Covenant Creation Introduction and Refutation

If you have not done so, I would recommend that you go back, and reread this post in order to get the background to this discussion. If you do not have a basic understanding of hyperpreterism, this post will make absolutely no sense to you.

I need to first of all mention that this post is not intended to solve the issue of young earth verses old earth, nor is it intended to solve the issue of local flood verses global flood. There are very good books discussing these issues, and I will not expound upon what they have said.

However, I will be dealing with a particular form of old earth-local flood creationism called “Covenant Creation.” If you remember correctly, hyperpreterism has some interesting hermeneutical methodologies. I mentioned that their basic fallacy is “parallelomania.” Of course, when you do that to the passages referring to the end of the world to say that Christ returned in A.D. 70, it is only a matter of time before you will turn around, and do the same thing to the book of Genesis, and apply that same hermeneutic to origins. Some of them, in an effort to be “consistent” have, indeed, done this very thing.

It is this view with which this article is concerned. Most particularly I have decided to address this article because of the inherent low level of dialogue on this issue. In fact, I will not only be interacting with proponents of Covenant Creation, but I will also be interacting with one of their critics, and man by the name of Samuel Frost. The reason is, although Frost’s main area is Old Testament, his response betrayed a lot of things that were either partially true, or simply untrue. Hence, although it is true that people have dealt with this in the past, I have not been satisfied with the level of discussion on this topic.

I should mention, however, that Roderick Edwards, who sometimes comments on this blog, has written a response to Covenant Creation which has kindly sent to me. Also he has posted it online. It is a very sober response, and has been very helpful to me in formulating this entire presentation. However, much of the other stuff I have found in response to this movement has just been really, really bad.

A little bit of history is in order here. First of all, this movement does come out of the hyperpreterist movement. It started with a hyperpreterist by the name of Tim Martin writing a book called Beyond Creation Science. In the third edition of the book, he was joined by a man named Jeff Vaughn, who has a Phd from the University of California, and is now a research mathematician in the southern California area. Now, Covenant Creation has the support of such preminent people within hyperpreterism such as Don Preston, Virgil Vaduva. Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn run the website Beyondcreationscience.com.

However, it has also gotten some backlash from others in the hyperpreterist movement such as Samuel Frost, Michael Bennett, and the folks over at Sovereign Grace Preterism. They have strongly resisted this development within hyperpreterism. However, there recently was an entire conference on Covenant Creation, and, for some reason, Tim Martin was even hired to teach at an orthodox Bible college. Hence, because hyperpreterism is vocal already, and because of the fact that Covenant Creation is picking up steam, it is something that needs to be addressed.

I will be taking my basic material from Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn’s Introduction to Covenant Creation, and Samuel Frost’s response found here. I will also be adding some other arguments I have heard in dialogue with Jeff Vaughn, and in radio interviews that Tim Martin has done.

I think, first of all, an outline of this belief is in order. First of all, the first fundamental and basic understanding of this belief system is that Genesis chapters 1-11 are apocalyptic. Often times they will quote the book Biblical Apocalyptics by Milton Terry who took this very position. However, they put a hyperpreterist twist on this whole notion, and hence, hyperpreterism is also the foundation of this belief system. You see, because of the fact that they believe that the passages that we would use to refer to the second coming of Christ actually refer to the end of the old covenant, they say that we need to understand creation as referring to the creation of the old covenant. Hence, Genesis 1 is not talking about the creation of literal land and sky and stars, but of the creation of the covenant people. In other words, Adam and Eve were not the first humans, but were only the first people with whom God entered a covenant. The stars and the sun refer to nations, and the heavens and the earth refer to people.

Now, there are a whole lot of things that are not mentioned. First of all, Martin and Vaughn will often times point out the fact that there were church fathers who did not take the first few chapters of Genesis literally. Indeed, this is true. However, there is a major difference. First of all, the early church fathers did not take this passages literally because of a specific view of language. The early church fathers were very platonic in their view of language, and believed that there was the actal meaning of the text, but also believed in a much deeper, more important, non-literal meaning behind the text. This is where you get these odd Roman Catholic interpretations of certain passages such as Ezekiel 44:2 that Roman Catholics use to argue for the perpetual virginity [arguing that Mary is the gate which no one enters but the Lord], or the idea that Mary is the ark of the new covenant. All of these interpretations of scripture are based upon this platonic idea of a “deeper meaning” within the text, and that is the reason why many of the early church fathers did not take the first few chapters of Genesis literally. Hence, it had nothing to do with apocalyptics, and had to do with a philosophy of language which no one but Roman Catholic apologists accept any more.

Hence, with that in mind, let us look at where the idea that Genesis 1-11 is apocalyptic is coming from, namely, from Milton Terry’s book Biblical Apocalyptics:

Criticism has very thoroughly established the composite char­acter of the Book of Genesis. And even the ordinary reader can hardly fail to observe that ancient poems, genealogical tables, primeval traditions, and various religious ideas have been appro­priated by the writer and incorporated in one continuous narrative. This composite character of the book is not to be considered a dis­paragement of its value. In fact, the real value of such an ancient production maybe in several ways enhanced by reason of its use of the testimony of various witnesses. Scientific criticism may legit­imately busy itself with minute study of the constituent documents, and determine if possible their probable origin and date.[1] It may discover in the original sources matters of great archaeological importance quite independent of the purpose for which the com­piler of Genesis put the book in its present form. How far he appropriated poems or genealogies without abridgment or change, and to what extent subsequent editorial revision may have modified the composition as a whole, are open questions which may never be finally settled. Our present contention is that the religious value of the Book of Genesis, as an inspired scripture, is independent of all such questions of scientific research. Whatever the authorship and purpose of its original constituent elements, the book as it now lies before us exhibits a well-defined plan and purpose. It opens with a sublime sevenfold picture of creation by the word of God (chaps. 1:1-2:3), and thence proceeds with a more or less detailed series of “generations,” descriptive of the beginnings of nations and of “the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Now, who is Milton Terry citing in that one footnote but Julius Wellhausen. Yes, Milton Terry says that Wellhausen had firmly established the “composite nature” of the book of Genesis. Terry also goes on to discuss Darwin as well. Now, Martin and Vaughn simply say that Terry says that he is holding a position that other early church fathers held, but, again, he was simply wrong about that. The philosophy of language that would take Genesis as apocalyptic is not the same philosophy of language that the early church fathers used when they they took a non-literal interpretation of Genesis. In fact, due to their hyperpreterism, Martin and Vaughn are even taking Terry’s idea well beyond what he did [a fact which Tim Martin admitted in a radio interview with Gary DeMar].

You see, Milton Terry is writing at a period in time in which the Old Testament is being handed over to the liberals, and evolutionary views of everything are the rage. Following many of the ideas of Hegelian Idealism, everything from origins to the very text of the pentatuch was subject to this evolutionary theory. Terry thought he had found a way to hold these “scholarly” theories, and yet still be able to hold to inerrancy by saying that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are apocalyptic. However, he created an interpretive methodology unheard of before that century, and had to misunderstand the church fathers in order to try to defend himself against this charge.

It is also worth mentioning Martin and Vaughn are in the vast minority in their belief that Genesis 1-11 are apocalyptic. All critical commentators recognize this is historical writing. Now, this does not prove that they are wrong, but it does show that almost all of the competent scholars in the field reject the idea that Genesis 1-11 is apocalyptic, and hence, Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn should be held to the highest scholarly acumen in their argumentation.

I should also mention that Jeff Vaughn does not believe in Mosaic authorship of the book of Genesis. He presents his position as follows in a dialogue I had with Jeff Vaughn long before I even knew that much about hyperpreterism:

Wiseman documented the features of Genesis that demonstrate Genesis 1:1-11:27 was originally written by several authors in Sumerian pictographs on a clay tablet. Genesis 11:28-37:2 have precisely the form of text originally written in Akkadian cuneiform. This form started when the Genesis account left Sumer and moved to Akkadian Haran and on to Canaan that was nominally Akkadian and ended when the account moved into Egypt. People have notice those stylistic changes since the 4th century.

What does this mean? It means that Noah’s sons wrote the flood account and are credited for it in Gen. 10:1. In the presumed Sumerian original, that is precisely what Gen. 10:1 says. That is, the flood account was written down by Noah’s sons sometime before Babel.

Hence, he believes that the phrase “account of the sons of Noah” in Genesis 10:1 is a genitive of authorship, and hence, he believes that the account was written by the sons of Noah. He can do this with Genesis 2:4 by taking the phrase “heavens and earth” to refer to humans. I will get to a refutation of that perspective in a moment, but it is important to note that the toledot pattern of Genesis is not just related to what will come after it, but also what came before it in the text. For example, in Genesis 2:4, the “heavens and the earth” are clearly related to chapter 1, and yet, also are related to 2:5. Also, the toledot pattern in Genesis 25, you clearly have the toledot patterns pointing ahead to Ishmael and Isaac, but you also have the toledot patterns pointing back to the story of Abraham, and all that happened between Ishmael, Hagar, Isaac, and Sarah. Hence, the idea that these come from Sumerian pictographic tablets simply because there is a title to each one doesn’t explain this relationship of the toledot pattern as pointing to what has come before in the narrative as well has what has come after.

Now, I do need to point out that there is every reason to believe that Moses is using older sources. For example, Moses says he is using a book in Genesis 5:1, and this is the normal Hebrew term for a book or scroll, rp,se. However, to remove Moses from the picture altogether, and make it simply a composite document of nothing but old Sumerian tablets ignores the literary connections between the sections, and ignores the normal usage of the toledot pattern in the book of Genesis itself.
Now, as to the question of the nature of the literature of Genesis 1-11, this is one area where I can’t believe how low the level of discussion is. First of all, to discuss Genesis 1-11 in terms of prose vs. apocalyptic is misleading. For example, there are prosaic passages that are clearly apocalyptic. For example, Daniel 7 is clearly apocalyptic, but it is prosaic in character. Also, in Daniel chapter 2, you clearly have an apocalyptic dream, and yet, it is in the context of prose narrative. Now, Samuel Frost is certainly correct to point out that you can have a text where some of it is poetic and some if it is prosaic.

However, he is extremely reductionistic in then trying to argue that Genesis 1-11 is not poetic. Poetry vs. prose is a different question from apocalyptic verses non-apocalyptic texts. There are apocalyptic texts that are prosaic, and poetic texts that are not apocalyptic. In fact, to speak of “poetic” and “prosaic” as well as “apocalyptic” and “non-apocalyptic” is somewhat reductionistic. It might be better to speak of a text being more poetic or more apocalyptic than another text. For example, you can have apocalypicisms in a text that is not apocalyptic. Take, for example, Psalm 18. Psalm 18 is a Psalm about God delivering David from his enemies. Yet, the middle section of the Psalm is clearly apocalyptic in character. However, in this case, we would say it is using apocalyptic language, not that Psalm 18 is, itself, apocalyptic. The prevalance of this kind of language is certainly one indicator of how apocalyptic a text is, but it is not the only thing. The same thing is true about poetry. There are some texts that are difficult to classify due to the fact that it is difficult to tell whether a text is poetic or prosaic. Hence, you can have:

An apocalyptic text in prose.

An apocalyptic text in poetry.

A non-apocalypic text in poetry

A non-apocalyptic text in prose

A text with apocalyptic language in poetry.

A text with apocalyptic language in prose.

A non-apocalyptic text with apocalyptic language

An apocalyptic text with apocalyptic language. [But, of course, you cannot have an apocalyptic text without apocalyptic language]

All of these distinctions need to be made. Because of this, I believe that Samuel Frost is entirely reductionistic in just cramming all of these categories together, and not making the distinctions necessary to properly assess the situation.

As a side note, I should also mention that it is entirely reductionistic to say that wayyiqtols [waw+imperfect verb] are only found in prose. For example, Psalm 18 very clearly has wayyiqtols, and yet, it is poetic. Also, Psalm 106 is both entirely poetic, and also contains many wayyiqtols. In fact, it is a well known fact that you will tend to get wayyiqtols in poetic sections where past events are being described, such as Psalm 106.

Hence, I would say that Sam Frosts grammatical attempts to show that this is not apocalyptic are all wrong, as you cannot decide the issue by determining whether the text is poetic or prosaic, or even whether there are wayyiqtols. Not only that, to just make these dichotomies as if one can look at the text, apply certain rules, and know whether it is poetic/prosaic or apocalyptic/non-apocalyptic is entirely reductionistic.

However, his literary arguments are much better. He is correct that many apocolyptic texts are given in visions or dreams. I never heard any discussion of that from Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn. However, if we are going to identify Genesis 1-11 as apocalyptic, we should expect to see something of that in this text. The fact that we do not is a strong argument that Genesis 1-11 is not apocalyptic.

Now, we need to deal with the interpretive arguments that Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn bring up in defense of their position. The first an most critical is the concept of “the heavens and the earth.” You see, hyperpreterists [and some orthodox preterists] say that this phrase can refer to covenants. I disagree. In fact, the phrase “the heavens and the earth” is a merismus for the entire cosmos. This has been recognized by Hebrew scholars for a long time. For example Christopher J. H. Wright writes the following in the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis with regards to the meaning of #r<a,:

Combined with “heaven(s),”  ~yIm;v’, the phrase “heaven and earth” expresses the totality of the created order, as the opening verse of the Bible summarily expresses it (Gen 1:1; cf. 2:4).

Also, David Toshio Tsumura writes the following in the same work discussing the usages of ~yIm;v’:

It should be noted that in Gen 1:1-2 the universe is described bipartitely as “heaven and earth,” since “sea(s)”  [~y”], the third element of the tripartite system, does not appear until 1:10.

Again, this is something that has been known for a long time. However, Martin and Vaughn have several texts they try to bring up to prove that the phrase “heavens and earth” can refer to people. The first is the following:

Isaiah’s prophecies also draw from the early chapters of Genesis:

Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. . . . They will not toil in vain [curse on Adam] or bear children doomed to misfortune [curse on Eve]; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. . . . The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food [curse on serpent] . . . .  (Is. 65:17, 23-25 NIV; emphasis ours, cf. Gen. 3:14-19)  

Notice how Isaiah uses the exact same language as Genesis 1:1. Isaiah says God will “create (bara-same Hebrew verb as Gen. 1:1) new heavens and a new earth.” Preterists recognize Isaiah 65 as background for the “new heaven and new earth” in New Testament prophecy (e.g., 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). But from where did Isaiah get the original concept of “heavens and earth”? The language of Isaiah 65 takes us back to the “beginning” in Genesis 1:1.  

When Preterists highlight the link between Isaiah 65 and the end of the Bible, it is only consistent to accept the prophet’s own link back to the beginning of the Bible. If Futurists are unjustified in their attempt to change the definition of the “heavens and earth” of Isaiah 65 to a physical universe meaning in the New Testament, then Preterists are equally unjustified to force a change in the definition of “heavens and earth” from Isaiah 65 back to Gen. 1:1. The consistent language from Genesis 1:1 to Isaiah 65 to New Testament fulfillment requires a consistent interpretation.

Isaiah did not invent anything new in chapter 65. He worked, by inspiration, from the past story he already knew! The “new heaven and new earth” is the re-creation of God’s people, using symbolic animals and elements of creation, because the original “heavens and earth” is the creation of God’s people, using symbolic animals and elements of creation. Everything at the end of the story originates from the beginning through Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah 65 serves as a great bridge that spans across the pages of Scripture reaching simultaneously backwards into Genesis 1-3 and forward to Revelation 21-22.  

This interpretation of Isaiah 65 is, again, entirely reductionistic. While it is true that Isaiah 65 is talking about the “New heavens and new earth” and this is in the context of the new covenant, it does not establish that the new heavens and new earth refer to the new covenant. Why is this? Prophecies that were given in the Hebrew Bible did not necessarily take place all at once. For example, in Jeremiah 31:31-34, you have the prophecy of the new covenant in the context of the return from exile! Now, are we really supposed to assume that the new covenant was initiated when the Jews returned from exile? Of course not. The prophecy is Isaiah is progressive in its fulfillment, expecially since you have the discussion of those who forsake the Lord being destined for the sword [v.11-12]. As a result they whail with a broken spirit [vrs. 13-14], and will be a curse to God’s elect, and will be slain [v.15]. Now, let me ask you, has all of that happened yet? No, in point of fact, we look around today and some of the most wicked men alive live the most comfortably. It is clearly progressive in its fulfillment, and as the text is meant to contrast the ends of those who love God, with the end of those who hate him. Because of this, I find no reason whatsoever to say that all of this prophecy has been fulfilled. It is only an extremely simplistic, and over reductionistic reading of prophetic texts that would ever make anyone just think that everything in the prophecy must take place all at once. Whether it does or not must be argued, and not assumed. They also mention Romans 8 [a text I addressed in the post linked above], and they said this with regards to that text:

Where did Paul learn to associate “the creation” with God’s people? He certainly didn’t make this up! “The creation” is God’s people. Paul’s view of the curse matched his view of the creation. Paul’s teaching assumes Covenant Creation because the physical universe is nowhere in view when Paul mentions “the creation.”

So, in other words, if you mention something in the same context as something else it is necessarily the same thing. That is simply rediculious. The fact that God is mentioned in the context of creation doesn’t mean that God is creation. The fact that Paul is mentioned in the context of persecution doesn’t mean that Paul is persecution. In this case, Paul is expecting his readers to have an understanding of Genesis 1 already in view. This is the same criticism that Gary DeMar brought against Tim Martin, and it is a problem for his interpretation of this text. Paul is drawing on Genesis 1, and hence expects his readers to already have a knowledge of Genesis 1, and hence, to already have a knowledge of the relationship between man and creation as laid out in Genesis 1, and that is that man is part of creation, not that man is the creation. However, Martin wants to go the other way, and force his understanding of Revelation 20 back onto, not only Paul’s words in Romans 8, but also Moses’ words in Genesis 1, when Revelation 20 and Isaiah 65 would not even have been written when Moses picked up the pen to write! We need to allow the Bible to develop its theology from the book of Genesis unto this point. Because those who believe in covenant creation do not do this, not only are Isaiah 65 and Revelation 20 misinterpreted, but Genesis 1 is as well. Next, Martin says:

This covenant-centered focus of creation explains how Paul could call those who believe on Jesus Christ God’s “new creation” in Galatians 6:15 and 2 Corinthians 5:17. To what does Paul appeal as his authority? He quotes Genesis 1:3:  
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6 NIV)  

It is amazing to me how hyperpreterists just connect any old text so long as it has similar language. The solution to this is that there was a particular form of interpretation in Paul’s day known as “typological interpretation.” There are numerious examples of this kind of interpretation in the book of Hebrews. This kind of interpretation is not using a passage of scripture for identity, but, rather for similarity. That is, you exegete one passage in the Old Testament, and then you exegete the New Testament passage, or the New Testament situation, and you show that there is an overlap in meaning between the two. In this case, there is an overlap between the light of regeneration and physical light in that they both come from God, which is Paul’s concern in verse 5. Paul is not equating the light of creation with the light of new birth just because of the fact that they are mentioned in the same context. He is showing a typological relationship between the two. Just as it was God who said “let there be light,” it is God who gave us the light of his truth. However, to step outside the overlap in the meanings of those two text, and equate the two [something totally foreign to Paul’s context] is, again, to commit the exegetical fallacy of “Parallelomania.”

It is also interesting to note that, again, hyperpreterists just use the term “preterists,” and it becomes really confusing. It is as if they think only they represent preterism. There is, in fact, no example in Martin and Vaughn’s introductory article that uses the term “preterist” where they do not mean “hyperpreterist.”

Now, I would like to take a look at more of these kinds of arguments. For example, Jeff Vaughn used the following argument against me on Gary DeMar’s forum:

The toledaw in Gen. 2:4 demonstrates that Heavens and Earth are people. After all, all of the other toledaw’s refer to people. Of course, you are free to ignore this rather obvious rule in favor of the rule you prefer.

By this point in time, you begin to understand hyperpreterist arguments, because you understand that they think in terms of parallels, and that they never consider the context of those parallels. Notice how he reasons that, since all the other toledots in the book of Genesis refer to people, this toledot must as well. However, again, this is another example of parallelomania. Yes, it is true that all the other toledots refer to people, but all the other toledots come after the creation of man in the narrative. Hence, it is easy to see why all of the other toledots would refer to men, while the toledot in Genesis 2:4 would not. Again, it is simply an example of grabbing any parallel that you can find, and forcing it to mean the same thing.

Not only that, but there is an interesting term used in Genesis 1:10 , hv’B’y:, that always refers to the physical land in every text in which it is used. Does that mean that Genesis 1:10 is referring to the physical ground? According to their view, no. And yet, in order to be consistent, that is exactly how they would have to interpret this word. That should tell you that you cannot just jump around to every other place in which a word is used without considering the context in which it is found. If you do that, you isolate a word from its context, and then, the sky’s the the limit to the definition you can give to a term.

Most linguists recognize that a word has a semantic range. A word can mean any number of things, and context must determine what that particular word means. When you do a word study, you have to consider all aspects of meaning: cotext, grammar, structure, syntax, authorial background, audience background, cultural background, and everything that makes up the meaning of a text when you examine every occurance of the word. If you do not do that, then you are isolating the word from its context. That is why all Hebrew lexicons agree that the Hebrew term tAdl.AT does not have, as part of its semantic range, anything having to do with humans when used in the book of Genesis. It is probably best translated “account” when used in the formula tAdl.At hL,ae in the book of Genesis.

Hence, having dealt with the idea that “heavens and earth” can refer to the covenant, there is really no reason whatsoever to accept Martin and Vaughn’s position.

Even more devistating is the fact that the creation story in the book of Genesis has several parallels to Ancient Near East creation stories, and those stories are unquestionably referring to the physical universe. For example, Enuma Elish starts with water just as the book of Genesis does. Also, the gods in Egyptian texts [expecially Re’] all have their origination in nenew, the primeval waters. Both Egyptian and Mesopotamian accounts of the creation of man have man formed from the clay of the ground. In fact, my professor told me about an Akkadian text he was working on where the sky is said to be a bowl, and, interstingly enough, the Hebrew term [:yqir” [meaning “expanse”] probably referred to a bowl. In one Egyptian creation account, Thoth utters words that are carried out by Ptah that create the world.

Now, in order to believe Jeff Vaughn and Tim Martin’s theory, we would have to believe that Moses used these careful parallels to these ANE texts, and yet, there is no connection to these texts whatsoever. It has become common in evangelical Old Testament scholarship to explain these parallels in terms of Moses writing a polemic against the pagan gods. However, how would Martin and Vaughn explain these parallels if, apparently, Moses was writing something that had nothing to do with these accounts? It makes absolutely no sense.

Now, having dealt with their main arguments for creation, let us now turn to their arguments for a local flood. First, those who hold to covenant creation like to point out that the flood story takes place in the context of the elect line in Genesis chapter 5. That is, indeed, true. However, we must remember two things. Throughout the book of Genesis, the non-elect line is always presented before the elect line. Hence, the author is simply being consistent with how he discusses the elect in contrast to the non-elect line. Also, we need to understand that, in chapter 4, the non-elect line is addressed. Now, notice how chapter 6 opens up:

Genesis 6:1-2 Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.

Notice how chapter 6 opens up with a contrast between the daughters of men, and the sons of God. This comes directly after you have chapter 4 talking about the non-elect line, and chapter 5 talking about the elect line. Hence you have two sections directly following one another, a section about the non-elect line, and then a section about the elect line, and then the very first verses of the very next chapter present a contrast. What should that tell you? Well, it should tell you that chapter 4 is, indeed, relevant to chapter 6.

Also, the issue of geneology comes up. They will try to go to Genesis 10, and point out that Nimrod was only a couple of generations removed, and yet, at the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, there is an entire city. However, first of all, there is nothing in the text that identifies Nimrod as the king at the tower of Babel. That is an old Jewish tradition, but the text says nothing about it. Also, while Martin does not like the idea of gaps in geneologies, we not only know that there are, indeed, gaps in the Biblical geneologies [simply by comparing geneologies], but the geneologies in the book of Genesis are not written to give us an exhaustive family tree of the whole human race. They are meant to show relationships, and how certain peoples are related to one another. That is something to which virtually every comentator on the book of Genesis agrees.

Also, the histories of the book of Genesis [and other histories in the Pentatuch] are clearly not in chronological order. The ordering of the Pentatuch is based upon the message that the author is trying to get across. For example, Isaac, Jacob and Esau did not live [25:19ff] after all of the sons of Ishmael [Genesis 25:12-18]. There is clearly a point to contrast the elect with the non-elect line. Likewise, Seth was not born after Cain had all his descendents [Chapters 4-5].

I should also point out the connections between Genesis 6 and Genesis 1. In verses 5-12, you have much of the same language that you find in Genesis 1 in creation. The point is to emphasize that it is all flesh that will be destroyed by this great flood. Hence, you cannot hold to a local flood, and a universal creation, and you likewise cannot hold to a universal creation, and hold to a local flood. There is an intimate literary connection between the two. Hence, anyone who does not accept a local creation, will not accept a local flood.

Finally, I am disturbed at the reductionistic character of assuming that an interpretation must be either “literal” or “figurative.” An interpretation is not inconsistent if it takes some elements of a text literal and some elements of the text figurative. For example, take this text from Revelation 12:

Revelation 12:17  So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

So, let me simply ask, is this text talking about a literal woman with literal children, who enraged a literal dragon? No, even dispensationalists reject that. However, do her “children” literally keep the commandments of God, and do they literally hold to the testimony of Jesus? Yes, indeed! Is that interpretation somehow inconsistent? No, of course not. Yet, you have a text being interpreted with both literal and figurative aspects.

Again, we need to allow the text to define for us what is literal and what is figurative. Parallels can help, but we must be able to demonstrate that the meanings that we are taking in our target text have sufficient semantic and contextual overlap to warrant understanding the two texts as referring to the same thing. I am afraid that this is at the root of hyperpreterism, and, therefore, at the root of covenant creation. However, as I showed before, this parallelomania can be used to prove practically anything you want, so long as you can find a parallel to something. That is why there has to be some control over what parallels are meant to establish identification to certain aspects of the two texts. For this, the normal concepts of semantics must take precedence. This is where hyperpreterists think orthodox preterists are inconsistent. However, this, again, goes back to an incredibly simplistic view of language that says that, all parallels must be talking about exactly the same thing, and all texts must be taken either all literally or all figuratively. If you allow for understandings of semantics that see language as having many aspects, not just in terms of parallels, but also in terms of individual context, grammar, structure, syntax, author, audience, etc., then hyperpreterism and covenant creation will simply be untenible to you.

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24 Responses to “Covenant Creation Introduction and Refutation”

  1. Dee Dee Warren Says:

    “parallelomania”

    LOL, that’s awesome dude. You nailed it. Hyperpreterism is Left Behind in hard reverse. You know, the kind that crashes the car into the garage door and makes the neighbors all laugh.

  2. otrmin Says:

    Dee Dee Warren,

    I have often used the analogy of the man who does the tip toe at the edge of a cliff in order to avoid falling off, but then runs off the other side of the cliff to his death.

    You are right, however, that hyperpreterism seems to have a whole lot to do with dispensationalism. Now, I am a linguist, and not a historian, and do not know much about the history of this movement, but, given the nature of the movement and the fact that there are so many relationships to dispensationalism, I wouldn’t be surprised if the movment came out of the “Late Great Planet Earth” craze that was a part of the 1970’s.

    Dispensationalists like to focus on the individual aspects of each text simply because, when you divide the Bible up to several dispensations, it makes intertextuality and parallels difficult. Hence, they miss a lot of the clear parallels, for example, between Matthew 24 and Isaiah 13. Hyperpreterism, on the other hand, does just the opposite. They look at the parallels without considering the context of those parallels. The result is that you have two systems of language that isolate themselves from essential factors that control the meaning of the text. I have found that, if you understand this, the interpretations that Hyperpreterists like to throw out there will seem way too simplistic.

    It is also why hyperpreterists and dispensationalists think that orthodox preterism is inconsistent. When you have such an overly simplistic view of language, you will not understand the complex elements that effect the meaning of a text. You will think that anyone who interprets one text one way in one context, and another text in another way in another context is being inconsistent. In fact, language is so complex that these things can change in a matter of a half of a sentence, if these factos so dictate. As I said, if you keep this in mind in dealing with hyperpreterist interpretations, I have found that you will always be able to find the mistakes in their exegesis.

  3. Gorgoyle Says:

    “I should mention, however, that Roderick Edwards, who sometimes comments on this blog, has written a response to Covenant Creation which has kindly sent to me.”

    Oh then…if Roderick Edwards is behind it, you are all set!!

  4. Dee Dee Warren Says:

    Oh then… when the hyperpreterists come out to slander a person, you know that the dog howling is the one that got hit with a nice big rock!

  5. Dee Dee Warren Says:

    @otrmin

    Very well said. I love hearing others articulate the same things I am thinking as it gives new textures to the idea as each person communicates uniquely.

    That last sentence is what makes it hard when the confused Christian though comes to you and wants a “pat” response. They are looking for how the colour blue tastes. They are already in the hypepreterist mindset of hyper-proof-texting. It takes years to come out of this mindset, and it is not something that can be taught to another in a series of five emails as some expect, or by writing some garishly coloured and underlined response to Michael Bennett’s “worthy of the WatchTower” eisegesis posts.

    I find having counter-cult experience to be very helpful.

  6. The Preterist Blog ~ 100% Hyperpreterist Free » Blog Archive » Parallelomania Says:

    […] stumbled across this great blog when it showed up in my linkbacks, and I highly encourage you to go read it. The author made this […]

  7. Brian Simmons Says:

    I disagree with your assessment of Dispensationalism. That’s like saying: “Homosexuality is an overreaction to heterosexuality, and since sexuality is such a complexy issue, let’s all become bi-sexuals!” Truly it needs no logical guru to refute such an error. The fallacy is transparent.

    I believe the main cause of Hyper-Preterism is not Dispensationalism, but the misguided theology that claims Matthew 24 was fulfilled in A.D. 70. The minute you make this claim, you swing the doors of Hymeneusville wide open.

    Let’s lay the blame where it belongs, guys.

    Brian

  8. Dee Dee Warren Says:

    Obviously Brian we are going to disagree here because I believe Matthew 24 was fulfilled in the first century. I certainly don’t expect you to villify your own view, but people are going to disagree. It is equally unreasonable to expect me to deny my own view. I know you think it is misguided, and I have no problem accepting that. I think yours is misguided. Neither is heretical. But I agree with the blog post here. Now not all dispensationalists are the same. I refer specifically to what I call the “Left Behind” hermeneutic. While I disagree with your position, you do not employ the shallow “Left Behind” hermeneutic.

    But the fact is that we both foundationally agree that hyperpreterism is heresy. We disagree on root causes. And that’s okay. I can accept that you think my theology in that regard is misguided. And I believe you can accept that I think yours is. It’s the nature of our incomplete knowledge. One day we will both know the complete truth. Until then, we must be true to our convictions and not compromise to make nice. I don’t condemn dispensationalists. But I do believe their hermeneutical method is the yin to hyperpreterism’s yang. One is the light side (hopefully I named them right) and remains in orthodoxy, the other leads to the pit. But I can’t deny what I believe about the misguided hermeneutic. Because I do. And you believe differently, and I would never ask you to not speak what you believe.

  9. JL Vaughn Says:

    Adam,

    “For example, in Genesis 2:4, the “heavens and the earth” are clearly related to chapter 1, and yet, also are related to 2:5.”

    Excellent observation. That was a significant part of Wiseman’s discussion. The rest of your paragraph and the next identify a feature of the text that according to Wiseman demonstrates each author was purposefully adding to the previous text. I would have been happy to discuss this feature on that other site, but you never asked and I didn’t realize it was an issue.

    “However, to remove Moses from the picture altogether, and make it simply a composite document of nothing but old Sumerian tablets ignores the literary connections between the sections, and ignores the normal usage of the toledot pattern in the book of Genesis itself.”

    To say such a thing misrepresents Wiseman’s (and my) claim. I find it telling that you claim to have read significant amounts of Akkadian, yet you avoided discussing the Akkadian colophons in detail, both on that forum and here. Your comments read as if you are completely unfamiliar with them and doubt there existence.

    Do Akkadian tablets end with colophons of the type Wiseman (and I) describes?

    Does the second tablet in a multi-tablet document start with a reference to the colophon on the previous tablet?

    If they do, as Wiseman claims they do, then Genesis 1:1-37:2 has the form Wiseman describes. You need to take Wiseman’s observation seriously.

    If they do not, then please explain where Wiseman went wrong. I’ll read what you’ve written, look up your sources, and drop the whole thing.

    Blessings,

    JL Vaughn
    Coauthor Beyond Creation Science
    //beyondcreationscience.com

  10. otrmin Says:

    Brian,

    Actually, I went on to demonstrate that semantics is far more involved than even the two elements that are tendencies of the individual systems. We also have to consider grammar, structure, syntax, discourse, etc. as well as parallels and immediate context to understand how meaning is created within a text. This is characteristic of all languages. My simple point is that, to limit the discussion of the semantics of Biblical texts down to immediate context or parallels is entirely reductionistic from the things we know from studying other languages, and even other non-Biblical Hebrew texts.

    Also, your analogy is a false analogy. Sexuality may be complicated, but part of the complicated nature of sexuality is the fact that we are fallen and sinful. Hence, we have to talk about sexual actions that are done to the glory of God, and sexual actions that are sin. Hence, we have to distinguish between sexual actions that we are Biblically able to do, and sexual actions that we are not Biblically able to do. Such a distinction is, indeed, part of the Christian worldview.

    However, if you want to introduce such a distinction when it comes to the language of the Bible, now you are caught having to believe that the language of the Bible is somehow unique in its functions from other language, since no other text functions semantically in a way other than by all the afore mentioned factors. If you claim that to be the case, then, not only are you departing from all of the established principles of semantics, but you would have to show why you believe that the factors that effect the meaning of the Biblical text are different from the factors that effect the meaning of every other text.

    Also, I don’t know why you would say it is saying Matthew 24 was fulfilled in A.D.70 that is the cause of hyperpreterism. I have heard hyperpreterists try to argue this from the usage of the word “coming,” and from parallels to other texts, but, again this gets back to what I said in my post. When you take a view of language that says that any parallel must be talking about exactly the same thing, you are caught in an exegetical fallacy. Not only do you have to show that two texts are parallel, but you also have to go through all of the other areas of semantics and show that they are parallel as well. That is exactly what happened with Mike Sullivan in his article on Romans 8 and Matthew 24.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  11. otrmin Says:

    JL,

    Excellent observation. That was a significant part of Wiseman’s discussion. The rest of your paragraph and the next identify a feature of the text that according to Wiseman demonstrates each author was purposefully adding to the previous text. I would have been happy to discuss this feature on that other site, but you never asked and I didn’t realize it was an issue.

    I have already been over this with you. The problem with this argumentation is that it turns into the same problem the Wellhausians have with the disappearing redactor. If there are all of these literary connections between these two sections, then how do you know they existed as separate tablets in the first place?

    The point is that Wiseman’s theory of multiple tablets cannot account for the literary unity of the text without destroying his own knowledge of the redaction of the text. That will always be the achillies heel of any position of redaction in the pentatuch.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  12. otrmin Says:

    JL,

    I should also mention that my criticism has been a criticism of this position long before I ever wrote on the topic.

    Also, Hamelton [p.9] in his commentary also points out that you have some funny exegesis if you take this perspective. For example, are we really to conclude that the generations of Abraham were preserved by Ishmael [11:27b-25:2]? That Isaac was responsible for preserving Ishmael’s account [25:13-19a]? That Esau preserved Jacob’s history [36:10-37:2], or that Jacob preserved Esau’s history [36:10]? That is hardly likely.

    Understood against the backdrop of the literary unity in things such as the elect verses the non-elect line, good and evil, etc., it is hard to imagine a composite tablet theory like you are presenting.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  13. Gorgoyle Says:

    “you know that the dog howling is the one that got hit with a nice big rock!”

    Yes Dee Dee you are an expert at throwing rocks. Isn’t that what cowards do? Do you even remember the last time you made a real solid argument against one of the people you keep attacking?

  14. Dee Dee Warren Says:

    Yes I do. How about trying your research starting here:

    http://www.preteristsite.com/deedeewarren.html

    Whoops. Too bad so sad. Maybe next time you will remove your foot before speaking.

    kthxbai

  15. rodericke Says:

    Adam, your work here well dwarfs mine. Your work was even praised by a seminary president none the less. Don’t let the hyper-preterists get to you. They only have 2 gears, attack & retreat. You keep “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor 10:4-5). You know you are being effective when they begin to attack you. Like any cultic group, they try to work fast to silence any REAL exposure of their heresy (Eph 5:11).

  16. Brian Simmons Says:

    Hi Dee Dee,

    Well, you’re right we both agree that Hyper-Preterism is a false doctrine! What I was really trying to say is that certain forms of partial preterism prove a fruitful soil for Hyper-Preterist doctrine.

    Gary DeMar claims that Matthew 25 was fulfilled in A.D. 70. Have you heard his debate with Thomas Ice? If not, then go to the pre-trib research website, and listen. It’s right on the front page. DeMar has claimed that the wicked and righteous were resurrected and received their rewards in A.D. 70.

    I agree with Adam that language is important. Amen. Yet I think preterists violate the principles of language and hermeneutics; not Dispensationalists. I know of several Dispensational textbooks on hermeneutics. But I don’t know a single one written from a preterist perspective. What is the ‘horn book’ of Preterist hermeneutics? How can they tell when someone has gone too far? Is it by the Word of God? or by creeds and confessions? In my observations, I’ve seen preterists make a lot of appeals to tradition, but very little exegetical interaction.

    Speaking of creeds, DeMar is teaching doctrines that, historically speaking, must be considered heterodox. Placing Matthew 25 in A.D. 70 is a distinctive of Hyper-Preterism. Do you consider this doctrine heretical? I consider it unbiblical and potentially dangerous, and I do so on the basis of Scripture. Besides, there is not a single reference to resurrection in Matthew 25: 31-45. The passage describes a judgment of “living nations,” not of dead people. The outcome of this judgment is found in Zechariah 14: 16.

    I think Preterism’s real issue is not with language, but with epistomology. How does one arrive at knowledge? I believe the answer is: “Belief in what is written.” Jesus Christ commenced his public ministry with the threefold utterance: “It is written” (Matt. 4: 4, 7, 10). He ended His ministry with another threefold reference to the written word (John 17: 8, 14, 17). Christ placed a greater emphasis on the Scriptures than many men are willing to acknowledge today. Substituting Scripture-knowledge for our philosophical ideals can only lead to confusion.

    With all the talk of language, it is amusing to note that the definitive guidbook to Biblical ‘figures of speech’ was written by E.W. Bullinger, a Dispensationalist. This also applies to the ‘law of correspondence’ governing Bible structures. I haven’t seen one preterist or Reformed person ever tackle this department of theology. Incidentally, the reason I accepted Dispensationalism was (ironically) because of the superior scholarship and exegesis.

    Peace & Health,

    Brian

  17. Dee Dee Warren Says:

    Hi Brian, well you know that I agree with you about some orthodox preterists, particularly Gary DeMar’s exegesis. I have not listened to the DeMar debate you mention, but I have raised my own concerns with other things he has said. I will listen to that debate.

    As far though as hermeneutics, that one was easy. One of the definitive books on hermeneutics used by dispensationalists as well as orthodox preterists is Milton Terry’s Biblical Hermeneutics. A.T. France has some of the best scholarship out there, and he is a preterist.

    Anyways, we have points of agreement and disagreement. We agree on what’s important, which is precisely where hyperpreterism deviates.

  18. JL Vaughn Says:

    Adam,

    Could you please answer my specific questions?

    Do Akkadian tablets end with colophons of the type Wiseman (and I) describes?

    Does the second tablet in a multi-tablet document start with a reference to the colophon on the previous tablet?

  19. otrmin Says:

    JL,

    The answer to both of your questions is yes, but that is not the nature of the reference within the toledot patters of the Book of Genesis, and not what I was trying to say at all. What I was trying to say, both in my post and in my comment is that, within the book of Genesis, there is not just a “reference” to the previous toledot pattern, but an entire literary dependence between the two sections. In other words, what follows and what precedes the toledot patterns are literarily dependent on one another. I probably should have brought this out more in my post. The toledot patterns are a literary pivot between two different sections that are literarily dependent on one another. However, that is not the case with the colophons in these tablets, simply because they are not the same literary work.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  20. Brian Simmons Says:

    Hi Dee Dee,

    Thanks for the info. When I have the chance, I’ll check out France’s work. The whole debate between Preterism & Dispensationalism is not something that really interests me at this time. Therefore, I don’t intend to deal with the issue on my blog. However, I would recommend listening to the Ice/DeMar debate. There are good points made on both sides, and, in fact, some of DeMar’s points I would even agree with. However, the conclusions we reach are entirely different. His conclusion is that the parousia was fulfilled. My conclusion is that it was postponed, due to Israel’s failure to meet the conditions required under the Mosaic charter.

    Peace & Health,

    Brian

  21. Dee Dee Warren Says:

    I recommend France’s work over Milton Terry’s actually, though some may be aghast at that. Though you will disagree with some things, I think you will agree that his is a much more robust preterism than DeMar’s. On my blog post of yesterday on The Typology of Scripture, I quote from France, and I think you would heartily agree with the quote.

    The debate between P&D doesn’t particularly interest me as much as it did either, as the heresy question is more important. I like poking fun at the Left Behindism, but as you know, I don’t consider all dispensationalists to fall in that camp at all.

    France shows how DeMar fails, IMHO. You and I have always agreed on the weaknesses of DeMar’s hermeneutic when it comes to keeping people from heresy. A classic example is his over-emphasis on the “you” in Matthew 24. If he emphasized the “we” the same way in 1 Cor 15, he would be a hyperpreterist. He never deals with the “we” in 1 Cor 15 that I have ever seen publicly. I asked him about it in email, and he basically brushed me off. IMHO, and other’s experiences may vary (it may be that I did not approach Gary properly, perhaps I came off as rude or aggressive or in some other way improper), Gary retreats to “my concern is fighting dispensationalism so I am not going to answer that, go ask Dr. Gentry” whenever he is pressed to show why his view doesn’t lead to hyperpreterism. Again, the fault might be mine. Gary and I both have pretty strong personalities, and sometimes that leads to poor communication between the two. A friend who was copied on Gary’s and my emails a few years ago described us as two tigers circling each other. While the image is humourous, it doesn’t exactly describe an ideal environment for communication!

    Can you email me about that DeMar/Ice debate? I use emails as a tickler system to remind me of some long-term things I would like to do, otherwise I just forget.

    Shhh, don’t tell the hyperpreterists that we are talking, and I haven’t condemned you yet to the lowest levels of Dante’s Inferno. They keep claiming that everyone who disagrees with me is going to hell in a handbasket. You might just ruin my reputation as a fire-breathing heresy hunter. Wouldn’t want to do that.

  22. otrmin Says:

    Roderick,

    Thank you for your encouragement. I don’t know that I would say my article “dwarfs” yours. I think we are just coming at the issue from different perspectives-myself as a linguist, and yourself as a former hyperpreterist. Your response was extremely helpful in formulating this post, as it helped me to see things from that perspective. Keep up the good work!

    God Bless,
    Adam

  23. JL Vaughn Says:

    Adam,

    In the first couple lines of the standard translation of Hammurabi’s code appears, “who decreed the fate of the land, assigned to Marduk.”

    Could you please tell me the Akkadian words that are translated decreed and assigned?

    Thanks and Blessings.

  24. The Preterist Blog ~ 100% Hyperpreterist Free » Blog Archive » What’s New at The Preterist Site? Says:

    […] Covenant Creation Introduction and Refutationand Hyperpreterism Introduction and Critique of Misuse of Romans 8 by Old Testament Studies Blog (Adam) […]

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