VossedWorld

Saturday, January 30, 2010

James Hamilton: "from start to finish, the OT is a messianic document"

“The use of the OT in the New has been much discussed, with some coming to the conclusion that, to put it simply, the authors of the NT wrongly interpreted the OT. This being the case, their exegesis cannot be legitimately imitated today. Those who come to this conclusion are sometimes mystified as to how the authors of the NT could possibly see a reference to the Messiah in texts the NT applies to him, at points even arguing that particular applications of OT texts to Jesus in the NT do not actually refer to him at all.

"Another argument against the imitation of apostolic use of the OT is that their hermeneutical methods are not valid today. This means that while an understanding of the hermeneutical milieu can help us make sense of what the authors of the NT were doing, it does not validate their method for us. Others would agree with Moisés Silva’s objection to this conclusion: “If we refuse to pattern our exegesis after that of the apostles, we are in practice denying the authoritative character of their scriptural interpretation— and to do so is to strike at the very heart of the Christian faith.”

"It seems to me that certain presuppositional starting points have the potential to ameliorate every intellectual difficulty with the way that the NT interprets the OT, regardless of the hermeneutical tools employed. I have in mind one thing in particular, namely, the hypothesis that from start to finish, the OT is a messianic document, written from a messianic perspective, to sustain a messianic hope. Adopting this perspective might go a long way toward explaining why the NT seems to regard the whole of the OT as pointing to and being fulfilled in the one it presents as the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

"Further, it might be in line with texts such as Luke 24:27, 44–45, which could indicate that Jesus read the OT in precisely this way (cf. also Matt 5:17 and John 5:46). If Jesus and the authors of the NT did read the OT in this way, they were apparently not alone. Craig Evans notes, “The saying of Rabbi Yohanan, though uttered in the post-NT era, probably reflects what was assumed by many in the first century: ‘Every prophet prophesied only for the days of the Messiah’ (b. Ber. 34b).”

"The only way to verify such a hypothesis is to test it against the data. The evidence is, of course, disputed. I am not suggesting that we should look for “Jesus under every rock” or in every detail of the description of the temple, a straw man which at times seems to be the only thing conceivable to certain “OT only” interpreters when they hear the kind of suggestion I am making. We need not abandon the discipline of looking carefully at what the texts actually say to see the OT as a messianic document. Nor is the objection that there is proportionally very little about the messiah in the OT necessarily devastating to this proposal, for it is always possible that a certain feature is not everywhere named in the text because it is everywhere assumed.” -- James Hamilton
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"The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15"