Saturday, June 26, 2010

Literal Hermeneutics

1 Corinthians 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

4 καὶ πάντες τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν ἔπιον πόμα· ἔπινον γὰρ ἐκ πνευματικῆς ἀκολουθούσης πέτρας, ἡ πέτρα δὲ ἦν ὁ Χριστός.

Much is said in my circles about reading the Bible and particularly the Old Testament literally.  I'm all for that.  After all, if we allegorize too much then we risk putting words into the mouths of the Old Testament authors.  We need to go to the plain sense of Scripture whenever possible.

However, Paul presents a difficulty for us here.  It would seem that perhaps the Covenantal Theologians are on to something.  Perhaps the Old Testament is all about Jesus after all.  When you read the Exodus account, do you see the rock that gave them water as a type of Christ?  Would you unless you read this passage?  I probably wouldn't either.  But Paul does, doesn't he?

This tells me that there is something to finding Christ all over the Old Testament.  However, we must be cautious with this too.  Paul wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  The text is illuminated to us by the Holy Spirit, but I'm not sure that we can take hermeneutical leaps like this.  What do you think?


ChrisEisbrenner said...

Brother Jason, I appreciate your struggle with biblical interpretation. It is a life long struggle for all of us - struggle in the sense of determination to read, understand, and teach it correctly.

I never had too much of a problem with this passage. Paul, in context, is simply talking about running the race of faith beating ourselves into submission so we are not disqualified. Then he gives an example of a people of God (Israel at the time of Moses) who were not running the race effectively and were disqualified. Even though, he says, they had the cloud, the fire, miracles (the Red Sea), Moses' leadership, spiritual food

(manna from heaven), spiritual drink (God produced water in the wilderness), and the spiritual rock (a rock that God made spiritual be bringing water miraculously out of it).

All this scripture says in its plainest sense is that Christ was the one with them, even though he (God the Son) had not yet been fully revealed to them. Christ is the one who provided the spiritual food and drink. He was the one who was their rock. That should not be a surprise to us New Testament believers. We know Christ is the rock (firm foundation) and our spiritual food and drink (nourishment). He was to Israel too in the

OT, even though they could not have fully grasped that.

This passage is warning NT believers to trust God and run the race diligently, unlike OT Israel whose non-belief and blindness to the things of God had disqualified them (that generation, since only Joshua and Caleb made it into the land and all the rest died).

Paul uses typology here, and their is a difference between allegory and typology. Allegory would say something like - Moses did not really strike the rock and the rock wasn't an actual rock - but Moses really means "believers" and striking really means "sinning", and the rock really means "Christ" - so Exodus 17 should be interpreted as "believers shouldn't sin against Christ" - or something. That's a pretty silly example, but my point is that allegory often makes a passage not mean what it says - it means something completely different if we properly spiritualize it. Which of course can lead to people making scripture say whatever they want.

Whereas a good literalist will say that it was really Moses and really a rock, and he really struck it. Then someone like Paul can come along later under the influence of the Holy Spirit, knowing much more than the Israelites knew in the time of Moses, and say that the rock was a type of Christ that followed them in the wilderness. Does that mean Christ was a literal rock that was hopping around following them? Well of course not. But since we now know that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God, and we see the big picture of what Jesus said (I am the Bread of Life, I am the Living Waters and those who drink from me will never thirst again, etc), then Paul can say that Christ was the one that Gave them the food and water from heaven, and he was the one that was with them in the wilderness. He was their rock even in the midst of their unbelief.

My 2 cents. I enjoy your posts, bro.

Jason said...


Thanks for stopping by and reading. I'm just saying that there is probably more typology than you may think. I agree that there is a difference, though perhaps it is a very fine one.

I'm just glad for a little interaction here.