Book Review: Dispensational Hermeneutics

Dispensational Hermeneutics: Interpretation Principles that Guide Dispensationalism's Understanding of the Bible's StorylineDispensational Hermeneutics: Interpretation Principles that Guide Dispensationalism’s Understanding of the Bible’s Storyline by Michael Vlach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent description and explanation of the difference between dispensational and non-dispensational systems. The fundamental difference between eschatology systems lies at root with the hermeneutical approach to Scripture. Vlach does an excellent job of writing accessibly and dealing fairly with different views.

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Book Review: The New Creation and the Storyline of Scripture

The New Creation and the Storyline of ScriptureThe New Creation and the Storyline of Scripture by Frank Thielman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Some good spots here and there but mostly suffers from a grasping over-realized eschatology with fabricated fulfillments that stops just short of full preterism.

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Book Review: The Future of Land in the Pauline Epistles

The Future Inheritance of Land in the Pauline EpistlesThe Future Inheritance of Land in the Pauline Epistles by Miguel G. Echevarria Jr.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There are not many resources that deal particularly with this subject, and especially the New Testament aspect of it. The author is clear about that and interacts with what is available. Of necessity, some of the material he interacts with comes from commentaries on relevant passages, so those aren’t as robust as a long form treatment, like James Hester’s for instance. As he interacted with different scholars, he was clear where he agrees or disagrees with them and why. He managed to do so without being insulting or condescending, and without misrepresenting them. Echevarria has done some good work here.

There are a number of things he does well in this book that provides a needed correction to the classical Augustinian system. The book starts very strong as he works through the Old Testament, noting the shape and tangibility of inheritance promises beginning with Abraham. He demonstrates from the prophets and historical books how those promises have never been fulfilled or realized by Abraham’s descendants. This is a line he maintains through the end of the book and does a good job refuting the neoplatonist idea of an already/not yet inheritance that spiritualizes tangible and territorial promises to have some sort of fulfillment presently. He plainly and effectively argues that land promises have in no way or in no sense been fulfilled already and the fulfillment is entirely future. Here he breaks with the classical Augustinian typological interpretation that leads to understanding tangible, physical entities as somehow being fulfilled in immaterial, spiritual ways, but the break is not as clean as it might seem. In this, he is downstream from some of the new wave interpreters like Hoekema who moved away from spiritual fulfillment toward new creation, physical fulfillment.

Apart from a few wobbles, he rolled through the Old Testament nicely, but the wheels came off in the intertestamental pothole. Surprisingly, he adopted the erroneous New Perspective hermeneutic, and quoted liberally from the usual suspects of Wright, Dunn, and Sanders. Of course, N. T. Wright has also broken with the classical Augustinian system with his emphasis on physical new creation fulfillment, so this isn’t entirely surprising. The New Perspective uses the apocalyptic literature of second temple Judaism to reinterpret, recontextualize, reframe, transcend, transform, etc. the Old Testament. A lot of different terms are used for this maneuver, and many practitioners want to avoid words prefixed with “re.” A horse by any other name still can’t be made to drink the water, and despite the protests, this hermeneutic changes the original contextual meaning of prior revelation. I’m aware of the protests and all the nice sounding talk about greater fulfillment and such, but it’s the same difference.

Echevarria makes use of the second temple literature to expand the land of Canaan promised to Israel as Abraham’s descendants to include the whole earth, and then reads that back into the Old Testament to transform the original promise. He concludes, “the original promised land was never meant to be the place where God would reign permanently over Israel.” Once he reinterpreted the Old Testament by the Jewish literature, he proceeds through the rest of the book as if that is what the Old Testament meant. He uses the Jewish corpus to reinterpret the Old Testament before he ever gets to Paul’s letters, which is the target of his whole study. He takes non-Scripture writings and interprets the Scripture by them, so he effectively values these writings as progress of revelation. So the break with Augustinianism is not clean as he still ends up changing the original promise, though he holds a physical rather than spiritual fulfillment. He faults from start on Paul’s writings because he comes to Paul with a reinterpreted Old Testament and the presupposition that Paul uses the reinterpretation in his own writing, rather than the original contextual meaning.

This is getting longer than I intended, so let me end with a glaring neglect in this study. Echevarria argues for the expansion of the original land inheritance promise based on the apocalyptic Jewish writings of the second temple period. It’s undeniable that second temple Judaism envisioned the Jews inheriting not just Canaan, but the entire earth. That’s a key point for this study. However, second temple Jews did not envision an expanded or new Israel that’s mainly Gentiles that would inherit the entire earth. No, their vision of the future was decidedly Jewish. Echevarria gives no explicit explanation for this glaring inconsistency. On the one hand, he adopted their view that the original promise was expanded to include the entire earth, but on the other hand he doesn’t adopt their view that the inheritors were most definitely the ethnically Jewish people.

This book and study is valuable. I disagree with his conclusions, but especially his method of arriving at those conclusions. He has done a lot of good work in this book and it’s worth reading.

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Book Review: Eternal Israel: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Studies that Uphold the Eternal, Distinctive Destiny of Israel

Eternal Israel: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Studies that Uphold the Eternal, Distinctive Destiny of IsraelEternal Israel: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Studies that Uphold the Eternal, Distinctive Destiny of Israel by Barry Horner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a follow up to the author’s earlier book, Future Israel. He interacts with some of the feedback from the first book and continues to blend writings from history to current times. Horner is right about the pervasive nature of supersessionist theology, though I know most do not like that term and would rather play games with words to cover their replacement theology. Horner not only covers the writings of supersessionists, but also their politics. Horner also deals with some of the problems with dispensationalists in reference to Israel. Horner also points out the pride of supersessionism that is exactly what Paul warned against in Romans 11:17-21. Of course, Horner presents the inevitable conclusion, supersessionism must be repented of and turned from. I’ve been surprised to see replacement popping up in the preaching of supposedly premill adherents that acknowledge some place for Israel, but see the “church” superseding Israel in place and importance.

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Book Review: Reading Romans after Supersessionism: The Continuation of Jewish Covenantal Identity

Reading Romans after Supersessionism: The Continuation of Jewish Covenantal IdentityReading Romans after Supersessionism: The Continuation of Jewish Covenantal Identity by J Brian Tucker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not thrilled with the term post-supersessionism as it could be construed that the non-supersessionist reading of the New Testament is new or more recent. The author acknowledges that supersessionist hermeneutics dominate contemporary scholarship, and I suppose that does give the appearance of being the traditional view. It would have been good to have had some treatment of the historicity of continuist, non-supersessionist hermeneutics.

Tucker focuses on Romans 9-11 and interacts with both the text and scholarship on different sides of this discussion. By the end of the book, he did a good job of bringing out the plural nature of the promises to the fathers, so fulfillment necessarily includes aspects of descendants of Abraham (Israel), land, and Gentiles inclusion.

I’m not entirely convinced by his arguments in Romans 14. He is influenced by the “spheres of influence” view of the continuing relevance of Torah. I personally need to do more work in this area, but it seems that view falls short in its assessment of the old covenant relationship to the new covenant and the extent of old covenant fulfillment. Further, it seems to divide the old covenant law into divisions nowhere made in scripture and doesn’t account for the all-or-nothing view in epistles such as Galatians or James, not to mention the book of Hebrews and the covenants discussion there. However, the continuing relevance of Torah is not entirely germane to his argument for non-supersessionist readings.

I appreciate the book and recommend it for study.

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