Sunday, April 05, 2015

NT typology of OT redemptive historical events, and Formal Republication

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. ... For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (Heb. 4:1-2, 8-10)

And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matt. 2:14-15)

The usage of the Old Testament in the New Testament is an interesting issue to consider. One manner in which the New Testament uses the Old Testament is by the usage of typology, which can be illustrated in the two passages shown here.

In the first passage from Hebrews, we see that Israel's historical experience of her wilderness longing for rest in the promised land is used to illustrate how believers today are similar in their experience in the "wilderness" of the world longing for rest in the heavenly promised land, the New Heavens and the New Earth. The typology here is made between the experience of Israel and that of Christians.

In the second passage, Matthew cites Hosea 11:1 which speaks of Israel's historical experience of the Exodus from Egypt. Matthew uses that passage and applies it to Christ, who in his infancy was in Egypt for a while before getting out of Egypt ("exodus") to return back to Nazareth. The typology here is between Israel and Christ. Christ is portrayed as the new Israel, such that Israel's exodus experience is recapitulated by Christ's experience of being in Egypt and then getting out of Egypt. We note here that the whole idea is not some form of "ontological" recapitulation (whatever that is supposed to be), but rather that it is a literary painting. Christ's experience is very much different from Israel's actual experience, since Christ was not enslaved in Egypt neither did he get out of Egypt by the express deliverance of God, but these differences are irrelevant, because the purpose of the typology is not to create a total correspondence of Christ to Israel, but rather to show through literary portrayal that Christ is the new Israel.

In the first example, Israel is the type for believers. In the second example, Christ is the antitype of Israel, Israel's fulfillment. But as we look at how the typological relations are formed, we see they are formed from facts and events in redemptive history, which seem to be "spiritualized" to make a point. In other words, it is not in what those events are in and of themselves that is relevant, but rather how these are portrayed to show forth the New Covenant reality for us. To put it in classical philosophical terms, it is the Form or Accident of the experiences that is used, not the Matter or Substance of the OT experiences, that creates these typologies.

This point is very important for the issue of Formal Republication. Much of the misrepresentation of Formal Republication seem to stem from the thinking that Formal Republication teaches or implies that the Mosaic Covenant has in part an essence of the Covenant of Works. But that is to misunderstand what "Form" in "Formal Republication" actually refer to. Formal Republication deals with Form, which is to say literary forms. Therefore, when Matthew cites Hosea 11:1 to say that Jesus is the new Israel, we are not to imagine Israel as being a "Third Adam," for the reason that typology is not ontological but literary. The "is" in the sentence "Jesus is the New Israel" is not a equivalence of being, but an equivalence of relation. Once this is seen, then the fog surrounding the discussion concerning the topic of Formal Republication should be thinner.

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