Good thing St Paul wasn’t in my seminary class

Someone pointed out a Peter Enns’ essay recently to me.  Enns is dealing with “apostolic hermeneutics,” and granted that phrase is somewhat question-begging (who doesn’t believe he is not reading the Bible the same way as the apostles?), he touches on an of which many Evangelicals are aware, but few really develop:  The New Testament uses the Old Testament in a bizarre way.

Many are aware of that problem, but few draw the next conclusion (as Enns correctly does):   the main tenet of Historical Grammatical hermeneutics is the text has one primary meaning, and it means for you what it meant to the original audience.

So far, so good.   What do we do when we come to a passage like Hosea 11:1?

  • Despite all the nuances and “forward-looking of the prophets,” Hosea says nothing about the Messiah.
  • Without knowing the story of Jesus, you would not see Jesus in this text (see Philip and the Ethiopian).
  • If one claims that there is a fully worked-out eschatology in the Old Testament, then why was (is) it so hard for many Christian and Jewish readers to see?  Further, does this not simply flatten redemptive history?
  • As Enns notes, “Strict grammatical historical exegesis forces one to conclude that Matthew is not using strict grammatical exegesis.”
Enns’ proposal:
  1. Paying attention to the language of 2nd Temple Judaism can avoid many of the above problems.
  2. We must avoid the Enlightenment reduction that “words” must always and only conform to this particular reality.