Editor for the Faculty: James T. Dennison, Jr.


1. WHAT IS THE 'CRITICAL' READING OF THE BIBLE?................................................................................................................................3

James T. Dennison, Jr.


2. THE LAMB IS MY SHEPHERD.....................................................................................................................................................................25

Tin Ling Harrell


3. INVITATIONS AND WARNINGS................................................................................................................................................................27

Charles G. Dennison


4. GREGORY NAZIANZUS ON THE GOD-MAN............................................................................................................................................34


5. A HEART FOR GOD'S LAW..........................................................................................................................................................................36

Scott F. Hunter


6. GLORY IN THE MIDST OF DARKNESS.....................................................................................................................................................43

Jeong Koo Jeon


7. CHANCE, RANDOMNESS, AND DETERMINISM.....................................................................................................................................45

Tucker S. McElroy


8. REVIEWS........................................................................................................................................................................................................60

KERUX is a publication of Northwest Theological Seminary and appears three times each year (May, September, December). Editorial offices are located at 17711 Spruce Way, Lynnwood, WA 98037-7431. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $20.00 (U.S. and Canada); $25.00 (Elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U. S. Funds. KERUX is: abstracted in New Testament Abstracts, Cambridge, MA, Old Testament Abstracts, Washingon, DC and Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in ATLA Religion Database, Chicago, IL and the Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.

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ISSN 0888-8513                                                                                                              May 2002                                                                                                                     Vol. 17, No. 1



Kerux has a new title and a slightly new format. We are now The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary and we are bigger. Our expanded format includes a challenging article on chance, randomness and determinism. We have included a patristic excerpt, some verse and several book reviews.

As the journal of a theological seminary, we hope to offer more than strictly biblical exposition and reflection. The whole range of theological subject matter including apologetics, church history, pastoral theology, etc. will be presented in future issues. We pray that our loyal readers will be edified in even more directions through our expanded efforts.

Our commitment to biblical theology remains, even as our commitment to the eschatological Lamb remains. With the Greeks of old, we would continue in our desire to "see Jesus" (Jn. 12:21).


What is the 'Critical' Reading of the Bible?

James T. Dennison, Jr.

In 1974, a book published by Yale University Press burst upon the theological and critical world like a bombshell. The author, Hans Frei, was, at the time, Professor at Yale Divinity School where he had labored in near obscurity since 1957. The book, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative, catapulted Frei into the limelight of virtually every literary, theological and biblical movement of his day. In typically critical fashion, the Yale don attempted to straddle the ditch—to keep one foot in his safely radical-liberal Yale climate, while placing the other foot over against his own safe environment. Critical liberalism (or what I prefer to call fundamentalism of the left) has presumed for more than two hundred years that the text of the Bible (as the text of any literary work) was to be read scientifically—that is, without any supernatural bias or presupposition. Frei's book suggested that this fashionable liberal fundamentalism left the straightforward reading of the Biblical narrative in eclipse. If the foundation of liberalism's critical hermeneutic—namely the gap or chasm between the text and the interpreter—if this foundation were valid, Frei maintained it was no longer possible to read the Bible as narrative at all. The narrative world of the Bible was lost forever on the critical reading of the text—replaced with the world of the modern interpreter. Frei's blast was a plea for a return, in part, to a precritical, narrative reading of the Biblical text. And while it must be acknowledged that Frei's plea was courageous and poignant, it must be regarded


as much a failure as the critical movement he came to distrust. Frei would not agree with the Hebrew scholar, Meir Sternberg, that the last two hundred years of Biblical criticism have been a waste of time, a "frenzied digging into the Bible's genesis, so senseless as to elicit either laughter or tears. Rarely has there been such a futile expense of spirit in a noble cause; rarely have such grandiose theories of origination been built and revised and pitted against one another on the evidential equivalent of the head of a pin; rarely have so many worked so long and so hard with so little to show for their trouble" (Poetics of Biblical Narrative [1985] 13). But Frei did observe the consequences of liberal Biblical criticism; empty pews all over Europe (especially Germany); moral relativism in traditional, mainline religious circles; theological fads; and a Bible regarded by postmodernists as a wax nose able to be tweaked whatever way the agenda-broker tweaks it. Hans Frei recognized that the modern interpreter could make the Bible say anything his preconceived agenda needed the Bible to say. Give Frei credit: he blew the whistle on the critical agenda and got the attention of the Biblical and theological world. Yet Frei himself has been eclipsed—among orthodox and evangelical scholars. With the exception of Carl F. H. Henry (who engaged Frei in a written dialogue a year before the latter's death in 1988), the neglect of Frei's analysis of the history and progress of post-Enlightenment biblical criticism is revealing: revelatory of the "borrowed capital" which drives much Reformed and evangelical work on the Bible (affirmations of inerrancy notwithstanding). Tragically, many orthodox teachers and ministers have fallen under the penumbra of the eclipse of biblical narrative.

Frei admits that there once was a time when the Biblical narrative was read, albeit naively, as a straightforward tale of truth. He calls this the precritical reading of the text. The paradigm shift in reading the Bible occurred at the Enlightenment, sometimes denominated the Age of Reason. The Enlightenment was the dominant mood of the 18th century and the names Voltaire, Bayle, Kant are intimately associated with this era of daring optimism and rebellion. Frei calls it an era of hermeneutical revolution. Whether the roots of the 18th century Enlightenment lie in 17th century Cartesianism and empiricism, I leave to the students of philosophy to decide. Frei regards the Enlightenment as the watershed: before the Enlightenment, the precritical reading of the Bible; with the Enlightenment, the critical reading of the Bible begins. From the Enlighten-


ment, the Bible would never be the same again. Critical fundamentalism, Enlightenment fundamentalism reduced the Bible to the horizon of the prevailing culture, hermeneutics after the Enlightenment became a subtle form of philosophy—the philosophy of the current predominant religious ethos.

For our purposes today, I want to establish what is meant by the higher criticism of the Scriptures. I want to define this liberal critical fundamentalism of the radical left from the biographical point of view. That is, I want to examine three individuals who, in my opinion, more than any others shaped, defined and embodied the critical quest for the Word of God. The three are: Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677); Herman Samuel Reimarus (1694-1768); and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781). Spinoza, Reimarus, Lessing: the Triumvirate of a truly scientific and critical approach to the Bible. Their legacy is utterly devastating to genuine supernaturalism, objective and concrete history in the text, eschatological or semi-eschatological reading of the Word of God. For the Reformed biblical theologian in the tradition of Geerhardus Vos, Meredith G. Kline, Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. and others, there is only radical antithesis between the Triumvirate and the reading of the text of the Bible as divinely inspired words from heaven. Scripture itself is an eschatological phenomenon—an intrusion of the spoken word of the Triune God into time and space history. Special revelation is the penetration of the words of heaven's Lord into the arena of creation. Not so for the Triumvirate; and tragically, not so for many conservative, evangelical and often Reformed expositors of the Biblical text. In practice there is not much difference between the way many evangelical and Reformed preachers read the text of Scripture and the way mainline critical fundamentalists of the left read the text. In truth, we are eyewitnesses to a battle for the Bible by fundamentalists—those of the right and those of the left. How sadly many Reformed and evangelical pastors and teachers reduce the Bible to the great divide—the chasm between meaning and application—the modern preacher and the ancient text. But if application is in the meaning and meaning is in the identification and participation in the Christ of the text, something more revolutionary than the critical reading of the Bible is being suggested. None other than a revolution of heavenly proportions is afoot when the Bible is read as the ipsissima verba Dei.


Benedict Spinoza

Benedict Spinoza was born Baruch Spinoza in 1632 in Amsterdam to a Portuguese family of displaced Jewish heritage. His parents had emigrated to Holland, ostensibly in search of freedom and life (Philip II of Spain was a vigorous defender of the Inquisition including the execution of Jews as well as Protestants). Baruch changed his name to the Latinized Benedict when he turned his back on the Jewish ghetto in which he had been raised and abandoned the religion and tradition of his culture. Spinoza's repudiation of his cultural-religious past was ratified by the Jewish synagogue in Amsterdam—he was excommunicated in 1656. In 1670, the first of his famous books appeared anonymously. The Theological-political Treatise (Tractatus Theologico-politicus) was quickly identified as issuing from the pen of Spinoza. His second famous work, the Ethics, appeared after his death in 1677. In these two volumes, we find the fundamental elements of a critical approach to the Bible. It is Spinoza's work displayed in these two treatises which has earned him the title "Father of Modern Biblical Scholarship". Hence, as early as 1670, a radical, revolutionary, naturalistic approach to the Bible was launched in Holland and quickly spread to England, Germany and France. Today this critical naturalism is the basic presupposition of all theological liberalism and all higher criticism of the Bible. The downgrade begins with Spinoza.

I have alluded to Spinoza's root presupposition about the Bible, namely naturalism. This means that nothing in the Bible is supernatural; nothing! the whole Bible and all of its parts are reduced to the horizontal. (And I note, in passing, that all liberal fundamentalism is reductionistic—a mere variation on anti-vertical horizontalism. Or, to put it as Spinoza did, practical theology displaces revealed theology—the practice of ethics supplants doctrine, creed, miracle, transcendence.) Therefore emerging from Spinoza's naturalistic view of Scripture is a concomitantly reductionistic moralism. The real value of the Bible lies in this, according to Spinoza: love God and love your neighbor. And it was precisely this which attracted Spinoza to Jesus (insofar as he was at-


tracted to Jesus). More than Moses, more than the rabbis, Jesus embodied the spirit—the ethos—of the Golden Rule. Jesus supremely and superbly obeyed the rule to love God and his fellow man. In fact, said Spinoza, Jesus himself was saved by keeping his own Golden Rule. Note how Spinoza's bibliology (doctrine of the Bible) spawns Spinoza's soteriology (doctrine of salvation). If the Bible is reduced to naturalistic ethics, we should not marvel at the logical fruit of ethicism—namely, salvation by works. This is not crass Roman Catholic works salvation (so abhorrent to the Protestant temperament); Spinoza's soteriology is a sophisticated works salvation born from critical and proto-Enlightenment savvy. But it is still as deadly and as fatal. Call it a second justification by works of penance (as Rome does) or call it salvation by obedience to the Golden Rule of love—it is still heresy and inimical to a supernatural Bible and a supernatural salvation.

Spinoza is a zealous anti-supernaturalist. There is in fact for Spinoza no supernatural God—God is himself reduced to naturalistic immanence and this is one reason Spinoza is often labeled a pantheist. No supernatural God and no supernatural revelation (word of God) and no supernatural miracle (deed or act of God). No supernaturalism period! Spinoza boldly describes any approach to the Bible which regards the Scriptures as a supernatural, divinely-inspired revelation as "superstition". In fact, more than superstition—traditional Jewish and Christian views of the supernatural origin and inspiration of the Bible are diabolic. They are the root causes of modern man's problems. Intolerance, prejudice, war, poverty, ignorance: responsibility for all these social ills Spinoza lays at the doorstep of supernatural religion. The solution? to borrow a phrase from Voltaire with which Spinoza would heartily agree—ecrasez l'infame ("destroy the infamy"). Destroy supernatural religion. Spinoza (as Voltaire) is clear: the kingdom of darkness is the orthodox Jewish or orthodox Christian interpretation of Scripture as divine, supernatural revelation. The new dispensation, the new kingdom of light and truth and virtue dawns with Spinoza and his radical naturalism. Everything before him was the age of ignorance and delusion.

And the methodology of Spinoza's naturalism? If he repudiates a supernatural method of approaching truth or reality, what does he put in its place? If the Bible is not to be interpreted or understood from above (divine and super-


natural light), how is it to be interpreted and understood? Spinoza's answer in a word—rationalism. Reason alone is sufficient to understand the Bible. But the Bible, you say, is revelation. Not so, rejoins Spinoza, it is not a vehicle of revelation, it is merely, only, solely a vehicle of reason and the universal truths of reason. Spinoza is truly a revolutionary. He is repudiating the historic orthodox relation of revelation and reason for the antithesis. Reason trumps revelation. Reason amends revelation. For Spinoza, reason stands over against revelation. Revelation therefore is completely redefined by Spinoza. All that was heretofore attributed to revelation is from Spinozan rationalism on attributed to reason. For Spinoza, the Bible, as traditionally understood, becomes the great barrier to human progress. A supernatural Bible destroys freedom and tolerance. Reduce the Bible from the sacred to the secular and a new era—a golden age of tolerance and freedom and love and joy will emerge. We must understand that Spinoza's angst, his 17th century angst, drives him to invent an entirely new method for interpreting the Bible. And every post-Spinozan has reacted in his own angst precisely the way Spinoza reacted. If we take the lesson of our own rebels of the 60's—the flower children, the Woodstock generation—the fundamental premise of those marchers, demonstrators, protestors, drop-outers was "up against the wall" with the establishment. Benedict Spinoza is a 17th century hippie. He is revolted by the establishment culture of his era—both Jewish and Christian—and he invents a weapon of destruction in order to build a new society—a great society—an enlightened society. And the role of the Bible in Spinoza's new society of rational man is that of a moral textbook.

Spinoza constructed an entirely new hermeneutic for interpreting the Bible in accordance with his rationalistic canons. First, the Bible is a book like any other book and is to be interpreted as one would interpret any other book. Second, Scripture arises from inside history—not from outside history. It must therefore be interpreted historically—that is, not supernaturally. Reason alone is the exegetical key. Internal witness of the Holy Spirit?—no way! Real, true intrusion of the above into the below?—absolutely not! Genuine typological connection between prophecy and fulfillment?—nonsense!

You begin to realize what the critical reading of the Bible implies. It implies a reductive method of applying rational, ethical truths contextually; that


is, applying rational, ethical truths to the contemporary cultural context. In fact, Spinoza is the real father of Biblical contextualization. If the dominant context is rationalism, interpret the Bible rationalistically. Rationalistic truth is universal truth and according to this hermeneutical canon of Spinoza, nothing particularistic or unique to Israel or the church is valid or true or morally binding. Only that which is true for all people universally, at all times, in all conditions—only that is true! Rationalistic truth discards all unique supernaturalism, while retaining all naturalistic universal truths—the so-called truths of reason. Spinoza is not only a radical reductionist; he is a radical separatist. He separates the meaning of the Bible from its truth. The truth of the Bible is not—is not the plain meaning of the text. Truth is what lies behind the text—behind the text in the universal truths of reason. We must pause here in order to allow this point to soak into our minds. Spinoza maintains that there is a radical separation between what the Bible means and what the Bible meant. What it means to the 17th century reader or hearer is not—is not what it meant to the person who wrote it. The person or persons who wrote the Bible were superstitious primitives. But the person who now reads the Bible (as Spinoza now reads the Bible) knows that the true meaning of Scripture is distinct and separate from the plain meaning of the words on the page. The hidden truths, behind the plain meaning of the text, are the universal truths of reason.

This is the beginning of the so-called historical method of Biblical interpretation. It is more accurately called the historical-critical method and Benedict Spinoza is its father. The historical meaning of the Bible is not straightforward actual time and space truth—as if everything in the Bible were true history. No, no—a thousand times NO. Spinoza argues that a historical approach to the Bible realizes that the historical facts recorded in Scripture are contradictory—in fact, the Bible is full of contradictions. So the true interpreter of the Bible must get to the true, scientific history behind the contradictions and the superstitions. True historicity of the Bible is its secularization or historicization—that is, reducing the history in the Bible to the secular, universal, rational truth.

What about Jesus and the traditional typological approach to Christology? Spinoza maintains that Jesus is not the object of Scripture; he is the subject of the universal truths of reason. In fact, according to Spinoza, Jesus is the first human to intuitively perceive Spinoza's agenda before Spinoza. Remarkable!


Jesus measures up to Spinoza! For Jesus is no more than a 17th century moralist—a rationalist like Spinoza. Hence any soteriological focus on the life, death and resurrection of Christ is absurd. Spinoza is emphatic: dead bodies do not rise and Jesus' dead body was no different. "Salvation" for Spinoza is keeping the Golden Rule. Jesus kept it and thus he too was saved by keeping it.

One final point with respect to Spinoza. How was this new approach to the Bible—this historical-critical method—to be communicated? Were not the majority of the masses bound by their creeds, dogmas, superstitious and traditional view of religion? Indeed they were, so they needed guidance; they needed direction from the wise and learned scientific thinkers of their age. They needed to realize their dependence upon the intellectual elite of their day—people like, guess who, Spinoza. These savants would liberate the masses from the bondage of superstition, ignorance, prejudice, priestcraft (the buzzword for dependence on clergy). The modern answers to modern man's dilemmas reside with the experts—experts in rationalistic, historical-critical, naturalistic, man-centered, scientific truth. As one scholar perceptively notes, Spinoza invited modern 17th century man to exchange one form of tyranny for another: the tyranny of traditional orthodoxy for the more scientific tyranny of Spinoza. My observation is that the reductionism of fundamentalism—either from the left or from the right—the reductionism of fundamentalism is tyrannical, destructive of liberty and a form of slavery no matter how sophisticated the elitism, nor how ostensibly orthodox. Beware! Beware the religious system which makes its adherents subject to the power of a control-freak pastor or elder or teacher. I say beware—it is the ugly face of the Enlightenment with all its concomitant death wishes.

Hans Frei notes that Spinoza marks the beginning of the great reversal—that is, the great reversal by which the Biblical story is fitted into another world. No, not the eschatological world—not the heavenly world, but the earthly world of the modern scientific thinker. Biblical hermeneutics has never been the same since Spinoza. Hegel said—all philosophy begins with Spinoza. Notice—not Aristotle, not Plato, not Descartes: all philosophy begins with Spinoza. This man's influence was and still is huge! His impact on the English Deists has just been catalogued in a massive 832-page book from Oxford University Press by Jonathan Israel (Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the


Making of Modernity 1650-1750). Kant and Schleiermacher both paid tribute to Spinoza. If Hume awakened Kant from his dogmatic slumbers, Spinoza kept him awake and Schleiermacher, building on Kant, wrote essays and letters in praise of the excommunicated hero.

Herman Samuel Reimarus

The English Deists form the bridge between Spinoza and our next critic: Herman Samuel Reimarus. Building intentionally and unintentionally upon Spinoza's naturalism, the Deists demolished (in their estimation) the case for Christianity (that is, the case for the Bible as supernatural revelation) and built in England a religion of nature. Reimarus devoured the exegetical work of the Deists; joining his colleagues from across the Channel in demythologizing the miraculous in Scripture (especially the bodily resurrection of Jesus) and ridiculing the concept of genuine predictive prophecy (for example, Isaiah 53 had nothing to do with the death of Jesus on the cross). Reimarus joined the Deists in maintaining that Old Testament prophecy had no real contact with New Testament fulfillment and that the reports of a bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth were frankly a hoax—a lie.

Reimarus was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1694; he died in 1768. He is remembered today chiefly from the original title of Albert Schweitzer's monumental Quest for the Historical Jesus. Schweitzer reviewed the original search for the Jesus of history—the non-supernatural Jesus behind the text—in Von Reimarus zu Wrede ("From Reimarus to Wrede") published in German in 1906. Wrede was Wilhelm Wrede, inventor of the so-called "messianic secret" interpretation of the synoptic gospels. Schweitzer's book began with Reimarus because Schweitzer regarded Reimarus as the great "stalwart" (i.e., stalwart foe of biblical orthodoxy). "Seldom has there been a hate so eloquent, so lofty a scorn," wrote Schweitzer of Reimarus's magnum opus, "The Goal of Jesus and his Disciples." Eloquent hate and scorn for what? a divine and supernatural Bible, as well as a divine and supernatural God-man. And yet this hateful scorn was kept hidden. Reimarus was an intellectual coward—he cloaked his public life in the guise of orthodoxy while writing more than four thousand pages of personal manuscript material describing his utter contempt for super-


natural Christianity. Peter Reill, shrewd historian of the Enlightenment, has described Reimarus as a Jekyll-Hyde chameleon.

But exactly what was in that manuscript trove which the Hamburg professor left to the Wolfenbuttel Library on his death?—manuscripts discovered and published (without Reimarus's name) by the Wolfenbuttel librarian, our next critical personality, G. E. Lessing? Reimarus left seven principal manuscripts dealing with Biblical topics ranging from the credibility of Israel's crossing the Red Sea to the historicity of the resurrection of Christ. Each of the seven broadsides adopts Spinoza's religion of nature methodology. In other words (as Reimarus's Deist books affirmed), true religion is religion based on reason alone, not revelation. The Bible is not revelation, according to Reimarus; in fact, the Bible is contradictory (at best) and fraudulent (at worst). The charge of fraud may shock us, but remember Schweitzer's remark about Reimarus—"eloquent hate."

Let us examine Reimarus's treatment of the resurrection narratives in order to better understand his unique contribution to the critical reading of the Bible. Since the synoptic and Johannine accounts of the resurrection of Jesus differ—in fact contradict one another according to Reimarus—nothing may be truly known about what really happened to the corpse of Jesus following the crucifixion. The religion Jesus preached ended with the cross; Christianity started with the story of an empty tomb—a story concocted by Jesus' disciples. Precisely here is the point of Reimarus's significant advance over Spinoza. Reimarus is the first critic to distinguish the religion of Jesus from the religion of the disciples. Yet from Reimarus to the present postmodern day, liberal fundamentalism distinguishes Jesus himself from what comes after Jesus. What Jesus himself taught and did is one thing; what the disciples and the later Christian community taught about Jesus is another. Hence from Reimarus on, the critical "what it meant"/"what it means" dichotomy must distinguish between what Jesus meant (and what that means to us today) as well as what later Christianity meant (or what that means to us today).

In other words, since Reimarus, we must not only get behind the text of the Bible to the real truths of reason, we must get behind the words of Jesus to the real truth of the morally virtuous one. But the teaching of the disciples and the later Christian church? that is fraud, hoax—Reimarus was bold—that is a lie.


Either orthodox, supernatural Christianity is true or it is a lie, said Reimarus. Either/Or—no middle ground. Back to the resurrection of Christ as the classic test case again: "Matthew spun the story of Christ's resurrection out of his head," said Reimarus. But why, according to Reimarus, did the disciples perpetrate this hoax? The answer lies in the eschatological message of Jesus.

Reimarus describes Jesus' message as eschatological because that message is rooted in Jewish apocalyptic politics. Jesus latched on to the phrase "kingdom of heaven" or "kingdom of God" and preached the imminence of this kingdom everywhere he went. The phrase "kingdom of God" denotes an earthly, Jewish, political kingdom in which Israel's political oppressors are destroyed. Jesus' call to repent in anticipation of the kingdom of heaven is actually a call to get ready for liberation from Israel's enemies and to prepare for the earthly kingdom of Israel synonymous with the kingdom of God. In fact, Reimarus said that Jesus' triumphal entry on Palm Sunday was a "nakedly political" grab for power. Jesus was forcing the issue with Rome six days before his death. Jesus attempted a power-play which he hoped would lead to mass uprisings against Israel's Roman oppressors. His hopes failed. Jesus' very own death ended his hopes of an earthly, political, Jewish kingdom. After his death, his disciples were devastated. They had hoped for power and prestige in Jesus' earthly kingdom. That was now impossible with Jesus in the grave. So in order to preserve their power-grab and to insure their prestige and influence over the masses, the disciples stole Jesus' body, invented the story of his resurrection and resurrection appearances, and transformed Jesus' earthly eschatological message into a message of a spiritual kingdom in which the masses were delivered—not from Rome—but from the oppression of sin and death. Later, after the disciples died, the early church continued the story of deception because the church wanted cultural power and influence in the pagan Greco-Roman world. An "other worldly" religion was precisely what would guarantee the church's lust for political or cultural control. Thus far, Reimarus's "The Goal of Jesus and his Disciples."

Needless to say, this is a radical reconstruction of the message of Jesus and his disciples. No wonder Reimarus was afraid to publish this essay during his lifetime: coward he was, but he was no dummy. Many persons suspected that Reimarus was the author of the anonymous manuscript—published by


Lessing posthumously. But it was not until Reimarus's son donated copies of his father's papers to the Gottingen Library in 1813-1814, that the world knew for certain what Lessing knew in 1774. After 1813, the world was no longer deceived—by the dead Reimarus.

What then is the use of the religion of Jesus? For Reimarus (as for Spinoza before him), the religion of Jesus remains valuable to society for its "glorious morality." And who will direct and encourage us in imitating this morality of a deluded Jewish peasant? The intellectual and academic elite of an Enlightened and rationalistic-scientific culture. Reimarus's dreadful legacy is a tyranny of the learned over the duped and deluded—the ignorant masses. With respect to Either/Or, it would be preferable in my opinion to choose biblical orthodoxy (even if it were a fabulous myth) over this moralistic totalitarianism. Either Reimarus or orthodoxy! Orthodoxy (even at its worst) seems positively angelic in comparison with this "eloquent hatred."

Gotthold E. Lessing

But now, to Reimarus's publisher—Gotthold Ephraim Lessing! Spinoza has given us a critical reading of the Bible which reduces Scripture to the natural truths of reason. Factor in the English Deists as providing the fuel for Reimarus's enmity and the Fragmentist (as he was known from the "Wolfenbuttel Fragments") has given us a further critical reading of the Bible; especially the teaching of Jesus, which is eschatological—that is, a horizontal, political triumphalism ending in delusion. Lessing, reacting to and advancing Spinoza, the Deists and Reimarus, will erect a mighty chasm, and on the nether side of that ditch, he will take refuge in contradiction while dignifying the lie by the term "paradox".

G. E. Lessing was born in 1729, the son of an orthodox Lutheran pastor. Shortly after his matriculation at the University of Leipzig in 1746, he wrote a letter to his father in which he rejected orthodox Lutheranism. His career for the next twenty years was that of a dramatist, literary critic, author. In 1770, he became Librarian at Wolfenbuttel where he found the fragments of Reimarus. He died in 1781.


With Spinoza and Reimarus before him, Lessing was a bitter opponent of supernatural Christianity. He regarded the supernaturally inspired Bible and the orthodox creeds as a form of oppression—the vehicle of religious absolutism—the tools of an authoritarian caste: priests, clerics, religious dupes. The liberation of mankind would occur only when orthodox claims were destroyed. But how to destroy orthodox Christianity while retaining "religion"? Lessing's solution to the dilemma was to erect a ditch—a yawning chasm between the accidental truths of history and the necessary truths of reason. Lessing's famous "ugly ditch" was his proposal to preserve man's religious consciousness, while separating and removing that consciousness from historical fact. Simply put, man's inner spiritual being is not dependent on historical facts. Inner religious spirituality is more certain than debatable historical facts. Let us again take the resurrection of Christ as our example. Previous anti-supernaturalists—Spinoza, the Deists, Reimarus—had proved that the bodily resurrection of Christ did not happen; naturally, dead bodies do not rise. Lessing agreed. But whereas Spinoza used the reports of Christ's resurrection to launch an investigation into the universal truths of reason, and Reimarus had dismissed the reports of Christ's resurrection as a fraudulent hoax, Lessing said, "It doesn't matter." Jesus' body did not rise from the dead; the disciples probably did invent the tale—but it doesn't matter. Christianity is still true—the chasm which separates history from man's inner religious being protects the latter. That is, faith, joy, hope, religious consciousness: these are all impervious to historical fact. Historical investigation cannot touch man's inner religious sense. Hence human religion remains, even if specific historic religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, prove to be false. Lessing preferred Christianity because it was the tradition of his culture, but in his famous tale of the three rings (representing the three major world religions—one ring genuine, the other two copies)—in the end no one knew which ring was authentic and it did not matter. In short, Christianity is true even if the resurrection of Christ is a lie. The truth of Christianity is not—cannot be—dependent on a verifiable historical fact.

Lessing's chasm would require a bridge; and Schleiermacher, Hegel and other 19th century romanticists and idealists would provide a reconstruction of man's inner religious consciousness so as to preserve "faith", "joy", "hope". Whether this 19th century program focused on man's feeling of absolute de-


pendence (his God-consciousness, thus Schleiermacher) or whether one focused on man's participation in the dialectic of the absolute Spirit (thus Hegel), it was an attempt to justify reason over against revelation. Lessing proposes the subjectivization and interiorization of religion and moral values. Truth emerges from historical lies.

After Lessing, man's journey to freedom lies within—never without to God, but always and ever within to the self. All preaching; all religious teaching; all religious living must now be measured from this side of the chasm, this side of the ugly ditch, this side of the objective/subjective dichotomy. All religion on the nether side of Lessing's ditch must be measured anthropocentrically. In a real sense, Lessing redefines the entire golden chain of the apostle Paul in order to reflect this radical religious subjectivism. The sojourn is not one of the soul going out of itself to God; the pilgrimage is rather the interior journey of the self/the mind to self-understanding, self-realization, self-development, self-fulfillment. Lessing is the "priest" of the "new orthodoxy"—the baptism with self-absorption and the profession to pacify oneself with the warm fuzzies of "scientific religion."

All of you will recall Paul's golden chain in Romans 8:28, 29: whom God foreknew, he predestined; whom he predestined, he called; whom he called, he justified; whom he justified, he glorified. Now Lessing's Golden Chain of Rationalism: whom the self calls, it calls to abandon supernaturalism for the inner freedom of internal religious consciousness; whom the self justifies, it justifies by faith alone—that is, by inner surrender to the liberating forces of destiny; whom the self glorifies, it glorifies with the assurance of immortality—the immortal self. Here you discover a little known fact of the Rationalistic Enlightenment—all traditional biblical doctrines (effectual calling, justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification) are recast and redefined rationalistically, but still "religiously." The new orthodoxy of rationalism can use the vocabulary of historic Christian orthodoxy while completely recasting the meaning of the terms. We are accustomed to this bait and switch technique with neo-orthodoxy (Emil Brunner, Karl Barth), but we forget that every deviation of liberal fundamentalism is duplicitous—it uses the orthodox language of Scripture with radically new and different meaning. Consider once more Lessing on the


resurrection of Jesus. Yes, Jesus "rose", but not in the body. Yes, the resurrection of Jesus is "true", but not historically as a true fact.

In following Lessing, we have crossed over a chasm which places us in an entirely new sphere of discourse: historically false, but religiously true. What, then, is the point? As a Pittsburgh Seminary systematic theology professor once said, "If they found the bones of Jesus of Nazareth tomorrow, it would not make any difference to my faith or to that of the church." For Lessing, the religious value of man's inner quest is being and doing good. Moral virtue is the absolute; it's the Santa-Claus-Is-Coming-To-Town ethic—being good for goodness sake. And Christianity—Christianity is to be redefined as well as harnessed for this great quest for moral virtue in mankind. Here is Lessing's resultant Christianity—practical moral virtue so that all mankind may be good and may be encouraged in goodness to the end that virtue may come on earth as it is in man's inner religious being.

And the vehicle to accomplish this progressive moral improvement of the human race? Education! Lessing's last book, The Education of the Human Race (1780), was a tour de force of his subjective progressivism. He observed that the New Testament replaced the Old Testament in progressive fashion (Christianity replaced Judaism); now with the use of rationalism, reason replaces the New Testament (the Enlightenment replaces Christianity). The ever-expanding goal is to transcend the truths of revelation with the more interior and valid truths of reason. In fact, Lessing boldly (but consistently) defines Biblical revelation as an earlier primitive stage on the road to man's enlightenment. The Bible contains material that is not of the truths of reason (Spinoza and Reimarus's reductionism); rather the Bible contains material which is to become the truths of reason. The Bible is not an end in itself; it is only a means to an end—the progressive transformation of Scriptural truth into moral and religious truth. Faith now stands opposed to history. The path of evolutionary development via education is the new epiphany. Education as religion; education as messianism—it all goes back to Lessing's ditch.


The Legacy

The genetic line of development in the critical reading of the Bible runs from Spinoza to Reimarus to Lessing. The critical approach to the Word of God is defined by this trio and that approach is fundamentally antithetical to the historic understanding of Scripture. If historic Christianity regards the Bible as a true record of time and space events, the critical view redefines historical truth as that which lies behind the text. If historic Christianity regards salvation as coming from outside man (heterosoterism), the critical view regards salvation as arising from within man himself (autosoterism), that is, man's practical application of moral principles to the emerging life of virtue. If historic Christianity regards the bodily resurrection of Jesus as central to the believer's life, the critical view dismisses the resurrection of Christ as ignorance, deceit or of no consequence. If historic Christianity regards eschatology as directed to heaven and the future, the critical view regards eschatology merely horizontally—the kingdom of God no higher and no further than man's own horizon.

This dreary record of the beginnings of the critical approach to the Bible (this fundamentalism of the left)—may anger us, frustrate us, confuse us. But it remains the presupposition of much of biblical scholarship, much of the preaching in the contemporary church, much of the moralistic (indeed rationalistic) viewpoint of the man and woman in the pew. Hans Frei's 1974 book was his own protest against the arid and meaningless conclusions in the eclipse of biblical narrative. But tragically, Frei had no real answer to put in the place of his own perceptive analysis of the downgrade. For all his erudition and philosophical penetration—for all his brilliance, he could not go back—Hans Frei, modern man, could not go back to orthodoxy. His last book, published posthumously in 1992 entitled Types of Christian Theology, embraced the critical assumption, i.e., the literal meaning of the Biblical narrative does not necessarily mean factuality. Indeed, Frei wrote, the central New Testament person is Jesus Christ, but is this person the chief character in a narrative construct, an historically factual person or a "reality" under some ontological scheme (i.e., an existential reference point)? Frei, modern man, could not embrace concrete supernaturalism; objective historicity in Biblical events; heterosoteric redemption; the genuine centrality of the bodily resurrection of Christ for the New


Testament kerygma; eschatology which intrudes itself into the life of the believer through union with Christ. No more than Benedict Spinoza, Herman Samuel Reimarus, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Hans Frei could not go back to a precritical reading of the text. Lessing's ditch was too wide and Frei himself was bound too much by the presuppositions of the critical pre- and post-Enlightenment era.

Geerhardus Vos

But Geerhardus Vos was not! Or was he? Did not Vos emphasize the historical interpretation of Scripture! Does this not sound somewhat like Spinoza? And did not Vos emphasize the eschatological character of the preaching of Jesus! Does this not align him with Reimarus? And did not Vos emphasize the progressive character of revelation! Does this not align him with Lessing? God forbid on all three counts. The man who was at home with the critical discussions never capitulated to the critical reductionism. Geerhardus Vos studied in Berlin, Germany and Strassburg, France, in part, to hear and learn criticism firsthand from its best proponents at the time: Dillmann, Weiss, Holtzmann. And he read Schweitzer, Bousset, Gunkel, Gressmann (even expressed his appreciation to Ned Stonehouse for exposing him to Dibelius and Bultmann). But while Geerhardus Vos was critically informed and conversant, he never joined the critical ranks. Vos learned from the critics, but what he learned was always subject to his own orthodox presuppositions.

Why did Geerhardus Vos not dismiss the critics as a fundamentalist would dismiss the critics? Why did Vos spend so much time wading through page after page of radical higher critical material? Why? because he had no fear of the critical method and its results. Why? because Geerhardus Vos was possessed and obsessed with genuine supernaturalism. The antithesis between Vos and the critics is the antithesis between supernaturalism and naturalism. Foundational to his Dutch Reformed roots and his Old Princeton training is his faith in the Bible as divine revelation—a real word from God to man unseparated and undiminished by Lessing's ugly ditch or Kant's noumenal/phenomenal divide. And Vos's supernaturalism takes us beyond critical reductionism to a rich, inexhaustible treasure-house of God's being and acting. Supernaturalism


for Vos is not mere tradition; it is not an abstract ideal; it is not a theory nor an aesthetic method; supernaturalism for Vos is a vital organic reality—it is a living (Christ is the life), breathing (the breath of the Holy Spirit is transforming) drama applied, existential, experiential, actual. Vos's hermeneutical paradigm far transcends the horizontalism of Spinoza—a supernaturalism manifest in history (hence incarnational). Vos's hermeneutical paradigm far surpasses the eschatological politicalism of Reimarus—a supernaturalism of eschatological intrusion and penetration (hence mystical union). Vos's hermeneutical paradigm far outdistances the liberal progressivism of Lessing—a supernaturalism organically unfolding itself in time and space as a flower bud to blossom (hence continuity even in discontinuity unto the visio Dei).

At every point of Vos's biblical-theological method, he has anticipated and he has eclipsed the critics. His profundity is even today lost on the critical world because their eyes are closed to the antithesis from which he operates—the wonderful, marvellous antithesis of a Bible historically true, eschatologically alive and organically connected. Higher criticism is no threat to vital supernaturalism—historical, eschatological, organic. But a dull and moribund supernaturalism; a supernaturalism stagnant in tradition and dogma; a supernaturalism as moralistically reductionist as liberal fundamentalism; a supernaturalism which veils the tyranny and vicious power-brokering of agenda minded gurus—such a supernaturalism is a mere shibboleth, a facade, a shell, an empty vanity, clouds without water, trees without fruit.

Let us never forget what spurred Spinoza and others to resist orthodoxy. Besides their own depraved minds, it was orthodoxy's lust for political and earthly power. Voltaire said it perfectly, to orthodoxy's shame: said Voltaire, persecute Christians and they supply martyrs; give Christians power and they persecute in turn.

The contemporary Reformed movement is known more and more to the watching world as a tyrannical and persecutorial movement. Vicious, ugly, totalitarian personalities masking themselves and their movements in the proverbial veiled fist. None of this has anything to do with the gospel of salvation by a God-man who died—died in shame and humiliation, weakness and love. The gospel by which the Reformed world is more and more identified is the gospel of the ugly sneer, the furious and unrelenting attack on a minute devia-


tion from some individual's self-defined scheme of orthodoxy (which renders the brother or sister suspect, insufficiently orthodox, a victim of the kangaroo court conducted by the elite expert). If the Reformed world continues in this bitter and vicious direction, she will awaken to her new orientation one day—a fundamentalism of the left. And we will stand eclipsed as God passes his light to some other element of Christendom—a body of men and women who love Jesus Christ, who love one another, who love the church because their history has been merged with Christ's history, their lives have been semi-eschatologically united with Christ's life, their pilgrimage is an on-going journey to the celestial city where they shall see their Lord face to face. Then—then—the narrative will be eclipsed. It will be eclipsed in what criticism has never seen or heard or thought or felt—it will be eclipsed with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit themselves.


Northwest Theological Seminary

Lynnwood, Washington

The above is a slightly revised version of an address delivered at the Kerux Conference of August 2001 at Lynnwood, Washington. For publication, I have attached a select list of sources for further reading.

Further Reading

Allison, C. F. The Rise of Moralism (London: SPCK, 1966).

Allison, Henry E. Lessing and the Enlightenment (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1966).

Bagley, Paul J., "Spinoza, Biblical Criticism, and the Enlightenment," in John C. McCarthy, ed., Modern Enlightenment and the Rule of Reason (Wash- ington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1998) 124-49.


Becker, Carl. The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1932).

Berti, Silvia. "At the Roots of Unbelief." Journal of the History of Ideas 56/4 (1995): 555-75.

Capaldi, Nicholas, "The Enlightenment Project in Twentieth-Century Philoso- phy," in John C. McCarthy, ed., Modern Enlightenment and the Rule of Reason (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1998) 257-82.

Cooper, Alan, "On Reading the Bible Critically and Otherwise," in Richard E. Friedman and H. G. M. Williamson, eds., The Future of Biblical Stud- ies: The Hebrew Scriptures (Atlanta, GA: Sholars Press, 1987) 61-79.

Craigie, P. C. "The Influence of Spinoza in the Higher Criticism of the Old Testament." Evangelical Quarterly 50/1 (1978): 23-32.

de Moor, Leonard. "The Problem of Revelation in Eighteenth-Century Ger- many: With Particular Reference to Lessing." Evangelical Quarterly 39 (1967): 66-74, 139-51, 205-15.

Force, James E. "The Origins of Modern Atheism." Journal of the History of Ideas 50/1 (1989): 153-62.

Garrett, Don, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Harrisville, Roy A. and Walter Sundberg. The Bible in Modern Culture: Theol- ogy and Historical Critical Method from Spinoza to Kasemann (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995).

Hazard, Paul. European Thought in the Eighteenth Century (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1973).

Henry, Carl. "Narrative Theology: An Evangelical Appraisal." Trinity Journal 8 (1987): 3-19.


Howard, Thomas A. "Jacob Burckhardt, Religion, and the Historiography of 'Crisis' and 'Transition'." Journal of the History of Ideas 60/1 (1999): 149-64.

Hunsinger, George. "What Can Evangelicals and the Postliberals Learn from Each Other? The Carl Henry/Hans Frei Exchange Reconsidered." Pro Ecclesia 5/2 (1996): 161-82.

Lamm, Julia, "Schleiermacher's Post-Kantian Spinozism: The Early Essays on Spinoza, 1793-94." Journal of Religion 74/4 (1994): 476-505.

________. The Living God: Schleiermacher's Theological Appropriation of Spinoza (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 1996).

Norris, Christopher. Spinoza and the Origins of Modern Critical Theory (Ox- ford: Basil Blackwell, 1991).

Pailin, David, "Lessing's Ditch Revisited: The Problem of Faith and History," in Ronald H. Preston, ed., Theology and Change (London: SCM Press, 1975) 78-103.

Reedy, Gerard, "Spinoza, Stillingfleet, Prophecy, and 'Enlightenment'," in J. A. L. Lemay, ed., Deism, Masonry, and the Enlightenment (Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 1987) 49-60.

Reimarus, Herman Samuel. The Goal of Jesus and His Disciples (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1970).

Riches, J. K., "Lessing as Editor of Reimarus' Apologie," in E. A. Livingstone, ed., Studia Biblica 1978-II. Papers on the Gospels (Sheffield: JSNT, 1980) 247-54.

Rogerson, J. W., "Philosophy and the Rise of Biblical Criticism: England and Germany," in S. W. Sykes, ed., England and Germany. Studies in Theological Diplomacy (Frankfurt: Peter D. Lang, 1982) 63-79.

Sandys-Wunch, John. "Spinoza—The First Biblical Theologian." Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 93 (1981): 327-41.


Schmidt, James. "The Question of Enlightenment: Kant, Mendelssohn, and the Mittwochsgesellschaft." Journal of the History of Ideas 50/2 (1989): 269-91.

Schmitz, Kenneth L. "Lessing at God's Left Hand," in John C. McCarthy, ed., Modern Enlightenment and the Rule of Reason (Washington, DC: Catholic University Press of America, 1998) 213-31.

Smith, Steven B. Spinoza, Liberalism, and the Question of Jewish Identity (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997).

Strauss, Leo. Spinoza's Critique of Religion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

Thiessen, Gerd, "Historical Scepticism and the Criteria of Jesus Research or My Attempt to Leap Across Lessing's Yawning Gulf." Scottish Jour- nal of Theology 49/2 (1996): 147-76.

Van den Hengel, John. "Reason and Revelation in Lessing's Enlightenment." Eglise et Theologie 17 (1986): 171-94.

Wessell, Leonard P. G. E. Lessing's Theology: A Reinterpretation (Paris: Moreton, 1977).

West, Cornel. "On Frei's Eclipse of Biblical Narrative." Notre Dame English Journal: A Journal of Religion in Literature 14/2 (1982): 151-54.


The Lamb is My Shepherd

Tin Ling Harrell


The Shepherd is my Lamb,

He tasted my want.

He lay down in the wilderness;

He endured the judgment storm waters.

He relinquished his soul;

He was nailed to a cursed cross for my sinful names' sake.

Yea, though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death,

      He took upon my sin,

      Alone under wrath.

With the rod and the scourge, they beat him.

And he was made to hunger and thirst in the presence of his enemies;

His head mocked and crowned with cruel thorns;

His cup to be drained.

Surely grief and suffering followed him,

For he gave up his life,

In flesh dwelling that in Him I might dwell in glory.


The Lamb is my Shepherd,

I am his sheep.

He feeds me with the bread of life;

He leads me beside living waters.

He redeems my soul;

He guides me in his holy steps for his righteous name's sake.


Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of sin,

       I will fear no death,

       For you are with me.

Your voice and your Word, they comfort me.

You spread your banqueting table before me in your beloved presence;

You crown my head with love and peace;

My joy is made full.

Surely your grace upon grace pursues me,

For in you I have life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lamb forever.



I have attempted to write a redemptive-historical poem based on the English memorization of Psalm 23. Since it is generally the foremost of Psalms to memorize, I attempted to match the meter and cadence of the memorized English verse as closely as I could so that my reader would be drawn to the original Psalm 23 and might reassess their thoughts in light of Christ, the Shepherd of the Psalm fulfilled, who laid down his life for his sheep.

I am indebted to two particular sermons by James Dennison and Scott Hunter which reflected on Psalm 23 in the light of Geerhardus Vos's Eschatology of the Psalter. Finally, I wish to acknowledge the constant patience and love of my husband, David, who has pointed me to our Ever-loving Shepherd as he walks with us through our valleys of despair and the shadow of death.




Invitations and Warnings

Matthew 7:7-29

Charles G. Dennison

From a simple literary and rhetorical point of view, this latter section of the Sermon on the Mount is a pure masterpiece. The movement in these verses is amazing in itself—that movement quickening the pulse, exciting the vision. This section moves from the most magnanimous invitation (note how it begins in verse 7: "ask, seek, knock") to the deepest and most serious of warnings and challenges. On that level alone, it is sermonic in the very best sense.

But note also the movement in this regard. As we are carried along by these verses, we are carried from the general application to the whole of that community Jesus organizes around himself, to the narrow application to the shepherds that would arise within that community, then back once more in the concluding remarks (vv. 24-27) to the broadest of applications to the community as a whole. You start out with the broad invitation, "ask, seek, knock." In the middle of these verses things are narrowed down to an address with respect to false prophets (those who would pretend to shepherd): "being on your guard." Then you broaden out at the end where there are statements with regard to the wise man and the foolish man, generally applicable to all in the community of Christ. There is, therefore, something of an hourglass configuration to this entire section. You start out wide, you narrow down at the middle, and you end up wide at the conclusion.



We also have the interlocking effect of Jesus' statements as he moves from section to section within this portion. You will note particularly how a certain feature introduces the next section for consideration. As an example of that, note how you move from the 20th verse to the 21st. The sections respectfully in view there are verses 15-20 and then 21-23. The focus of verses 15-20 is the false prophets or the false shepherds—that very narrow consideration. In view specifically are those who are called to the gospel ministry. That theme is carried on then in verses 21-23 because there you have specific mention made by Jesus of those who prophesied, those who cast out demons, those who performed miracles in his name. In other words, the theme is carried through as you move to those latter verses, verses 21-23. Yet, at the same time, in the midst of those verses, you are prepared for what comes in verses 24-27. There is a general application there that carries you on to the next section. The note struck in the 21st verse, "he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven" is a general statement that pertains not just to shepherds, but to sheep. You are not able to say that Jesus' concern in verses 21-23 is the shepherds or the ordained ministry alone.

There is the interlocking effect that Jesus uses as he moves from paragraph to paragraph, from consideration to consideration. You will note how that powerful conclusion (v. 12) of the very first section in this segment of the Sermon on the Mount (vv. 7-12) dominates the exposition of every section that follows. It is as if you cannot properly understand anything that Jesus is saying unless you keep in mind that 12th verse, which has been called the Golden Rule ("therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do for them for this is the law and the prophets"). You keep that in hand as you move through the remaining verses to the conclusion of Jesus' message here, as if to say there will be an exposition now for you of what that Golden Rule means.

Now let's keep in mind the literary and rhetorical features—the structural considerations—as we look at this gem from Holy Scripture. We have Jesus' abundant use of images. What grand language he uses! That my language were as grand. That I had at the tip of my tongue the images and the imagery that Jesus so wonderfully and so easily uses: images of inquiry and search, doors to be opened, of loaves of bread and of stones and fish and serpents; images of gifts given and received, gates and roads and cities and destina-



tions; images of sheep and wolves and grapes and thorns, figs and thistles, trees and fruit; houses, rock, sand, rain, floods and wind; images of permanence; images of dissolution and collapse, of confirmation and judgment. Rich powerful images!

Note also the power of the section as you move from the marvelously encouraging invitation to "ask, seek, knock" to that devastating concluding line with respect to the house built on the sand that fell. There is drama abounding in merely observing the movement as you press on to that concluding remark from Jesus, "and great was the fall thereof."

If you are into literature or rhetoric, on those levels alone you are dealing with a masterpiece here. Note one other thing in this regard. As Jesus presses on to his conclusion, we hear him set in antinomy (that is, over against one another) the two ways, the two points of view, the two worldviews. There are only two ways. There is not a multiplicity of ways. There are only two. And as Jesus pushes on to the conclusion of his message, he sets out clearly the antinomy that exists between those two points of view in a series of contrasting couplets. He warns and challenges his hearers with the contrasts that exist between the two gates (there are only two gates, no more), the two ways (there are only two ways), the two trees (there are only two types of tree, the good and the bad). Finally, there are only two foundations. There are only two kinds of houses: those that are built upon Christ's word and those that are not.

So you see what Jesus has to say is powerfully worked out in a wonderful literary and rhetorical scheme. We are face to face with the rich and beautiful, deep and compelling, integrated and dynamic aspects of this message that comes from our Lord.

But what if all we see there are literary features—a rhetorical scheme used marvelously by Jesus? These features which truly enrich our appreciation for the word of God, as helpful and as interesting as they are, are of but relative value. One of the unfortunate facts of modern biblical interpretation (and most of those who have ventured into the seminary and theological world of our time have found this to be true) is that it seems to nearly exhaust itself with these peripheral or relative concerns. There seems to be a preoccupation with literary framework, and endless detailed analysis of the facts of verbal, linguis-


tic structure. Where it isn't linguistic and literary, the interests veer off in the direction of sociological, if not psychological analysis. But all of these matters end up on the periphery. They are of relative value. Truly in many respects a lot of what is said is merely speculative and not helpful.

We must push on. We are appreciative of the literature, are we not? We are appreciative of the rhetoric of Christ, but we must press on to the heart and substance of Jesus' words—his message. And what is the message that is dressed up so nicely with these literary and rhetorical considerations? Here is the message: the new day has come; the new day is here. The day the prophets longed for and looked for has arrived. The kingdom of heaven has dawned. The new day of the kingdom of heaven has come, and this new day means unprecedented access to the Father in heaven. Never before has he been accessible as he is now. He has never been known as he is now—that knowledge of him being mediated through the Son who has come to reveal him. The new day has come, therefore, "ask, seek, knock." The invitation is open and you will find the Father wonderfully willing to give you what you need.

But hear this great and all-important note in what Jesus has to say. This new day of access to the Father has a reciprocal effect upon you. That's the force of verse 12 and the Golden Rule. Yes, God the Father is accessible as never before, for the kingdom of heaven has dawned. But that being true, the reciprocal effect is this: never before have you been as accessible.

Read that 12th verse again keeping that in mind. "Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you when you ask of them, do for them when they ask of you." You ask of God and you receive, but now in this new day of access in which the initiative of the Father in the Son actually determines the life of those who belong to the kingdom, others will ask of you and they will receive as never before.

The very heart of the message then that Jesus has for the people in light of this unprecedented day of the dawning of the kingdom of heaven regards giving and receiving, offering, expending of oneself that others may have and be benefited. That's the heart of it. That's the law and the prophets. And this reciprocal character of the kingdom now becomes that small gate and that narrow way by which we are then entering into life, that is, into the fullness of


the heavenly kingdom. You can't get in without it! If you are not being conformed to the image of the Father who gives himself to you, you will not enter.

It is this reciprocal character of the kingdom then which is absent from those would-be guides or shepherds (called false prophets in verse 15) who after all are nothing more than wolves. These folk are sheep-eaters, not sheep-feeders. They cannot give after the similitude of God's giving in Christ. They cannot give in the kingdom sense of giving because they have never been gripped by the kingdom. They are bad trees bearing bad fruit. Watch out for them. They cannot give up themselves as God has surrendered himself in Christ. They are strangers to suffering. Their gospel contains no cross, and what cross they do speak of is merely image, form, symbol, nothing more.

This reciprocal character of the kingdom, then, scrutinizes ministers claiming to know Jesus—ministers claiming to have prophesied, cast out demons, performed wonders in his name. It scrutinizes and judges all of them. Therefore when you read in that 21st verse about entering the kingdom of heaven and that one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven, you are reading about the one in whom the reciprocal character of the kingdom is manifest. This is one who has learned by route of the opening up of heaven, by the revelation of the Father in heaven, by an intimate acquaintance with Jesus Christ, how to give of himself to the uttermost—cross-like, even unto death. Those in whom Jesus recognizes himself are those alone who gain access to the fullness of the kingdom.

Therefore, as we come to verses 24-27 and Jesus takes up this matter of hearing him and doing what he says, it is once more the reciprocal character of the kingdom that is in view. Those who hear Jesus and do what he says will endure. They will endure as houses anchored and built upon the rock. Even though rains and floods and winds assault, even though apocalyptic upheaval comes and the dissolution of the elements arise, they will endure. Those who have learned to give, as they have been given unto, have learned to give like God gives in Christ. But those who either reject, or who hear but don't obey, are houses built on sand, incapable of standing when the storm of God's final judgment strikes.


But having said this, we have to say a little bit more. Even grasping things at the level where we see the reciprocal character of the kingdom (tied up in verse 12 and working itself out through the whole) is not enough to entirely satisfy Jesus' intent. Is it not plain as we come to the conclusion of this sermon from Jesus, just how central he himself is to the whole matter? Certainly this should be clear to us from verses 21-23, as well as these concluding verses, 24-27. Note the way Jesus speaks. He is bold to speak of himself in the first instance (vv. 21-23) as the judge. "Many will say to me in that day." What day is it? It is the day of judgment. What are these confessions that are being made—these protestations that are offered in the light of the day of the Lord, the coming judgment? And who is sitting on the throne? Who is making decisions in that day? Jesus is the one! He is the judge! He is alive, he is exalted, he is sitting on the throne and the day of judgment approaches.

But note what he says in verses 24-27. The image shifts a bit there. For now, Jesus portrays himself to be the primary, exalted source of all divine wisdom. You have to listen to me. It is my word and no one else's. It is my word and my word alone. And you are obliged to obey me—for wisdom, primarily in an exalted sense, resides in me alone.

But if we are going to grasp the great significance of his words here, we must see that it is he who is cloaked—hidden—within the very words of the Sermon itself. He, Jesus Christ the one who speaks, in his person is the veritable appearance of the kingdom of God in the flesh! Jesus on one occasion will say to his detractors, "If I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." He is the living testimony to the guarantees of that kingdom, for he asked and received, he sought and found, he knocked and it was opened to him. He is the embodiment of the Golden Rule in the gift of himself upon the cross; he gives that others may be profited and benefited. He is the gate, he is the way, he is the door. He is the truth, he is the life. He is the good shepherd who stands over against all false prophets and false shepherds; he is the one who gives his life for his sheep.

He is the Son of God who perfectly does the will of his Father who is in heaven. He is the rock; he is the stone rejected by men, but made most important of all, because by the activity of God he is transformed into a house, his body being raised on the third day as the new temple of God. And we are his


house, his body, his temple, if we abide in him. And if we abide in him, we will reside in that one edifice of all the edifices of the world that is given this promise: "the gates of hell shall not prevail against her."

You don't walk through the Sermon on the Mount without grabbing hold of the Christ himself in all of his glory—his matchless might, wonder and righteousness. So that as you come to perform the least of these in his name, you do in and from him alone. In him is life for all who trust and obey.


Gregory Nazianzus on the God-Man*

He was baptized as man

       But he remitted sins as God.

He hungered

       But he fed thousands.

He thirsted

       But he cried, "If any man is thirsty, let him come unto me and drink."

He was weary

       But he is the rest of the weary and heavy laden.

He is called a Samaritan, demonically possessed

       But he saves the man who came down from Jerusalem and fell among thieves.

He is stoned

       But is not hit.

He prays

       Yet he hears prayer.


*Adapted from Gregory's Third Theological Oration, 20 (Oration 29.20). Gregory Nazianzus (ca. 326-29—390) was one of the three great Cappadocian fathers (Basil of Caesarea and his younger brother, Gregory Nyssa, being the other two) so instrumental in defending and perfecting the theology of the Nicene Council and Creed (325 A.D.).


He asks where Lazarus was laid, for he was man

       But he raises Lazarus, for he was God.

He is sold, and very cheap (thirty pieces of silver)

       But he redeems the world, at great price (the price of his own blood).

He is led to the slaughter as a sheep

       But he is the Shepherd of Israel.

He is bruised and wounded

       But he heals every disease—every infirmity.

He is lifted up and nailed to the Tree

       But by the Tree of Life, he restores us.

He is given vinegar to drink, mingled with gall.

       And who is he? The One who turned water into wine.

Who destroys the bitter taste

      Who is altogether sweetness and desire.

He lays down his life

       But he has power to take it again.

He dies

       But he gives life and by his death destroys death.

He is buried

       But he rises again.



A Heart for God's Law

Matthew 3:1, 2

Scott F. Hunter

The Old Testament concludes with a kingdom under judgment; a blessed nation set apart by God to be a kingdom of priests—God's own possession from among all the peoples and yet a nation so entirely devoted to sin and iniquity that she would not follow God.

The history of the kingdom of Israel is as puzzling at its conclusion as it was dazzling at its inception. Founded on the sure Word of God, supported by his victorious, royal right hand, we watch the formation of the kingdom of Israel in amazement. The exodus, the wilderness, Jericho, Ai—God leads his people into the land of promise. There God leads them in victory over thirty-one kings and he gives them the land. A land possessed not by their might or power but by the power of God—not by their works. It was indeed a display of amazing grace!

And oh what a beautiful land— a land flowing with milk and honey, a land of grapes and pomegranates and figs, a land of hills and valleys, a land that drinks water from the rain of heaven. And Israel loved the land. She loved its milk and honey. She loved its grapes and figs. She loved the pomegranates and the water from the rain of heaven. She loved the Asherahs and the Baals which dotted its hills and valleys—idols from the nations she was to remove. Israel loved the land; she did not love the kingdom of heaven.


Not love the kingdom of heaven? But she was zealous for the law! Indeed Israel did have a great zeal for the law. Twice a day the shema would be recited, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God . . . and you shall talk of these (commandments) when you lie down and when you rise up" (Dt. 6:4-7). Twice a day the people of Israel would recite this creed reaffirming their devotion to the law. But this zeal was fueled only by a desire to pursue a righteousness of their own, not a righteousness from God which comes by faith. As a result, their interest in the law was self-centered; it was but a means to an end. This man-centered perspective on the law was satisfied with a mere external adherence to the law's precepts. Israel reduced the law to "busy work."

Overcome by her man-centered perspective, Israel desired a king "like all the nations" and God granted her request in a most painful and literal way! In her disobedience, Israel was granted kings like the other nations. For kings raised from among her own sons would so resemble the pagan leaders surrounding her that one could hardly distinguish between the Canaanite king and the ruler of Israel. Her subsequent spiritual decline would ultimately lead to exile. There the likes of the Assyrian King Shalmaneser and the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar ruled over her, just as Pharaoh had many years before. She would ultimately have kings like the other nations because she would serve as slaves in those other nations. Because of her sin, Israel was removed from the beautiful land and cast into the darkness of exile. She was forced into a culture hostile to her own, forced to learn the ways of her captors. Her desire for the treasures of this world brought her to the brink of forfeiting the treasures of the world to come.

Yet, even under foreign rule, she had the promise of a new kingdom: the throne of David would be established forever. The prophet Isaiah said:

For a child will be born—a son will be given; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom (Is. 9:6,7).


The God of heaven will some day set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed. But in the meantime Israel was called to wait . . .

Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord . . . Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him . . . Wait for the Lord, and keep His way . . . Wait for your God continually . . . the Lord is good to those who wait for Him (The Psalms, passim).

And generations of waiting gave way to a lone voice in the wilderness saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt. 3:2).

A Son of David called Immanuel ("God with us") was born. This Immanuel, Jesus, came to usher in the new kingdom.

Did you hear the words of the Baptist? The kingdom of heaven has come! And for many, these words meant that God was about to free Israel from foreign rule and establish his sovereign dominion among them for all nations to see. They would once again rule in the land of Palestine; once again boast in their law and in the vast dominion of their great kingdom; once again pound their chests with national pride.

Did you hear the words of the Baptist? The Kingdom of heaven has come! But Israel was not greeted with the open arms of an earthly king. Rather she was told of the impending wrath against her if she did not repent—"Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance . . . the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Mt. 3:8,10).

This call to repentance was at the same time a declaration of Israel's apostasy! The language of impending judgment was to be a signal to her that she was not right before God. Israel was called to bring forth the fruit of repentance or face the ultimate, eternal exile in the place reserved for the ultimate enemy and his followers. She must repent. She must change her perspective on the law. She must get a new heart! But how? A new king is needed who can lead in ultimate victory, one who can soften Israel's heart, one who can take away the sting of sin and death and replace it with the abundance of everlasting life. A


mighty warrior is needed who can take on the great enemy and establish a lasting, heavenly kingdom.

And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. And the news about him went out into all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and he healed them. And great multitudes followed him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan (Mt. 4:23-25).

A new King named Jesus came proclaiming the Good News of the coming kingdom, healing every kind of disease and pain. He healed lepers, the blind, the lame, and even raised the dead. What kind of King is this? How far does his dominion stretch that he can heal disease, even raise the dead, and bring everlasting joy into a fallen world? Who is he that can bring good news to the afflicted, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners? He is one whose throne is in heaven and whose dominion is everlasting.

Jesus transformed the cries of despair and sorrow into joyous melodies of hope and renewal, a foretaste of the world to come. In his miraculous healings, this world was momentarily taken captive by a culture hostile to its own; this world was exiled and forced to learn the ways of heaven!

Christ's miracles remind us that the blessings of his kingdom come by grace through the work of God. He healed the sick, remedying conditions beyond the control of man, pointing to God's ultimate healing of our dead souls. He fed multitudes providing food well beyond human means, teaching that the bread from heaven abundantly satisfies and is freely given. He cast out demons declaring that the kingdom of God has come upon us and that God alone binds the strong man.

Could there have been a more clear expression of the kingdom of heaven in our world? Yet those whose eyes were trained on this world, those who were looking for an earthly, political kingdom based on their own deeds could not


see it. With these living pictures of Paradise all around them, they blindly continued in their earthly gaze.

But this was not the agenda of Jesus—"foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head" (Mt. 8:20). He did not come to establish the kingdom of man nor the kingdom of this world. No! in fact, all the kingdoms of this earth and all their glory could not tempt him away from the pursuit of his agenda.

His mission was to fulfill the promise of Immanuel. He came to establish the kingdom of heaven. He came to draw sinners unto God in covenant union. Jesus did not do this through a mere formal, external adherence to the law. Rather he loved his Father with all his heart, and soul, and might, fulfilling the law in thought, word and deed. He showed himself to be the true man after God's own heart, submitting himself to the law at every point, refusing even to withhold his own life when called to place it on the altar of the cross. "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done" (Mt. 26:42).

The law for Christ was not merely a means to an end. He delighted in the law. It was a glorious expression of the kingdom of heaven. His obedience flowed from the loving union he enjoyed with the Father. His obedience was the expression of a heart entirely focused on the blessing of glorifying and enjoying God forever.

This is the same obedience he requires of his subjects. This must be at the heart of our repentance. No Pharisaical righteousness will do, for "unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 5:20).

You cannot gain access to his kingdom through some external adherence to a set of laws. You must first and foremost love the King. He leaves no room for misinterpretation. He demands our heart. "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it" (Mt. 10:37-39).


The children of the kingdom of heaven understand its value. It is "like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field" (Mt. 13:44). A true child of the King would not trade his place in the kingdom of heaven for all the kingdoms of this world and all their glory, for he seeks first God's kingdom and His righteousness.

But where is the good news? How is this any better than the legalism under which Israel operated? It seems as though the burden is even greater. Not only must we adhere to God's law in deed, but we must also adhere from the heart. In truth, this was always the requirement; even in the shema (that creed calling out devotion to the law), Israel was called to love the Lord with all their heart.

No, the burden is not greater. The difference is this: Israel pursued the law for self-justification. Israel pursued the law for self ! For them, the law was a burden; it was their prerequisite for blessing. For believers, justification has been completed in Christ. The law's precepts do not/cannot lecture us regarding prerequisites for self-justification, but rather sing to us of the sanctification of glory. The law, in describing the character of God, becomes for us part of the Immanuel blessing itself. It is the fruit of our salvation in Christ and it anticipates our consummate, eschatological life.

The final manifestation of the kingdom will be the complete enjoyment of what we already have. Says Geerhardus Vos, " . . . the reward bears an organic relation to the conduct it is intended to crown" (The Kingdom of God and the Church, 67). Put chronologically, the behavior to be crowned bears an organic relation to the reward. The demands of the law are at one point the basis for blessing, and at the same time, prophetic of our blessed, heavenly state. Jesus said "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Mt. 5:6). The righteousness which the law requires, the righteousness which we hunger for, pursue and make progress toward in this world, is the righteousness we will be rewarded with in full in heaven. What a blessed state—no more struggle with sin—no more hindrance to a complete enjoyment of our God—naked before him with nothing to hide! Do you see what a blessing the law is for us? When we, as believers, strive to conform our


life to the law, we are striving for a greater comprehension now of what we will have in glory. As such our obedience to the law becomes a reward in itself.

The call to repentance is a call to a godly, heavenly life. It is a call to enjoy God now and forever. In Matthew 10, Jesus commanded the disciples to go throughout all Israel and proclaim the Good News that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. In Matthew 28, the church is commanded to go out into all the world with that same message. We are to exhort sinners to turn from their ways, to forsake all in this world, to follow Christ, for the kingdom of heaven has come. As we do this, we carry with us the ultimate blessing of the Immanuel promise, for Jesus says to the church "and lo, I am with you always till the close of the age" (Mt. 28:20). Might our lives reflect a heart that has been changed, that seeks first his kingdom and his righteousness—a heart that revels in the blessing of glorifying and enjoying God forever.

Israel loved the land; she did not love the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the true Israel love the Lamb; and in loving the Lamb, love the kingdom of heaven; and in loving the kingdom of heaven, love the law of God.

Kent, Washington


Glory in the Midst of Darkness

Jeong Koo Jeon

In the beginning,

The Light of Glory—

Hovering over deep darkness . . .


In the hopeless wilderness,

The Light of Glory—

In the midst of Israel

Leading day and night . . .


At the tabernacle in the wilderness,

At the temple on Mt. Zion,

Spectacular form penetrated darkness:

Heaven's Glory In-Dwelling.



In the land of Bethlehem Judah

When gloomy darkness filled the world,

A star of Glory appeared

In the sky over a manger;

A little Lamb, abandoning the Glory of Heaven,

Was born here:

The Glory of Light—

The Holy Light of Heaven shining.


In the midst of darkness

Heaven was singing;

Heavenly host and angel sang

Sang the Song of Glory!


Now the victorious little Lamb

Rules the Kingdom of Glory;

(Ah! through faith)

Beyond the Kingdom of Darkness

Receiving the Kingdom of Glory as gift,

We begin to sing.



Until the return of the little Lamb of Glory,

We will sing;

In the dark wilderness

Pondering the invisible Glory

In our midst,

We will sing the Song of Heaven.


When the little Lamb comes again

Passing through the dark world,

We will see the Glory of judgment—the last Glory—

And face eternal Glory.


With heavenly host and angel

We will sing and dance;

In the midst of everlasting Glory

We will sing an endless Song!



Chance, Randomness, and Determinism

Tucker S. McElroy

This is a brief examination into the subject of randomness. Namely, what do we mean by "random"; what do we mean by "chance"? These seem to be philosophically loaded terms, and one cannot employ them without invoking religious presuppositions. This essay is an attempt to delineate the various approaches taken to the concepts of chance, randomness, and determinism. We can only provide an introduction to the rich collection of concepts, else this minor endeavor would swiftly become a book. More meticulous readers, disturbed by the cursory treatment of epochal metaphysical topics, should consult the references for further information. The latter portion of this essay takes an innovative "density" approach to the concept of probability, and thereby places a non-standard interpretation upon the axiomatic definition; this is an attempt to utterly remove the ambiguous notion of "chance" from the parlance of probability theory.


The terminology is profuse, and, unfortunately, in practice the definitions are not standardized. An engineer, businessman, and theologian all mean some-



thing distinct when they use the word "random". For the purposes of clarity, the following definitions will be used throughout this paper.

Chance: An abstract principle, which governs the outcome of events in our cosmos (this term will hereafter refer to the empirically knowable universe, our own space-time domain). Roughly speaking, the doctrine of chance states that when an event occurs, it could have just as easily come about some other way, and there is no particular reason or cause for things having occurred this way. Note that the principle of chance is assumed to operate through certain rules or laws (the probabilities). Chance does not attempt to explain these rules/laws, but taking them for granted, often operates through them.

Ergodic: This is a precise mathematical term, which in various contexts usually means that spatial and temporal averages or computations are asymptotically identical. In probability theory, the comparison is made between a distributional average and a temporal/sampling average. This latter perspective is the one taken here—namely that an average of sampled data approximates with high probability the average over every theoretical possibility.

Stochastic: An adjective, which denotes that which pertains to probability theory. It is often used synonymously with "random", but has a more precise interpretation—the word "stochastic" is the technical term for what we often call "random" in common parlance. A stochastic object does obey certain rules and patterns, but is not completely predictable.

Chaos: The common usage of the term denotes disorder, unpredictability, and fluctuation. Paradoxically, it cannot be the complete absence of order (such a concept can never be defined, since "defining" is an order-imposing operation), but rather is the apparent loss or corruption of order, perhaps relative to some subjective aesthetic. In mathematics, a chaotic phenomenon is a deterministic structure (i.e., it has a functional form, with theoretical predictive capacity) which appears to be stochastic.

Random: Some use this word when they discuss raw chance. Others mean a stochastic number between zero and one, generated in such a way that any outcome is equally likely (i.e., a uniform random variable on the unit interval). This is a quite limited meaning. Others refer to a sequence of numbers that have no probabilistic relationship to one another; this is redundant terminol-


ogy, since the probabilistic concept of independence covers this idea. A mathematician merely uses random as a synonym for stochastic—as such it does not preclude the possibility of some outcomes being more likely than others.

Deterministic: This idea says that a phenomenon has some cause, which necessarily determines the outcome (which often comes temporally). Yet, it is more subtle than fatalism, since determinism allows for the possibility of primary and secondary causes—which just means that some things are apparent (perhaps empirically), whereas others are hidden to finite understanding. From a scientist's standpoint, these secondary causes become somewhat moot, since they may never be detected or measured. As used in this paper, determinism can allow for non-predictability in the cosmos, and at the same time allow full causality once the viewpoint is extended beyond the boundaries of this world. This concept will be fleshed out more fully below.

Fatalistic: Everything in the cosmos is completely determined by forces acting within the universe—thus everything is predictable (in theory, though it may be unfeasible) if only sufficient information can be gathered. This view seems to bear uncomfortably against the edifice of quantum mechanics, which preaches the inherent unpredictability of the small particles within the bed of quantum foam.1

Probability: This is a mathematical theory, which is the basis of all modern studies in stochastic processes and statistics. The measure-theoretic (or axiomatic) formulation of the theory nicely lends itself to a density interpretation, which is described below. We often speak of the "probability of an event," by which we mean the chance that something happens. Depending on our notion of chance, this has various nuances.

Natural Philosophy

The term "natural philosophy" refers to the belief that there are sufficient explanations of the observed phenomenon to be found within the cosmos. In


1 This is a huge topic; see Greene (1999) for a treatment accessible to non-physicists.


fact, all supernaturalism is precluded by axiom, since the universe is assumed to be a closed topological space—no information comes in, and none goes out. Thus the natural includes the full scope of the "possible," so that the supernatural becomes synonymous with the "impossible." No discussion will be given here of why this is an attractive or adequate belief system for many scientists and intellectuals; the point here is to describe the concept of "chance" that naturally flows from this epistemological source.

Certain laws and rules appear to be operating in the cosmos. Physics, chemistry, and the other sciences have attempted, over the past centuries, to trace these relationships through a partnership of reason and empiricism. The premise that empiricism leads to true knowledge is taken as a given in the current academic community. If a certain phenomenon is observed repeatedly, we notice the pattern and look for a cause. Upon such foundations modern science is avidly and faithfully pursued, and new truths established. For each observed phenomenon, some cause within the cosmos is to be sought; if no such reason can be determined, then one may either speculate or attribute the behavior to chance.

Now there is considerable variation in the natural philosopher's position on the concept of chance. Perhaps in older times (i.e., the beginning of the twentieth century), there was a current of optimism that various laws and rules would be worked out to such an extent that complete predictability would be a theoretical possibility. This would imply strong fatalism, and a mechanistic conception of man and his realm. But certain experiments in quantum mechanics have cast serious doubts on the tenability of such doctrine. Apparently, small particles move about randomly in the fullest sense of the word. Without any traceable cause, a particle may move to one location or another, and nothing in this world can account for the difference! It appears that a probability distribution on space is attached to each particle, and after "rolling the dice," the little particle moves to the appropriate location.2

Notice the logical deduction that a consistent natural philosopher makes at this point: since there are no forces external to the universe that can account


2 See Greene (1999).


for the motion of this particle, and nothing within the universe can be said to cause or determine its alteration, there is no recourse but to say that "chance" decides the path. Beyond this, no further progress can be made. We have no hope of comprehending the impersonal "chance" any more than the ancient pagans did (they often conceived of Fortune as a fickle woman!); so we shut the book and declare: "It is a mystery." Of course nothing prevents us from continuing the project of determining the exact probabilistic laws through which raw chance operates, but we must not try to probe the nature of chance itself. As a passing remark, we observe that similar conclusions from the premise of natural philosophy have been used to logically deduce the theory of evolution. To some of us, this is extremely questionable.3


Things are quite a bit different if we once admit the possibility of non-trivial "other-worldliness". If indeed there is "something" beyond and outside our own cosmos, and if interaction in some definable sense is possible, then we may have an alternate explanation for the phenomenon we observe. Indeed, it may just be possible to completely eliminate raw chance from the picture, and thus obtain a more satisfying science—one that attempts to maximize explanatory power and reduce the dominion of the unknown.

First of all, perhaps we should present a brief argument as to why this would be a desirable situation. The objective of science is to explore and describe various aspects of our own cosmos, employing axioms laid down centuries ago.4 It is apparent that our universe is extremely structured (or at least we perceive it that way), and we have an innate desire to understand and analyze this structure. Thus, the extent to which we can eliminate "unknowns" determines the breadth and depth of our knowledge. However, raw chance is not just an unknown, but is rather an "unknowable"; it states that, not only is


3 A thorough critique of the theory of evolution can be found in Johnson (1993).

4 Francis Bacon is credited with much of the formulation of the tenets of "modern science."



prediction impracticable, but it is even inconceivable. For example, if a believer in the supremacy of raw chance also claimed belief in God (an all-powerful being who created the cosmos), they would conclude that the God could not control everything, since things, in the last analysis, were left to chance. This person might say that God sets up the distributions for events, but has no actual control over the random number generator! (A random number generator is a theoretical item, which spits out strings of zeroes and ones each with probability of one half.) God would not be all-powerful after all.

Thus, to a scientific mind, order is preferable to raw chance. But perhaps this is all wishful thinking—after all, experimental evidence does lead us to the conclusion that events in the cosmos are ultimately unpredictable. So a few words should be said to show that "raw chance" is intellectually repugnant. If all history is, in the last analysis, the product of raw chance, we may conclude that things could have turned out quite differently—and no meaning or cause can be adduced to justify one history versus another. Then why are we scuttling around so busily making propositions and theories, if our whole civilization, our language, our brains—are the product of a meaningless happenstance? It is fruitless to seek order in a world where that appearance of order only came about by chance.5 Thus, not only is supernatural determinism a desirable epistemological bastion, but it is a necessary prerequisite for the pursuit of meaningful scientific inquiry.

Now in defense of the opposition, one could mention that there is structure together with chance; perhaps the variance of the distributions is low, so that there is a concentration of events, and "on average" things tend to obey strict rules. This indeed seems to be the case, and it begs the next question—how did these certain distributions or laws (it is an elegant coincidence of probability theory that probability distributions are also called "laws") come about? Perhaps through chance—distributions on distributions ad infinitum; it wearies the mind!

The word "supernatural" is taken in the old sense—that which is above or


5 For further argumentation along these lines, see Van Til (1967).



beyond the natural. This is to be developed in the next section; Christianity presents the most coherent treatment of a supernatural system.6

Christian Determinism

The ancient religion of Christianity gives a consistent outworking of these ideas, which combines supernaturalism and the apparent randomness of this world in a subtle but lovely marriage. Here I will attempt to outline the corollaries of the basic doctrines which apply to this discussion.

Firstly, any concept of ultimate chance is utterly excluded from the beginning, since all events in reality are governed and determined (yea, caused) by a single intelligent entity—God. As a weak formulation, some theologians have conceived of God as only possessing foreknowledge; such a being would be too deficient in puissance to merit the epithet of "omnipotent", and thus we discard such feeble conceptions. In fact, God foreordains all events in this cosmos. Also, we must keep in mind that this entity "resides" outside and beyond our own cosmos, and thus it is utterly fallacious to apply our own limitations of space and time to One who transcends this order. And as God made the laws and rules of this cosmos, he also has power and authority to break or surpass them.

Now it becomes apparent that objects in this world, on the average, obey the laws discovered by science. Any small deviations can be attributed to either measurement error or noise—the conglomeration of a plethora of small effects, which it is unfeasible to compute. As for the mysterious quantum effects, we can now assert that the particles move according to the direction of God; and if the overall pattern is measured, it is seen to follow certain well-studied probability distributions. Thus God gives us many instances or samples,


6 As a fellow faculty member pointed out, Judaism and Islam can equally present such a position, as no mention of the Trinity has yet been introduced. Of the three religions, the author feels that Christianity has the most internal coherence.



from a divinely scrutinized theoretical distribution.7

This formulation is consistent with unpredictability "within the cosmos"— since there is no possibility (for things within the natural world, obeying natural laws) of ascertaining a cause originating "outside", we may well perceive any happenstance as "uncaused." To speak mathematically, we may conceive of these supernatural causes as functions from beyond, which take values in our own history (the range space is contained within the events of our cosmos). Then, we observe only the values of the functions, but sadly have no knowledge of the function itself. In addition, this is a formulation with which theologians should be quite comfortable: God is continually managing the most minute matters of our world, operating upon matter supernaturally. This does not constitute miraculous activity, since there are no natural laws being broken; rather the supernatural economy is the foundation for natural law.

Fatalism and Chaos

Let us now contrast the former view with fatalism. In this picture, God (or a supernatural agent) merely makes one initial cause, which commences the growth of the cosmos; from that point onwards, every event causes every subsequent event in a theoretically predictable fashion. This is disagreeable to Christianity, which preaches a God that continually upholds the universe. It is at odds with modern science, which has noticed theoretically unpredictable phenomena. And it is odious to the human aesthetic.8 Whereas one (e.g., this author) can easily get on and enjoy life under the view that every action is predetermined supernaturally by God, it is another thing to say that this behavior is totally computable based upon one event in the distant past!


7 This goes back to mathematics as the underpinnings of this earthly realm, of which the author is thoroughly convicted. Every empirical pattern has a theorem behind it, and behind each theorem is the Primal Mathematician.

8 For an insight into the potential problems (when linked with inevitable foreknowledge), consult the Oedipus Cycle (Grene and Lattimore, 1970).



How is a theory of probability to be granted within a fatalistic framework? The concept of chaos, as defined above, gives the only tenable sense. Indeed everything is caused and determined by prior cosmic events, but this is so intricate and complicated that no computational machine could possibly make sense of the data. Thus, while being in essence cosmically deterministic, phenomena are nevertheless apparently stochastic, defying even the most diligent scrutiny. If finding the deterministic laws and functions is unfeasible empirically and mathematically, then from a practical standpoint the underlying fatalism is somewhat irrelevant—we are better off (from the perspective of predictability) modeling the cosmos stochastically, so that we may employ the full power of probability theory.

Contrast this with natural philosophy—which says that randomness is not merely apparent, but is a fundamental reality—and the Christian determinism here formulated, which says that randomness is "random" as far as this cosmos is concerned, but ultimately there is a cause for everything found in supernatural realms. In natural philosophy, the probability model is an absolute reality—the pure abstraction of a mathematical theory constantly intrudes and permeates our world. In fatalism, the probability theory is a convenient tool, which is implemented due to the loss of information in the whirl of chaos. Between these extreme views, supernatural determinism preaches a probability theory, which is concrete and undecipherable from a finite perspective, and yet is completely tangible to the supernatural entity generating cosmic events. The mathematical definition of random variables and probability spaces lends itself nicely to this latter interpretation.

Ergodicity and Stochastics

Some discussion should now be given on the issue of "ergodicity" and stochastic structures in general. First, some important terminology will be introduced. When a probabilist speaks of a random variable, he is describing a variable that takes on various values (like one, two, three, or red, white, and blue—anything!) with given (known) likelihoods. The distribution is the collection of probabilities associated to each possible value of a random variable. If I measure the value of a tossed die, the outcome is a random variable, which


can take on any integer value between one and six. The distribution tells me what the chance is for each outcome (for a fair die, each outcome has probability of one-sixth). Now suppose that we repeat an experiment three times, and measure the outcome each time—then we have three identically distributed random variables. Since the phenomenon is the same (even though the outcome may be different) each of the three times, we say that the distributions of the random variables are identical. This concept of identical distribution is extremely important in the subsequent discussion.

We could compute an average of a random variable two different ways: theoretically and empirically. The theoretical average would involve taking a sum of the values weighted by their corresponding probabilities, which are determined by the distribution. The empirical average would be obtained by repeating a phenomenon in such a way that we generate a sequence of identically distributed random variables. Then we simply measure each outcome, and take the usual average of all the observations. The basic "ergodic theorem" states9 that (under some conditions), the empirical average gets closer and closer to the theoretical average (with a high probability) as we increase the number of repeated experiments. In other words, the sampling (empirical) average is asymptotically identical with the distributional (theoretical) average. If the observations were taken at subsequent times, then we might say that the temporal average approximates the distributional average—this was our definition of the term "ergodic".

It is strangely apparent that our universe is ergodic. By this, I mean that many phenomena satisfy the ergodic theorem in practice. In some cases, one may have postulated the distribution of a random variable, computed the theoretical average; then this is compared with an empirical average conducted upon data generated by the same stochastic mechanism, and behold!—the stated convergence is eerily obtained. In other cases, we have no idea what the theoretical average is, but we do see the empirical average closing in on the same number (for instance, generate a large data set and calculate the average; then repeat this whole process many times—each of the averages will often be
9 The result stated is usually known as the "Strong Law of Large Numbers." For a rigorous treatment of this large subject, see Billingsley (1995).



quite close to one another!).

Why should this be the case? Since the conclusions of the ergodic theorem surround us (as well as the subtler "central limit theorems"), it seems to lend validity to our probabilistic modeling of the cosmos. So it behooves us to take a closer look at the precise statement of the ergodic theorem (which, under other contexts, is called the "Law of Large Numbers"). What do we mean by an average of random variables converging to a fixed number? In its strongest formulation, the theorem can be interpreted in the following way: with probability one (i.e., all the time except for fluke instances), the empirical average tends to the distributional average as the sample size grows toward infinity. Thus, in theory it could happen that for a given experiment convergence would not occur, but in practice you would never see it happen.

A Brief Survey of Probability

Probability theory is a fairly recent development upon the scale of human civilization. The classical formulation dealt with a class of random variables where the number of possible outcomes was finite, and each was equally likely (for example, the flipping of a fair coin has two equally likely outcomes). But what if some outcomes are just more likely than others (consider an unevenly shaped coin, which gives a bias to one outcome over another)? Clearly a better theory was needed. Another suggestion was that of "empirical probability"— that we define theoretical probabilities as the limits of empirical proportions. This is essentially equivalent to assuming the ergodic theorem from the beginning and using it as a definition. In the event that the ergodic theorem does not hold for certain phenomena (this can and does happen, e.g., for random variables that fluctuate "too wildly"), this definition falls flat on its face. An axiomatic approach was developed in the twentieth century (by A. Kolmogorov10), which was built on the foundations of mathematics' real analysis. This seems to be the most successful and most elegant of the approaches.

10 Andrei Kolmogorov was a brilliant Russian probabilist and a pioneer in the field. See Kolmogorov (1933) for details.


Here I'll make an aside on axiomatic mathematics: this is a great covert whereby mathematicians may completely dodge the hydra of epistemology. Questions like "how do we know it is true?" and "why is that type of reasoning valid?" are banished to the philosopher's (and theologian's) circle. The method merely consists of the declaration of certain delicate axioms, from which the subsequent collection of Theorems, Propositions, Lemmas, and Corollaries are carefully constructed through the operation of logic ("modus ponens"11 and the law of non-contradiction), laid upon a bed of supplemental definitions. No attempt is made to "prove" the axioms, though we may attempt to justify them on an aesthetic or practical basis. We merely ask that one accept the rules of logic (of course, Buddhists may have a problem with this) in order to deduce the resulting mathematics.

One other paradigm, the "subjective" theory of Bayesian probability, conceives of probabilities as perceived "degrees of confidence"; the resulting mathematics is identical with the above axiomatic formulation, but a very different interpretation is placed upon the quantities of interest. I will not comment further on this intriguing theory, but concentrate on Kolmogorov's system.

Modern probability theory has great explanatory power. It is from these axioms that such results as the ergodic theorem were established. This is, however, only the first item among a wealth of propositions. As a passing remark, we observe that the subject got its beginning in the various gambling problems of the Renaissance, bantered back and forth between intellectuals. It seems worthwhile to construct a coterie of examples drawn from a less nefarious context.

The Density Model

Below is a mathematical formulation which gives an acceptable model of the cosmos and is compatible with the above observations. It is an attempt to

11 An if-then statement, coupled with the protasis, from which the apodosis is concluded.


remove the concepts of chance, randomness, and so forth from the vocabulary of statistics. Following are some essential notations:

w is a "history"

W is the set of all possible "histories" w

w* denotes "our" history, the true state of affairs

C is any function from W to a set of measurable criterion. It is typically called a random variable under some subtle "measurability" conditions.

C(w) is the observed result of C in history  w

C(w*) is the observation of C in our world

Let us unpack this terminology: each w contains an incredible store of cosmic information—somehow it encodes all the facts of our world from beginning to end. Suppose that absolutely every phenomenon in the cosmos was really the value of some function—the outcome C(w); whenever we speak subjunctively of what could have occurred, we are referring to C(w') for a distinct history w'. Note that the possibility of C(w) = C(w') is not excluded for some random variables C—this all depends on the particular phenomenon. Perhaps one way to picture this set of histories is to imagine a tree that is constantly bifurcating in time, according to which many possible cosmic alternatives occurs. Our own history w* has countless parallel histories w; these may be similar or even identical in many ways, but in at least one aspect they actually differ (the details of this distinguishability is embedded in the rich tapestry of s-algebras).

It follows that the set of all such histories, denoted by W, is unimaginably vast. In probability theory, it is sufficient to leave W as an abstract set—our attention is focused upon the distributions of the random variables. Now the "probability" itself is a measure on the space W, which assigns to each set a number between 0 and 1; the axioms of Kolmogorov state that some monotonicity and summability properties should be satisfied. Let us see how this concept may be applied.

Consider some cosmic event which we wish to model statistically. Then we generally conceive of the event as some subset of all possible histories w,


such that specified outcomes occur. Observe that in our notation, this means that there is a random variable C which measures the phenomenon in which we are interested, and the event may be indicated by C taking on a particular value or values—the w's for which that value occurs constitute the event. Stated another way, we are interested in all possible worlds w for which the phenomenon occurs. The following specific example illustrates these ideas concretely.

Suppose an electron is in one of two compartments (with equal dimensions) of a box—either the right (R) or left (L) side. If at a particular time we measure the location, we can model this by considering the random variable C, with possible values of R or L. The event that "it's on the left side" is equal to the set of all w's (all world histories) in which the electron really is on the left side. In general, C(w) can be either R or L. If we actually measure the value R, then we know that C(w*) = R. Let's denote the event "it's on the left side" by the letter A (so we can write A = {all w such that C(w) = L}). But this event is actually a subset of W, and we may and will apply the probability measure P to it; then P(A) gives us a number between 0 and 1, which is interpreted as the "probability that it's on the left side." This might be modeled to be the number 1/2, which means that in one out of two worlds w, the electron will be on the left side.


A probabilist will notice that there is nothing innovative in these definitions, except for the idea of "histories". But let us further imagine that we calculate the probability of an event by taking the following ratio: consider the count of all histories w in which the event occurs, and divide this by the count of all histories w in W. Thus, if we think of each w as a "particle" within the total "object" W, then the probability of an event is simply the density of the corresponding histories within the scope of cosmic possibility. Thus the name "density model".

With this in mind, we can explain the apparent randomness of our world. Through our senses, we are able to observe the values C(w*) for various random variables C, and we are able to deduce through reason the existence of a single state of things, namely w*. But we are at a loss to determine exactly


which w is our w*; worse, we do not know the functions C! When we observe two phenomena C(w*) and Y(w*) which are identically distributed, it may well be (and often is the case) that C(w*) is not equal to Y(w*), even though from a probability standpoint there is no difference.

From the perspective of natural philosophy, the random variables come at us any which way, and there is no possible way of knowing the functions C. From the perspective of supernatural determinism, we should view the space W as grounded outside our cosmos, so that the functions C are movements or mappings between a supernatural realm into a collection of potential universes (not just our cosmos, but all subjunctive cosmoses as well!). Of course w* holds a special place in this story; to a mathematician, we might say it is an element of the dual space of random variables over W. And it is very possible that an entity from beyond could know and determine both w* and the random variables C. The ergodic theorems will guarantee that our w* does not deviate too greatly from the "center of mass" of possible realities.

San Diego, California


Billingsley, Patrick. Probability and Measure (1995).

Greene, Brian. The Elegant Universe (New York: Vintage Books, 1999).

Grene, David and Richmond Lattimore, eds. Sophocles I (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1970).

Johnson, Phillip E. Darwin on Trial (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1993).

Kolmogorov, Andrei. Grundbegriffe der Wahrscheinlichkeitsrechnung (1933).

Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1967).


Book Reviews

John W. Welch, ed., Chaismus in Antiquity. Provo, UT: Research Press Reprint edition, 1998. 353 pp., paperback. ISBN: 0-934893-33-0. $24.95.

John W. Welch and Daniel B. McKinley, eds., Chiasmus Bibliography. Provo, UT: Research Press, 1999. vii+193 pp., paperback. ISBN: 0-934893-34-9. $19.95.

In our search for tools which analyze the structure of Old and New Testament texts, Chaismus in Antiquity has proved a watershed. When it was first released in 1981, it became the "place to begin" for investigation of biblical chiasms. It was particularly to the back of the volume ("Index—Hebrew Canon," pp. 297-338; "New Testament," pp. 341-52) that we eagerly turned looking for a potential book, article, commentary on the chiastic structure of our passage. Welch was the only tool with an indexed compilation of the literature on Old and New Testament chiasms.

Now we have the marvelous supplement (Chiasmus Bibliography) to the 1981 volume which updates the index bibliography to 1999. What a treasure house of information! The companion volume is indexed alphabetically by author with a brief outline of the chiastic pattern in a given Old or New Testament passage. Complete bibliographical information is provided should the reader wish to pursue the entire article and complete explanation. But that is not all. The companion volume also contains a complete Scripture index of all articles on chiastic patterns, cross-referenced to the author index at the front of


the book. In other words, the Chiasmus Bibliography is a "one-stop" reference for chiastic patterns in the Bible.

The original volume by Welch reminded us that chiasm was not unique to the Bible. It was, in fact, a common literary device in the Ancient Near Eastern milieu. The ancient Sumerians, Akkadians, inhabitants of Ugarit, Greeks and Romans used chiastic devices in hymns, poems, narrative—both sacred and secular texts. We are not surprised therefore when we discover the device in inspired Hebrew and Christian literature. Also known as a palistrophe or reverse parallelism/concentrism, the term "chiasm" is taken from the criss-cross pattern similar to the Greek letter chi (X). Here are two examples.

Chiasms - Song of Solomon 6:3 and Mark 2:27

The Old Testament example underscores the reciprocity between the female and male lover of the Song (certainly one of the lovely features of the book). The New Testament example reinforces the emphatic position of the Sabbath in man's history (even as the Sabbath's Lord hallows the day). Chiastic patterns in Scripture therefore contain theological insights. And the careful student of the Word of God is alert to the richer dimension of revelation provided via chiastic structure.

Both of these volumes contain chapters on the "omnipresent chiasm." Our enthusiasm may carry us into "chiasms" where there are, in fact, no chiasms. Welch provides a chapter ("Criteria for Identifying and Evaluating the Pres-


ence of Chiasmus" in Chiasmus Bibliography, pp. 157-74) in which he attempts to bring some rigor to the discussion. By means of fifteen criteria, he analyzes the factors making up a true chiasm as distinct from a contrived or artificially imposed thematic chiasm.

Together, these volumes are a wonderful entrance into (and index to) chiasm in the Bible. They belong on the shelf of every serious pastor and student. (NB: both volumes also include chiastic analysis of the Book of Mormon.)


Ernst R. Wendland, ed., Discourse Perspectives on Hebrew Poetry in the Scripture. New York: United Bible Societies, 1994. x +198 pp. ISBN: 0-8267-0457-3. $17.95.

This volume is a collection of essays on discourse analysis of Hebrew poetry in the Old Testament. One of the refreshing features of recent literary and narrative approaches to the Word of God is the studied defense of the unity and coherence of the texts. Whether pericopes, chapters or whole books of the Bible, those exploring the linguistic artistry of the divinely inspired writers have renewed our well-founded allegiance to the integrity of Scripture. Increasingly passé are critical approaches which divide, fragment and patch together the words of the Bible. This volume is a superb case-in-point. Wendland's opening essay ("The Discourse Analysis of Hebrew Poetry: A Procedural Outline") is a survey of the discussion. Since exegesis is the analysis of the text, treating the text as "discourse" involves examination of the form (or genre), the semantics (or words) and the rhetoric (or the emotional appeal). While noting that several of Wendland's principles retain "critical" foundations, nonetheless his application of the method to Psalm 30 ("Continuity and Discontinuity in Hebrew Poetic Design: Patterns and Points of Significance in the Structure and Setting of Psalm 30") presents a fresh structural and discourse analysis of "exalting the Lord." The third article by Loren Bliese ("Symmetry and Prominence in Hebrew Poetry: With Examples from Hosea") is a very suggestive investigation of chiastic patterns in the prophet Hosea. "Hebrew Poetry and the Text of the Song of Songs" by Robert Bascom is a defense


of the Masoretic Text of the Song of Songs from a discourse analysis point of view. Bascom finds very little grounds for the frequent emendations to the Hebrew text suggested by critics and commentators. Graham Ogden reflects on the interrelation of poetry and prose in Judges 4 and 5 ("Poetry, Prose, and Their Relationship: Some Reflections Based on Judges 4 and 5"). David Clark weighs in on Isaiah 5:1-7 ("The Story of the Vineyard: Love Lyric or Comic Ode? A Study of the Oral and Discourse Features of Isaiah 5:1-7"). "Anatomy of a Poem: Lamentations 1" (William Reyburn) contains a careful reading and structural analysis of the initial reflection on Jerusalem's destruction (586 B.C.). (This reviewer would only note that the chapter is chiastic as well as strophic, i.e., parallel verses.) The final chapter is an intriguing reading of Moses' Song of the Sea (Ex. 15:1-18) by Noel Osborn.

This is a helpful collection which allows the text of the Old Testament to speak for itself. Pastors and students will find it very stimulating.


Richard N. Soulen and R. Kendall Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001. xiii+234 pp., paperback. ISBN: 0-664-22314-1. $19.95

This is the "third edition, revised and expanded" of a volume first published in 1976. The writer at that time, Richard N. Soulen, has been joined in this version by R. Kendall Soulen. The current addition is a vade mecum of succinct articles on terms, personalities, movements, even tools in the area of biblical criticism. The entries are listed in alphabetical order with numerous cross-references for ease of use. Many of the entries contain bibliographical citations for further or more detailed study. In the space of 210 pages, we have articles from "Acrostic" to "Zweiquellentheorie", from Aland (Kurt) to Zimmerli (Walter), from Biblical Theology to Social-Scientific Criticism. More than 700 entries (by my count, 512 articles, 201 cross-references) provide useful orientations to Old and New Testament criticism. For the novice, this is an excellent one-volume entrée to the discussions. For the advanced student,


this is a useful refresher. Even for the expert, there are surveys of topics related to, but outside his or her specific field of investigation. Included in this edition is a discussion of pre- and postcritical biblical interpretation, thus bringing the reader up-to-date with postmodernism, feminist approaches, etc. All the bewildering German technical terms are found here and clearly defined: Formgeschichte, Redaktionsgeschichte, Religionsgeschichtliche Schule, Vorlage, Festschrift, and many more. And the explanations are accurate, helpful, easy to assimilate. I have had the first edition at hand for many years and find myself taking it down frequently. This expanded edition is even more useful. No student or pastor will regret the purchase. Every student and pastor will be better informed with the Soulens close by.


David Alan Black and David R. Beck, eds., Rethinking the Synoptic Problem. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2001. 160 pp., paperback. ISBN: 0-8010-2281-9. $16.99.

L, M, Q (Q1, Q2, Q3): these are not alphanumerics in a new board game. They are the stock and trade of the scholarly sleuths in search of a solution to the elusive synoptic problem. The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) are so-called because they contain similar or parallel material which may be "viewed together" (syn opsis, in Greek) as is demonstrated in the standard Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum (Kurt Aland) ( English edition: Synopsis of the Four Gospels).

For nearly two hundred years, New Testament scholars have attempted to explain the similarities in stories, order of events and vocabulary in the synoptic gospels. Noting that much of Mark's gospel is paralleled in Matthew and Luke, the majority of scholars have argued that Mark's work was written first and Matthew and Luke used him as their primary source. This is the so-called Markan priority position of Heinrich J. Holtzmann of Strassbourg (1863) and (especially) B. F. Streeter of Oxford University (1924). Streeter also noted that Matthew and Luke include material not in Mark; he therefore posited a


hypothetical document called Q (for Quelle [German] meaning "source") to account for the unique material. But Streeter also acknowledged that there was material in Matthew not found in Mark, Luke or Q. He further posited a document M to account for this material. And he acknowledged that there was material in Luke not found in Matthew, Mark or Q. This material he labeled document L. If all this seems to our readers to be an alphabet soup morass, you are getting the picture.

Another group of scholars, led by William R. Farmer, have rejected Markan priority (now being called the Oxford Hypothesis because of Canon Streeter) and "mythical Q" for a proposal advanced in the 18th century by J. J. Griesbach. The Griesbach Hypothesis for the formation of the synoptic gospels asserts the priority of Matthew. That is, Matthew writes his gospel first; Luke uses Matthew; and Mark uses both Matthew and Luke. No hypothetical L, M, Q documents are necessary on the basis of Matthean priority.

While this whole discussion may seem equivalent to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, it is very serious business, as the volume under review makes clear. Assembled within the pages of Rethinking the Synoptic Problem are four essays by advocates of : (1) the quest for the synoptic solution (Craig Blomberg); (2) the elusive Q document (Darrell Bock); (3) the priority of Mark (Scot McKnight); (4) the priority of Matthew (William Farmer). The whole is admirably introduced (David Black and David Beck) and concludes with an epilogue "Response" from Grant Osborne (subject and Scripture indexes are appended). The essays are the result of a Symposium at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina from April 6-7, 2000.

The volume is a handy summary of the "state-of-the-art" in synoptic studies. Each essay is a helpful summary of the current state of the discussion by an advocate of that point of view. We learn how, in 1964, Farmer upset the "assured results" of New Testament criticism (i.e., Markan priority) with his now famous challenge. So much for critical fundamentalism! We learn that the Jesus of Q is a Cynic philosopher (Jesus Seminar), a Jewish sage/wiseman (John Kloppenberg), a Jewish prophet (Dale Allison) or a royal Messiah (E. P. Meadors). One begins to seriously suspect vaporware with such newly "assured results" from a nonexistent document (NB: in fact no piece of Q exists


anywhere—it has been manufactured to support a critical presupposition!). And we learn that the post-Enlightenment pursuit of the synoptic problem is closely associated with Christianity as a "civil religion." That is, synoptic criticism is a "religion" (especially in Germany) driven by an Enlightenment agenda (see pp. 132-34 of the present volume).

While this book (and the Symposium) is useful in what it does present, what is omitted is troubling. Black and Beck admit that the only members admitted to this "symposium club" were "representatives of . . . the leading alternative positions being proffered today" (p. 15). The "lepers", those left "outside the gate" at this gathering, are the defenders of yet another view of the origin of the synoptic gospels. These are the scholars who defend the "independent" view of the synoptics (indeed, all four gospels). They argue that each gospel was inspired by the Holy Spirit as a complete unit, independent of the others. Matthew wrote his without consulting Mark, Luke or John; Mark wrote his without consulting Matthew, Luke or John; and so forth. The leading defenders of this view are Eta Linnemann (former student of Rudolf Bultmann, wonderfully converted to evangelical Christianity and author of the book Is There a Synoptic Problem?) and Robert Thomas and L. David Farnell.

The message which this book sends (with only slight qualification) is that only the favored few are welcome to the discussion. Sad! Especially since the authors of these essays (with the exception of Farmer) are well known evangelicals. Has intolerance trickled down into scholarly evangelical circles? And will that mean another pin-prick to the "assured results" of New Testament (evangelical) criticism in the future (1964 encore?!)? Stay tuned.


Geerhardus Vos. The Eschatology of the Old Testament. Ed., James T. Dennison, Jr. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2001. ix+176 pp., paperback. ISBN: 0-87552-181-9. $11.95.

Through the labors of James T. Dennison, Jr., previously unpublished manuscripts and notes of Geerhardus Vos on the subject of Old Testament


Eschatology have been collected and edited in a single volume. In the "Editor's Preface," Mr. Dennison states that among the papers of Vos were five different manuscripts and lecture notes dealing with the topic of Old Testament eschatology. Taking these sources and weaving them together, Mr. Dennison has constructed "the most complete text possible of Vos's materials on Old Testament eschatology" (vii).

The book opens in parallel fashion to Vos's The Pauline Eschatology, his landmark 1930 study of the Apostle Paul's New Testament eschatology. In The Pauline Eschatology, the opening words put forth the following definition of eschatology.

Eschatology is "the doctrine of last things." It deals with the teaching or belief, that the world-movement, religiously considered, tends towards a definite final goal, beyond which a new order of affairs will be established, frequently with the further implication, that this new order of affairs will not be subject to any further change, but will partake of the static character of the eternal (p. 1).

In The Eschatology of the Old Testament, the opening sentences once more provide a definition of eschatology.

Etymologically, the term eschatology (eschatos logos) means "a doctrine of the last things." Eschatology deals with the expectation of beliefs characteristic of some religions that: (a) the world or part of the world moves to a definite goal (telos); (b) there is a new final order of affairs beyond the present. It is the doctrine of the consummation of the world-process in a supreme crisis leading on into a permanent state. As such, it is composed of two characteristic elements: (1) the limited duration of the present order of things; (2) the eternal character of the subsequent state (p. 1).

A comparison of these two definitions not only serves to illustrate the stylistic flavor of The Eschatology of the Old Testament, but also reveals part of the value of the new work. What were previously two sentences in The Pauline Eschatology—packed with information but awkwardly punctuated—


has been expanded and yet placed before the reader in a very uncomplicated manner in The Eschatology of the Old Testament. Throughout the book, this type of stylistic clarity is evident. Whether this is due to Mr. Dennison's editing touch or to the nature of materials that were compiled, the reviewer does not know. Regardless, it seems certain that this stylistic change may help many that in the past have despaired of understanding Vos.

Immediately after the definition of eschatology, a second important point is made in the opening chapter entitled, "Introduction." We are told that "the correlate of eschatology is creation" and that "a God who cannot create cannot consummate things because he is conditioned by something outside himself that will not lend itself to him for the execution of a set purpose and for the plastic handling of what is antecedently given to him toward that end" (p. 1). This is a very important statement for there are those who erroneously argue that Reformed Biblical Theology has no interest in creation. That misunderstanding is laid to rest here. Vos argues that eschatology presupposes that God is the Creator. To deny that God created is to sever the beginning from the end. "The correlate of eschatology," writes Vos, "is creation" (p. 1).

In drawing the connection between eschatology and creation, Vos emphasizes that the Bible teaches that God created with a particular goal in mind. That goal is for man to be clothed with the supernatural so that he might enjoy full communion with God forever in an environment beyond the probation. Concerning the probation itself, Vos argues that it "had a very solid piece of eschatology in it because under the symbol of the tree of life it held out the prospect of a higher (i.e., the ultimate) life, which forms the goal of all eschatological revelation" (p. 37).

Vos is not downplaying creation, then, when he writes that "eschatology aims at consummation rather than restoration" or that "eschatology does not aim at the original state, but at a transcendent state of man" (p. 74). What he is doing is pointing out to his reader that creation has a goal beyond itself. Its hope is fixed upon the eternal even before the fall. The uncorrupted world stretches itself out toward some goal of consummation (p. 6), so it should be no surprise to us that the fallen world also longs for the same. This is how Vos understands the eschatological groaning of which Paul speaks in Romans 8:23: "The eschatological groaning . . . besides being a cry of pain on account


of the misery of sin, has in it the undertone of an ineradicable desire for the complete, absolute possession of and satisfaction with God, such as within the present world is impossible. Hence the apostle adds: we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we also still groan within ourselves, stretching out praying hands of hope and faith toward the end" (p. 7). This is what informs Vos's contention, then, that "every act of salvation must be medical and supernaturalizing whereby man is not made merely normal, but is prepared for the supernatural" (p. 74).

Eschatology—this hope of communion with God on a higher plane—is the essence of true religion (p. 75). The goal is in place prior to the intrusion of sin. The tree of life held out to man eternal life with God in prospect, but this prospect is conditioned by obedience (p. 75). As Vos states it, "there is a whole chapter of eschatology written before sin . . . an absolute end is posited for the universe before and apart from sin" (p. 72). What has happened with the first man's fall into sin is not the removal of the goal. Rather, the disobedience and sin of the first Adam forfeit the attaining of the goal. The goal itself, however, has not been annulled because of sin. Vos writes, "The original goal remains regulative for the redemptive development of eschatology by aiming to rectify the results of sin (remedial) and uphold, in connection with this, the realization of the original goal as that which transcends the state of rectitude (i.e., rising beyond the possibility of death in life eternal)" (p. 74). Despite the fall, the goal set before man from the beginning remains, and it is realized through the person and work of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.

Another key theme that runs through the book is the proper interpretation of the Old Testament forms. In approaching this issue, Vos asks the question, "Is Israel to be looked upon as a form or a substance" (p. 119)? Vos will argue that the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments teaches us that the value of the forms rested in the spiritual essence to which the forms pointed. Vos applies the term, "spiritualizing" to the process of determining the essence of the form. Vos argues that the New Testament believer finds the warrant for such spiritualization in the example of the Lord and his apostles (p. 36). In the New Testament, the form is cast aside and the substance is brought to light (p. 119). According to Vos, this New Testament spiritualizing is a continuation of what


is found in the Old Testament itself, as the prophets themselves viewed the external forms of the Old Testament through a spiritual lens (p. 36).

For example, Jeremiah and Isaiah recognize that the lessons first taught in the old administration through the earthly forms will no longer be needed in the eschatological period. Jeremiah recognizes this to be true concerning the ark of Jehovah when he comments in 3:16:

"…then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days," says the Lord, "that they will say no more, 'The ark of the covenant of the Lord.' It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore."

There is no need in the coming day for the ark or even mention of it because it will have been spiritually fulfilled. Isaiah points to the temporal nature of the Old Testament forms by implying the impossibility of their fulfillment (pp. 119-20). According to Vos, this is how Isaiah can make statements that are physical and logical impossibilities ("all nations will rest and worship on the Sabbath at Jerusalem").

In light of the prophets's own spiritualizing and transportation of Old Testament forms into a higher spiritual key, Vos argues that nobody has a right to say that the Christian church has falsified the Old Testament by spiritualizing it (p. 36). What occurs in the New Testament is simply the continuation of the process begun in the Old Testament itself.

This is not to say, however, that this was always clear to the Old Testament people of God and the prophets. Vos writes, "To the people, and in part to the prophets, the symbolical nature was not always perspicuous" (p. 120). Often, the Old Testament prophets and people of God were inclined to take the form and substance as a whole and would project them together into the future (p. 118). Still, according to Vos, "the prophetic understanding of the eschatological revelation was not the measure of its revelation-import to the mind of God, far less the understanding of the people." The standard is the mind of God, and to the mind of God, all earthly apparatus employed is purely symbolical (p. 120). "The revelation of God," Vos states, "is to be measured as to its


content by the intent of God, i.e., his words must mean what he would have them to mean" (p. 119).

For those familiar with the writings of Vos, this is a book that will reinforce and supplement what has previously appeared from his pen concerning the Old Testament. In particular, with the appearance of The Eschatology of the Old Testament, there is the enhanced opportunity to interact with The Pauline Eschatology and the volume that includes the majority of Vos's previous treatment on the Old Testament, Biblical Theology. Such interaction, the reviewer believes, will demonstrate that The Eschatology of the Old Testament is an elaboration of Vos's seminal statement in The Pauline Eschatology: that the eschatological principle is so deeply embedded in the structure of the biblical religion as to precede and underlie everything else (The Pauline Eschatology, p. 66). The Reformed theological world owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Dennison for making such interaction possible.

Danny Olinger

Worthington, Ohio

Software Review

BibleWorks 5.0. Hermeneutika, Dept. BRO-2001, POB 2200, Bigfork, MT 59911-2200. 2 CD ROMs $299.95 plus shipping. Contact:; or order online

This is the current version of arguably the premier digital Bible on the market. For years, scholars have touted the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament packaged in BibleWorks by Hermeneutika. Not only is the famous morphologically tagged Westminster Hebrew text available, it stands beside the UBS 4th Edition/ Nestle-Aland 27th Edition of the Greek text (for the LXX, BibleWorks loads the Rahlf's version). Though computerized versions of the original languages of Scripture are the ultimate motivation for the scholar,


pastor, student, the digitalized Hebrew and Greek are only the beginning of the treasures in this program. English versions abound (KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV—23 in all), but French, Spanish, German, Latin—even a Vietnamese—editions are present.

More than the text of the Bible are works on the Bible. Our compilers have included the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia/ISBE (1915 ed. with articles by B. B. Warfield and Geerhardus Vos), Nave's Topical Index, A. T. Robertson's New Testament Word Pictures and much more. And there are lexicons! Hebrew—Brown-Driver-Briggs (unabridged); Koehler-Baumgartner (coming hopefully later this year); Greek—Thayer (unabridged); Liddell and Scott (abridged); Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker (3rd ed., add on price of $85); Louw and Nida (semantic domains) and Friberg (analytical). None of the versions, lexicons or reference tools is "locked", i.e., requires additional fees or passwords for use. The entire program (90 Bible versions in 28 languages; 9 versions of original Greek or Hebrew texts; 7 morphological databases; 5 Greek and 3 Hebrew lexicons; 8 reference tools) is priced at $299.95 (upgrades from previous versions are $150). Meanwhile, the publisher is seeking permission to include "little Kittel" (the abridged Theological Dictionary of the New Testament), Holladay (Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon), Balz (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) as well as introductory Greek and Hebrew grammars.

There are "three levels of use" in this new edition: beginner, standard, power user. Use of the program in beginner mode is intuitive and straightforward. The advanced features will require some time (and study). The program comes with nearly four hours of videos (loaded on your computer during installation) which provide step-by-step details for building complex searches. In addition to the videos, the 387-page manual is thorough, superbly illustrated and well indexed.

BibleWorks 5.0 requires an IBM compatible PC running Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP. 32 MB of RAM and a minimum of 200 MB of hard drive space are necessary. A CD drive will be needed to load the program and a sound card is essential for the videos. (NB: Loading the two CDs on my computer took less than 10 minutes!) Users may register their copy via the Internet and receive information on future updates as well as pertinent tips and news releases.


There are other digital Bibles and scholars packages on the market. Bible Works 5.0 does not have as many peripheral texts (for which extra dollars must be ponied up to "unlock" restricted features), but it has all the texts the Old and New Testament scholar/user needs, plus the essential tools for penetrating those texts. This is a superb product at a reasonable price with prospects for continued expansion. That all translates to a bargain! Every church budget ought to include $299.95 for this powerful tool. Their pastors will rise up and call them "blessed"!