Logic and Hyperpreterism

I have had the privilege of studying Hebrew Poetry with Dr. Willem VanGemeren here at Trinity for the past three semesters. While he does not give a ton of work, he is very smart, and he forces you to think outside the box to and extent that, even if you know all of your grammar, syntax, etc, you still have to give careful consideration before answering.

This semester, I am taking a class in Exegesis of Proverbs 1-9 with Dr. VanGemeren, and he started the class with something very interesting. He was talking about Judaism and Christianity, and how neither of them are religions of the Hebrew Bible. For Judaism, you have the addition of the Rabbinic traditions, and for Christians, you have the addition of the New Testament. He told us about a book he was reading by a Jew wherein the author makes the argument that, although Rabbinic Judaism is not the religion of the Hebrew Bible, it is consistent with the logic of the Hebrew Bible.

What was interesting is that he then applied it to the fulfillment of prophecy. He said that it was entirely to simplistic to speak of prophecy a, b, c, and d, being fulfilled in event a’, b’, c’, and d’. What was interesting is that, in his book, Interpreting the Prophetic Word, he had already said something similar:

Fulfillment cannot be restricted to Micah’s time, to the postexilic era, or even to the coming of our Lord. It unfolds and clarifies the nature and time of fulfillment in the progress of redemption. I call this process of unfolding progressive fulfillment. The hermeneutics of progressive fulfillment looks at God’s promises as a vine that grows, extends its branches in various directions, bears fruit, and keeps developing. Applying this to redemptive history, I believe that we are still at the stage of branching and budding and that the stage of the mature, productive vine takes us to the second coming of our Lord.

The promises of God cannot be reduced to predictions. A prediction limits the word to a particular fulfillment, whereas a promise unfolds progressively over time. A promise is like a rolling snowball in its momentum and significance. Beecher aptly states this point: ‘Every fulfilled promise is a fulfilled prediction; but it is exceedingly important to look at it as a promise, and not as a mere prediction.”

Micah encouraged his contemporaries -and all who read his book-to look at the Messiah as the victorious King, the world as the realm of God’s rule, and God’s people as sharing in the victory and glory of their great King. This prophetic word still extends hope to God’s people today. The very fact that the kingdom of God has not yet been fully and visibly established on earth is a motivating factor in hoping and praying that the child born in Bethlehem, Jesus the Christ, may soon come and inaugurate the eternal kingdom on earth [VanGemeren, Willem. Interpreting the Prophetic Word. Zondervan Publishing House. Grand Rapids Michigan. 1990. pgs. 82-83]

With these two statements, the one in his book, and the one in class, I think we can use it to deal with some of the arguments of the hyperpreterists, and, again show that the arguments of hyperpreterists are way too simplistic. For example, one question one might ask the hyperpreterist is, “At the time when king Solomon was ruling over Israel, could you have said that Psalm 22 was fulfilled or not?” You see, one would have to say that it was fulfilled in David’s persecution, since that is the immediate context, and yet, the New Testament has no problem whatsoever applying that Psalm to Christ.

The reason is very simple. The application to Christ does not fit the immediate context, but if you look at the entire structure of Psalms 22-24, you can easily see why it is applied to Christ. While Psalm 22 is about David, Psalm 23 begins “The Lord is my Shepherd.” This may not seem very significant, except for the fact that, in the Ancient Near East, the Shepherd was a title for a king. For example, this is from tablet I the Gilgamesh epic:

84. uš-ta-d[ir eţlūti ša2 urukki in]a ku-kit-ti
85. ul u-maš-šar dGIŠ-gim2-maš DUMU ana AD-šu
86. ur-ra u G[I6 i-kad2-dir] še-riš
87. šu SIPA-ma ša urukki su-pu2-ru
88. dGIŠ-gim2-[maš šarru? (…) nišī? rap-š]a-a-ti
89. šu re-‘-u2-ši-na-ma u x[…-ši]-na? [George, Andrew. The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic; Introduction, Critical Edition, and Cuneiform Texts. Oxford University Press. New York, New York. 2003. p. 542]

84. He has frightened the strong young men of Uruk wrongfully
85. Gilgamesh does not set sons free to their fathers.
86. Day and night he rises up violently.
87. He is the shepherd of Uruk, the sheepfold.
88. Gilgamesh is the king…great population.
89. He is their shepherd and their…

Notice how dGIŠ-gim2-maš in line 85 is parallel to SIPA-ma ša urukki in line 87. Not only that, it is explicitly said that dGIŠ-gim2-maš is re-‘-u2-ši-na-ma in line 89.

This identification of a shepherd with a king goes all the way back to Sumerian, the oldest language known to man. Take a look at this text here:

In the first full column on the left, in line 11 the text reads in normalization:

sipa šag-e pad-a

This is an epithet for Gudea which literally means “chosen [as a] shepherd.” Gudea was earlier identified as the ensi-lagaš-(ak) “the ruler of Lagash.” in lines 6-7 (and in the three line description of this diorite statue at the far left).

Also, the Sumerian textbook we used here at Trinity A Manual of Sumerian Grammar and Texts, Chapter 18 has a text with the same thing. In this text, Shu-Sin is called a shepherd, and this time, in the context of a king [Sorry, I can only give the normalization of this one, as I can only find it in my text book]. This is from lines 12-15:

12. Lugal enlil-e
13. ki-ag
14. šag-ani-a in-pad
15. sipa kalam-a(k)-še

The translation of this phrase is “the king whom Enlil selected in his loving heart for a shepherd of the land.”

Having established, then, that a shepherd does refer to a king, we then see that there are really two kings at work here in Psalm 22-23. This can also be established from the end of Psalm 22:

Psalm 22:28-31 For the kingdom is the LORD’S And He rules over the nations. 29 All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep his soul alive. 30 Posterity will serve Him; It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation. 31 They will come and will declare His righteousness To a people who will be born, that He has performed it.

The next important point in this argument, is the end of Psalm 23:

Psalm 23:5-6 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The “follow” here in verse 6 is a weak translation. It is actually the Hebrew term @dr which means “to pursue.” There is an irony in this text. God prepares a table before David in the presence of his enemies, and yet, it is goodness and mercy that pursue him all the days of his life rather than his enemies.

This is important background as we go into Psalm 24. The key text in Psalm 24 is:

Psalm 24:7-10 Lift up your heads, O gates, And be lifted up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in! 8 Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O gates, And lift them up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in! 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah.

Notice how the ambiguity of the two kings, King David, and God himself is somewhat played upon in this passage. The king who is mighty in battle seems to reference David and his fight against his enemies. However, this ignores the pleas for help to the Lord that David lifts up, as well as the immediate context of this passage. The Lord is the one who delivers from enemies. So, then, who is the king of glory? It is the Lord of Hosts! Yet, is it not also David who has victory over his enemies? So, we are back to the question. Is it David or is it the Lord? This is why Psalm 22 can be legitimately quoted in reference to Christ as well as in reference to David.

Not only that, but we also must remember that the book of Psalms is going to present God himself as sitting on David’s throne in book five. Given the messianic connections with David throughout the Psalms, as well as the immediate context of Psalms 22-24, one can conclude that it is not irrational to connect Psalm 22 with the messiah.

Now, all of this requires understanding the logic of the text, and not necessarily the chronology of the text. Another example of this is in Isaiah 7:14 where the fulfillment is clearly intended to be for Isaiah’s day. Again, we must ask the hyperpreterist, “Was Isaiah 7:14 already fulfilled at the time of Daniel?” In terms of the fulfillment in the immediate context, yes. However, again, examine the logic of the book of Isaiah, we run in to Isaiah 9:5 [9:6 Eng.]:

Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Another example of child born to us who is “Mighty God!” Again, following the logic of the book, we are able to understand exactly where the book is going.

Now, I would like to take this, and apply it to Daniel 12:2. Samuel Frost, a prominent hyperpreterist, thinks this text shows the inconsistencies in so called “partial preterism.” He writes:

Now, Adams takes 12.1,3,4 to refer to the “end of the age” and the “last days” of the Old Covenant and the destruction of Jerusalem. He is explicit: ‘The “time of the end” had come’ (p. 89, The Time is at Hand; p. 9, Preterism). Mt 24.21 is an almost verbatim quote of Da 12.2 and Adams, Gentry, Seraiah, and other PP take Rev 12 (Michael’s war) as fulfilled in Paul’s generation. But, strangely enough, in order to save “orthodoxy”, they omit Da 12.2 which, according to the Hebrew text, is inextricably linked to the “time of the end”, “the end” and the “end of the days”! But, if 12.2 is ripped from it’s context, as well as 12.13, then there was a “time of the end” in A.D. 70 and another yet unfulfilled “time of the end” when Jesus finally makes up his mind to return and close out history! Two End Times! Two Last Days! Is it not the “last days” before Jesus finally returns? Is that not an “end”? It is very apparent that what these men are forced to do is harm the Scripture in order to save “orthodoxy.” I define orthodoxy as what the Bible teaches, and I define orthopraxy (“right doing”) as not twisting the Scriptures in order to save a tradition (Pharisaism).

Yes, it is true that there is a link between Daniel 12:2 is, indeed, linked to verse 1 and verses 3-4. However, again, what is that relationship? Is it temporal, or is it logical? As anyone can see, the motif of suffering leading to glorification is something that is all over the text of scripture. What Daniel 12:2 is saying is that those who persevere in the great tribulations spoken of in this chapter can expect to participate in the resurrection of the dead. There is an intimate link that is, not temporal, but logical.

This is somewhat of an oversimplified version of one of my interests in linguistics, namely, something called text linguistics or discourse analysis. Text linguistics seeks to understand, not what is grammatically possible, but, rather, what the author actually does with the grammatical possibilities. It sees each individual text as a grammar all its own. It also allows us to get beyond the sentence level in understanding a text, and, in the case of the Psalms and Isaiah, it takes us even beyond the chapter level. In fact, when I got to Trinity, I was surprised to learn that the standard grammar of Waltke/O’Connor had actually been criticized by people such as Dennis Pardee and my professor Dr. Averbeck, because the grammar never discussed syntax beyond the sentence level. Now, that certainly doesn’t mean that we should all go and throw away our copies of Walke/O’Connor. However, it does mean that distinctions between poetry and prose, as well as discourse analysis must be kept in mind when reading Waltke/O’Connor.

I say that, not because I do not respect Waltke and O’Connor [they are, indeed, two giants of the field], but, rather to show just how serious the field has become about text linguistics. In my view, because of the emphasis on text linguistics, it is going to make hyperpreterism harder to hold in the academic realm.

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One Response to “Logic and Hyperpreterism”

  1. Sam Frost Misses the Point « Old Testament Studies Blog Says:

    […] this, but Samuel Frost has written a full length response to me, and, more specifically, my paper Logic and Hyperpreterism, and the rhetoric is simply unbelievable. Not only that, he completely misses my point, and takes a […]

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