Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jesus and Israel: One covenant or two

Here is what Vern Poythress not a theological lightweight by any means says about the book by David Holwerda 'Jesus and Israel: One Covenant or two?'

David Holwerda argues that God's promises to Old Testament Israel cannot be understood apart from Jesus Christ. Based on careful exposition of key New Testament texts-including a significant in-depth study of Romans 9-11-in dialogue with a wide variety of interpreters and theologians, Holwerda maintains that the Old Testament promises of God find their complete fulfillment in Jesus Christ and the church.

"Here is a first-rate presentation of a Reformed, covenantal understanding of promise and fulfillment, with special reference to the relation of Israel to the church. The book focuses largely on the New Testament's use of the Old Testament themes of Israel (holy people), temple, land, and law. It relates all of these themes to fulfillment in Christ, in agreement with the idea of inaugurated eschatology. Through exegetical reflection the book provides an attractive, persuasive overview of covenantal thinking and indicates the major points of contact and disagreement with dispensationalism and with current discussions of Jewishness among Jews and among Christian theologians of liberal and neoorthodox bent. I recommend this book heartily."
--Vern S. Poythress, Westminster Theological Seminary

These are strong words. God's promises "in the Old Testament cannot be understood apart from Jesus Christ", well yes, we do understand God's promises centre on Israel's Messiah. From Genesis 3:15 the Messiah is central since He deals with sin and death and judgement. But one assumes Vern is not arguing for a Christological hermeneutic which says everything in the Old Testament has to be read in the light of the new. That you must know the NT's take on something before you will get the meaning of some Old Testament promise right.

The real problem between amillennialist and dispensationalist is a consistent hermeneutic that doesn't spiritualise a passage because of ones theoligical presuppositions. It is over the replacement theology of Israel with the church that has been subtly introduced in Vern's statement above "the Old Testament promises of God find their complete fulfillment in Jesus Christ and the church" that difficulties arise.
We dispensationalists and premillennialist want to be a bit more exacting than the blurb on a back cover of a book. Jesus Christ will fulfill all the Old Testament promises. He has done so with many already and yet a great number await their lireral fulfillment. Furthermore to sneak in the chuch in that statement is exactly where amillennialist and premillenialist / dispensationalist differ.
Perhaps Holwerda will be a bit more precise in his statements.

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