255–76. Bock, reflecting on two decades of inquiry, notes that two issues (roughly approximating the two-fold division of the present essay) continue to dominate this discussion: “language referent issues and the concept of the progress of revelation” (265; also 264n13).
- ↑ Back E.g., Peter Enns notes, “[W]hat has been a recurring problem . . . for many Christians is how the New Testament authors themselves handled the Old Testament. This phenomenon is somewhat troubling, for it seems to run counter to the instinct that context and authorial intention are the basis for sound interpretation. To observe how the New Testament authors handle the Old Testament is to conclude that their notions of what constitutes a proper handling of the Old Testament do not always square with our instincts–in fact, quite often, the differences are striking” (Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005], 114). See also Dennis Stamps, “Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament as a Rhetorical Device,” in Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament (ed. Stanley E. Porter; McMaster New Testament Studies; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 22. For broader reflections on this topic, see G. K. Beale, ed., The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Text? Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994); Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), esp. xxi–xli; and Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (ed. Kenneth Berding and Jonathan Lunde; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008).
- ↑ Back The apostles use the OT in a variety of ways, and Douglas J. Moo notes that not all of them “depend for their legitimacy on the quotation being given an interpretation or application completely in accord with the original context” (“The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” in Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon [ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986], 188). There are, therefore, a number of cases of the NT’s use of the OT that lie outside the domain of this particular inquiry.
- ↑ Back Cf. D. A. Carson, “Recent Developments in the Doctrine of Scripture,” in Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon (ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 45. This relationship is also called double agency discourse. Cf. Nicholas P. Wolterstorff, “Authorial Discourse Interpretation,” in Dictionary for the Theological Interpretation of the Bible (ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 78–80.
- ↑ Back See the classic definition in Westminster Confession of Faith 1.7. See also, more recently, Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text?, 315; and Mark D. Thompson, A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture (New Studies in Biblical Theology 21; Downers Grove: IVP, 2006), 169–70.
- ↑ Back Is There a Meaning in This Text?, 234.
- ↑ Back Robert Stein, “The Benefits of an Author-Oriented Approach to Hermeneutics,” 456–57; Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton, Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible (Wheaton: Victor, 1994), 277; Elliott E. Johnson, “A Traditional Dispensational Hermeneutic,” in Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism: A Comparison of Traditional and Progressive Views (ed. Herbert W. Bateman; Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 70.
- ↑ Back Most on both sides will admit that the single-intention paradigm works in most cases. Difficulties arise only when it is made to fit every case (cf. Moo, “The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 199; Oss, “The Interpretation of the ‘Stone’ Passages,” 192n33). S. Lewis Johnson, therefore, helpfully puts the matter in perspective: “[A]lmost all of the serious problems of the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament find their solution” when studied in light of the citation’s OT context (“A Response to Patrick Fairbairn and Biblical Hermeneutics as Related to the Quotations of the Old Testament in the New,” in Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible [ed. Earl D. Radmacher and Robert D. Preus; Grand Rapids: Academie, 1984], 793).
- ↑ Back Cf. Stein, “The Benefits of an Author-Oriented Approach to Hermeneutics,” 456; Walter C. Kaiser, “A Response to Author’s Intention and Biblical Interpretation,” in Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible [ed. Earl D. Radmacher and Robert D. Preus; Grand Rapids: Academie, 1984), 442; Walter C. Kaiser and Moisés Silva, An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 41; Jack R. Riggs, “The ‘Fuller Meaning’ of Scripture: A Hermeneutical Question for Evangelicals,” Grace Theological Journal 7 (1986): 226.
- ↑ Back Earl D. Radmacher, “A Response to Author’s Intention and Biblical Interpretation,” in Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible (ed. Earl D. Radmacher and Robert D. Preus; Grand Rapids: Academie, 1984), 436: “Is it not possible that the claim of authorial ignorance [and, thus, divided intentions] makes the Bible something less than a truly human document. Just as we do not want to describe the person of Christ as less than truly human, so we do not want to describe the Scriptures as less than truly human.” Moo mentions the connection only to dismiss it (“The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 203). Interestingly, D. A. Carson (correctly) adduces just the opposite christological analogy in a critique of Peter Enns’s overemphasis on the humanness of the text, suggesting that such an emphasis tends toward hermeneutical Arianism (“Three More Books on the Bible: A Critical Review,” TJ 27 : 32).
- ↑ Back Kunjummen, “The Single Intent of Scripture,” 100. His rationale, however, is somewhat dubious, due to the fact that he uses Balaam’s donkey to prove that God can communicate through irrational agents. This is a less subtle example than the one normally referenced, namely Caiaphas’s unwitting prophecy in John 11:49–52. Both cases miss the point since neither agent is writing Scripture (cf. Moo, “The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 204, who calls the latter example “not quite parallel”).
- ↑ Back W. Edward Glenny, “The Divine Meaning of Scripture: Explanations and Limitations,” JETS 38 (1995): 484–85; B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1948), 162. Warfield’s caution nowhere specifically addresses this idea of shared or unshared intentions.
- ↑ Back “The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 204.
- ↑ Back “The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 201. Vern Poythress suggests that paying exclusive attention to the human author “distorts the nature of the human author’s intention. Whether or not they were perfectly self-conscious about it, the human authors intended that their words should be received as the words of the Spirit” (“What Does God Say through Human Authors?,” in Inerrancy and Hermeneutic: A Tradition, A Challenge, A Debate [ed. Harvie M. Conn; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988], 98). Some have suggested that the way the NT authors (ostensibly) disregard the OT authors’ intentions has negative implications for inerrancy. This charge has been addressed in a number of places, see esp. “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics,” JETS 25 (1982): 398 (Article 17); Moo, “The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 187; S. Lewis Johnson, “Response to Patrick Fairbairn,” 799n22, also 791); Kaiser, “A Response to Author’s Intention and Biblical Interpretation,” 445–46; Douglas A. Oss, “The Interpretation of the ‘Stone’ Passages by Peter and Paul: A Comparative Study,” JETS 32 (1989): 192. Interestingly, Darrell Bock notes that one of John Walvoord’s fears about moving away from single-meaning hermeneutics was the potential of abandoning inerrancy, as his opponent G. E. Ladd had done (“Why I Am a Dispensationalist with a Small ‘d’,” JETS 41 : 387).
- ↑ Back “The Single Intent of Scripture,” 94. Cf. also Marshall Wicks, “Toward a Missions Hermeneutic,” Journal of Ministry and Theology 4 (2000): 64; Johnson, “Dual Authorship,” 221–22; Philip Barton Payne, “The Fallacy of Equating Meaning with the Human Author’s Intention,” in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New (ed. G. K. Beale; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 70; Glenny, “The Divine Meaning of Scripture,” 482n5, 483; Douglas A. Oss, “Canon as Context: The Function of Sensus Plenior in Evangelical Hermeneutics,” Grace Theological Journal 9 (1988): 114–15.
- ↑ Back Cf. McCartney and Clayton, Let the Reader Understand, 156; T. Desmond Alexander, “Messianic Ideology in the Book of Genesis,” in The Lord’s Anointed: Interpretation of Old Testament Messianic Texts (ed. P. E. Satterthwaite, R. S. Hess, and G. J. Wenham; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995), 19–40; James M. Hamilton, “The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15,” SBJT 10 (2006): 30–54.
- ↑ Back “The Single Intent of Scripture,” 97. Following this, he asks how God’s intention is to be known and answers, “through the progress of revelation” (98).
- ↑ Back “What Does God Say through Human Authors,” 85; see also idem, “Divine Meaning in Scripture,” WTJ 48 (1986): 256. Darrell Bock rejects an absolute equation of the two intentions specifically because “theological revelation had not yet developed to the point where the full thrust of God’s intention was capable of being understood by the human author” (“Part 2: Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New,” BSac 142 : 308). Moo agrees, noting that the success of the single-intention paradigm “depends on the extent and nature of the ‘informing theology’ that [the single-intention view] claims as the undergirding context of many texts.” However, he wonders at some of the sophisticated assumptions this demands (“The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 199–200). Cf. J. I. Packer, “Upholding the Unity of Scripture Today,” JETS 25 (1982): 411; and Robert L. Thomas, “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” MSJ 13 (2002): 90.
- ↑ Back “Hermeneutics of Discontinuity,” 115. Cf. also Swanson, “Can We Reproduce the Exegesis of the New Testament?” 69; and Riggs, “The ‘Fuller Meaning’ of Scripture,” 226.
- ↑ Back As Poythress notes, “It would . . . be presumptuous to limit dogmatically a prophet’s understanding to what is ‘ordinarily’ possible. On the other hand, it seems to me equally presumptuous to insist that at every point there must be complete understanding on the part of the prophet” (“What Does God Say through Human Authors,” 85).
- ↑ Back Glenny, “The Divine Meaning of Scripture,” 486. He calls this the key argument against the single-intention paradigm. Kaiser agrees, calling this the crux interpretum and saying, “[N]o text has appeared more frequently in the argument against” his view (The Uses of the Old Testament in the New, 19). Cf. also idem, “The Single Intent of Scripture,” in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New (ed. G. K. Beale; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 56; also see Darrell L. Bock, review of Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Uses of the Old Testament in the New, JETS 29 (1986): 489–90; idem, “Part 2: Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New,” 308; Johnson, “Dual Authorship,” 219; idem, Expository Hermeneutics: An Introduction (Grand Rapids: Academie, 1990), 52; Feinberg, “Hermeneutics of Discontinuity,” 113; Kunjummen, “The Single Intent of Scripture,” 101; Riggs, “The ‘Fuller Meaning’ of Scripture,” 224–25; Payne, “The Fallacy of Equating Meaning with the Human Author’s Intention,” 76. Another text occasionally cited is Num 12:6–8; cf. Tremper Longman III, “What I Mean by Historical-Grammatical Exegesis–Why I Am Not a Literalist,” Grace Theological Journal 11 (1990): 150.
- ↑ Back “The Single Intent of Scripture,” 57. Cf. also discussion in Darrell L. Bock, “Part 1: Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New,” BSac 142 (1985): 211.
- ↑ Back Expository Hermeneutics, 52; also “Dual Authorship,” 219.
- ↑ Back For a useful discussion of these and related issues, see Moisés Silva, Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics (rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).
- ↑ Back Kaiser illustrates this when he says, “One must quickly add, however, that this [i.e., his position] is not to say that the divinely intended referents were limited to those that the author saw or meant” (Kaiser and Silva, An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics, 41).
- ↑ Back Most follow the distinction between meaning and significance outlined by Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation, 8: “Meaning is that which is represented by a text; it is what the author meant by his use of a particular sign sequence; it is what the signs represent. Significance, on the other hand, names a relationship between that meaning and a person, or a conception or a situation, or indeed anything imaginable.” To put it another way, significance denotes what a text means for me and my “situation, beliefs . . . values, and so on” (M. H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms [6th ed.; Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993], 92). Some are not entirely happy with Hirsch’s distinction. See, e.g., Enns, “Apostolic Hermeneutics and an Evangelical Doctrine of Scripture,” 275. Enns claims that this “was not a distinction that Second Temple interpreters were intent to maintain.” Others simply want to make sure that the two are not completely distinguished, e.g., Kunjummen, “The Single Intent of Scripture,” 84–85; Oss, “Canon as Context,” 126; Stein, “The Benefits of an Author-Oriented Approach to Hermeneutics,” 460. Therefore, with McCartney and Clayton, it is better to say “although meaning and significance may not be separable, they are still distinguishable” (Let the Reader Understand, 276). Or, as Bock puts it, the line between the two is not completely clear (“Part 2: Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New,” 310n11).
- ↑ Back Poythress, “Divine Meaning in Scripture,” 247; Kunjummen, “The Single Intent of Scripture,” 92; “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics,” 398 (Article 18).
- ↑ Back This term is used in a number of ways. For a concise introduction, see Raymond E. Brown and Sandra M. Schneiders, “Hermeneutics,” in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (ed. Raymond Edward Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland Edmund Murphy; Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990), 1157. Cf. also Moo, “The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 201–04.
- ↑ Back Kaiser and Silva, An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics, 37. Paul Feinberg demurs, noting a few examples (“Hermeneutics of Discontinuity,” 117–19).
- ↑ Back Paul’s discussion of Abraham’s seed in Gal 3:16 is routinely mentioned in this respect. See, e.g., W. Edward Glenny, “Typology: A Summary of the Present Evangelical Discussion,” JETS 40 (1997): 638; Bock, “Why I Am a Dispensationalist with a Small ‘d’,” 390; G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, “Introduction,” in Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), xxvi; and especially Klyne Snodgrass, “The Use of the Old Testament in the New,” in Interpreting the New Testament: Essays on Methods and Issues (ed. David Alan Black and David S. Dockery; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 214–15.
- ↑ Back E.g., “son” in 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7. Even in these, though, “son” becomes an ontological designation in the NT and thus seems to expand the sense of the OT text. Cf. Moo, “The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 200; Bock, “Part 1: Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New,” 210–12. Cf. also the following authors’ discussions of flexible referential categories, Glenny, “The Divine Meaning of Scripture,” 490n52 (who lists three instances where the referent can change without changing the sense); Bock, “Part 2: Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New,” 307–8; Hirsch, “Transhistorical Intentions and the Persistence of Allegory,” 554; McCartney and Clayton, Let the Reader Understand, 156.
- ↑ Back Contra Bock, “Part 2: Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New,” 307–8.
- ↑ Back “The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 200. Whatever one might say about the nature of Jewish monotheism (see esp. Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008]), the burden of proof lies with those who would suggest Joel (or any other pre-Christian author) intended yhwh to be an expandable category.
- ↑ Back “A Response to Author’s Intention and Biblical Interpretation,” 441.
- ↑ Back “A Response to Author’s Intention and Biblical Interpretation,” 433. Riggs indicates agreement (“The ‘Fuller Meaning’ of Scripture,” 222). Moo notes that Kaiser raises a similar concern (“The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 199).
- ↑ Back Inspiration and Incarnation, 116.
- ↑ Back “The Interpretation of the ‘Stone’ Passages,” 199. One wonders if Oss could state his opponent’s view any less sympathetically. Cf. also Enns, “Apostolic Hermeneutics and an Evangelical Doctrine of Scripture,” 268–69, 283; and Inspiration and Incarnation, 158; Norman R. Ericson, “The NT Use Of The OT: A Kerygmatic Approach,” JETS 30 (1987): 338–39. Further, Silva argues that precluding a fuller sense (and, thus, insisting on strict, grammatical-historical exegesis) eliminates large swaths of Christian interpretation (review of Water C. Kaiser, The Uses of the Old Testament in the New, JETS 29 : 493); similarly Jens Zimmermann, Recovering Theological Hermeneutics: An Incarnational-Trinitarian Theory of Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 22
- ↑ Back “The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 202. Following this comment, he also notes, “if sensus plenior [is] . . . demonstrated to be viable, we will simply have to live with the difficulties, much as we live with the difficulties inherent in a teleological view of world history” (202).
- ↑ Back Control is used in contrast to the instability and subjectivity suggested by the idea of hermeneutical nihilism and because the term is commonly used in the literature on this particular subject (see, e.g., Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 172, 177, 178n34, 179; McCartney and Clayton, Let the Reader Understand, 150, 164; Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text?, 264). It is not intended to imply absolute hermeneutical control, only adequate control.
- ↑ Back The approach, while advocated under various names (e.g., “canonical approach,” sensus plenior, “analogy of faith,” “Christological,” et al.), is suggested in the following: Oss, “Canon as Context,” 105, 112; Bock: 490; Kunjummen, “The Single Intent of Scripture,” 94; Darrell L. Bock, “Hermeneutics of Progressive Dispensationalism,” in Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism: A Comparison of Traditional and Progressive Views (ed. Herbert W. Bateman; Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 86, 90, 91; Glenny, “The Divine Meaning of Scripture,” 483–84, 495, 498; Dan G. McCartney, “The New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament,” in Inerrancy and Hermeneutic: A Tradition, a Challenge, a Debate (ed. Harvie M. Conn; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 112.
- ↑ Back McCartney and Clayton, Let the Reader Understand, 156.
- ↑ Back Herbert W. Bateman, “Dispensationalism Yesterday and Today,” in Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism: A Comparison of Traditional and Progressive Views (ed. Herbert W. Bateman; Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 40–41.
- ↑ Back Beale and Carson, “Introduction,” xxvii.
- ↑ Back Moo suggests the idea of “sensus praegnans” (“The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 206). In this regard, none argues that God’s fuller meaning contradicts the sense shared by the human author. See, e.g., Swanson, “Can We Reproduce the Exegesis of the New Testament?,” 69n7; J. I. Packer, “Infallible Scripture and the Role of Hermeneutics,” in Scripture and Truth (ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 350; Moisés Silva, “Old Testament in Paul,” DPL 639–40; G. K. Beale, “Did Jesus and His Followers Preach the Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? An Examination of the Presuppositions of Jesus’ and the Apostles’ Exegetical Method,” in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New (ed. G. K. Beale; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 398; Darrell L. Bock, “Current Messianic Activity and OT Davidic Promise: Dispensationalism, Hermeneutics, and NT Fulfillment,” TJ 15 (1994): 66. Others are careful to note, however, that fulfillment may look different if the original recipient of the promise failed to meet stipulated conditions, see, e.g., Kenneth L. Barker, “False Dichotomies Between the Testaments,” JETS 25 (1982): 9n28; John S. Feinberg, “Systems of Discontinuity,” in Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship between the Old and New Testaments: Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson Jr. (ed. John S. Feinberg; Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1988), 79–81.
- ↑ Back “Hermeneutics of Progressive Dispensationalism,” 94–95.
- ↑ Back Ibid., 96.
- ↑ Back “Hermeneutics of Discontinuity,” 128. Cf. also Johnson, Expository Hermeneutics, 52–53.
- ↑ Back Typology is routinely mentioned in discussions of this sort, especially as alleged support for the NT’s finding fuller meaning in the OT (see, e.g., Oss, “Canon as Context,” 121). This, of course, is debated. It seems an equally plausible case can be made that types simply prove that God works in patterns (analogically?), which itself does not require the type be prospective. Cf. David L. Baker, Two Testaments, One Bible: A Study of the Theological Relationship between the Old and New Testaments (Downers Grove: IVP, 1991), 193–94. And, in fact, the line between prospective type and analogy is not at all clear. See, e.g., D. A. Carson, Matthew (EBC 8; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 91–93; “Mystery and Fulfillment: Toward a More Comprehensive Paradigm of Paul’s Understanding of the Old and the New,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Paradoxes of Paul (ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 405–6; Beale and Carson, “Introduction,” xxv; Feinberg, “Hermeneutics of Discontinuity,” 122–23.
- ↑ Back “The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” 206.
- ↑ Back He introduces the subject by saying, “Whenever one speaks of new revelation–i.e. revelation whose material has been hidden in the past but only now revealed–one must ponder its relation to antecedent revelation. Implicitly, there is at least some kind or measure of discontinuity, or it would not in any sense be ‘new.’ The nature of that discontinuity is precisely what must be probed, especially if (as is the case for both Second Temple Judaism and for Christianity) it is simultaneously claimed that this recent disclosure is somehow in line with the long-held revelation” (“Mystery and Fulfillment,” 415). As for the “revelatory insight,” Carson notes that the new meaning is “genuinely there in the text . . . but not yet revealed. And that, perhaps, is why a ‘mystery’ must be revealed, but also why it may be revealed through the prophetic writings” (ibid., 427). Cf. also Beale and Carson, “Introduction,” xxvii. For a more comprehensive discussion of μυστηÌ?ριον, see esp. Markus Bockmuehl, Revelation and Mystery in Ancient Judaism and Pauline Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997); and Chrys C. Caragounis, The Ephesian Mysterion: Meaning and Content (Lund: Gleerup, 1977).
- ↑ Back “Mystery and Fulfillment,” 422.
- ↑ Back Ibid., 425.
- ↑ Back Ibid., 427; Caragounis calls it “concealment in openess” (The Ephesian Mysterion, 34).
- ↑ Back “Mystery and Fulfillment,” 432.
- ↑ Back Ibid.
- ↑ Back Ibid. Cf. also idem, “Three More Books on the Bible,” 43–44
- ↑ Back “Mystery and Fulfillment,” 432.
- ↑ Back Ibid., 433.
- ↑ Back Ibid., 434.
Jared Compton is assistant professor of New Testament and Greek at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis.
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