[In Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Peter Enns, Darrell Bock, and Walter Kaiser present three different approaches to biblical interpretation. They address questions concerning sensius plenior, typology, Jewish methods of interpretation, matters of contextual interpretation, and whether or not we today can interpret the Bible like the New Testament authors. Some of the discussion involves technical concepts and language, but anyone who reads the book will have a better understanding of matters to consider in reading the Bible in context.]
Darrell Bock: Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referrents
Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary professor and recent lecturer at SBTS, offers, in my opinion, the strongest argument for putting together the Old and New Testaments. He is absolutely committed to grammatical-historical exegesis that seeks to understand each author, book, and passage in context (like Kaiser); at the same time, he is attuned to the impact that historical context (i.e. temporality) has on reading the Bible, thus he pays attention to the interpretive nuances of Second Temple Judaism (like Enns); but in contradistinction to both of Kaiser and Enns, he employs a textually-rooted, progressively developed biblical theology. This can be seen in two ways:
First in his six presuppositions for reading Scripture: The Bible is God’s Word, 2) The one in the many (corporate solidarity), 3) Pattern of history (correspondence or typology), 4) these are the days of fulfillment, 5) now and not yet (the inaugurated fulfillment of Scripture), and 6) Jesus is the Christ (111). These six elements are necessary to read Scripture canonically. Second, Bock shows great understanding of the multi-faceted ways that the OT is “reused” in the NT: prophetic fulfillment, typological-prophetic, authoritative illustration, principle, allegory (though Bock limits this to Gal. 4), and OT ideas, language, and summaries (118-121)
Still the most helpful element of Bock’s chapter is his biblically-derived demonstration of the way Scriptural meaning retains “stability” while experiencing referential change–hence “single meaning, multiple contexts and referents.” Much like Richard Lints three horizons (contextual, epochal, canonical) in The Fabric of Theology (which I highly recommend), Bock shows from Acts 4’s use of Psalm 2, Romans 10’s use of Deuteronomy 30, and 1 Corinthians 7’s use of 2 Samuel 7 and Leviticus 26 that the sense always remains the same, but the referents may vary. So that in the second example, the sense remains the revelation of God, but the referent changes from the covenantal law of Deuteronomy to Jesus Christ who is the telos of the law (Rom. 10:4). This explanation of sense and referent was very helpful in describing how God’s word remains the same and yet develops over time and in history.
On the whole, there was very little that I found to critique of Bock. Interestingly, even Kaiser’s final response lacked argumentative force. He found a few things with which to disagree but finished saying, “Yes, the meaning of the Bible is stable. Later applications of that meaning can expand the field of referents. But whether there are ‘fresh meanings’… need[s] more work” (158). On the whole, Kaiser and Bock are similar in the way that they see the NT recapitulating OT people, events, promises, etc. What Kaiser calls principalizing and analogous, Bock speaks of as typological patterns. In this, I think Bock is more helpful because he expounds the meaning of the text and he also sees how the text can be interpreted at varying levels–epochal and canonical.
Sola Deo Gloria, dss