The Tablets of Stone - Brakel

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Grant

Puritan Board Senior
What are your thoughts on the division of the Moral Law (Love of God / Love of Neighbor). I believe Jesus teaches us this division most clearly in his NT summary. In The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Brakel makes a case that this same division was also visually represented on the Two Stone Tablets made in Exodus. To summarize he feels strongly that Commands 1-4 were engraved on the 1st Tablet and Commands 5-10 were engraved on the 2nd Tablet.

Below comes from Vol. 3, page 86-87

The Two Tables of the Law
The content of the law is love and in that respect it can be said that the entire law is one. The objects are God and our neighbor, and in consequence of this the law is divided into two commandments (Matt 22:40), and thus likewise was also recorded on two tables. It is observed in a tenfold manner and is therefore denominated the ten words or ten commandments (cf. Exod 34:28; Deut 10:4).

Concerning the tables of the law, there could be the conjecture that since they were written upon both sides, there was no distinction made between the commandments and they were thus recorded in a continual and sequential manner—the suggestion being that as much as possible had been written on one table, the remainder being written upon the other table without making an interruption at a certain commandment, the second and fourth commandment being very long. This is not credible at all, however, for then everything could have been written upon one table. It is also not credible that five commandments were written upon each table. Rather, it is obvious that the commandments upon each table are distinct as far as content is concerned.

The first four are those that have reference to God and are recorded on the first table. The commandments having reference to our neighbor, being the latter six, are recorded upon the second table. This is, first of all, to be observed in Matt 22:38-39, where the Lord Jesus makes a distinction between the tables according to their content, and in reference to God and our neighbor. Secondly, this is evident from Eph 6:2, where the fifth commandment is called the first commandment with promise. This cannot refer to all the commandments, for the second and fourth commandments also have promises, and it must thus be understood as the first commandment of the second table. Thirdly, this is evident from Matt 19:18-19. There the commandments of the second table are enumerated and none of the first—and among them the fifth is mentioned as well.

What are your thoughts? Specifically do you believe we have enough biblical support to dogmatically say what were the exact contents on each tablet?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I don't think there is anything "dogmatic" about the two tablets' contents. It suited our Lord to describe the moral law as conveniently divided into two branches of our duty to love--God and neighbor--which evidently subdivides the ten, and the two parts are observable. I do not assume, however, that the inevitable conclusion is that altogether the two tablets combined to present the ten, each containing one of the two parts (4x6). This is not an unreasonable proposal with plenty of merit; but I see no reason to insist on it.

The argument--which was probably (when the Reformation came around) not considered at all, being hardly conceivable--namely: that both tablets contained all 10C, and were basically identical in content; this proposal waited until ancient covenant-making was better understood as a part of wider ANE culture. Until that idea could gain purchase by a reasonable suggestion, it seems unlikely that the notion would have appealed to anyone naturally. What possible use could there be for two of the exact same form-of-words?

But today, we are able to appreciate that the parties covenanting should have corresponding copies of said covenant (treaty). Such would have been the arrangement if a lord-vassal covenant was made or imposed. The duties or expectations of the treaty would be set forth for all sides to see and acknowledge, and breach of the arrangement was grounds for judgment. Israel broke the law they swore to obey (Ex.24:3, 7; cf.19:8) almost immediately, arguably by violating the 1C above all, but including the rest of sins against 1-4, and then 5-10 in various ways also.

Moses coming down the mountain (Ex.32) let the tablets fly to shatter, as a visible manifestation of the truth that the covenant was shattered already. Jas.2:10, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." The fact that both tablets were kept with the ark of the covenant is just evidence that the LORD and his people dwelt together, not apart. They weren't going their separate ways (as when Laban and Jacob covenanted, Gen.31:44-54).

I find evidence for both arguments (tables/lists 1&2; or 2 identical lists). Both concepts have merit. I myself once assumed the first as "self-evident," until I knew the argument for the second; and am now inclined more to the latter. I think the latter has the hermeneutical edge culturally; but the simplicity of the former has a pedagogical edge, in my opinion.
 

Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't think there is anything "dogmatic" about the two tablets' contents. It suited our Lord to describe the moral law as conveniently divided into two branches of our duty to love--God and neighbor--which evidently subdivides the ten, and the two parts are observable. I do not assume, however, that the inevitable conclusion is that altogether the two tablets combined to present the ten, each containing one of the two parts (4x6). This is not an unreasonable proposal with plenty of merit; but I see no reason to insist on it.

The argument--which was probably (when the Reformation came around) not considered at all, being hardly conceivable--namely: that both tablets contained all 10C, and were basically identical in content; this proposal waited until ancient covenant-making was better understood as a part of wider ANE culture. Until that idea could gain purchase by a reasonable suggestion, it seems unlikely that the notion would have appealed to anyone naturally. What possible use could there be for two of the exact same form-of-words?

But today, we are able to appreciate that the parties covenanting should have corresponding copies of said covenant (treaty). Such would have been the arrangement if a lord-vassal covenant was made or imposed. The duties or expectations of the treaty would be set forth for all sides to see and acknowledge, and breach of the arrangement was grounds for judgment. Israel broke the law they swore to obey (Ex.24:3, 7; cf.19:8) almost immediately, arguably by violating the 1C above all, but including the rest of sins against 1-4, and then 5-10 in various ways also.

Moses coming down the mountain (Ex.32) let the tablets fly to shatter, as a visible manifestation of the truth that the covenant was shattered already. Jas.2:10, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." The fact that both tablets were kept with the ark of the covenant is just evidence that the LORD and his people dwelt together, not apart. They weren't going their separate ways (as when Laban and Jacob covenanted, Gen.31:44-54).

I find evidence for both arguments (tables/lists 1&2; or 2 identical lists). Both concepts have merit. I myself once assumed the first as "self-evident," until I knew the argument for the second; and am now inclined more to the latter. I think the latter has the hermeneutical edge culturally; but the simplicity of the former has a pedagogical edge, in my opinion.
If the two tables of stone were identical, one representing God in the Covenant and the other representing Israel, then the breaking of both tables would be the dissolving of the Covenant. But my understanding is that the Covenant was broken only on Israel's side. Christ was "made of a woman, made under the law" (Gal. 4:4), so the Covenant was still in force on God's side when Christ was born. So I am inclined to think that the two tables were not the same.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
find evidence for both arguments (tables/lists 1&2; or 2 identical lists). Both concepts have merit. I myself once assumed the first as "self-evident," until I knew the argument for the second; and am now inclined more to the latter. I think the latter has the hermeneutical edge culturally; but the simplicity of the former has a pedagogical edge, in my opinion.

This is the view I have been persuaded of also. I am no scholar, though.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
If the two tables of stone were identical, one representing God in the Covenant and the other representing Israel, then the breaking of both tables would be the dissolving of the Covenant. But my understanding is that the Covenant was broken only on Israel's side. Christ was "made of a woman, made under the law" (Gal. 4:4), so the Covenant was still in force on God's side when Christ was born. So I am inclined to think that the two tables were not the same.
Your reading is one way of interpreting the data. For my part, it doesn't make sense to conceive of a covenant that is broken, but only "on one side." Broke is broke, as they say. The LORD was most certainly gracious and willing to restore the covenant "which they broke," Jer.31:32. Moreover, he upheld the covenant of grace in the midst of Israel's failures--then and many times after. But this only proves that Israel was in no way responsible for "upholding" the unilateral, promissory covenant; they could not therefore break that covenant. But they definitely broke their formal, oath-bound covenant word. They broke the covenant in its outward and legally charged format of administration.

The LORD's reaction to Israel's defection (Ex.32:7-10) viewed simply is nothing less than a witness that their mutual covenant was undone. Knowing the rest of the story, we can re-read these lines with the understanding that God has a particular outcome already in view. He ultimately intends to repair the covenant; continue on with his relation to his church "for the sake of the fathers," (Rom.11:28) i.e. the covenant of grace; and prompt Moses' selfless intercession, his consummate expression of mediatorial service on behalf of a sinful people--a crucial aspect of his typological foreshadowing of the great Mediator. Still, as I read Exodus and Jeremiah (among other texts), the covenant was broken, and not simply from one perspective though not the other.

2Tim.2:13, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself." This is surely one of Scripture's greatest covenant promises. When we prove our weaknesses as God's people, he lets us know our relationship was never dependent on our strength. In the current age of the church, there is still (in the P&R regard) an outward covenant administration through the organ of the church's ministry. However, the old administration engrossed by the Law has been supplanted by the new with its emphasis on the Spirit. In the new covenant, we as the people of God do not vow our obedience upon pain of rejection as Israel once did; but we vow upon our helplessness: faith in Christ (and pledge to strive for new obedience by grace from him).

Exodus 33 & 34 detail the painstaking, step-by-step work of restoring the old covenant (in its outward administration). Noteworthy in the renewal of the covenant, the LORD treats exclusively with Moses, apparently willing to receive the people again entirely because of him. The nation as a whole does not repeat the first promise of obedience, Ex.24:7. In truth, they continue to be held to their original vow--a thing also true for every succeeding generation identifying with their fathers--as if they were actually obedient to it right up to whatever the current moment was. When in reality their covenant-breaking was endemic to them, repeated over and over as we read their history.

The people, in (united to) Moses, are treated as if they kept the covenant. [Not to digress too far, but Moses' critical failure, Nu.20:11-12, as mediator was the reason God gave why he should not lead the people into their inheritance; Someone Greater than Moses is needed to both bring the people out and lead them all the way home.] And then, in the erection of the Tabernacle, it is repeated over and over language like this: "the Lord, by the hand of Moses, had commanded," Ex.35:29; "shall do according to all that the Lord has commanded," Ex.36:1; "counted according to the commandment of Moses... made all that the Lord had commanded Moses," Ex.38:21-22; "as the Lord had commanded Moses," Ex.39:1 etc. "According to all that the Lord had commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work. Then Moses looked over all the work, and indeed they had done it; as the Lord had commanded, just so they had done it," Ex.39:42-43. In other words, the people made no new vow to obey the LORD in exacting detail, but after the renewal of the covenant the text emphasizes how sedulously the people kept the LORD's commands.

Ex.40:16, "Thus Moses did; according to all that the Lord had commanded him, so he did." He always did [his Father's] will. "So Moses finished the work," Ex.40:33. Exodus could not be clearer: Moses DID what God commanded; and God was pleased to dwell with Israel because of Moses. As Joshua reiterates to the people, Jos.24:19-20, "You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” And yet, what say the people in response? “No, but we will serve the Lord!"... “We are witnesses!”... The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!” Their promises sound so sincere, and they apparently expect to be successful in imitation of Moses, Joshua, and others who seem to be regarded of God as obedient. Though Moses and Joshua knew themselves that they were not perfectly obedient, Moses even being judged severely for his failure. Both men in their valedictory addresses taught Israel how they must LOVE God, in order to serve him, Dt.30:6,16,20; Jos.23:11.

I would, therefore, argue that the old covenant considered in its outward dress and legal nature was broken. Not the covenant of grace administered through it, for that was a promise and could not be annulled, Gal.3:17. It was broken, then renewed by and for the mediator of the first covenant; and further restored repeatedly through many generations really on that basis and no other. And behind that imperfect basis (because Moses himself proved disobedient) was the pure grace of covenant for his own name's sake (1Sam.12:22; Ps.79:9; 106:8, etc.) and for the sake of the fathers, Dt.30:20, Ps.105:9--that is, his promise to the fathers and love for them, Dt.10:15. It doesn't square with my reading, to infer that the Sinai covenant was just "half-broken," for then it would be the case that the covenant in Law was largely an illusion, and not substantial at all.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
I too find it more likely that both tablets contained all ten commandments. It fits the nature of a covenant. Just as both parties to a contract today would receive a copy of that contract, it's sensible that standard practice would involve writing the covenant twice, on two separate tablets. You expect each party to take a copy with them and keep it.

The wonder that follows, then, is that the two tablets were kept in the same place. This may be why past generations, who knew less about ancient covenants, looked for other reasons to explain why there were two tablets. Why have two when they're both going into the ark? The answer is startling: because both parties to the covenant, God and his people, dwell in the same place. "I will dwell among the people of Israel and be their God" (Exodus 29:45). The two tablets, sharing one space inside the ark, are a witness to this most precious truth.
 

Grant

Puritan Board Senior
@Ben Zartman I think Rev. Bruce's above response above might also address a question that I know you have wrestled with from time to time regarding Baptism and the CoG being breakable or not.
 

Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
Your reading is one way of interpreting the data. For my part, it doesn't make sense to conceive of a covenant that is broken, but only "on one side." Broke is broke, as they say. The LORD was most certainly gracious and willing to restore the covenant "which they broke," Jer.31:32. Moreover, he upheld the covenant of grace in the midst of Israel's failures--then and many times after. But this only proves that Israel was in no way responsible for "upholding" the unilateral, promissory covenant; they could not therefore break that covenant. But they definitely broke their formal, oath-bound covenant word. They broke the covenant in its outward and legally charged format of administration.

The LORD's reaction to Israel's defection (Ex.32:7-10) viewed simply is nothing less than a witness that their mutual covenant was undone. Knowing the rest of the story, we can re-read these lines with the understanding that God has a particular outcome already in view. He ultimately intends to repair the covenant; continue on with his relation to his church "for the sake of the fathers," (Rom.11:28) i.e. the covenant of grace; and prompt Moses' selfless intercession, his consummate expression of mediatorial service on behalf of a sinful people--a crucial aspect of his typological foreshadowing of the great Mediator. Still, as I read Exodus and Jeremiah (among other texts), the covenant was broken, and not simply from one perspective though not the other.

2Tim.2:13, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself." This is surely one of Scripture's greatest covenant promises. When we prove our weaknesses as God's people, he lets us know our relationship was never dependent on our strength. In the current age of the church, there is still (in the P&R regard) an outward covenant administration through the organ of the church's ministry. However, the old administration engrossed by the Law has been supplanted by the new with its emphasis on the Spirit. In the new covenant, we as the people of God do not vow our obedience upon pain of rejection as Israel once did; but we vow upon our helplessness: faith in Christ (and pledge to strive for new obedience by grace from him).

Exodus 33 & 34 detail the painstaking, step-by-step work of restoring the old covenant (in its outward administration). Noteworthy in the renewal of the covenant, the LORD treats exclusively with Moses, apparently willing to receive the people again entirely because of him. The nation as a whole does not repeat the first promise of obedience, Ex.24:7. In truth, they continue to be held to their original vow--a thing also true for every succeeding generation identifying with their fathers--as if they were actually obedient to it right up to whatever the current moment was. When in reality their covenant-breaking was endemic to them, repeated over and over as we read their history.

The people, in (united to) Moses, are treated as if they kept the covenant. [Not to digress too far, but Moses' critical failure, Nu.20:11-12, as mediator was the reason God gave why he should not lead the people into their inheritance; Someone Greater than Moses is needed to both bring the people out and lead them all the way home.] And then, in the erection of the Tabernacle, it is repeated over and over language like this: "the Lord, by the hand of Moses, had commanded," Ex.35:29; "shall do according to all that the Lord has commanded," Ex.36:1; "counted according to the commandment of Moses... made all that the Lord had commanded Moses," Ex.38:21-22; "as the Lord had commanded Moses," Ex.39:1 etc. "According to all that the Lord had commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work. Then Moses looked over all the work, and indeed they had done it; as the Lord had commanded, just so they had done it," Ex.39:42-43. In other words, the people made no new vow to obey the LORD in exacting detail, but after the renewal of the covenant the text emphasizes how sedulously the people kept the LORD's commands.

Ex.40:16, "Thus Moses did; according to all that the Lord had commanded him, so he did." He always did [his Father's] will. "So Moses finished the work," Ex.40:33. Exodus could not be clearer: Moses DID what God commanded; and God was pleased to dwell with Israel because of Moses. As Joshua reiterates to the people, Jos.24:19-20, "You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” And yet, what say the people in response? “No, but we will serve the Lord!"... “We are witnesses!”... The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!” Their promises sound so sincere, and they apparently expect to be successful in imitation of Moses, Joshua, and others who seem to be regarded of God as obedient. Though Moses and Joshua knew themselves that they were not perfectly obedient, Moses even being judged severely for his failure. Both men in their valedictory addresses taught Israel how they must LOVE God, in order to serve him, Dt.30:6,16,20; Jos.23:11.

I would, therefore, argue that the old covenant considered in its outward dress and legal nature was broken. Not the covenant of grace administered through it, for that was a promise and could not be annulled, Gal.3:17. It was broken, then renewed by and for the mediator of the first covenant; and further restored repeatedly through many generations really on that basis and no other. And behind that imperfect basis (because Moses himself proved disobedient) was the pure grace of covenant for his own name's sake (1Sam.12:22; Ps.79:9; 106:8, etc.) and for the sake of the fathers, Dt.30:20, Ps.105:9--that is, his promise to the fathers and love for them, Dt.10:15. It doesn't square with my reading, to infer that the Sinai covenant was just "half-broken," for then it would be the case that the covenant in Law was largely an illusion, and not substantial at all.
In what sense then was Christ "under the law" (Gal. 4:4)? The reward of the Sinai Covenant was the promise of life: "if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt. 19:17). This promise was not taken away, and if any would keep the commandments, he could have the prize. This Christ did for his people, securing life for them. This is Samuel Petto's position, and I think it is the clearest thus far.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
In what sense then was Christ "under the law" (Gal. 4:4)? The reward of the Sinai Covenant was the promise of life: "if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt. 19:17). This promise was not taken away, and if any would keep the commandments, he could have the prize. This Christ did for his people, securing life for them. This is Samuel Petto's position, and I think it is the clearest thus far.
Forgive me, but I'm trying to connect some of the dots that, as you see the picture, connect 1) the broken tablets--which twain are one side (Israel's) of the Sinai covenant--and 2) the Christ of God, who was "made under the law;" leading to 3) evidence that God (on his side) at no time regarded the Sinai covenant as broken; and concluding 4) the tablets were not duplicates--for if they had been, then the symbolism of breakage would indicate the full dissolution of the covenant.

Furthermore, you clearly don't believe the covenant was dissolved; nor perhaps it was ever under any threat of such. (here I'm guessing)
(Do you believe there was any repair/renewal of it in Ex.33 & 34?)​

You regard the fact of Christ being "made under the law" to witness God sent Christ to earn life for his people under the terms of the OC.
This demonstrates that God maintained the covenant inviolate until such time as One appeared who should fulfill it and earn the reward.
(I accept as a legitimate inference of Gal.4:4 the proposal as stated; though this is beside the immediate point that Paul is making in that passage)
The promised One was born a Jewish male, and subjected to elements of the world, in that one manner that mattered, namely among the Jews, so that it was not a superstitious manner. But they too had a manner, because they stood (in a way) for all mankind. The law under which Christ was born also contained the moral law, which is universal among mankind. All men are under that law, and are breakers of it, and need this redemption spoken of in v5. But surely (as far the argument goes) there can be no doubt, “redeeming those under the law” MUST, at the very least, mean the Jews! The Redeemer brought them in bondage, in weakness, in oppression, out into freedom. He restored them. Paul seems at this point to be speaking a word directly to any Judaizers who might be listening. The Gentiles (also being under the covenant of works) were under law, were redeemed from sin and shame, and have received the adoption as sons. But, if them, how much more the Jews! They have been redeemed, yes? And therefore are sons. See Paul’s “we” here as especially testifying to his fellow Jews. We Jews are sons, now. So then, we are no longer in that bondage, so why do some of you wish so hard to keep under it, and more to impose it on others? Because you are sons, (all of you, Gentiles and Jews) God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts.

(I do not accept unqualified the idea that the Sinai covenant was maintained inviolate from the time it was enacted, meaning it was never broken or in jeopardy. For one, Scripture states that it was broken, and I do not subscribe to the idea that a covenant is half-broken or half-kept, depending on the party. On the other hand, I do regard the Sinai covenant as having been remade, renewed, repaired. It was recovered through the mediation of Moses, the same who brought the covenant to the people in the first place, after having brought the people to the place of covenanting, the Mountain of God.)​

I accept the Siniatic covenant was in force in one respect or another until the time of Christ's first advent. But one must also account for the failure of the people through the various periods of national existence--the wilderness, the judges, the kingdom combined and divided, the exile, and the return. The nation broke the covenant, and they broke it repeatedly. So, why didn't their failures result in the permanent rupture of covenant-relations? Because God through grace kept taking his Gomer back to himself. He kept heeding his servant Moses' prayers; and after him the mediation of the successor prophets, priests, and judges/kings, together with the cries of his remnant. The people broke their covenant; and soon thereafter they found themselves back in a restored covenant relationship. And that pattern was repeated again and again and again.

I say there is a marked difference between 1) God's "not regarding the covenant as broken from his side," and 2) God's striving to reestablish the covenant relationship that his people disregarded. In the former instance, the covenant isn't really broken; it is a docetic covenant breach. In the latter, the covenant is actually broken; yet God refuses to let it stay broken.

The judgments of the covenant may be viewed in two aspects. In one, they are nothing but a consequence, a bellicose state of affairs that testifies to rupture of the covenant, ending with destruction. In the other (which is again docetic, but this time legitimately), the judgments are in fact disciplinary, and the visitation is not meant to end in annihilation. For those under covenant judgment, it may not be infallibly clear which of the two aspects they face. What message gets through to those facing wrath? For the remnant, the message heard and believed is: there is mercy available for those who repent, accepting the terms laid down without murmuring. Restoration is possible, but not under any other terms. Spurn this offer of mercy, and no restoration will arrive.

This is the message of the prophets. It was also the message of Peter in Act.2. In the first case, the terms were basically a return to the status quo ante bellum; until the Exile, when those terms were modified somewhat, and the people (though repatriated) remained in a deplorable condition, one which would not be lifted until Messiah should arrive and lead them to freedom. In the second case, the terms were a new covenant arrangement, a fulfillment of the Abrahamic hope, together with the hopes of Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, and all those who lived in faith before the Seed of Promise rose from the dead.

If I differ from Petto (and yourself) or another worthy, I differ.
 

Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for this. Many interesting thoughts, several of them new to me. Perhaps I could make some comments.

1. I am afraid that I have probably garbled Petto a bit, so you may disagree with me but agree with Petto who puts things in a more accurate and satisfactory light. I would commend his work if you are interested in this subject.

2. When Peter cites the blessings of the new Covenant (1 Pet. 2:9), he mentions two from the Sinai Covenant (Ex. 19:6), so it is reasonable to think that it was the reward of that Covenant that Christ secured for his people. In some way that reward was still available, notwithstanding the breaking of the Tables.

3. If one allows that one of the purposes of the Wilderness period was to illustrate the life of the believer, moving from bondage in Egypt to the final blessing of the Promised Land, then the sins and provocations of the Children of Israel illustrate the sins and backsliding of the believer during the course of his life. In one sense these sins break communion with God, grieving the Spirit and requiring fresh repentance and restoration, but in another sense they do not. He remains their God still. So I think that the Sinai Covenant needs to be viewed in the same light: broken in one sense yet remaining standing in another.

4. In all these things, we have to conform our thinking to Scripture, and modify our mental models to Scripture, rather than forcing Scripture to fit rigid ideas in our minds. So we are not going to reach a final position in this life: we must always expect new light, requiring refinements and modifications in our theology. New light brings new interest and new sermons for the preacher and the people. The Sinai Covenant seems to me one of the hardest subjects in the whole of theology, and therefore one of the subjects on which we must be readiest to refine and develop our views.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Is not the Love your neighbor tied to Loving God? It doesn't appear that James saw the division being made here in a totality even though there may be some nuance. Break one commandment and you have broken them all according to James. Can't it be a "both and" instead of "either or"? Moses was definitely pedagogical. Paul even noted that. Israel was the Church.

As far as the Moral Law is concerned it has never changed. How it was instituted and related to was. In the Covenant with Adam the Moral Law is able to be reinstituted with Christ only because he was not conceived the same as the children of Adam. Ontologically things are different. How the Law is applied to Christ is different than how it relates to those born in the first Adam or Israel who came from Adam, Abraham, and Moses. The Law has the same function in Abraham as it does with Israel. It does not have the same function as it did with Adam. Pedagogically it does reveal the Adamic Covenant and point to the Paschal Lamb signifying the grace the children of God got to experience. Their sins were forgiven and God was their God. The 'do this and live' is different for Israel than it was for Adam. It is still true. Obey God and live. Sin brings death.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Thanks for this. Many interesting thoughts, several of them new to me. Perhaps I could make some comments.

1. I am afraid that I have probably garbled Petto a bit, so you may disagree with me but agree with Petto who puts things in a more accurate and satisfactory light. I would commend his work if you are interested in this subject.

2. When Peter cites the blessings of the new Covenant (1 Pet. 2:9), he mentions two from the Sinai Covenant (Ex. 19:6), so it is reasonable to think that it was the reward of that Covenant that Christ secured for his people. In some way that reward was still available, notwithstanding the breaking of the Tables.

3. If one allows that one of the purposes of the Wilderness period was to illustrate the life of the believer, moving from bondage in Egypt to the final blessing of the Promised Land, then the sins and provocations of the Children of Israel illustrate the sins and backsliding of the believer during the course of his life. In one sense these sins break communion with God, grieving the Spirit and requiring fresh repentance and restoration, but in another sense they do not. He remains their God still. So I think that the Sinai Covenant needs to be viewed in the same light: broken in one sense yet remaining standing in another.

4. In all these things, we have to conform our thinking to Scripture, and modify our mental models to Scripture, rather than forcing Scripture to fit rigid ideas in our minds. So we are not going to reach a final position in this life: we must always expect new light, requiring refinements and modifications in our theology. New light brings new interest and new sermons for the preacher and the people. The Sinai Covenant seems to me one of the hardest subjects in the whole of theology, and therefore one of the subjects on which we must be readiest to refine and develop our views.

1) I think I have Petto's book; I should take a look at it.

2) I don't question the principle that Christ obtained the life-reward for obedience on behalf of his people. Which reward is original in the covenant of works, and which receives restatement in the covenant at Sinai. The Lord rewrote the stone tablets, Ex.34:1&28, which preaches: the covenant continues. I maintain the hypothetical view, that states "if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law," Gal.3:21. Paul's statement alleges more than just the law's impotence to justify; it also hints at the theory that a individual's perfect law-keeping would be a justifying exercise. Of course, no mere man after Adam could so perfectly obey, try as he might.

3) The illustrated-believer's-life could (at least in some sense) be pictured by the Wilderness period; but as you correctly note, that would be but one of the purposes. The rich typology of the Israelite experience (Genesis-Malachi) is polyvalent, and operates on multiple levels at once. For instance, Israel's experience is fundamentally typology of the Savior himself/alone. "Out of Egypt I called my son," Mt.2:5, is applied by Matthew to Christ, who had no sin or backsliding of his own to account for. It's vital (in my way of thinking) that the first "application" of the OT text to the faith of the NT be in view of the Christ of a given passage, and secondly in view of the Christian of the same passage.

In other words, viewing the passage to the Promised Land as initially or fundamentally about the Christian life (and possibly afterward with hints to discovery of Christ in-with-and-under the surface) will indubitably color one's primary perspective on Sinai. If I may also inquire, I would like to know (in re. the "life of believer" motif): is there a certain moment or existential realization in that "pilgrim's progress" to which the covenant of Sinai is analogous? Does it represent initialized sanctification? I suppose on some scheme (not yours per se) it stands for an age or condition of new accountability before God. Nothing on any kind of timeline occurs or appeals to me.

Sinai (to my way of thinking) relates to the church and to individual believers within the church as the paradigmatic approach to God for worship. He's rescued them--not for any deserving on their part--and on the basis of his grace he receives them and explains to them Who He Is, and his will for their lives. The time (short/long) spent in the transition from death/Egypt to life/Canaan is to be a life of worship, with God in the midst of them.

For my part, I have serious doubts that the nation's journey through the wilderness and ultimate arrival at the door of Canaan after a generation on the way presents us with a rough or useful or any other kind of "outline" of the path taken by an individual from hellbound rescue to heavenly rest. (I tend to think many of us were conditioned to think along those lines largely due to Bunyan's allegory.) I'm much more amenable to the theory that the nation Israel as a type of the church-collective is rescued and (ultimately) relocated. And in-between those endpoints, the Wilderness period prefigures the time the church spends in the world. With Jesus performing a new exodus (Lk.9:31), the NT church finds itself in a kind of "reset," recapitulating Israel's Wilderness experience--because we're not in heaven yet. [The church also recapitulates Israel's conquest of Canaan, Joshua standing in analogous position to the book of Acts; polyvalence again.]

4) I absolutely agree that getting to grips with the Sinai covenant is one of the biggest challenges in the realm of theological inquiry. I myself have struggled over the issues, and like you am still in the process of learning and refining my convictions. I was blessed to study Exodus in-depth while preaching through it. I began in 2008, and returning several times over the years to preach on successive portions, I completed the book in something like 75 individual sermons last year, 2019. I do not consider myself to have perfectly arrived, but I recognize today that I am vastly better acquainted with the material and possess a more mature appreciation for the issues than I had 12yrs ago.

God bless your studies and reflection.
 

Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
1) I think I have Petto's book; I should take a look at it.

2) I don't question the principle that Christ obtained the life-reward for obedience on behalf of his people. Which reward is original in the covenant of works, and which receives restatement in the covenant at Sinai. The Lord rewrote the stone tablets, Ex.34:1&28, which preaches: the covenant continues. I maintain the hypothetical view, that states "if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law," Gal.3:21. Paul's statement alleges more than just the law's impotence to justify; it also hints at the theory that a individual's perfect law-keeping would be a justifying exercise. Of course, no mere man after Adam could so perfectly obey, try as he might.

3) The illustrated-believer's-life could (at least in some sense) be pictured by the Wilderness period; but as you correctly note, that would be but one of the purposes. The rich typology of the Israelite experience (Genesis-Malachi) is polyvalent, and operates on multiple levels at once. For instance, Israel's experience is fundamentally typology of the Savior himself/alone. "Out of Egypt I called my son," Mt.2:5, is applied by Matthew to Christ, who had no sin or backsliding of his own to account for. It's vital (in my way of thinking) that the first "application" of the OT text to the faith of the NT be in view of the Christ of a given passage, and secondly in view of the Christian of the same passage.

In other words, viewing the passage to the Promised Land as initially or fundamentally about the Christian life (and possibly afterward with hints to discovery of Christ in-with-and-under the surface) will indubitably color one's primary perspective on Sinai. If I may also inquire, I would like to know (in re. the "life of believer" motif): is there a certain moment or existential realization in that "pilgrim's progress" to which the covenant of Sinai is analogous? Does it represent initialized sanctification? I suppose on some scheme (not yours per se) it stands for an age or condition of new accountability before God. Nothing on any kind of timeline occurs or appeals to me.

Sinai (to my way of thinking) relates to the church and to individual believers within the church as the paradigmatic approach to God for worship. He's rescued them--not for any deserving on their part--and on the basis of his grace he receives them and explains to them Who He Is, and his will for their lives. The time (short/long) spent in the transition from death/Egypt to life/Canaan is to be a life of worship, with God in the midst of them.

For my part, I have serious doubts that the nation's journey through the wilderness and ultimate arrival at the door of Canaan after a generation on the way presents us with a rough or useful or any other kind of "outline" of the path taken by an individual from hellbound rescue to heavenly rest. (I tend to think many of us were conditioned to think along those lines largely due to Bunyan's allegory.) I'm much more amenable to the theory that the nation Israel as a type of the church-collective is rescued and (ultimately) relocated. And in-between those endpoints, the Wilderness period prefigures the time the church spends in the world. With Jesus performing a new exodus (Lk.9:31), the NT church finds itself in a kind of "reset," recapitulating Israel's Wilderness experience--because we're not in heaven yet. [The church also recapitulates Israel's conquest of Canaan, Joshua standing in analogous position to the book of Acts; polyvalence again.]

4) I absolutely agree that getting to grips with the Sinai covenant is one of the biggest challenges in the realm of theological inquiry. I myself have struggled over the issues, and like you am still in the process of learning and refining my convictions. I was blessed to study Exodus in-depth while preaching through it. I began in 2008, and returning several times over the years to preach on successive portions, I completed the book in something like 75 individual sermons last year, 2019. I do not consider myself to have perfectly arrived, but I recognize today that I am vastly better acquainted with the material and possess a more mature appreciation for the issues than I had 12yrs ago.

God bless your studies and reflection.
With regard to your question about what Sinai might correspond to in the believer's experience, I would regard it as a formal commitment or marriage covenant with Christ. I know that in actual experience, the looking to the blood of Christ in the Passover, the separation from the old life in the Red Sea, and the commitment of love and obedience to Christ at Sinai are pretty much simultaneous, but it is helpful to have them separated so that we can focus on each in turn.

I wouldn't try to force everything in the Egypt/Canaan journey into this picture, but I think that there is plenty there (the water, the manna, the pillar of cloud). Of course, these things can also be applied to the Church, which gives a related but different collection of thoughts and illustrations. I don't think that this is the primary purpose of the events, or perhaps even their secondary purpose, but just one of their many profitable purposes.

I would also want to apply the conquest of Canaan to the individual believer as well as the Church: the believer is made king over his own soul but now he has to possess the land and rule over it, and root out the sinful lusts which have no right of possession.
How would you understand it of the Church?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
With regard to your question about what Sinai might correspond to in the believer's experience, I would regard it as a formal commitment or marriage covenant with Christ. I know that in actual experience, the looking to the blood of Christ in the Passover, the separation from the old life in the Red Sea, and the commitment of love and obedience to Christ at Sinai are pretty much simultaneous, but it is helpful to have them separated so that we can focus on each in turn.

I wouldn't try to force everything in the Egypt/Canaan journey into this picture, but I think that there is plenty there (the water, the manna, the pillar of cloud). Of course, these things can also be applied to the Church, which gives a related but different collection of thoughts and illustrations. I don't think that this is the primary purpose of the events, or perhaps even their secondary purpose, but just one of their many profitable purposes.

I would also want to apply the conquest of Canaan to the individual believer as well as the Church: the believer is made king over his own soul but now he has to possess the land and rule over it, and root out the sinful lusts which have no right of possession.
How would you understand it of the Church?
Better than a "timeline" approach, I can relate to the idea (as you put it) that there is separation of episodes in Israel's experience that could be ideally understood as simultaneous; but, as with certain elements and relations in the individual believer's ordo salutis, may be conveniently ordered and distinguished for particular focus.

I can appreciate the marriage analogy, and there is certainly resonance for that in Scripture, for example Ezk.16:8; cf. Is.54:5; Jer.3:14; Hos.2:2, 14ff. But here I suppose I must differ; because not only the original, but also the prophetic references back to the original regard not the individual Israelite, but Israel on the whole, the church of the OT. I would invert your priority, and say that that text intends fundamentally expression of the solidarity of Israel, marriage being the symbol of the relation between Christ and his church. The individual Israelite, and the individual NT Christian, is bound to God by virtue of the body, and not atomized from it. This is best expressed when that body-connection is by the visible church; but at any length it is without a doubt by virtue of the invisible, and should not be conceived apart from it.

So, it seems to me the individual believer's duty is to claim as an individual, as one who properly belongs to the body, whatever he affirms (on the basis of Scripture) God promises with respect to his church where such a claim suits the common property of all such proper and true members. This makes the individual appropriation or application derivative of that which is the common grant to the body. We might make a fair analogy to the individual Canaan inheritances that went to tribes, subdivided into families, and ultimately to individuals. No individual inherited any portion of the Promised Land who was not a proper constituent of the nation.

Does the believer today say: "Christ loves the church, Eph.5:25; I am the church; therefore Christ loves ME?" Or does he rather say, "Christ loves the church; the church he loves includes me; therefore I have assurance Christ loves me?" To my way of thinking, the latter is more accurate and thus more true. And consequently, it also is more fitting to engage with Israelite OT typology not at the level of: "I am Israel, writ small;" but rather, "I stand in solidarity with the believing fathers of the earlier age, who engaged with the LORD's promises to Israel at the heart level, not merely with the lips."

The cause I'm pleading for is getting to the individual connection to the OT text, without once bypassing the church. Other times in history, Christianity has suffered from a neglect of the doctrine of personal salvation; but in our time (as I see matters) there is among broad, non-hierarchical (strictly speaking) Christianity a pathetic neglect of the doctrine of the church. This is reflected in church attendance viewed as a variable priority, a matter of convenience rather than duty; consequent neglect of the means of grace (whether or not they are called such) and the Sabbath; and the breakdown of true discipline, both for care of the flock and leadership integrity. The preaching of the Bible consistently bypasses the doctrine of the church, in order to be "relevant" to the apotheosized individual.

So, when taking up the teaching of the book of Joshua:
First, let me try to avoid leaving the impression that I could not in good conscience appreciate teaching from Joshua that aimed at encouraging the believer to a kind of self-mastery; that, as the territory for the people's inheritance was cleansed, let each individual believer cleanse his life (body, possessions, and connections) in order he might be a holy instrument for fellowship and service to God. Yet, it seems obvious to me that this use of the text demands certain previous hermeneutical grants.

For example, on what basis it is established that the land is somehow analogous to a physical body first for the nation as a whole, and then in regard to each constituent? Is that a fair inference from an isolated text like Jos.23:13/Jdg.2:3, "thorns in your eyes/side?" That is to say: is this text or another like it intended to create/teach that body-analogy, thereby to form the basis for some wide-ranging analogies suited to personal application? I see a degree of danger from such leaps, an actual return to the allegorical pattern that forced moral and theological lessons from the text. Speaking as one who is critical of the useless, reductionist literalism of a certain kind of exegesis; and who aims at recovering faithful, Christocentric interpretation unashamed of typology, my insistence is that there has to be reliable warrant for interpreting any text in a certain direction.

Clarifying my position in fine: I don't believe Joshua is about either sanctification (exclusively "the work of God's free grace," WSC.35, upon the soul, not synergistic with human effort) or man's engaged activity unto or failing personal holiness. It IS about God's successful establishment of his visible church in the very midst of a hostile world, against all odds, in accord with his stated promises and intentions and prior accomplishments. Israel, in spite of engagement/involvement of its armies, was not responsible for achieving this, any more than the apostles were responsible for the successful spread of the NT church.

Jos.23:3ff, "You have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for the Lord your God is He who has fought for you.... The Lord your God will expel them from before you and drive them out of your sight.... The Lord has driven out from before you great and strong nations.... The Lord your God is He who fights for you, as He promised you." All credit to the LORD.

Of course, there could be no evident establishment of the visible NT church in the midst of a hostile world, against all odds in the book of Acts without also the apostles' labors, or apart from notable sign of personal sanctification and holiness of the saints. There are clear examples of how important such matters are, for instance the case of Ananias and Sapphira. Acts shows the church must be a disciplined arena, individual Christians learning to live under divine government administered by men. This lesson is also present in Joshua, as incidents like Achan and Gibeon reveal.

So, I don't reckon either Acts or Joshua is present revelation for us above all as guidance for living, though there are without question lessons contained therein that ought to guide the Christian. God is the main subject of revelation. Christ ("these are the Scriptures that testify about me") is the focus of every part. The church is the object of God's engagement with the world. The individual saint within the church is not--for all his microscopic presence--dispensable, disposable, or replaceable; or else what is election about? The individual is organic to the whole; and if he is the eye of the body, he is no less or more important than the hand, 1Cor.12:21, or any other part whatever.

The OT story of Israel is neither a "cautionary tale" nor an idealized "portrait" of the life of faith (though you will find instances of both therein). National Israel was the church between Exodus and Acts. For this reason its examples stand very well to be our admonition, upon whom the end of ages has come, 1Cor.10:11. Besides bringing Christ into the world "in the fullness of time," Israel's history was in various ways intended to provoke recognition when Messiah arrived (ala Jn.1:49; cf. Lk.24:27). We may opine that someone (besides the writer to Hebrews, 4:8) recognized Jesus/Joshua of Nazareth as the fulfillment of the type which he remembered in Jesus/Joshua son of Nun. Because such was the nature of OT revelation. And we're supposed to collectively recognize type and Antitype, too, now that it's so clear.
 

Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
Better than a "timeline" approach, I can relate to the idea (as you put it) that there is separation of episodes in Israel's experience that could be ideally understood as simultaneous; but, as with certain elements and relations in the individual believer's ordo salutis, may be conveniently ordered and distinguished for particular focus.

I can appreciate the marriage analogy, and there is certainly resonance for that in Scripture, for example Ezk.16:8; cf. Is.54:5; Jer.3:14; Hos.2:2, 14ff. But here I suppose I must differ; because not only the original, but also the prophetic references back to the original regard not the individual Israelite, but Israel on the whole, the church of the OT. I would invert your priority, and say that that text intends fundamentally expression of the solidarity of Israel, marriage being the symbol of the relation between Christ and his church. The individual Israelite, and the individual NT Christian, is bound to God by virtue of the body, and not atomized from it. This is best expressed when that body-connection is by the visible church; but at any length it is without a doubt by virtue of the invisible, and should not be conceived apart from it.

So, it seems to me the individual believer's duty is to claim as an individual, as one who properly belongs to the body, whatever he affirms (on the basis of Scripture) God promises with respect to his church where such a claim suits the common property of all such proper and true members. This makes the individual appropriation or application derivative of that which is the common grant to the body. We might make a fair analogy to the individual Canaan inheritances that went to tribes, subdivided into families, and ultimately to individuals. No individual inherited any portion of the Promised Land who was not a proper constituent of the nation.

Does the believer today say: "Christ loves the church, Eph.5:25; I am the church; therefore Christ loves ME?" Or does he rather say, "Christ loves the church; the church he loves includes me; therefore I have assurance Christ loves me?" To my way of thinking, the latter is more accurate and thus more true. And consequently, it also is more fitting to engage with Israelite OT typology not at the level of: "I am Israel, writ small;" but rather, "I stand in solidarity with the believing fathers of the earlier age, who engaged with the LORD's promises to Israel at the heart level, not merely with the lips."

The cause I'm pleading for is getting to the individual connection to the OT text, without once bypassing the church. Other times in history, Christianity has suffered from a neglect of the doctrine of personal salvation; but in our time (as I see matters) there is among broad, non-hierarchical (strictly speaking) Christianity a pathetic neglect of the doctrine of the church. This is reflected in church attendance viewed as a variable priority, a matter of convenience rather than duty; consequent neglect of the means of grace (whether or not they are called such) and the Sabbath; and the breakdown of true discipline, both for care of the flock and leadership integrity. The preaching of the Bible consistently bypasses the doctrine of the church, in order to be "relevant" to the apotheosized individual.

So, when taking up the teaching of the book of Joshua:
First, let me try to avoid leaving the impression that I could not in good conscience appreciate teaching from Joshua that aimed at encouraging the believer to a kind of self-mastery; that, as the territory for the people's inheritance was cleansed, let each individual believer cleanse his life (body, possessions, and connections) in order he might be a holy instrument for fellowship and service to God. Yet, it seems obvious to me that this use of the text demands certain previous hermeneutical grants.

For example, on what basis it is established that the land is somehow analogous to a physical body first for the nation as a whole, and then in regard to each constituent? Is that a fair inference from an isolated text like Jos.23:13/Jdg.2:3, "thorns in your eyes/side?" That is to say: is this text or another like it intended to create/teach that body-analogy, thereby to form the basis for some wide-ranging analogies suited to personal application? I see a degree of danger from such leaps, an actual return to the allegorical pattern that forced moral and theological lessons from the text. Speaking as one who is critical of the useless, reductionist literalism of a certain kind of exegesis; and who aims at recovering faithful, Christocentric interpretation unashamed of typology, my insistence is that there has to be reliable warrant for interpreting any text in a certain direction.

Clarifying my position in fine: I don't believe Joshua is about either sanctification (exclusively "the work of God's free grace," WSC.35, upon the soul, not synergistic with human effort) or man's engaged activity unto or failing personal holiness. It IS about God's successful establishment of his visible church in the very midst of a hostile world, against all odds, in accord with his stated promises and intentions and prior accomplishments. Israel, in spite of engagement/involvement of its armies, was not responsible for achieving this, any more than the apostles were responsible for the successful spread of the NT church.

Jos.23:3ff, "You have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for the Lord your God is He who has fought for you.... The Lord your God will expel them from before you and drive them out of your sight.... The Lord has driven out from before you great and strong nations.... The Lord your God is He who fights for you, as He promised you." All credit to the LORD.

Of course, there could be no evident establishment of the visible NT church in the midst of a hostile world, against all odds in the book of Acts without also the apostles' labors, or apart from notable sign of personal sanctification and holiness of the saints. There are clear examples of how important such matters are, for instance the case of Ananias and Sapphira. Acts shows the church must be a disciplined arena, individual Christians learning to live under divine government administered by men. This lesson is also present in Joshua, as incidents like Achan and Gibeon reveal.

So, I don't reckon either Acts or Joshua is present revelation for us above all as guidance for living, though there are without question lessons contained therein that ought to guide the Christian. God is the main subject of revelation. Christ ("these are the Scriptures that testify about me") is the focus of every part. The church is the object of God's engagement with the world. The individual saint within the church is not--for all his microscopic presence--dispensable, disposable, or replaceable; or else what is election about? The individual is organic to the whole; and if he is the eye of the body, he is no less or more important than the hand, 1Cor.12:21, or any other part whatever.

The OT story of Israel is neither a "cautionary tale" nor an idealized "portrait" of the life of faith (though you will find instances of both therein). National Israel was the church between Exodus and Acts. For this reason its examples stand very well to be our admonition, upon whom the end of ages has come, 1Cor.10:11. Besides bringing Christ into the world "in the fullness of time," Israel's history was in various ways intended to provoke recognition when Messiah arrived (ala Jn.1:49; cf. Lk.24:27). We may opine that someone (besides the writer to Hebrews, 4:8) recognized Jesus/Joshua of Nazareth as the fulfillment of the type which he remembered in Jesus/Joshua son of Nun. Because such was the nature of OT revelation. And we're supposed to collectively recognize type and Antitype, too, now that it's so clear.
You have so many thoughts that I can't reply to them all!

For the marriage of the individual believer to Christ, we have also Rom. 7:4. And Paul says, not only that Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it, but also that he "loved me and gave himself for me".

But I share your concern for the doctrine of the Church, which is much neglected in Britain too. I think that I was a divinity student by the time I appreciated the importance of the doctrine and the place that it has in Scripture.

The elder Thomas M'Crie talked about "analogy" as well as "typology" and there are many useful illustrations in Scripture which may not rise to the height of types. The semi-faithful prophet of the Lord in idolatrous Bethel can be viewed from more than one perspective (his faith and his disobedience) and suggests profitable thoughts in both cases. Do we need warrant for getting good from scripture any more than we need warrant for frying or boiling potatoes?

In haste! I must read your post more carefully.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
You have so many thoughts that I can't reply to them all!

For the marriage of the individual believer to Christ, we have also Rom. 7:4. And Paul says, not only that Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it, but also that he "loved me and gave himself for me".

But I share your concern for the doctrine of the Church, which is much neglected in Britain too. I think that I was a divinity student by the time I appreciated the importance of the doctrine and the place that it has in Scripture.

The elder Thomas M'Crie talked about "analogy" as well as "typology" and there are many useful illustrations in Scripture which may not rise to the height of types. The semi-faithful prophet of the Lord in idolatrous Bethel can be viewed from more than one perspective (his faith and his disobedience) and suggests profitable thoughts in both cases. Do we need warrant for getting good from scripture any more than we need warrant for frying or boiling potatoes?

In haste! I must red your post more carefully.
Perhaps I should stop responding with so many words/thoughts. This back and forth is already something of a tangent to the thread.

Re. Rom.7:4, I don't want to avoid the individual application seeing how vital it is; but do have to note the necessary step in the text going from multiple plural referents, pronouns, and verbs to singular/personal appropriation. Paul seems to start there with the collective perspective. I, too, relish the fact that he "loved me, and gave himself for me;" yet, the starting point for our digression began somewhere nearer the question of whether Sinai's covenant was a marriage of sorts, and if so, to whom? To put the issue in logical form: Can everything predicated of a whole be predicated the same of each part thereof? I wouldn't say I am not "married" to Christ; but then, HOW am I married to Christ? Christ is not a bigamist, married to you and married to me. But we are in one body, the church, married to our Spouse.

I consent--I wouldn't want to disagree--with the observation on the utility of an "analogous" interpretation, the Bible being filled with material for illustration. But it is just here that we must review the ancient decline of biblical interpretation into the 4-fold rule with allegorical priority. The declension was not (directly) the result of malicious deviancy or philosophical infiltration, but was motivated by several strands of sincere pastoral concern. Among them were the determination to keep a Christian interpretation of the OT (an apostolic grant), and the moral improvement of their congregations. My argument is: we need more than the suggestion of profitable thoughts. That is the exact recipe for getting "faith, hope, and love," from the "three measures of fine meal" in Gen.18:6.

When I say warrant, I mean we pastors are duty-bound to justify--if need be by painstaking proofs, not so different from the task of mathematicians--that which we summon our flock to accept is divine intention embedded in the text. Or else, explain that something in this day's text, sparked a spiritual thought that suggested a duty (or subject of faith), though it be one that is enforced (or properly grounded) by a text elsewhere, and take them to that text. If we fail to do that, then the people are taught to have the truth we proclaimed from a text that may not support it very well, if at all; and if someone come along and prove such deficiency to them, their faith is weakened rather than strengthened! Or, our failure may encourage allegorical flights of fancy on the people's part when they are conducting their own readings of Scripture. "After all, if the pastor does it, why shouldn't I?"

It's no good to say, at that point, "Well, I'm better trained, or more mature, etc., so trust my office; be hesitant of your private judgment." The importance of "cutting a straight course through the word of truth" in preaching and teaching includes practicing the people in well-grounding their convictions, while helping them guard against the errorists who "understand neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." My thankworthy musings, if delivered upon false premises, will be in time replaced by a successor whose musings are similarly unfounded--accepted because our methods were similar, but whose art is more ignorant or more malignant.

It's vital that getting/giving "good" from Scripture be founded on good exegesis and first principles.

Grace and peace.
 

Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
Perhaps I should stop responding with so many words/thoughts. This back and forth is already something of a tangent to the thread.

Re. Rom.7:4, I don't want to avoid the individual application seeing how vital it is; but do have to note the necessary step in the text going from multiple plural referents, pronouns, and verbs to singular/personal appropriation. Paul seems to start there with the collective perspective. I, too, relish the fact that he "loved me, and gave himself for me;" yet, the starting point for our digression began somewhere nearer the question of whether Sinai's covenant was a marriage of sorts, and if so, to whom? To put the issue in logical form: Can everything predicated of a whole be predicated the same of each part thereof? I wouldn't say I am not "married" to Christ; but then, HOW am I married to Christ? Christ is not a bigamist, married to you and married to me. But we are in one body, the church, married to our Spouse.

I consent--I wouldn't want to disagree--with the observation on the utility of an "analogous" interpretation, the Bible being filled with material for illustration. But it is just here that we must review the ancient decline of biblical interpretation into the 4-fold rule with allegorical priority. The declension was not (directly) the result of malicious deviancy or philosophical infiltration, but was motivated by several strands of sincere pastoral concern. Among them were the determination to keep a Christian interpretation of the OT (an apostolic grant), and the moral improvement of their congregations. My argument is: we need more than the suggestion of profitable thoughts. That is the exact recipe for getting "faith, hope, and love," from the "three measures of fine meal" in Gen.18:6.

When I say warrant, I mean we pastors are duty-bound to justify--if need be by painstaking proofs, not so different from the task of mathematicians--that which we summon our flock to accept is divine intention embedded in the text. Or else, explain that something in this day's text, sparked a spiritual thought that suggested a duty (or subject of faith), though it be one that is enforced (or properly grounded) by a text elsewhere, and take them to that text. If we fail to do that, then the people are taught to have the truth we proclaimed from a text that may not support it very well, if at all; and if someone come along and prove such deficiency to them, their faith is weakened rather than strengthened! Or, our failure may encourage allegorical flights of fancy on the people's part when they are conducting their own readings of Scripture. "After all, if the pastor does it, why shouldn't I?"

It's no good to say, at that point, "Well, I'm better trained, or more mature, etc., so trust my office; be hesitant of your private judgment." The importance of "cutting a straight course through the word of truth" in preaching and teaching includes practicing the people in well-grounding their convictions, while helping them guard against the errorists who "understand neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." My thankworthy musings, if delivered upon false premises, will be in time replaced by a successor whose musings are similarly unfounded--accepted because our methods were similar, but whose art is more ignorant or more malignant.

It's vital that getting/giving "good" from Scripture be founded on good exegesis and first principles.

Grace and peace.
No, please don't stop! I like the flow of ideas, even if we are somewhat off-topic.

For analogy, there has to be some underlying common principle: e.g. natural and spiritual food; natural and spiritual thirst; the discipline of children and God's discipline of his children; human and divine anger; etc. etc. So when Moses was angry that Aaron had burnt the sacrifice, there may be lots of ways of approaching the incident. As long as there is some spiritual principle underlying an aspect of the incident which recurs in the application, then I would regard the application as valid and intended by the omniscient Holy Spirit. Or to change the language a little, my question would be, does the "type" (or whatever one might want to call it) illuminate the application? Is it helpful, for example, to look for parallels between the individual believer and God now as against the individual Israelite (or the whole nation collectively) and God at Mount Sinai? If the comparison brings out points that might otherwise be missed, then I think it is helpful and valid. If not, then it is to be rejected.

The Bible is full of vivid incidents which are easily remembered by people of all mental capacities, and which they can reflect upon in the workplace, the sickbed, and "walking by the way". Looking for spiritual principles or "application" is what we should all be doing, is it not?

Here is one that has defeated me so far. You mention polygamy, or at least bigamy. Why are there so many examples of polygamy in Scripture, especially among good men (Abraham, Jacob, Elkanah, David, Solomon)? There is the obvious
explanation of warning us of the dangers, but is this the only reason? In particular, David's wives are puzzling. Abigail
seems to have been a fine woman, and Bathsheba too eventually if she was the human author of Proverbs 31. Does
polygamy illustrate anything?
 

Grant

Puritan Board Senior
Yes we seem to have drifted a bit. I don’t mind at all but it may be difficult for future readers to fine this golden drift without moving some comments under a better fitting thread title.:2cents:
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
No, please don't stop! I like the flow of ideas, even if we are somewhat off-topic.

For analogy, there has to be some underlying common principle: e.g. natural and spiritual food; natural and spiritual thirst; the discipline of children and God's discipline of his children; human and divine anger; etc. etc. So when Moses was angry that Aaron had burnt the sacrifice, there may be lots of ways of approaching the incident. As long as there is some spiritual principle underlying an aspect of the incident which recurs in the application, then I would regard the application as valid and intended by the omniscient Holy Spirit. Or to change the language a little, my question would be, does the "type" (or whatever one might want to call it) illuminate the application? Is it helpful, for example, to look for parallels between the individual believer and God now as against the individual Israelite (or the whole nation collectively) and God at Mount Sinai? If the comparison brings out points that might otherwise be missed, then I think it is helpful and valid. If not, then it is to be rejected.

The Bible is full of vivid incidents which are easily remembered by people of all mental capacities, and which they can reflect upon in the workplace, the sickbed, and "walking by the way". Looking for spiritual principles or "application" is what we should all be doing, is it not?

Here is one that has defeated me so far. You mention polygamy, or at least bigamy. Why are there so many examples of polygamy in Scripture, especially among good men (Abraham, Jacob, Elkanah, David, Solomon)? There is the obvious
explanation of warning us of the dangers, but is this the only reason? In particular, David's wives are puzzling. Abigail
seems to have been a fine woman, and Bathsheba too eventually if she was the human author of Proverbs 31. Does
polygamy illustrate anything?
I'm anxious for fail-safes, and I am doubtful the "common principle" approach will suffice. Abraham's three measures were a literal meal; Jesus' (Mt.13:33) were spiritually tied to the kingdom of heaven. See, I think they (ancient fathers) were, to start with, really trying to follow some guardrails; but their initial principles were not such as could keep them ultimately within proper bounds. We need the principles and method for the use of analogies that is not so tight there is no real application unless the Bible itself employs that very analogy, and yet tight enough that fancy is prevented. Perhaps Fairbairn would be worth a fresh inspection on this question.

I don't know if I agree that Moses' displeasure with Aaron (and sons, the text presumably Lev.10:16ff) has "lots of ways" of approaching the incident. The classic Protestant response to the quadriga may be heard in Ames' statement: "There is one meaning for every place in Scripture. Otherwise the meaning of scripture would not only be unclear and uncertain, but there would be no meaning at all--for anything which does not mean one thing surely means nothing." (William Ames, 1629). So, yes, one meaning may yield multiple applications; but those applications need both a grounding in the text, and that which I'm calling warrant, principles and method that provide justification for general confidence in the connection alleged. I say application must flow from the true meaning of the text, and not simply from an "aspect of the incident."

We have prophetic confirmation that the Sinai covenant bore some resemblance to a marriage covenant; or perhaps, that a marriage covenant (a thing with its own nature and terms) has resemblance to the Sinai covenant--and in either case the comparison is based on evident similarities between the two agreements. It is critical that one refrain from taking all aspects of the Sinai covenant, and finding/forcing analogies to marriages; or going the opposite directions, taking every aspect of marriage covenants, and interpreting the national constitutional convention at Sinai as if it was a marriage.

Here's a thought process I see, but don't endorse: Because individuals marry, and the Sinai covenant (in limited respects) is compared in the Bible to a marriage covenant; and individuals in the process of regeneration are experiencing the formation of spiritual fellowship/relationship with God; and that formation is (in some sense) comparable to the experience of forming a marital bond; therefore interpreting the Sinai covenant is a way to gain insight into the individual believer's union-relationship with God. My first problem here is that the Sinai covenant isn't a marriage covenant, but the effect of Sinai (the constitutional existence of a nation) is compared to a marriage.

Second, the establishment of the national covenant--with the LORD God as Sovereign, and the corporate body as citizens--dictates a particular form of covenant arrangement that is not the sort of arrangement an individual covenant relationship would necessarily or likely take. And we have an individual covenant to compare such to: Abraham's covenant. The NT even encourages the individual believer to lay hold of a relationship with God on the very same basis as Abraham; which basis is (in certain respects) compared unfavorably with the unsuitability of attempting such a relationship with God by means of the law.

In my exegetical judgment, Paul's argument in Rom.10:1-8 is that the individual Israelite found himself in the same condition; Moses himself would have encouraged him not to imagine himself as "an Israel of one," but as one like Abraham his father: in need of a personal relationship with God in which his faith in God was counted to him for righteousness. There would be only One to come, who would indeed be "an Israel of one." In him all the people and all the nations should trust when he arrived. This makes the corporate (and officious, and political) "marriage" (looking at Sinai with that lens) with its formal list of duties and mutual services a very unfortunate (in my view) tool for describing the personal manner of one's engagement to be the LORD's.

The king's consort's major duty (after perfect fidelity, violation of which was treason) was to produce the heir to the throne. This Israel (the nation) did, and did in spite of much infidelity and seeming effort at times to avoid the responsibility. But, "in the fullness of time...." There is just so much about Israel's covenant of Sinai that does not map to an ordinary marriage covenant, not an ideal one in any case. Israel's marriage was a marriage of unequals, with no possibility of a raise in status. Whereas, a good human marriage is one where equals are united, or else the marriage makes unequals equal by virtue of the union. Exceptions merely prove the rule.

Polygamy has little to commend it. Certain social and power dynamics seemed at times to lend it legitimacy by way of purported advantages; but the best that can be said of it is that, in spite of grave ills to which it contributed, God was pleased to use it under the conditions where it was deforming the institution of marriage generally, to prevent even worse ills, and even to bring some good out of it (such as using Jacob's wives to rapidly expand the nucleus of the holy family). History tells us polygamy has been made to fit within the institution of marriage--the unions may be legal marriages and be recognized by God who ordained the institution; but they deform the institution.

David and other kings in his line adopted the trappings of ANE monarchs including a harem, and God did not rebuke him (but just look at the dysfunction!). Abraham's concession to his one-and-only wife, to use a publicly acceptable convention of concubinage for Sarah's sake, was so manifestly a mistake that Ishmael, born of Hagar the handmaid, is known in the NT as the type fulfilled by the firstborn (Jews) who persecuted the legitimate Seed who nonetheless succeeds: "His father hath given him all that he has." Ishmael was the result of the work of the flesh to gain that promise which can only be obtained by faith and the working of the Spirit. Ishmael's story generally reflects negatively on Abraham's decision to add a wife.

The examples of monogamous marriage give consistent evidence of instantiating marriage idealism, which is exactly what Jesus affirms as his NT church-norm going forward. The LORD as Supreme monarch of the whole earth took but one nation for his consort. Isaac had his Rebekah. Jesus has but one bride. It isn't just the nature of the various examples we find that lead us to regard examples of polygamy in the Bible as unlikely illustrations of spiritual goods. We have the benefit of NT light sharpening the contrast that maybe our instincts only suggested.
 
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