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Hebrews by Robert Dean
Series:Hebrews (2005)
Duration:54 mins 15 secs

Hebrews Lesson 102    September 27, 2007 

 

NKJ John 17:17 "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

 

We've been talking about dispensations the last several weeks as sort of a side study, topical study in preparation for what we will hit in chapter 8.  We are preparing for this because this is so crucial.  Some of the stuff that is going on in chapter 7 of Hebrews and chapter 8 really relates to what amounts to the foundations or the undergirding of dispensational thought.  One of those elements is that there are things that change between dispensations and things that don't change.  What we have at the cross is a change of law, and a change of law and a change of priesthood as the result of the ascension of Christ means a change of covenant.  So all these things are tied together and so we are stepping back to look at dispensations.  We have gone through a lot of things related to dispensations and now we are at the key area which we have looked at the last (I think) two classes on interpretation. 

 

We're using the definition from D. L. Cooper.  David Cooper was… I believe he was a Jewish believer.  He was Arnold's pastor and mentored Arnold.  This is really a good definition that he wrote. Why reinvent the wheel? 

 

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, make no other sense.  Therefore  take every word at its ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicates clearly otherwise.

 

I went through this in detail last time.  I am not going to do that again.  The idea is that unless there are clear contextual reasons to take a statement in some sort of figurative sense, take it in a literal sense.  Literal does not mean that you ignore figures of speech or idioms or anything of that nature, but those are contextually indicated and usually contextually supplied and you can document these things by comparison with other parts of Scripture. 

 

So that it's not the interpreter that just looks at something and goes, "Well, if that's an idiom then it would make more sense to me, so I am going to assign this and say that must be an idiom and must mean X." 

 

The interpreter is deciding the meaning of the passage, not the one who writes it.  That's a problem that you get into with a lot of Bible interpretations over the centuries and down through history.  We've seen that among evangelicals that most evangelicals especially those on the conservative side would say that they believe in a literal interpretation of Scripture.  The problem is that there is a large chunk of evangelicals who don't consistently apply a literal plain hermeneutic to every part of Scripture, primarily prophecy.  When it comes to prophecy they sort of jump into this allegorizing, spiritualizing thing.  Dr. Ryrie who wrote an excellent book on dispensationalism a number of years ago identified three things that are the essence of dispensationalism.  So, some have called this essentialist dispensationalism.  These three things are the sine qua non or "without which nothing".  The essence of dispensationalism is a literal, plain hermeneutic that leads to (when it is consistently applied) a distinction between Israel and the church and the overarching theme in Scripture is the glory of God.  We have gone through that in the past. 

 

Now convent theology and other theological systems that are part of what we call replacement theology, do not consistently apply a literal interpretation. 

 

The question may come for some of you, "Well, how did we get that?  How did that develop?  How did we get into this non-literal interpretation?"

 

So last time I started another little side trail, another rabbit trail, on the history of interpretation.  So I just want to review that and make sure that everybody has the first 5 ½ points and then we'll keep going. 

 

  1. Over the centuries Bible students have used various approaches to interpret the Bible –literal, allegorical, traditional (by traditional, that is, you think you know what the passage says; now let's go see what the body of theologians – what the church says.  This would be more of a Roman Catholic approach.  Let's see what the Orthodox Church fathers say that it means and then we will interpret it in light of them.), rationalistic interpretation (where if it doesn't make sense to our limited reason, then of course we have to get rid of it.  Thomas Jefferson did that.  He had his own version of the Bible. He got rid of all the miracles and everything supernatural.), subjective interpretation of the Scripture, mystical interpretation of the Scriptures.  We have all kinds of people wanting to come up with hidden codes and the secret meaning of the Scripture.  Back in the 19th century it was vogue.  You had lots of books written of the secret to the Christian life.  Whenever you read anything of "a secret to", you know right away something is kind of odd here.  They may be right, but it is usually a code that they are coming up with something that they saw and nobody else has seen.  So we have various approaches to interpreting the Bible, number 1.

2.  The Bible gives us examples of how the Bible interprets itself.  So we ought to go to the text and see if Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible, how did subsequent writers interpret Moses?  If David wrote the Psalms and Solomon wrote Proverbs, how did subsequent writers interpret them?  How do Isaiah and Jeremiah and Daniel interpret their contemporaries and interpret earlier writings of Scripture?  So there are a lot of examples within Scripture to how people interpreted God's voice.  We understand that Adam pretty much understood God literally. Noah certainly did.  When God said to build an ark, he wasn't thinking about constructing a spiritual bomb shelter.  When you get to Moses being given instructions to build the tabernacle, he doesn't go off into a mountain and just contemplate his navel.  They interpreted God literally and put these things into practice.  So we also have samples of prophecy that is fulfilled literally.  One that I mentioned last time was I Kings 13 when you have an unnamed prophet come to Jeroboam I as he is beginning to establish his new religion in the Northern Kingdom and he builds this altar and he sacrificing these sacrifices.  An unnamed  prophet comes up and announces that there will be a king in a couple of hundred years named Josiah in the south who is going to come and he will sacrifice his false priests on this altar and then destroy the altar.  The sign of that future destruction would be the altar is going to be destroyed right now and that happened.  So we know that 200 years later there was a king by the name of Josiah.  He wasn't named something like Josiah, he was named Josiah and he did exactly what this prophet said he would do.  So that clearly indicates literal fulfillment. 

3.  The third thing I noted was when the Jews returned from the Babylonian Exile - now that begins about 536 BC – but it's a small return.  They only come back with about 5,000 the first time.  Shoot, that's not the population of many small towns in Texas.  They don't come back with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of Jews at the end of the Babylonian captivity. 

 

Most of the Jews are saying, "Well, I've built a new life and I have kids and grandkids here in Babylon (in Egypt) and I really don't want to go back home.  That's a real mess.  There are criminals and everything is a mess.  Everything has been torn down." 

 

So it took a long time to rebuild Jerusalem and to rebuild the land.  But in Nehemiah 8 9which takes place in about 442 or so BC almost 100 years after they return to the land) we have an example of Ezra reading the Old Testament and people understood it literally. 

 

Then we get into a period – that happens about the end of the Old Testament canonical period.  By 440-430 Malachi gets his message and that's it.  The curtain comes done and there is no more revelation after that.  You just have this gap of about 400 years between Malachi and the announcement of the birth of the Messiah.  So you have 400 years of silence and this is the intertestamental period.  During that time the Jews are trying to figure out how to avoid God's judgment.  They went from a literal understanding of the Scripture to a hyper-literalism which some call a letterism in the sense that instead of just paying attention to the normal meaning of a sentence, they got to the point where they were paying attention to every letter in every word and not in the sense not in the sense that Jesus said no jot or every tittle will pass away until all has been fulfilled; but in the sense that every letter must have some meaning.  So they began to do things with numerology and assigning numbers to letters.  Then they would figure out what those number codes meant.  They would do other things of that nature.  It led to mysticism in one direction and in another direction it led to setting up a hyper view of the law which developed in to the legalism of the Phariseeism.  That's what Paul is talking about in II Corinthians when he talks about the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.  Letterism focused on creating meaning out of each letter of the text as opposed to the meaning of the sentences and the words and their normal flow. 

4.  The fourth thing I pointed out was that by the time of Christ, the Pharisees had developed an excessive dependence on hyper-literalism which led to legalism and a false interpretation of the law.  Those are the first 4 points.

5.  Then we come to point 5 where I want to develop a little bit about what was happening during the intertestamental period.  What was happening with the Jews outside of the land is very important.  What are they doing out of the land?  You have millions of Jews.  You probably had 10 million Jews at this time in history and they are scattered all over the Roman Empire part of that time, but all over the Middle East.  They are scattered from Egypt to Babylon and what we now call Asia Minor or Turkey.  They are everywhere and they are being influenced by those cultures just like we are.  They are being influenced by Babylonian thought and Egyptian thought and Greek thought primarily.  So they begin to develop allegorical interpretation. 

 

Last time I used as an example Isaiah 2:1-5 which talks about the nations coming to Jerusalem, going to the mountain of the Lord to the house of the God of Jacob and how this is understood and applied by the early church in allegorical manner to refer to the church.  How in the world did they get from a literal interpretation to this allegorical interpretation? 

 

The first point has to do with the first thing I want to talk about is the result of the influence of Greek culture on Jewish thought.  This is because there was a rise in allegorical interpretation and the development of allegorical interpretation took place in the 5th, 4th, 3rd centuries BC.  The 5th century is the Golden Age of Athens.  This is when you have Plato and Aristotle; but they're in the development of the intellectual philosophical, the school of philosophy in Athens.  They were very intellectual and somewhat embarrassed by the old legends that had been written down by Homer and by Hessian.  So they wanted to figure a way to reinterpret Homer and Hessian because they were rather embarrassed of the anthropomorphic antics of the gods.  Zeus comes down and takes on the form of a man and chases young women and rapes them and gets them pregnant.  This certainly isn't the kind of ethical standard that Plato or Aristotle wanted to hold up for young people.  So there must be another meaning to these stories than the literal meaning.  So they began to develop a solution to The Homeric Problem

 

I have quote here from Heraclites in the first century BC written in a work called The Homeric Problem, his interpretation of some of these stories.  In terms of interpreting the sexual antics of Aphrodite, Zeus and Aries he writes:

 

The ribald laughter of the gods at the hapless pair (That would be Aphrodite and her lover Ares) signifies their joy at the cosmic harmony that results from the union of love (Aphrodite) and strife (Ares who is the god of war). 

 

See, there are no literal individuals there. This is a just a story about how they picture for us cosmic… It almost sounds like a modern Methodist preacher, doesn't it?  I shouldn't say that.  That's not tolerant. 

 

The passage can also be interpreted metallurgical.  Fire represented by Hephaestus unites iron Ares with beauty Aphrodite in the blacksmith's art. 

 

So there is no literal meaning to the stories of Homer.  There is no literal Troy.  There is no literal Kea.  There is no literal battle.  This is taken to be all some kind of symbolism, idealism, metaphor. 

 

The center of interpretation shifts from the meaning of the author to the interpreter.  The interpreter decides what something means.  This develops among the Greeks.  You have Plato earlier had developed this.  This fit with his whole emphasis on the ideal over the material.  So, allegorical interpretation develops.  This has its influence throughout the Greek empire.  Of course at that time Egypt after Alexander - remember the Greek empire split among the four generals, Cassandra took Thrace and Macedonia.  Lysimachus got the east and the Seleucids got Antioch, Syria, Turkey and the Ptolemy's got Egypt.  So the Ptolemy's are Greek.  The last in the line of the Ptolemy's is Cleopatra.  She was a Greek.  She wasn't Egyptian.  She did not have dark skin.  She wasn't a dark-skinned African like you'll get reinterpretation of history today trying to say that.  She was a Greek.  She was a descendent of one of Alexandria's generals.  That whole culture, the intellectual culture of Alexandria, had the great library in Alexandria is shaped by the Greek intellectual thought the influence of Plato and Aristotle and others. 

 

So you have a large Jewish community there.  This Jewish community is picking up all of these ideas and many of the Jewish scholars and thinkers are influenced by Greek thought and they become enamored with Greek thought.  It happens today.  You get a lot of conservative Bible scholars go off to Aberdeen or Edinburgh or Oxford or Cambridge to get their doctorate in theology and then come back and teach at places like Dallas Seminary or Talbot or Trinity Evangelical Divinity School or any of these places and they go off there. They walk around the ivory towers and the old walls of Oxford and Cambridge and Edinburgh and get absolutely enamored with all the old stuff in these great European minds and they pick up a lot of garbage.  They change their theology and come back and teach it in the classroom.  This is how these schools get …their theology becomes diluted.  That's what was happening then. 

 

So by the first century you have a guy come along by the name of Philo.  Philo was born in 20 BC and dies in AD 54.  He is a Jewish philosopher.  He really liked his Jewish heritage.  He liked Moses.  He thought he had a number of good things to say in the Mosaic Law, but he wasn't quite as erudite as Plato and Aristotle.  Philo thought that he could come up with a way to synthesize Moses and Plato so that they could make Moses say pretty much what Plato and other Greek philosophers were saying.  Then Moses would be a lot brighter and his IQ would go up 50 or 60 points.  So he began to seek out.  He came up with this idea that there is a meaning in the Torah that is beyond the meaning of the letters.  It's beyond the literal meaning.  If you can just dig down or contemplate it enough, if you can come up with the mystical depths concealed beneath the letters of Scripture.  Remember when you get away from a literal interpretation, the interpreter determines the meaning of the passage, not the writer – not authorial intent. 

 

So Philo came up this idea that there were two levels of meaning.  There is the literal meaning that corresponds to the body and there is the spiritual meaning that corresponds to the soul.  The milk of the Word is literal; the meat of the word is spiritual.  The milk of the Word is the surface historical normal meaning, but that just leads to an immature understanding of reality.  If you really want to go anywhere spiritually, if you want to go to maturity then you have to understand the hidden meaning.  Remember there is no connection between the hidden meaning and the literal historical grammatical meaning.  It's the hidden meaning that leads to greater spiritual understanding.

 

I've got a couple of examples here for you.  In Genesis 2:23 God had taken Eve out of the side of the man and created her and Adam said:

 

NKJ Genesis 2:23 And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man."

 

This is Philo's interpretation of that.  He says that this is what the passage really means. 

 

That is to say, He (God) filled up that external sense which exists according to habit, leading it on to energy and extending it as far as flesh and the whole outward and visible surface of the body. 

 

Can anybody explain to me what that means?  Okay.  See you have got to have a little extra hidden meaning to figure Philo out.  It's not just the literal meaning that this is how God created the woman from the original man. 

 

Later on in that passage in Genesis 2:24 Moses writes:

 

NKJ Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

 

Now Philo says of this:

 

On account of the external sensation, the mind, when it has become enslaved to it (that is external sensations) shall leave both its father, the God of the universe, and the mother of all things, namely, the virtue and wisdom of God,

 

He is making a moral point here.  He says when you get too caught up in emotion and sensation, what you are going to do is leave your father who is the god of the universe and mother who is wisdom.

 

and cleaves to and becomes united to the external sensations, and is dissolved into external sensation, so that the two become one flesh and one passion. 

 

In other words you just become overwhelmed by feeling good.  He is saying that is what the passage means.  See it is not connected at all to the literal grammatical meaning.  It can mean whatever it means to whoever is contemplating their navel long enough to come up with the meaning.

 

So Dwight Pentecost who is still a professor at Dallas...he is 93 or 94 now.  I think he is going to stay alive – he is going to be the last Pentecost.  He wrote his doctoral dissertation on Things to Come – classic work, basic – one of the first books I ever bought on understanding dispensationalism and prophecy.  Pentecost writes in Things to Come:

 

The allegorical method was not born out of the study of the Scripture, but rather out of a desire to unite Greek philosophy and the Word of God.  It did not come out of a desire to present the truths of the Word, but to pervert them.  It was not the child of orthodoxy, but of heterodoxy. 

 

So what happens is the early church – you have the Jews who are living in Alexandria and they have picked up Greek ideas.  They are wedding the Bible to Greek ideas. These are the Jews.  Then when you have gone passed the period of the first century into the second century – the period between 100 and 200, then the early church after the last apostle dies starts trying to figure out without direct apostolic guidance what this thing means.  There is a time period there.

 

A lot of people say, "Well, they studied at the feet of the apostles.  They should have had it squared away." 

 

No, they didn't.  Don't get caught up into that trap.  You read most people who wrote in the second century and you'll think that you have to get baptized in order to get saved.  They were trying to figure it all out.  So they started at square one.  That's what we are going to be doing next year in the history of doctrine – how did man (the leaders of the church) come to understand these doctrines as time went by through the continuum of the Church Age?  So they start wrestling with all kinds of issues.  But fundamentally it is going to be issues related to canon, what is our ultimate authority?  What books are worth dying for and what books aren't?  What books contain truth and what books don't?  How do we know what God means? 

 

So you had two schools of thought develop.  One held to literal grammatical historical interpretation and the other school held to allegorical interpretation.  Guess where the school that held to allegorical interpretation was located.  Alexandria, go figure.  It's almost like there is a connection.  So they are influence by Philo and the others and you have one of the early leaders in that particular church was a guy by the name of Pantaneus.  He died around 190.  He influenced Clement of Alexandria who was a major figure, influential figure in the early church.  His dates are 155 to 216.  Then the guy he influences is a guy by the name of Origen.  That's spelled o-r-i-g-e-n.

 

Origen is probably the brightest intellect in early Christianity.  It's unfortunate that his bulb often got turned on…on the wrong side of the tracks.  He was the most influential.  He did some great things related to the text and preserving the text of Scripture.  He created something called the hexapla that had three different translations of the Greek Old Testament – Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac versions -  all  put together in one volume.  So that's great benefit to scholars today in doing textual criticism.  But, he also introduces allegorical interpretation and legitimizes and systematizes it for the church.  Within another 200 years Origen will dominate the Middle Ages.  His views of interpretation - we still have problems with it today.  So that is one of the reasons it's so important. 

 

Bernard Ramm who wrote a classic book called Protestant Biblical Interpretation said of this period said that:

 

The Syrian school

 

That's the other school.  I spoke about two schools.  One was in Alexandria, northern Egypt.  The other was in Antioch of Syria.  In Antioch of Syria you had conservatives, the literalists - those who held to a plain literal interpretation.  So Bernard Ramm comments that:

 

The Syrian school fought Origen in particular as the inventor of the allegorical method, and maintained the primacy of the literal and historical interpretation.

Joseph Trigg wrote the classic biography on Origen (that's scholarly biography today) and Joseph Trigg said of Origen:

 

The fundamental criticism of Origen beginning during his own lifetime was that he used allegorical interpretation to provide a specious justification for reinterpreting Christian doctrine in terms of platonic philosophy. 

 

Trust me.  You may not grasp all the implications of that, but that bothers us to this very day in evangelical Christianity.  Some of the things that happened in that second century just ripple.  They are a tidal wave for 1,000 years, but the still ripple today. 

 

Origen actually held to a three-fold meaning of Scripture.  Earlier Philo had one body and soul.  Okay, Origen is going to do them one better.  He is going to say that man is made up of body, soul and spirit.  So you have three levels of meaning in the text. 

 

  1. The normal literal meaning, the obvious meaning, is related to your normal physical bodily life.  It really isn't going to take you very far. 
  2. The soul meaning is the moral meaning of the text. 
  3. Then for those who really have insights into the Word, there is the spiritual meaning. 

 

Remember the moral meaning and the spiritual meaning won't have anything to do with the literal historical grammatical meaning. It's like I can read the story and then just come up with whatever moral story that I want to make out of the particular text.  So it leads to some extremely damaging views of the nature of the church and the nature of Israel.  Of course, that in turn affects the whole view of prophecy.

 

Ronald Diprose in his book on Israel on pages 87 to 88 says of Origen:

 

He motivated this view by appealing to the principle of divine inspiration.

 

That means he said, "God told me this."

 

See, it's that mysticism thing cropping up again. 

 

"I went off into my closet and prayed for 8 hours last night and the Holy Spirit spoke to me."

…and by affirming that often statements made by the biblical writers are not literally true and that many events presented as historical, are inherently impossible. 

 

See, they just didn't understand enough about what happened in the Old Testament.  They read some of these stories about a worldwide flood and about Lot's wife being turned to salt and about the walls falling down around Jericho and they are going, "I'm not sure about that." 

 

So they say it can't really be historical.  It must be impossible so there must be another meaning to the text other than the literal meaning.  So then he says:

 

Thus only simple believers will limit themselves to a literal meaning of the text. 

 

So this comes from Origen. 

 

Trigg goes on to say in his biography on Origen that Origen made allegory the dominant method of biblical interpretation down to the end of the Middle Ages.  It took no genius to recognize that such allegory was a desperate effort to avoid the plain meaning of the text, and that, indeed is how Origen viewed it. 

 

So, allegorical interpretation is introduced into Christianity. 

 

Origen's dates are from 185 to 254.  So he dies 75 years before the Council of Nicaea.  So he introduces allegorical interpretation.  Seventy five years later, Constantine legitimizes Christianity.  Then about 75 years later you have Augustine who is the next major intellectual powerhouse in the early church and Augustine picks up Origen lock, stock and barrel and throws out a literal interpretation and literal millennium and almost single handedly (because of the power of his writings) makes allegorical interpretation a-millennialism the orthodox doctrine of Christianity which dominates the Roman Catholic Church throughout all the Middle Ages, all the way up to the Reformation and beyond.

 

So what do we conclude about Origen? 

 

  1. Number one, Origen's views gained wide acceptance in the early church.  Everybody seems to want to find a special secret meaning.  Everybody wants to find some kind of inside breakthrough, new idea in the Scriptures.  The body of doctrine that's in the Scripture basically hasn't changed in 2000 years.  I think a lot of people want to find something new there.  There's not a whole lot that's new that's there.  I think Solomon said something like that. 
  2. Along with Constantine's legalization of Christianity and Augustine's promotion of allegory, the death knell sounded for literal interpretation.  You go back into the early church and the second century and the third century, they are chiliasts.  That's the Geek word for a thousand - comparable to millennium.  They believe in a literal future 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth.  But after allegorical interpretation comes in, they get wiped out.  They are just overwhelmed in a blood bath. 
  3. The idea of a literal 1,000 year kingdom of Christ on the earth is lost.  So if the literal physical kingdom is lost, then all this kingdom stuff in the Bible must be talking about the church and must be talking about some spiritual form of the kingdom and Jesus is reigning in our hearts.  It's unbelievable how this affects so much for the next 2,000 years.  We're still be affected by it in many different ways because it takes on weird permutations when it gets picked up by secularists like Karl Marx and Marxism borrows from these kinds of ideas. You have all kinds of people trying to set up a kingdom on the earth or realize it fully and all of this kind of thing.
  4. So Origen is still a force to contend with today – this allegorical interpretation. 

 

This really impacts his view of prophecy and that impacts his view of Israel.  In terms of prophecy Trigg writes:

 

According to Origen, the trials and tribulations the world must endure before the second coming

 

We are going through a literal interpretation of Revelation on Sunday morning.  So, all these things that we read about there according to Origen wouldn't be literal. 

 

These trials and tribulations symbolize the difficulties the soul must overcome before it is worthy of union with the Logos. 

 

What is union with the Logos a code phrase for? Salvation.  Works salvation coming in here anybody?  Okay.  That's what's happening. 

 

He says: 

 

The imminence of the second coming refers to the immanent possibility, for each individual of death. 

 

The fact that Jesus could come back at any moment is really – he is saying that means you could die at any moment. 

 

Perhaps more radically he says, the two men laboring in a field, one of whom is taken and the other left when the Messiah comes represents good and bad influences on a person's will when the Logos is revealed to that person.

 

 

See, it's like if you have never sat under a pastor who was teaching from an allegorical interpretation of Scripture; then you really haven't been blessed because you keep reading your Bible saying, "How did he get that out of this?"

 

It is sort of like sitting in my tenth grade poetry class at Bellaire High School. 

 

Diprose comments:

 

An attitude of contempt towards Israel had become the rule by Origen's time.  The new element has his own view of Israel. It is his perception of them as manifesting no elevation of thought. 

 

Israel is no longer important or relevant.  So if Israel isn't important and relevant and they killed Jesus, what's the cultural attitude toward the Jews going to be now?  See how that provides the soil out of which anti-Semitism is going to thrive in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Middle Ages. 

 

Diprose goes on to comment: 

 

It follows that the interpreter must always posit a deeper or higher meaning for prophecies related to Judea, Jerusalem, Israel, Judah and Jacob which he affirms are "not being understood by us in a 'carnal' sense."

 

That's what Origen would say.  We don't take them naturally, so every time you read Jerusalem it is really a code word for the church.  Every time you read Judah or Israel it is a code word for the church.  Temple is a code word for the church, the spiritual life… these kinds of things.  So he concludes (Diprose does):

 

In Origen's understanding the only positive function of physical Israel was that of being a type of spiritual Israel.  The promises were not made to physical Israel because she was unworthy of them and incapable of understanding them.  Thus Origen effectively disinherits physical Israel. 

 

This is what is going to set the tone for the whole Middle Ages and their attitudes toward the Jews.  Now Origen's interpretation is accepted by Jerome and by Augustine and it becomes the standard theology up to the Reformation.  When the Reformation comes along well, you are going to start seeing some changes; but it's slow.  Augustine comes along in 354 to 430.  From 354 to 430 we have Augustine (teen) or as the Catholics call him Augustine (tin).  I have told you that before.  Since I went to Dallas Seminary which was Protestant and learned Augustine (teen) and then went to University of St. Thomas here in Houston to study philosophy and we studied a lot of Augustine (tin).  They call him Augustine (tin). I am schizo; one phrase I say Augustine (tin) and another I say Augustine (teen) because I have a protestant and Roman Catholic education.  So I am really confused.

 

Let's just summarize Augustine real quick.  He said:

 

  1. The period of the book of Revelation began at the First Advent when Satan was bound and cast out of the hearts of true Christians and their reign over him began.  Now did you catch that?  That's really important.  Just the opposite of what you believe.  According to Augustine the book of Revelation begins at the First Advent.  It's a historicist's view.  He lays the whole book down over history.  But actually he said at that time Satan was bound at the cross and cast out of the hearts of true Christians and the reign of the church over Satan began.  He is bound right now in the bottomless pit, right? 
  2. He said that the beast of Revelation represents the whole world.  The beast is the whole world. 
  3. The first resurrection is that of dead souls to spiritual life.  He makes the first resurrection basically regeneration.  The first resurrection is that of dead souls to spiritual life.  A resurrection continued in every true conversion throughout the period.
  4. He said that the 1,000 years is a symbolic expression of completeness, appropriately indicating the entire period of the Messiah's reign spiritually in our hearts.
  5. This period is to be followed by new persecution of the saints under anti-Christ then there will be a general judgment.  There is no literal millennium.  That's basically a-millennialism.  If you are a Presbyterian, that's what you believe.  If you area Wesleyan, a Methodist, that's what you believe.  If you are a Catholic that's what you believe.  That's what everybody believes so there is nothing about the Jews. 

 

This dominates the Middle Ages until the Reformation comes.  But what's important to understand on interpretation is that first you have a return to a literal understanding of interpretation by the late 1400's.  You change your interpretation and then what happens?  You have a new system of interpretation to take to the text and what happens?  It means something different.  Interpretation always precedes theology.  When you have a new interpretation joined with a resurrection of training in Greek and Hebrew, all of a sudden you have Luther and Calvin and Zwingli and Bollinger and many, many others coming to an understanding of Scripture that is different from the Roman Catholic understanding of Scripture.  Change your interpretive scheme and you change your theology. 

 

Then, by the second generation of the Reformation… because the first generation is fighting the big battle of Sola Scripture and Sola fide.  (Sola Scriptura – by Scripture alone; Sola fide by faith alone.)  It's not until the second half of the 1500's that they won most of those battles and they begin to work out the implications of a literal interpretation to other areas of theology.  By the time you get into the beginning of the 1600's you have many, many reformed people, Calvinists are coming to a pre-millennialism.  You have people that come to America like…first off Richard Mather comes to America in the 1630's and he is a pre-millennialist.  He has a son and because God has blessed him so much, like a good Puritan he names his son Increase and you have Increase Mather.  Increase Mather was one of the judges.  He was a great guy.  These people were so much better educated than PhD's from Harvard today are educated – by the time they went to Harvard.  They knew more about Latin, Hebrew and Greek before they started college than Dallas Seminary graduates know when they get out of seminary.  That's how well educated they were because they had a value on the Word.  Increase Mather was one of the judges in the Salem Witch Trial.  See everybody want to go to the Salem Witch Trial as if it is some bad thing.  There were only about 7 or 8 people killed in the Salem Witch Trial.  When you had witch trials in England and in France and in Spain at that time of our history, 30,000 and 40,000 were being killed. 

 

We go, "Eight got killed!"

 

Or, 15 got killed. It was a very small number.  Well, yeah as opposed to 15,000 or 30,000.  That's not as extreme as the crucible wants you to think it is.  It is that's just anti-Christian propaganda.

 

You have Increase Mather and then his son Cotton Mather.  They were all pre-millenialists.  They all understood and they are going back to literal interpretation.  That lays the groundwork for the foundation of a lot of American Christianity.  Out of that soil developed dispensationalism by the early 19th century.

 

I'm not going to get into the next area because the next area I want to deal with all hangs together and that's in how the New Testament uses the Old Testament.  That's really important.  I will take the last 5 minutes to kind of explain what's happening. 

 

You have literal interpretation which is the foundation of dispensationalism.  Then over here you had the allegorical interpretation.  Well, what happens in the 70's because in the 70's you already had young people who were baby boomers who were being influenced by what I'll call proto-postmodernism - let's all get together and sing Kum Ba Ya together and all revel in our joint experience in Jesus, what ever that is.  The last thing we want to do is put doctrinal definiteness on what it means to be united in Jesus.  They ignore the fact that in Ephesian 4 Paul says it's the unity of the faith.  It's not the unity of the fact that we've all had a common experience in Jesus.  It's a unity of doctrine.  Therefore you had better be teaching doctrine.  You had these movements in both camps that we covenant theologians and dispensationalists shouldn't be shooting each other. 

 

"We all need to be lovin' each other.  We all need to get together." 

 

So, these scholars got together and they invented a new hermeneutic to try to blend the two.  It's called complementary hermeneutic.  This is the brainchild of two seminary professors at Dallas Seminary in my generation.  I did some doctoral work under one of them in a course on dispensationalism. We spent the whole course dealing with interpretation because in his view that is really what dispensationalism – that's where the battle was.  Dispensationalism wasn't a theological system; it was a system of hermeneutics.  It really didn't have anything to do with Ryrie's three essentials.  That's just modernist thinking to think that you have to identify certain criteria to make you a dispensationalist or a non-dispensationalist. 

 

"How 18th century!  We don't want to think like that anymore." 

 

So they came up with complementary hermeneutics.  The idea there was that revelation in the New Testament complemented – it didn't contradict which was the old allegorical interpretation would do.  It didn't contradict the Old Testament, but it added new information that gave it a new twist.  That's been called complementary hermeneutics and their view is called progressive dispensationalism.

 

But when one Old Testament scholar who is a covenant theologian read their material when it first came out said, "Hum.  They are just a-millenialists by another name." 

 

This is the dominant view at Dallas Seminary right now.  Of course a lot of people don't like hearing that.  There are people who don't want pastors talking about that from the pulpit.  If people don't say it, the people who are contributing good money to Dallas Seminary thinking that Dallas Seminary is still teaching the same thing Louis Sperry Chafer taught are being sold a bill of goods.  Louis Sperry Chafer isn't even being read by anybody at Dallas Seminary unless you happened to have a class with Dr. Lightner.  Nobody reads Chafer anymore. 

 

"He is too 20th century.  Why go back there?" 

 

So almost everybody in the Theology Department – I heard they just hired a new guy and he's not progressive dispensationalist, but almost the whole Old Testament and New Testament Departments are progressive dispensationalists.  English Bible is not.  That's the good department there.  It's just swept away Dallas Seminary.  It has to do with this issue of hermeneutics and interpretation.  That's why I've spent so much time because if you are a believer you have to understand why you believe what you believe and that it's one thing to say you believe in literal interpretation; but you have to understand what that really means, especially in contrast to a lot of the other stuff that is going on today. 

 

So I'll come back and talk about New Testament use of Old Testament and its importance for hermeneutics next week.

 

Let's close in prayer. 

 

Illustrations