Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hermeneutical Philosophies for Interpreting Narrative Literature Part 3 - Typology


          One method of gleaning normative Christian experience from narrative sections of scripture is to seek typologies between the Old and New Testament and decipher modern parallels; yet this method presents the dangerous possibility of justifying obscure practices with loosely related narratives. Roger Stronstad notes that Luke's gospel is rife with typology; where particulars of processes and characters from the Old Testament are mirrored in the New Testament. Stronstad notes that Old Testament history provides a programmatic or paradigmatic function when it is first reported, but may develop a typological function from the vantage point of subsequent history (Stronstad 1995, 46). Essentially, if the events of Acts have an Old Testament parallel then they are likely to be programmatic for the modern Christian life. For example the Old Testament is replete with examples of the transfer of the Spirit or responsibility for ministry, such as Moses placing the Spirit on the seventy elders (Num 11:25), and the transfers of Spirit from Saul to David (1 Sam 16:13-14), or Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:9-15). In an account designed to parallel Old Testament narratives, the day of Pentecost signifies the transfer of responsibility and Spirit from Christ's ministry to the disciples (Stronstad 1995, 154-155). These and many other types secure a lengthy trans-testamentary form which is a biblical paradigmatic that spans millennia. Luke's dependence on these typologies signifies his intentional use of timeless principles that, being normative for both testaments, are likely normative today.

          Discovering these typologies provide a case for the normative Christian experience, but not an objective case. The problem with using a typology is the author does not announce that they are using a typology and one could base a theology on a typology the author never intended. If one had a mind to, they could match an Old Testament narrative to a New Testament narrative and create and unjustified typology. For example, upon exiting the Ark Noah farmed grapes and became drunk (Gen 9:21), Jesus' inaugural miracle was turning water into wine (John 2:9), His crucifixion began with wine at the last supper (Luk 22:20) and ended with drinking wine on the cross (John 19:30), and the gifts expressed on the day of Pentecost was thought to be the product of being drunk on wine (Acts 2:13). In relation to typology: Noah's first activity on a newly cleansed world was wine induced drunkenness, and Jesus was a type of Noah as His last act of cleansing the world was accompanied by drinking wine. Jesus inaugurated His ministry by providing wine for drunkenness at Cana, which was a typology for the apostles who were accused of being drunk on new wine upon the inauguration of their ministry (note that Jesus claimed to bring new wine, Luke 5:38). Thus a normative Christian experience could be that one must become drunk on wine to bring cleansing, or commencing a ministry must be accompanied by heavy drinking. Of course such a proposition is ludicrous, but it does highlight the possibility of abusing typology in scripture and the potential for error. While much is to be learned by Luke's obvious use of typology, it cannot be used as an objective rule for the normative Christian experience, and thus cannot be relied upon to accurately decipher what sections of the narrative are repeatable.

God Love You -- Rev. Sheen

Part 4 - Author's Intent

  1. Stronstad, Roger, Spirit, Scripture & Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective, Asia-Pacific Theological Seminary Press, Baguio City, Philippines, 1995.

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