BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 57
Copyright 1994, Biblical Horizons
This month I begin presenting material and research that will, God willing, find eventual publication as Through New Eyes, Volume II.
In Through New Eyes (part I) I sought in a general way to explain some of the symbolism and imagery of the Bible, showing that it is through such symbolism that the Bible presents us with the true picture of the world. I dealt with rocks, stars, plants, animals, angels, and mankind. I left out some other very important aspects of the world picture that the Bible emphasizes: water, cloud, smell, taste, fire, etc., because there was not room for everything.
Then I sought to show that there are various models of the world in the Bible, symbolic models formed by putting together the various pieces of symbolic imagery together into "houses": for instance, the Oasis Sanctuaries, the Tabernacle, the Temple of Solomon, Ezekiel’s Temple, and the New Jerusalem. These are God’s houses, but since man is God’s image, I could have extended this discussion by taking note of the configuration of Solomon’s Palace, the highly symbolic configuration of Ahasuerus’ Palace in Esther, and the configuration of every Israelite house as discussed in Leviticus and Numbers. Once again, going into all that detail would have detracted from the main trust of the book.
In the second half of Through New Eyes I sought to show that God manages history by trans-forming (transfiguring) each world into a more glo-rious one. This, I argued, is the basic meaning of typology, as each world model typifies the next, and all those to come; with the overall world model of the First Creation (Adam to Christ) typically prefiguring the New Creation (Pentecost to the Second Coming). I set out the leading features of each of the main periods of First Creation history, and showed how each period declined due (a) to human maturation as men outgrew the earlier stage, and simultaneously (b) to human sin as men failed to live in terms of the promises of each stage. Thus, each stage led to the next.
I discussed the worlds of Adam, Noah, the Patriarchs, Moses, the Kingdom, and the Restoration. In a footnote, I mentioned the Remnant Covenant introduced by Elijah and Elisha (p. 312, n. 18; this is a very important note, and if you missed it as you read the book, you will want to read it now). Some of what I did in this section of the book was "new ground," because every book on the succession of covenants I have ever read jumps from the Davidic Covenant to the New Covenant, completely skipping the all-important Restoration Covenant. In fact, though, Jesus conducted His ministry at the end of the Restoration Covenant, and if we are not familiar with Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, we are not in the best position to understand the nature of the times Jesus lived in. I had to do a lot of original work here, and my thinking has continued to mature in this area.
I did not discuss what I now call the four Interim Covenants in Through New Eyes. Here again, it was because to get into these would have bogged the book down and drawn me away from my central purpose. My central purpose was to show that God manages history through crises that bring about new models of world order. After the coming of the gospel, we have seen God do this twice, as the Early Church crisised into the Medieval, and the Medieval into the Reformation. We are at the brink of a new complete cultural crisis and transfiguration today.
That is a thumbnail sketch of the purpose of Through New Eyes. At this point, I want to share two refinements in my original presentation.
First, further study of the Restoration Covenant period has largely convinced me that the battle of Gog and Magog is the same as the events in the book of Esther, not the later invasion of Judea by Antiochus Epiphanes. Also, as Peter Leithart is showing in a current series in Biblical Horizons , the prophets change Jerusalem from being merely the City of David to being the Holy City, and Nehemiah’s building of Jerusalem’s walls is the act whereby the city becomes, in its entirety, a holy zone. This is an important change, which sets up many events in the New Testament, including the necessary destruction of Jerusalem.
The second refinement concerns what I called the Remnant Covenants. In fact, I see four Interim Covenants.
The first comes in the forty-year wilderness wanderings. The interim character of this period becomes clear when we read the law in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and realize that it is phrased in terms of living in the land. During the wanderings, the law must have been applied creatively and differently. Also, we find in Joshua 5 that the Israelites did not circumcise themselves during this period, which means that they understood (rightly) that the fulness of the Sinaitic covenant was in some kind of abeyance or postponement.
The second comes in 1 Samuel 1-7 and lasted about a century. God allowed the Tabernacle to be wrecked and He Himself (as the Ark) went into Philistine (Egyptian) captivity. Then the Ark was brought back, and enshrined in the "House of Abinadab on the Hill," that is, on a high place in a tent maintained by Abinadab. The Tabernacle was maintained elsewhere, and the two were not reconjoined until Solomon’s Temple was built. During this century, Yahweh’s Kingdom was maintained by the prophet Samuel, and the new Kingdom Covenant gradually came into being, climaxing with the building of Solomon’s Temple and the new order of priests, worship, architecture, and national administration that came into being at that time (as I set it out in Through New Eyes).
The third Interim Covenant is the "Remnant Covenant." It too was set up by prophets and maintained by prophets between the days of Ahab and the Restoration under Ezra.
The fourth Interim Covenant consists of the three years of Jesus’ ministry, when new features of the New Covenant began to be put into play, while at the same time features of the Old Covenant were also still honored. In a sense, this Interim Covenant extends to ad 70, for the apostles continued to offer sacrifice in the Temple until that time.
When we see this model, we can see that new covenants are heralded by prophets, prophets who actually set up the new covenants. First of all, Moses. Moses actually walks through Israel’s later experience, being driven out of Egypt, living forty years in the wilderness, circumcising his son as he enters Egypt to conduct holy war (Ex. 4 + Josh. 5), etc. Moses anoints Aaron and supervises the setting up of the Tabernacle system and the tribal system of the Sinaitic Period.
Second, Samuel. Samuel sets up the Kingdom during the second Interim Covenant period. He anoints Saul and David. 1 Samuel 9-10 establish that "Saul is among the prophets, and who is their father?"the answer to which is that Samuel (the prophets) are fathers to the Kings. Thus, the kings address the prophets: "My father, my father: the chariot of Israel and its horsemen."
Third, Elijah and company. Elijah and Elisha set up the Restoration order in a preliminary form as the Kingdom period wanes. They introduce the period of the prophets, and thus are followed by Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. The prophet Zechariah (in the visions of Zech.1-6) sets up the new Restoration Covenant by crowning the high priest with a royal crown. Malachi is the last of these prophets.
Finally, John the Forerunner. John baptizes Jesus, thereby anointing the final and Great High Priest. Jesus, as Greater Prophet, sets up the New Covenant, baptizing the Church at Pentecost. Thus, in a sense, Jesus’ ministry and that of the apostles is a fourth Interim Covenant, having such features as miraculous prophecy and speaking in unlearned foreign languages, which are not part of the full establishment of the Covenant as we have it after ad 70.
The Original Plan of Through New Eyes
Volume II might just take up the loose ends from Volume I, such as I’ve described above. In fact, however, I originally projected a trilogy of books that, like Through New Eyes, would take up basic matters without going into all the details. The second volume was to be called The Treasury of God, and was to deal with the three fundamental dimensions of the kingdom (person, word, and sacrament) as they were locked up as the "mystery" in the Old Creation and are now published abroad in the New. I still plan to include much of this material in Volume II, and may still use the same title.
Volume III was to be called With New Hands, and was to show that man, the image of God, is called to transform the world under God. Chapters would include the Restoration & Transformation of human life, of worship, of church life, of the family, of the nation, of labor, and of culture in general, including the Renewal of Time, the Exploration of Space (earthly space), and the Reformation of Science.
I never had time to get these into shape for publication, and then my publisher went out of business.
Meanwhile, I have encountered some marvelously insightful information on the course of civilization in the writings and lectures of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, a maverick Christian historian and philosopher of the first part of this century. Restructuring his insights along more strictly Biblical lines has led me to a conviction that history moves in triadic cycles (spirals), revealing the Trinity more and more in human history. This insight is closely tied to the three fundamental dimensions of God’s kingdom, which I had originally projected for The Treasury of God. Thus, I hope to weave them into a restructured version of that book’s outline.
Now that we have Transfiguration Press underway, I have been able to justify taking time for research in this area once again, and I have decided that the best way for me to get this written is to write it up first in these newsletters. Thus, during this year I intend to use both Biblical Horizons and Rite Reasons for that purpose.
Volume II: Part 1
Let me now lay out a roadmap of what I hope to cover, God giving me strength and opportunity.
The first large period is the Age of the Father. Man was created and put into a garden-sanctuary, the firmament between the earthly paradise of Eden and the earthly "world" of the outlying lands. Each of these outlying lands would be a homeland, but Eden would be the Throneland. Thus, we have four environments:
Edenic Throneland – the place of rule
Garden Sanctuary – the place of worship
Homelands – the place of domestic rest
Outlying World – the place of work
Adam sinned in the Garden, and thus was not admitted to the Throneland. During the Old Creation, sinners were admitted partially to shadows of the Throneland if they passed through the sanctuary. Thus, Israel passed through the Tabernacle in the wilderness and then was admitted to the Land of Milk and Honey. They passed through the second Interim Covenant under Samuel and they were admitted to the Kingdom of David. They passed through the third Interim Covenant under the prophets, especially in Babylon, and then were admitted to the "throneland" of world influence at the right hand of the emperors (Esther, Nehemiah).
Returning to the Age of the Father (Spiral I): we find within it three periods (Spirals I:A,B,C): Adam to Noah, Noah to Abram, Abram to Moses. Each of these is triadic, as we shall see. But in all of this, the focus is on persons. This is an age of stories, not an age of law. The Law has not yet arrived, as Romans 5:13 says.
1. Adam rebelled in the sanctuary. He assaulted the authority of the Father and was cast from the garden. This is the sin of Sacrilege (stealing from God).
2. Cain rebelled in the homeland. He murdered his brother and was cast from the homeland to wander in the world. This is the sin of Fratricide (brother murder).
3. The Sethites (sons of God) rebelled in the world. They forsook their witness and intermarried with the heathen, and were removed from the world. This is the sin of Intermarriage.
4. Then comes Noah, the bringer of Sabbath rest (Gen. 5:29). The rest brought by Noah introduces the next triadic spiral.
1. Ham rebelled in Noah’s garden. He assaulted the authority and integrity of his father, the image of God, and his descendants were cursed away from the sanctuary-tents of Shem. Notice the historical progression: Now it is a man who plants a garden, and a man who passes judgment. Noah’s tent is a shadow form of the Throneland.
2. The Joktanite branch of the Shemites evidently joined with the Hamites in building the Tower and City of Babel. This is the new city of Cain. We don’t directly see the sin of Fratricide here, but the other parallels link it to Cain’s fall in the land. Cain was cursed to wander, though he did build a city. The story of the Tower & City of Babel shows judgment of scattering, analogous to the judgment of Cain. Later parallels in the Bible (Egypt in Exodus 1; Solomon’s building projects) link Babel to oppression of the brethren.
This Spiral is incomplete; we don’t have a third rebellion in the world-setting, because God does not intend to destroy the world again. Instead, we have three positive pictures presented in the next spiral.
The third smaller spiral provides pictures of true faith, unlike the two previous spirals. What makes this true faith possible is the circumcision of the foreskin at the central horn of the human altar.
1. Abram. The story of Abram provides a positive balance to what we have seen before. Fatherhood is the main theme: Abram is "Mighty Father," Abraham "Father of Many," but ultimately Abraham is not adequate as a father, for in Genesis 22 we see that Abraham must die to his fatherhood and let God be Father.
The story of Abraham consists of altars and worship places. Abraham shows patient faith, faith appropriate to the sanctuary garden. But Abraham does not enter the Throneland; he only sees it from afar.
Adam had to leave the Garden because of his own sin. Abraham is forced to leave the land of promise because of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, which like sacrifices "rise up to heaven," and which are destroyed, sacrificially, by heavenly fire from the sword of the cherubim. Abraham then moves to Philistia, but returns to the land to sacrifice Isaac. Thus, sacrifice and worship in garden-sanctuaries are the main themes.
There is an "interim" period between the call of Abram and his circumcision. Circumcision is the definitive marker that denotes the foundation of a positive response to God and the exemplary histories of the patriarchs.
2. Jacob. Isaac might seem next, but in the literary structure of Genesis, the Abraham story is a large chiasm (ABCDEDCBA structure) blocked off at each end by the phrase "these are the generations of . . . ", and the same is true of the Jacob story. Thus, from the standpoint of literary structure, Isaac is transitional (though of course very important in other ways), and his story is spread between the two sections.
Because Isaac is the son, it seems that the land becomes for him a shadow-throneland. Abraham lived faithfully in the sanctuary that the son, Isaac, might enter the throneland. I suggest this because Jacob leaves the land by way of Beth-El, the sanctuary house of God, and evidently returns roughly the same way (from the east). Isaac in his sinful blindness determines to give the shadow-throneland to the devil, Esau.
The story of Jacob concerns the land, not the sanctuary. The brother-brother theme is highlighted. Jacob needs a brother, and neither Isaac, Esau, nor Laban are fit. Jacob meets the True Brother-Wrestler at Peniel.
Simeon and Levi, like Cain, murder their brothers, the newly-circumcised men of Shechem. For this reason, Jacob "stinks" in the land, and must leave it.
3. Joseph. The story of Joseph is set in the outlying world, the place of witness or compromise. Nestled in the story of Joseph is the story of Judah, who did compromise with the "daughters of men" in more ways than one. Joseph refused the temptation Judah succombed to. (Note also that both men had two sons, the elder serving the younger; and there are many other parallels.)
Witness or compromise: that is the question in the third phase. Joseph does not compromise, and bears faithful witness. As a result he is seated next to the world emperor, a "father to Pharaoh," fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham that he would be father to many nations.
Joseph refuses a sinful intermarriage, but marries an Egyptian woman after Egypt converts. Here is true intermarriage, based on true witness. (Compare Moses’ marriage, and Solomon’s marriage to the daughter of Pharaoh, and climactically Jesus’ marriage to His former enemies: us.)
We can see a definite advance in the complexity and richness of the basic structure by the time we get to this last story. We begin with brother-brother conflict, and the "murder" of Abel (Joseph) by the Cainitic brothers. But Joseph is also a substitute Cain, exiled from the land in the place of his brethren. He goes to prepare a place for the brothers, and reconciles them to himself, to themselves, and to their father.
4. Moses climaxes the series, like Noah. Noah floated in an ark, and the same word "ark" is used for only one other object in the Bible: the ark in which baby Moses floated. Moses brings rest to the people after years of bondage, as Noah was the bringer of rest.
(to be concluded)