Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lost in Translating

Los Angeles, California
United Nations of America
Excavation Site 0292, Pit C
Year: 2571

Alejandro Ruiz slid his finger across the digital output monitor diagnostic bar. It flashed a logarithimic graph whose shape pleased the archaeologist. He moved on to the next digger. The eight auto-sifters arranged in a circle on the southeastern corner of Pit C hummed almost noiselessly breaking down layer after layer of rock, sediment, and concrete. Its rotating anti-electron funnels broke apart molecular bonds with the gentleness of a fine brush but the speed of hot water dissolving ice. The pure elemental byproducts were sucked up into the sifter's gaping mouth and stored in vacuum packets according to atomic weight.

Ruiz was about to microadjust Gamma Digger's coolant levels when a co-worker, Mikhail Vrenz, an archaeological engineer working another set of eight sifters twenty meters away flagged him down. Vrenz jogged over, excitement gleaming from his normally sleepy eyes.

"Alejo! Alejo! Come, you have to see this!" (Note: They speak "Spanese", an evolved mixture of Spanish and Chinese, tracing back to these two dominant languages emerging from the 22nd century).

Ruiz grinned, dropping the datapad in his hand down to his side. "What is it this time, Mikkey? Another dat phone with contact lists of girls long since dead?"

Vrenz's face screwed up like he'd bitten into a lemon. "No, no, none of that this time." He thrust his datapad toward Alejo's face, a three-dimensional image slowly rotating on its screen. "You recognize that, heh?" the engineer challenged.

Alejo took the pad and cocked his head to the side. He tapped the imager and zoomed in on it from all sides. His own eyes widened. "Oh, my stars, you found a book, Mikkey!"

"Yes!!" Mikkey cried out, shooting his fist into the air. "Three years and finally something!"

"Now, now, let us not be hasty. Don't forget Deitrow's blunder."

Mikkey blew out a snort. "This is a book, not a 'zine, Alejo! Crime, those are light years apart! I would think you of all people would know the diff!"

"I know, I know. Just want us to keep a temperate head, that is all. So, where is it?"

Mikkey walked Alejo over to his sifters all of which he'd shut down. Proudly, the digger pointed to his Delta sifter. "Two point four meters down. Fully intact."


Mikkey wagged his pad. "Uploading as we speak. I think there must have been a layer of metals so that slowed down the signal speed a bit, because it should not be taking so long. But nothing has been lost in the transfer. Smooth sliding all the way!"

"I hope so," Alejo grimaced. "Books do not hold up long after such a time. It will take a month to sift and restore it, at least! Can I see the transfer data?"

The engineer worked on his pad. "Here, I just synced it for you. I thought you would want to know. You wrote your thesis on print data, right?"

Alejo nodded. "Late twentieth century print, to be exact."

Mikkey tcched. "Not much to work with there, not after the War and all."

"That is how dissertations, work, Mikkey. You have to choose a subject with a limited data range otherwise it becomes far too lengthy. Besides the Restorative Project funded my work. I got access to eight books."

"Eight twentieth century books? Wow, I did not know there were so many."

"Most were fragments only, all in dead ling: French, German, Arabic, Dutch."

"Never heard of them."

"That is why they are called 'dead ling.' No one speaks them anymore though even Spanese is a derivative of some of them."

"You can read all of them?"

"Sort of. Our translators are still working on them, but the War wiped out everything from that era. We have bits and pieces but mostly back translated from our current languages."


"Yes." Alejo contined rifling through the external schematics and electrospectral analyses. His brow creased. "Its cover is over ninety percent intact.... Artificial animal skin variant. Probably to protect it."

"Primitive," Mikkey chortled.

"There is a coating on the edges, gilding."

"That is good, I hope, yes?"

"Yes, not only does it help preserve the pages but it also indicates the book was of known quality. Usually the classics were gold-gilded to give it a richer look. Two of the eight books I saw had gilding on them. The process survived even through the twenty-third century."

"Gold, heh? I smell Contract!" Mikkey ejaculated, his mouth salivating at the prospect.

Both datapads beeped in unison.

"Is it done?"

Aljeo frowned, running through the data. "Yes. And now I see why it took so long—there are over four hundred pages here!"

"What? The book did not look that thick?"

"Ah, the gilding should have told me this. You see, Mikkey, high quality print with gilding often used thin but very durable paging. The surface resisted water and endured longer. A five centimeter thick book of that kind would be three times as thin as a standard 'paperback' half the length!"

"Wow, I did not think they were so advanced then."

"We also underestimate how technologically savvy people can get. Just because it is old, does not mean they used sticks and stones."

"Point taken.... So which classic is it?"

Alejo began bringing up flashscans of each page, carefully scanned using precise EM wave shots that read each contrastive shape and symbol like MRIs of centuries past scanned the human body or ancient cameras photographed still images. A smile crept across Alejo's face. "Whatever it is, it is 'English,'" he concluded.

"What is that? Another dead ling?"

"Yes. In fact, it was becoming the dominant ling for that era, that is, until the Eco-crash of the mid-twenty-first century."

Mikkey's face looked confused. "That sounds familiar; can you refresh it for me?"

"The Eco-crash refers to two seismic events occuring in the world at the time: one economical, the other ecological. Both came to a head almost in the same decade, causing numerous powerful nations that were dominant for centuries to come crashing down. The UNA, the soils were standing on now, was among them. Their main ling was 'English,' which died out after their power did."

"You can read it, right?"

Alejo rocked his head left to right. "Well, the good news is that I know English better than French and German. Two of the eight fragments were in English. We have a total of, oh, eight pages of English text surviving. But this! This find is phenomenal! Eight pages to over four hundred! With this, we might fully restore the English ling!"

"Why would we want that? Who would speak it?"

"It would be for posterity, okay? Or even just to know that we could do it."

"Er, are there any Contract credits in it?"

"Is that all you care about?"

"No!" the engineer defended, "not all. But I have families to feed, you know?"

"So I hear."

"What does that mean?"

"Nothing. Nothing. Let us refocus, okay? I think I can translate the first page; there are only a few words on it."

That shifted Vrenz's mood. "Truly? Wow, do it!"

Alejo cleared his throat and began muttering the sounds in a low tone. After a minute, Vrenz could not contain his anticipation. "So, so, what is it?"

"Hmm, I mean I can read the words, but I am having dificulty rendering it into Spanese. You will like it; it says, 'The New Contract'."

"Ha-ha! I knew it. Credits will flow! So, does that mean it is about economics?"

"I do not think so. I am having difficulty with 'contract' here. The word is—" At this point, Alejo said a word that registered nothing in Vrenz's mind.

"That is a funny sounding word."

"To us, perhaps. To them, it would have made perfect sense. Let me think.... No, 'contract' is not right." Alejo flipped the image pages of the text. "Hmm, this next page looks like it is listing proper names. Look, see this one? It says, John, which is our equivalent of Juan or Yonahan today."

"Interesting. But what does it mean, this list?"

"I am not sure. Wait a minute." Alejo began running his finger down the list. Halfway done, Vrenz realized Alejo was counting the names.

When Alejo finished, he smiled. Quickly, he flipped forward a dozen pages, his smile growing wider. At least, he said, "Yes, that proves it! Oh, it makes perfect sense now."

"What, what did you find?"

"Twenty-seven, Mikkey. Twenty-seven chapters."

"So? So what? I am no expert but I am certain many books had twenty seven chapters."

"But how many have high quality paper? Gilded edges? With chapters with names of people? And whose early chapters are coded in a diffferent colored font about a fourth of the text?"

"I do not follow."

"This is a part of the 'Bible,' Mikkey. The most printed and distributed book of its time! Up until now we only have third-hand references to such a text; nothing of it survived since the Mass Exodus of the twenty-second century and the subsequent destruction of all religious materials."

"That was a tragedy. Even if those Abrahamites were loonies."

"No arguments there. But you handle it? This is not the 'New Contract,' but 'New Testament.'"

"So it was originally written in this 'English'?"

"I think so. Most of the surviving quotations from it bear an English derivation. Some theorize that it is because the majority of its adherents spoke English at the time. Others believe it is a belief system constructed from that era. A few have hypothesized that the quotes themselves are translations from another language, its true original."

"Another language? What do you think of that?"

Alejo grinned. "Personally, I think it is silly. The quotes are masterfully constructed—elegant, pithy in so many forms. And their meaning is profound, even for one not believing in them. How could such a thing be a 'translation'?"

Vrenz pointed to the pad. "And now we have proof. Here is the oldest, only surviving copy of this 'Bible.' And it is in English as you say."

"Exactly," Alejo affirmed, beeping through pages and pages of biblical text. "Even as I am looking at it, I can tell that this is linguistic beauty and perfection! Look at the lettering, the syntax, the poetry! I would not be suprised if this were one of the true original copies!"

"Which would fetch a hefty price, yes?"

Alejo nodded. "Beyond your wildest dreams, my friend. This is a rich find for both scholarship and your credit account. Come, let us contact our Claims manager. There are many administrative rivers to navigate now."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Luke 16- The Parable of the Unrighteous Steward

Recent interactions with a student (Brent W.) have caused me to re-think (or more accurately, "more closely examine") my view/ interpretation of Luke 16, the Parable of the Unrighteous Steward.

Granted, this is universally acknowledged as one of the toughest parables to understand and especially to apply. To say, "I don't know what it means" is no failure. For in this parable Jesus seems to be praising the steward for cheating his boss AND calling us to be like him. Numerous explanations have attempt to side-step this problem. But now I'm thinking that a more straightforward approach is best. I can't say that I'm completely settled on my view yet. However, for posterity, I thought I'd set down my thoughts as they are now.

Summary of the Parable

Here's the skinny of it: Jesus tells this parable to his disciples (v. 1) but the Pharisees overhear it, too (v. 14). In the story, a steward/ manager is accused of mishandling his rich boss' money. Knowing he'll get fired, the steward hatches a plan: he will "cook the books" or redistribute what's owed to key debtors to his boss in order to win their favor. These debtors--who owe a lot--will in turn owe the steward a big favor. So the steward accomplishes his plan by reducing one man's debt from 800 gallons of oil to 400; for another 1000 bushels is reduced to 800.

Jesus says that the master commends the dishonest manager for his "shrewdness". Then Jesus goes on to say that the people of the world are more shrewd than the "people of light" and tells the people of light to "make friends" with the use of "unrighteous money". Then He gives the principle of those who are diligent with little will be entrusted with more (like the Parable of the Talents), similarly, those who are unfaithful with little will not be entrusted with anything. Then comes the famous "You cannot serve two masters" quote. Then after this, the Pharisees are described as sneering over what Jesus had said of them because they "loved money."

Major Issues:

The major issues are as follows:

(1) Was the steward's actions unrighteous or simply clever? Was he tagged as "unrighteous" because of his actions in reducing the debts or his mismanagement of the master's money prior to doing this (v. 1)?

(2) If his actions are unrighteous, is Jesus praising the steward for being unrighteous? Are we in turn being called to be unrighteous? or pragmatic? or the ends justifying the means?

(3) What does it mean to "make friends" with money? Is this some kind of bribery?

(4) Why does Jesus call money "unrighteous"? Is all money unrighteous? Is there a particular kind of money that's unrighteous?

There are numerous smaller issues involved, but these are the ones that will occupy this exercise.

Suggested Solutions:

There are ways some have tried to squirm out of the stickiness these questions raise.

Contrastive Parable: This is the view I used to take until I took a second look at it. Many of Jesus' parables are contrastive, that is, they are not telling us what to do but what NOT to do. (E.g., the Parable of the Persistent Widow.) In this view, Luke 16 is not Jesus affirming what the steward did, but the opposite. This is how the world works but in contrast we are to manage our money righteously. This view has the effect of side-stepping the problem of being called to imitate the steward. However, the problem with this view is that it doesn't account for the fact that the master praises the steward and that Jesus makes application from the steward's actions that don't bear the hint of a contrast.

The debt-lowering was not unrighteous: Another solution is to posit that what the steward did was clever but not illegal or harmful. Some believe that since every debt includes interest garnered and a handling-fee by the steward, all the steward did was take away his portion of the debt to lower it. Therefore, he didn't take away anything from the master's money, just his own. This view has the effect of eliminating the idea of the actions being unrighteous and so the comparison is just with the cleverness of it. The problem is that Jesus calls the steward "unrighteous". To counter this, some claim that the unrighteousness is a reference to v. 1, his mishandling of the money before his debt-lowering. But a careful reading of v. 1 shows that the master only "accused" the man, and the accusation was not thievery or embezzlement but "wasting" money. In other words, the charge was mismanaging or not being efficient with money, and it was an accusation only. How this alone could account for Jesus calling the man "unrighteous" seems to be a stretch. Again, they could turn and argue that vv. 10-12 speak of being entrusted with someone else's property, a reference to the failure of the steward. But nothing in vv. 10-12 limits the steward's unrighteousness to the mishandling of money. For the same texts speak of being "dishonest" (unrighteous) with money, a more accurate description of what happened in the debt-lowering not in an accusation of mismanagement.

A Better Way

(1) The steward's debt-lowering was unrighteous: I believe that the steward's debt-lowering actions were "unrighteous." I cannot see how the disciples would be expected to assume that the reduction was solely in the amount the steward would've cut out for himself. Nothing in the text says this. Even if this were common knowledge (which is a stretch for those not professional stewards), it still cannot be assumed here, especially since the two reductions were different. One reduced it by half! Is half the debt really the steward's cut?

Also, "unrighteous" does not fit the description of v. 1, the "accusation" of "wasting" money. Further, even if v. 1 showed the steward's unrighteousness, that unrighteousness was a "seed" in v. 1 which "blossomed" in vv. 5-7. In effect, I see the steward's mismanagement of money (v. 1) as an early indication that he was unrighteous but his debt-lowering scheme as proof of it. Hence, Jesus' description of the steward as "unrighteous" only stated as late as v. 8 is appropriate as it comes only after the description of his debt-lowering actions.

(2) Jesus is making a positive comparison between the steward's actions and how He expects us to manage our money though there is a clear contrastive element, too. Jesus clearly describes the secular world as being more "shrewd" than the people of God in order to shame believers for being poor users of money. This does NOT mean that Jesus wants us to be unrighteous or slippery in using money. Nor is the upcoming comparison meant to be total, in every point. By "positive" comparison, I mean that there are elements of the steward's actions that are meant to be paralleled by us. But there is also a clear contrastive element present, insuring we don't misread Jesus' point. How is this done? A knowledge of the Greek here is vital:

(2a) The steward's own statement as to his reasons for the debt-lowering scheme are grammatically parallel to Jesus' statement on what believers are supposed to do with their money.

Compare the steward's thoughts in v. 4 with Jesus' exhortation in v. 9:

"I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses." (v. 4)

"I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." (v. 9)

Here is how that portion in blue reads in the Greek (transliterated) for both:

hina hotan metastatho ek teis oikonomias dexontai me eis tous oikous auton (v. 4b)

hina hotan eklipei dexontai humas eis tas aionious skeinas (v. 9b)

Notice how both follow this grammatical scheme:

hina hotan + (a verb describing "loss") + dexontai + (direct object) + (eis + accusative of "dwelling place")

This is not a coincidence. In his exhortation for believers in v. 9, Jesus intentionally borrows the wording from the steward in v. 4 to show the parallel between the two.

- The steward knows that his job will be "lost" (metastatho) so he makes plans to "be received" (dexontai) by his benefitors "into their houses" (eis tous oikous auton). He's smartly planning for his future.

- Jesus says that since money "fails" (eklipei) we are to make plans to "be received" (dexontai) by the friends that we make using the money "into the eternal tents" (eis tous oikous auton). This smartly plans for our future.

The exhortation to "make friends with unrighteous money" is a call to take the money of this world and redeem it for something good, namely, to make friends. Now this doesn't have the crass connotation of bribery or using wealth to win friends and influence people. Nor is this works-salvation. Jesus has consistently associated true righteousness with giving generously, esp. to the poor. Remember Matthew 25:31-46? Jesus describes the separation of the sheep (heavenbound) and goats (hellbound) on the basis of whether they gave to the poor.

This has the effect, naturally, of making friends with them. So in the end, when we get to heaven (the eternal tent), we will be welcomed (received) by those to whom we gave as friends. (Bock argues that it is God who receives us not the friends since the friends don't construct heaven. But I don't think that's the implication at all here. The scene is IN heaven and it's a question of who's doing the receiving/ welcoming/ (cheering?).) Naturally, the friends who were made--the poor who were given to--will line up to welcome the generous giver.

The point being: when you use worldly money in this life to do good deeds, you are reaping eternal rewards. THAT'S smart planning for your future.

But does this mean we are to do what the steward does? Is Jesus affirming his unscrupulous practice?

(2b) Jesus makes the actions of the steward clearly unrighteous and makes it clear that we are NOT to act like that.

Again, we press the Greek into service to help us here. We note that Jesus uses the word "unrighteous" (adikia) here in a way seems stands out.

Jesus calls the steward "adikia" in v. 8 ("dishonest"- NIV).
Jesus calls money "adikia" in vv. 9, 11 ("worldly"- NIV)
Jesus refers to "adikos" practices in v. 10 ("dishonest"- NIV), which is virtually the same as "adikia"

Notice, then, the flow of thought. Jesus calls the steward adikia in v. 8. What the steward did with the debt was wrong (vv. 5-7), an outflow of his original mishandling of the money beforehand (v. 1). Then Jesus praises the steward for some aspect of what he did, namely, the parallel of intentions in v. 4. It's the steward's intention (to plan to secure his future) and goal (to gain the favor of others) that is praiseworthy though his actions (unrighteous debt-lowering) are not. So the shrewdness that Jesus is praising and wants us to emulate is not the fixing of the books but the good intention to plan for one's future and to take steps to do so.

To insure that we know that Jesus does not mean for us to emulate the steward's debt-lowering scheme, Jesus uses the word adikia as a signal of a contrast. The steward was adikia for doing what he did. In v. 9 when he tells us how we are to use money, notice that instead of describing our actions as adikia (like the steward's), He describes the money itself as adikia.

This is further signaled by the fact that the phrase "unrighteous money" is redundant in the Greek. The term for money used here is "mamonas". This is NOT the common term for money. Usually Koine uses the specific type of metal in view like gold ("crusos") or most commonly silver ("argurion") or even bronze ("chalkos"). The classical Greek term for money is "creima" which carries more the sense of "wealth" or "riches" in the NT.

But most importantly, in the 1st century Jewish culture "mamonas" referred to more than money. "Mammon" as it is preserved often in English translations is not capitalized for no good reason. "Mammon" was the Jewish name for a fallen angel (demon) who was believed to represent or rule over the evil use of money. This use is even clearer in v. 13 of Luke 16, where Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and Mammon." The idea of "serving" is the idea of worship as described by the Second Commandment. By personifying or personalizing "money" as a demonic figure, the idea of money as an idol becomes clearer. And it makes better sense than the image of bowing down to sacksful of coins.

Therefore: when Jesus calls it "unrighteous Mammon," it is like saying "evil Satan." It's redundant, unnecessary. We know "Satan" is evil just as "Mammon" (the demon!) is unrighteous. So why do it? The use of adikia here is not descriptive but rhetorical. It stands out, why? To remind us in v. 9 that when Jesus instructs us how we're to live, in contrast to the steward who is adikia, for believers it is the money that is adikia though our actions are not! In fact, using adikia money for righteous ends is even more righteous!

The point is this: Jesus' use of adikia sets up an obvious and intentional contrast between the actions of the steward and ours as believers. Though the positive parallels are plain (just as the steward was a careful planner of his future, so we are to be), so are the negative aspects to be excluded (unrighteous means to achieving that righteous purpose).

(3) Jesus paves the way for an even greater contrast

Our friend adikia takes up yet another function!

In v.11 Jesus makes the statement: "So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?" (NIV)

The term "worldly wealth" is our friend "unrighteous Mammon" again (adikioi mamonai). Notice how Jesus contrasts "unrighteous Mammon" with "true riches" (lit. "the true thing", to alithinon)?

So not only is money described as "adikia" to contrast our actions with that of the steward's, but also in contrast to "real" riches. Earthly money is "adikia" even more so because it is lowly, poor, and petty compared with "the true riches" (to alithinon) of God: the Kingdom, heavenly rewards, the real stuff.

Jesus is insuring that while we are to make good use of earthly money, we shouldn't get caught up in it (like the Pharisees of v. 14). If anything, the "shrewd" solution is to use the earthly money to gain heavenly riches.


In sum, in telling this story, Jesus has spun up a complex analogy, one of comparison and contrast. We are to be like the steward in that we plan for our future, make wise use of our resources and opportunities, and seek the good goal of winning people not gaining things. We are to be unlike the steward in how he went about doing it.

The steward was wise in wanting to plan for his future and was understandable in his desire to be welcomed by others. His means didn't justify his ends, though even from a worldly perspective his wrong deed was still "clever." When I get cut off on the freeway by a driver, I may get upset for being denied that spot but if he made a skillful move, a part of me thinks, "Hey, nice move!" though I still grumble. Wrong move but a skillful one, admittedly. What the steward did was wrong but skillful, admittedly.

Money is a tool that's not entirely "neutral." In an ideal world it would be. In a fallen world, money is a strong temptation for evil. That's why Jesus personifies it with the familiar "Mammon" concept, since Satan is behind the world's system and the world's system runs so much on money.

A wise Christian will use money that's earthly (at best) and demonic (at worst) and redeem it for something eternal: by using it to help people, give to the poor, and win friends (and souls) to Christ! And when we "make friends" with it, they will "welcome us" in heaven, praising us for our generosity.

That's wise financial planning!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Biblical Typology, Part 2

In review: Biblical typology is the study of biblical types. Biblical types are events, persons, or things in history that carry with them a prophetic power; they not only have significance for their own time but obviously, blatantly point to a future "fulfillment" just as a verbal, oracular prophecy would.

Studying types, we see that they, in full, contain some of the following elements. These are not neatly summed up in any one text but are the culmination of studying ALL of the obvious biblical types and seeing how they are used, esp. by the New Testament (NT) writers. The major texts include Romans 5; 1 Corinthians 10; 1 Peters 3; Hebrews 8 & 9 because they contain either the word "tupos" or a form of it and are used clearly in an interpretive way.



This element is crucial because critics of typology have regarded it as no different than a "spiritualizing" or "allegorizing" of the biblical text (something that should be avoided). Some even lump allegorization and typology together as two very similar fruits from the same spiritualizing tree.

But the major difference between allegorization and typology is this: correspondence in history.

An "allegory" is genre, a way of writing something where the persons and things involved are meant to symbolize or represent something else. These meanings are intentional, set down by the author's purpose.

"Allegorization" is a hermeneutical method of taking a(ny) text and reading symbolic meaning into it. For example, rather than taking the Parable of the Good Samaritan at face value, each element takes on a hidden, special, or symbolic meaning: The Samaritan is Jesus, the man on the road is the non-believer, the inn is the church, the two coins are the two sacraments, "I will return" is the second coming, etc. The actual story itself is ignored in favor of attempting to link representative meanings to each element rather than what the story itself says at face value.

This is NOT what biblical typology does. Typology takes a historical event/ person at face value. It interprets that in its context as a historical event/ person with its imbedded, context-specific meaning and application that follows all of the grammatico-historical rules of literal interpretation. "Historical correspondence" assumes God is the author of history and intends paralells and patterns in it to let us know that He is the one at work. Historical correspondence compares later events to prior ones to see if God has intended a parallel, since He has done so very often in the past (e.g., paralleling Creation & the Flood).

So for example in the typology of Adam & Christ in Romans 5, there is no spiritualizing or allegorizing happening with Paul. Paul sees Adam as a historical person who did certain things all under the sovereignty of God. In this case, it was representing humanity. Jesus then comes along and, under same sovereignty, intentionally parallels Adam and He too represents humanity, but this time in contrast to Adam's sin, Jesus propitiates the sin. This is historical correspondence: a parallel between the lives of Adam & Christ, both historical persons treated as historical persons and finding sovereignly intended commonalities between the two. Paul apparently did.

Now our biblical examples do no require that ALL elements of comparison must line up exactly. This never happens. There are certain elements that are parallel, and others that are not. In fact, points of contrast can be just as significant as points of agreement (e.g., Christ as the conqueror of sin vs. Adam as the originator of sin).


What justifies seeing significance beyond or in addition to the significance of the event/ person to that time? Some scholars argue that since God is the author all Scripture is "eschatological" to some degree. Now while there is merit to this, we have to be careful not to allow this to justify eschatologicalizing every text which may descend us into a form of spiritualization that is unhealthy. We need a textual standard or safeguard. What is it?

There needs to be an eschatological element in the text or event that somehow hints or points to a future fulfillment. For example, seeing Adam as a "type" requiring a future fulfillment is seen in the "prophecies" made in Eden in Genesis 3, esp. regarding the One who will crush the serpent's head. If the person or event in question is couched in a context saturated with prophecies or eschatological elements or if even there are narrative elements that naturally lead one to anticipate a coming fulfillment (just as a good crime novel will create an anticipation of a fulfillment (catching the villain, rescuing the woman) without ever having to state it as such), then we may be more justified in seeing an eschatological element, hence, a "type" in it.


A true biblical type seems to follow a linear pattern of prototype-type-antitype.

"Prototype" refers to the chronologically "first" event that sets the pattern for all of the rest to follow. For example, if the overall typological pattern is "God's presence among humanity", the first incarnation of that is the Garden of Eden. This is the "prototype", the first form of where God's presence for humanity resides. This builds an expectation that, as humanity is expelled from Eden, there will be other domains or vessels of God's presence. These subsequent ones--in order to be truly "types"--will be worded and shaped in ways that make obvious reference back to the original, the prototype.

"Types" then are subsequent forms of the original prototype. In the case of "God's presence among humanity" we see this most obviously next in the Tabernacle and then the Temple. Both are physically designed with elements that intentionally parallel the Garden of Eden, its arboreal decorations being the most prominent. So the Tabernacle is a "type" of Eden, a "type" of God's presence among humanity. The temple is also a type, a type of Tabernacle, a type of Eden, a type of God's presence among humanity. God has set up a pattern and it continues on in the history of God's people. There are linkages to the past (to the original and prior types) and anticipations of the future (an ULTIMATE center of God's presence).

"Antitypes" are the final, ultimate fulfillments of the prior types and prototypes. Christians know this to be all centered in Jesus and the New Covenant. Ephesians 1's statement of "the summing up of all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on the earth" points to this idea that Jesus is the fulfillment of all things, not just oracular prophecies but all that NEED fulfillment including types. Complicating matters is that Jesus advent was split into two comings with a whole stretch of church-history in between. Not all of the prophetic elements were fulfilled in the first coming, though many were. Many continue fulfillment in the history of the church, and the final Eschaton will bring final closure to these prophetic elements including types.

So in regard to "God's presence", the final fulfillment is in Jesus himself. Jesus is the very person of God and walked among humanity in a way that was reminiscent of Eden when God "walked" with Adam. And Jesus then lives in our hearts after the Ascension and through the life of the Church. Herein lies the first advent element of typological fulfillment of God's presence: in Jesus, in our hearts, in the church. This continues on throughout the history of the church from Acts 2, today, and until the Eschaton. But ultimately, in the Revelation judgment, Jesus will create the New Heavens and New Earth, the New Jerusalem, which is the ultimate fulfillment and experience of God's presence among humanity. Revelation 21 deliberately links its descriptions of the New Jerusalem with elements of Eden and the Temple and Christ. This is the "antitype", the ultimate fulfillment of the prototype (Eden) and subsequent types (Tabernacle, Temple) and the historically prior antitype (Christians, church).

Coincidence? Reading too much into things? Hardly. This is the result of knowing the sophisticated God of the Bible, the Divine Author who weaves these complexities for us to see and understand.

Let's quicky see another example: Messiah typology.

The prototype savior is Noah, the first savior of humanity whose actions literally saved or preserved the human race. Noah's seed carries on this hope which culminates next in Abraham, to whom the promise of an earth-wide salvation is given. Through Abraham "all the nations of the world will be blessed." Isaac carries this promise to Jacob who becomes Israel. Israel is the nation of promise, the beacon to bring salvation to the world. Moses emerges the main savior for Israel, not only leading them from captivity but bringing the Law to them. The judges fail to lead the people as does the first king, Saul. David emerges as the nation's savior, the rigtheous king through whom the Davidic promise of Messiah comes. The subsequent kings fail leading to the dissolution of the northern kingdom and the captivity of the southern, Judah. (It is likely that while in Captivity, Daniel was instrumental in the release of Israel, thus saving them). After the Exile, Ezra and Nehemiah work together to restore Jerusalem, with anticipations of a coming ultimate Messiah brewing. Finally, Jesus arrives, the antitype, the ultimate Savior of saviors. His coming is in two parts: the first saves us from our sin's power by forgiving it, the second will save us from sin's presence by destroying it. In 1 Peter 3, Jesus work is compared with the Noahic flood. Full circle. The final Savior is compared with the proto-savior sweeping in all of the "types" of saviors in between.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Biblical Typology, Part 1

Ask your average seminary or bible college professor, and (s)he can tell you generally what "biblical typology" is. Ask your average pastor, and he'll tell you he's heard of it but doesn't have the strongest grasp of the idea. Ask your average congregant, and they'll say, "Biblical typo-what?"

Theologically in-house definition(s)

Here's a simple definition of what "biblical typology" is: the study of types in the Bible.

That raises the next question: What's a biblical "type"?

The classic definition of a "type" is: "a person, event, thing, or instititution that prefigures or foreshadows another person, event, thing or institution in the Bible." To the average Christian, however, that's not very helpful.

Some other definitions I've personally come up with include:

"A type is a historically enacted prophecy." or "an acted prediction."

"A type is a prophetically historical analogy."

"An eschatologically charged, divinely appointed historical correspondence that both references its original prototype and foreshadows its fulfilling antitype(s), interconnecting with related types and oracular prophecies. It often takes the form of events, persons, things, or concepts."

But in truth these won't help the average believer either.

An explanation

Typology is a concept that requires numerous assumptions, beliefs, and a worldview that is foreign to the average 21st century person. Rather than a definition, an explanation of typoloy is much more desirable and ultimately helpful.

Though scholars have often disagreed about what typology is and whether it's a legitimate idea, a majority who've studied the issue (like myself) have agreed that it is legitimate and its concept fairly straightforward though hardly simple:

Typology is the study of a phenomenon that crops up often in the Bible, Old and New Testaments. It is something very similar to an "oracular" prophecy (a prophecy verbally given whether orally or in written form or both), like the kind preserved in the major & minor prophets of the Old Testament. Except a "type" is a prophecy that's conveyed circumstantially rather than verbally. Most often, it's either an event or a person that becomes "prophetic". God sets up an event or a person that has eschatological or future significance.

For example: Abraham offers Isaac (Genesis 22). Most Christians have been taught that this event/ scene of Abraham being willing to offer his son, the chosen one, to God is a picture, a foreshadowing of God the Father offering His Son, Jesus. Phrases like "God will provide a lamb." become crucial to anticipating the sacrificial Christ. Nothing in this text explicitly says, "And this happened as a foreshadowing..." No commentary is made by Moses or God regarding any future significance of this event. No where in the New Testament does it say that Christ's death was foreseen in Genesis 22. Yet, we continue to see the parallels, why? Because there's something far too coincidental about the parallels. The text doesn't have to say explicitly that it's foreshadowing for it to be so.

Is this reading too much into the text? If this were an isolated phenomenon, then we might be inclined to think so. But it isn't.

Let's table that question for the moment and seek to understand what we mean by a biblical "type." Genesis 22 is such an example. It is an event in history that acts like a prophecy, pointing and hinting toward a future event that will be similar in purpose and action to this one. Thus, in this way, a type can be said to be "fulfilled" just as a verbal prophecy from, say, Isaiah or Micah.

The justification: Romans 5 & 1Corinthians 10

If it were left to examples like Genesis 22 alone, the idea of typology would be shaky. Fortunately, that's not the case. "Type" and "typology" come from the Greek term "tupos" which is used in the New Testament in two distinct ways.

The first means "impression" or "blow" or "mark" or "mold". It can refer to the imprint made by a vase in a lump of clay when someone is trying to create a mold. Thomas uses the term in John 20:25 when he says that he will not believe until he sees and touches the "marks" (tupos) in Jesus' resurrected hands.

The second refers to a biblical "type," an event, person, or thing that is ordained by God to prophesy other events, persons, or things just as a verbal prophecy would. Paul compares Jesus to Adam in Romans 5. But the comparison is not one he's forcing or inventing or a matter of coincidence. Paul believes that God superinteded Adam to foreshadow Jesus and Jesus to parallel Adam. Paul says,

"Nevertheless, death reigned form the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern (tupos) of the one to come." (Romans 5:14)

Adam is seen by Paul as a "type" of Jesus. Adam's actions predicted another One to come, One who would undo and counter the sin he brought into the world. Genesis 3 specifically mentions one who will "crush" the head of the snake; there is more explicit predictive power in this text. Paul apparently saw it. And he saw that Edenic event as a "type" that looked to a future "fulfillment." Adam is one part of that and is the typological predictor of a coming One. Jesus is the typological fulfillment of that anticipation, of that type.

Paul describes the progress of Israel in the wilderness in 1Corinthians 10:1-5. Of these events, he says in v. 6,

"Now these things occurred as examples (tupos) to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as theydid."

Notice how Paul sees certain OT events as "types," events that were meant to have more significance than just back then. They are relevant and real in his present time (and ours). You might think, "Well, v. 6 just seems to be saying that OT events were instructive examples for us, affirming the applicability of Scripture to all times." Where's the sense of "prophecy" here? He specifies it in v. 11:

"These things happened to them as examples (tupos) and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come."

Jesus is the fulfillment of the ages. In him, the OT was fulfilled. Types are not just teaching examples, they are prophetic events that anticipate a "fulfillment." Moses is a "type" of Messiah whose ministry was relevant to its own time AND was prophetic of a coming, superior Messiah: Jesus. Israel is a "type" of God's people who served a purpose in its time AND was prophetic of a coming, superior people of God: the Church.

The tabernacle was a "type" of sanctuary of God that served a purpose in the wilderness AND was prophetic of a coming, superior sanctuary: the Temple. AND the temple itself was prophetic of a coming, superior temple: Christians and the Church. AND the indwelling presence therein is still prophetic of a coming, superior presence, the final one: New Heavens and New Earth.

The worldview

What makes it difficult to process the idea of typology is how different our worldview now is from Israel's of time past. They viewed history as the work of God. God controlled time and space; He wrote history. And He didn't just do so like a sporadic catharsis. Like the most sophisticated storyteller, God wove into the (hi)story of humanity all sorts of plots, subplots, and sub-subplots. There would be twists and turns. Things barely mentioned in the early parts of the story would sudden reappear later in fuller significance and only a look back would bring enlightenment. God wrote many things in this story as obvious markers. Events in one time would repeat later in a different form but with obvious, intended parallels. Some keep on repeating. Patterns are partly how the Israelites knew it was God acting. That was partly why God set up rituals and rites: they were patterns repeatedly enacted to remind themselves of who they were and who God was.

They looked for patterns, expected them. Biblical types are such patterns, patterns in history. They're not attempts to see parallels or invent them where none exist. They're attempting to observe what God has done and to see if there's something about an event that indicates a significance beyond its own time.

Today, we see history in a strictly linear fashion: cause-effect progress. It's a secular concept. So, for us a prophecy is a jump to or a window from one point on that line (say, 500 BC) to another (say, 33 AD). Hence, for many believers, there is ONE fulfillment for every prophecy. After all, there is one event, one point in time, and one prophecy is fulfilled by that one event.

For the Israelites, history was a rich tapesty with interweaving, complex threads all over. Yes, it moved and progressed but it did so with great sophistication, even beauty. God, after all, was the Creator of that history. So for them a specific prophecy was like a thread on that tapestry. It may ultimately lead to a specific endpoint (final fulfillment) but along the way it may intersect with a beautiful image on that tapestry, say, it's thread weaves into that image, integreating with it, then leaving it to go on its merry way maybe even interacting with a few others along the way. Or again, like a well-crafted story, there are elements inserted in the beginning of the plot that reach a certain fulfillment as the story progresses yet still awaiting a final fulfillment in the end. Israel believed in a God who was all intelligent, all sophisticated, and all wise. He had the power to take a single event and repeat that event in various forms and to varying degrees not only all throughout Israel's history (macrocosmic events) but in smaller ways in daily life (microcosmic events).

Think about your own life.

Macroscopically, God has ordained a "type" of Messiah. It began with Noah, the savior of humanity in the ark. It progressed through Abraham, the Father of Nations and to Jacob (Israel). Moses becomes the most visible "savior" figure in all the Old Testament but there are others. The kings like David often "save" their people. Daniel was a savior for Israel in Exile. Jesus, of course, the ultimate savior who saved us from sin in his First advent and will save us finally from sin in his Second advent (Final judgment).

Microscopically, most everyone of us have gone through life and encountered times of trouble. And someone was there to "rescue" or "save" us from that. We've all had "saviors" in our lives. More than just a parallel, common concept, this is a microcosmic reflection of God at work. He intentionally brings "types" of saviors into our lives to remind us of the ultimate Savior, Christ. He brings "types" of saviors on every level, including the political realm. Is God sophisticated and caring enough to work in such a complex way? To not only engineer these macro-events but to repeat them on a micro-level to each one of us? To repeat the biblical concepts in our very lives? That would require faith in a sovereign, sophisticated God. That is precisely the God of the Bible.

Types and typology then are the affirmation of such a God. They are not clever readings of things into texts just to make them fit or to look cool. They are the acknowledgment that God is a God of purpose. He does all things for a reason. Significance of events are not necessarily limited to one place or time. They can transcend their confines and continue to reverberate all through time. It shows us that there is a single Author, one creative Mind at work in history. Our God.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Calvinism 101- A Quick Look

You have heard it has been said regarding the concept of predestination,
"There are equally good arguments on both sides."

But I say unto you, "This may be true of some issues but not of predestination.
The biblical evidence is so heavily weighted in favor of predestionation/
Calvinism that it should not even be an issue."

Fact: There are NO passages in the Bible--Old or New Testaments--that directly or indirectly teaches, supports, or upholds the cardinal non-Calvinistic (Arminian) view of "free will". There are no examples, no sweeping narratives, no individual descriptions, no parables, no proverbs, no teachings on anything that remotely hints of it.

The Bible speaks often of the human will, but never does it state that a fallen, post-Edenic human being possesses a will in a state of freedom nor does it use any metaphor, description, or term indicating this idea. In truth, ask any non-Calvinist as to the reason for his/ her belief in it or free will and you will get an argument that is not based directly on Scripture. They raise good questions and notable objections but these are not tantamount of biblical evidence or biblical teaching. Some include the following:

"I don't see how God could 'make' someone saved without being manipulative and violating human responsibility! This would turn us into puppets and robots!"

"The fact is, God wants us to love him, and love must be a freely made choice otherwise it isn't love. If you're forced or made to love, it's not real love. Hence, we must have a free will."

"Look at me: I can make free choices. No one forces me to put on a particular shirt or wave my hand a certain way. God left me the freedom to make those choices. He doesn't require me to eat toast one day and then eggs the other. I know I have freedom."

While these points are all fine and good, note that none of them have a shred of actual biblical backing. Some attempt to draw in general ideas about God or freedom or love from the Bible and extrapolate biblical anthropology (study of human nature) from them rather than deriving them directly from Scripture. They're suggestive of biblical concepts but none draw from an actual text or narrative or specific teaching. In effect, it's a philosophical argument loosely based upon biblical concepts.

Let's be biblical then.

First things first: Does the Bible speak of the concept of "predestination," "election," "being chosen"? Yes. This is impossible to refute. The New American Standard lists 6 verses using the word "predestined": Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29, 30; 1Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:5, 11. Each instance is accurately translated from the Greek verb "prooridzo" meaning "predestined" or "decided beforehand" or "predetermined" (Bauer's lexicon).

The commonly used noun "eklektos" is predominantly used to refer to "elect" or "chosen" people (22 uses, all but perhaps 3 clearly referring to salvific election, the other 3 possibly meaning "an excellent choice"). Other lesser but related words include: "protitheimi" (to have in mind beforehand, Eph 1:9) and "kleiroo" (to be appointed, Eph 1:11). In short, there's no question that the Bible uses the actual term "predestine" as expressed in various forms. What now remains is what the Bible means by this

Second, Does the Bible ever speak of the human will in relationship to salvation? If so, how? Nowhere does the Bible ever use the term or concept of "freedom" in relation to the state of the fallen human will. Every other description, however, is clearly described in terms of bondage, the exact opposite of freedom. First things first: the most direct texts:

John 1:12-13, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (NAS)
- These phrases like "will of the flesh" have been variously interpreted. But what none of the interpretations can escape from is the two-fold emphasis that the human "will" is not the source, cause, yea factor in being "born" into God's family. Being children of God, being born again is not from any human source whether ancestry, family, personage, or even the self: it's all "of God." God is the source.
- Note the term used here for "will" is "theleima," a word whose forms will appear often in the New Testament.
- Non-predestinarians may dispute the specific meanings or references in this text--even deny it applies to the discussion at all--but at least predestinarians have texts like this to work with, texts that clearly are speaking of salvation and clearly speak of the will. And far from declaring our freedom of the will, texts like these distance if not deny the will as a part of the cause or creation of salvation.

Romans 9:15-16, "For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy."
- Paul is speaking of election in this text (beginning from the election of Israel in v. 3 to the individual election of Jacob over Esau in vv. 10-13).
- Then he uses Pharoah as an illustration of God being able to choose to use any for His purposes whether it be for salvation or condemnation. Verse 15 makes the clear statement of sovereignty: God can choose save those whom He wills. No one earns it or has the right to it.
- Then he makes the powerful statement regarding salvation / grace: "it does not depend on the man who wills (thelo- verb form of theleima)". Here is the most direct statement one can get: salvation is not a matter of the human will. Paul adds "runs" as a metaphor for striving or great effort. This has caused the otherwise "softer" NIV to render these phrases as "it does nt, therefore, depend uon man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy." In many ways this is stroner than the NAS' rendering!
- Again, there are surely ways to wrangle and mangle the text to make it read otherwise. But at least predestinarians have texts like these to work with. All non-predestinarians can do is object with philosophy but no direct Bible. ("I don't see how this is fair!")

Now factoring in the universally accepted truth that for the Israelites the "will" was located in the "heart", what does the Bible say about the state of the fallen human heart? or the state of human beings in general, spiritually, in relationship with God?

Ephesians 2:1-3, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."
- This is not a pretty picture. We were spiritually "dead." That's worse than just in bondage to sin. The dead cannot respond much less declare freedom of the will. Further, the rest of vv. 2-3 describe EVERY human being in bondage to the trends of the world and of Satan. We were trapped in lust and desires. This is as far from a picture of freedom than one can get.
-Note that when the rest of vv. 4-10 describe the act of salvation, no where is free will or the idea that we were saved on the basis of our choice at all described. In fact, Paul is quite pointed about emphasizing it's "by grace" and "not of yourselves" it is a gift, not earned, not done. All of it: salvation, grace, faith "this is not of yourselves."

Ephesians 4:18, "being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart"
- At the least, this applies to the Gentiles (v. 17), though Paul would agree it applies in truth to everyone. The Jews may have less "ignorance" to fall back on but the hardness of heart is universal. A picture of freedom? Not a chance.

Romans 6:17-18, "But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."
- A triple-whammy here. (1) Paul describes our former fallen state as "slaves of sin." Slavery is the exact opposite of freedom. The heart is enslaved to sin and the will with it; (2) Paul describes the act of salvation as "having been freed from sin." How can the will be free if it needs to be freed? Pre-salvation human hearts are not free, they need to be freed from sin's bondage; (3) Salvation is then described as becoming "slaves of righteousness." Even salvation itself is not true freedom (which is complete independence). We change our servitude from sin to God, where it should be.
- This cuts at the heart of the free-will error: humanity was NEVER intended to have a perfectly free will. That would mean a life apart from God. True relationship with God, the Creator, MUST involve a complete subjugation of the self and the will to God. Ironically, in the human experience, this "slavery of righteousness", to us, feels like the most amazing FREEDOM we could experience because that's how we're built. We're built to experience freedom by being enslaved to God.

Third, Does the Bible ever speak of election often or rarely? Often! Unlike other concepts, election theology is not peripheral to the Bible. Why? Because it all started with Israel, who are "God's chosen people." For Israel, election was not some esoteric, philosophical discussion alongside "How many angels can stand on the head of a pin?" Election formed the very fabric of their spiritual identity. There were specially chosen, hand-picked by God, privileged above all other nations and peoples. Morever, they were taught by God that they didn't earn this privilege: it happened despite who they were:

Deuteronomy 7:7, "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples"
- God chose the smallest, weakest nation to prove that it was all Him and none of them that would make them great. This concept is repeated by Paul in the New Testament in regard to our election as Christians:

1 Corinthians 1:26-29, "For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God."

This is why the Bible is not shy about discussing this concept. This is why Paul often speaks of predestination in the New Testament, almost offhandedly. To the Israelite already steeped in election theology as a given, to pass on the idea of national election to individual election (just as Jeremiah 31:31 ff describes) is a no-brainer. They already believed in a God who elects, selects, predestines, and predetermines.

Our problem is that we're so steeped in our Western ideas of freedom and independence and individuality that we've imported that into our theology. We've overestimated our experience of freedom and underestimated the truth that all of us (even as Christians) as Ephesians 2:2-3 describes, are subject to the whims, trends, and values of the world we live in. Are we truly free? Or don't we walk and talk and think very much in the way the world does? Even those who "rebel" against the trends do so in a "stereotypical" way that identifies them as "rebellious"; they become part of an entrenched liberal culture that mistakenly believes that they're free when they've merely chosen to switch allegiances and trends from a majority to a minority.

Scripture is clear: we are not free. Even as believers, we are still burdened by so much sin. We have that inward battle in our hearts, one we will never be free of in this life. Salvation began the process of freedom and sanctification continues it. We still strive for freedom as Christians. Only in glorification will we be truly free and even then, we will be freely enslaved to God. And enjoying it all the way.

This is just a taste of the idea of predestination in the Bible.