Presented to the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics

September 15, 2016

Christopher Cone, Th.D, Ph.D, Ph.D

President, Research Professor of Bible and Theology, Calvary University



Two nuanced views are discernible in classic dispensationalist understanding of the New Testament (NT) use of the Old Testament (OT), and are well represented by Robert Thomas’ Inspired Sensus Plenior Application (ISPA) and David Cooper’s Law of Double Reference (LDR) concepts. These two explanatory devices argue that seemingly non-literal interpretations of OT prophecy by NT authors do in fact fit within the framework of literal grammatical historical understanding. While both are plausible and have significant advantages, their limitations may point us to another device (referred to here as the Johannine Parallelism of Foreshadowing and Fulfillment [JPFF]) in order to more strongly affirm that the NT use of the OT is indeed rooted in and consistent with the literal grammatical historical method (LGH).

The JPFF device is most readily observed in John’s Gospel, and particular in his usage of fulfillment language and sign metaphor. It is evident that the Johannine concept of fulfillment is more consistently the culmination of foreshadowing than it is the simple occurrence of predicted events. While sharing important advantages of ISPA and LDR, JPFF is also promising in that it addresses the most significant difficulty shared by ISPA and LDR, and in so doing may provide a stronger affirmation that the NT use of the OT is fully compatible with the literal grammatical historical hermeneutic.

An appendix follows these considerations, drawing brief comparison to three non-classic dispensationalist approaches to determine whether JPFF is to be preferred over the three models, and if so on what basis.



Dr. Robert Thomas suggests that when we understand the OT and NT through the lens of LGH, we discover two kinds of uses by the NT of the OT.[1] In the first application, the NT writer employs LGH and goes no further. In the second, the NT writer goes beyond simple LGH to give an ISPA.[2] Thomas reassures that ISPA neither grants contemporary interpreters license to copy the methodology of NT writers, nor violates the principle of single meaning. Further it does not compromise the literal meaning of the OT passage, but simply applies the OT wording to a new setting.”[3] Still, the ISPA view seems problematic in that it admits nonliteral application of the OT by the NT. Thomas describes and addresses the problem as follows:

bible-SunlightDoes not the NT’s assigning of an application based on a second meaning to an OT passage violate that principle? That the passage has two meanings is obvious, but only one of those meanings derives from a grammatical-historical interpretation of the OT itself. The other comes from a grammatical-historical analysis of the NT passage that cites it. The authority for the second meaning of the OT passage is not the OT; it is the NT. The OT produces only the literal meaning. The sensus plenior meaning emerges only after an ISPA of the OT wording to a new situation. The NT writers could assign such new meanings authoritatively because of the inspiration of what they wrote.[4]

Essentially, the NT writers are allowed to use the canonical or complementary hermeneutic by virtue of the inspiration of their words. While Thomas flatly denies that contemporary interpreters may legitimately engage in the same assignment of meaning, he does not offer any reason beyond the fact that “NT writers were directly inspired by God…current interpreters are not.”[5]

Admittedly, Thomas’ entire argument is well crafted, and plausibly legitimate in its conclusions. Hence, my complaint against the ISPA device might be petty, but it seems, for two reasons, a substantial problem that a nonliteral hermeneutic is advocated in Scripture. First, a nonliteral hermeneutic does violate the principle of single meaning, in that it adds a secondary meaning. Thomas asks and answers,

Did God know from the beginning that the OT passage had two meanings?” The answer is obviously yes. But until the NT citation of that passage, the second or sensus plenior meaning did not exist as far as humans were concerned. Since hermeneutics is a human discipline, gleaning that second sense is an impossibility in an examination of the OT source of the citation. The additional meaning is therefore not a grammatical-historical interpretation of the OT passage. The additional meaning is the fruit of grammatical-historical interpretation of the companion NT passage. The OT passage has only a single meaning.[6]

Thomas admits divine use of double meaning, but, of course, God has that prerogative. This is not an entirely untenable position, but the question remains regarding whether or not this is a device God has chosen to employ in Scripture.

David Cooper represents a different explanation of seemingly nonliteral NT usage of OT passages. He appeals to what he calls the Law of Double Reference, which is “the principle of associating similar or related ideas which are usually separated from one another by long period of times, and which are blended into a single picture like the blending of pictures by a stereopticon.”[7] Arnold Fruchtenbaum offers a concise suggestion that the rule “observes the fact that often a passage or a block of Scripture is speaking of two different persons or two different events that are separated by a long period of time.”[8] Fruchtenbaum is careful to distinguish the axiom from double fulfillment, which anticipates more than one fulfillment of a particular prophecy.

Cooper sees LDR exemplified in Psalm 16:8-11. He suggests that each of the affirmations there represent experiences David did not personally have, though he uses the first person pronouns throughout. Cooper’s argument is that the perceived tension between the pronouns and the experiences is no tension at all, but rather represents David’s knowing and prophetic references to Messiah. His entire argument is worthy of representation here:

But when we look at verses 8-11, we see that he still uses the personal pronouns (I, me, my, and mine) of the first person. At the same time we know that David did not enjoy the experiences that are mentioned here. To show that David was not speaking of his own experiences, I will quote these last four verses.

8 I have set Jehovah always before me: Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: My flesh also shall dwell in safety. 10 For thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption. 11 Thou wilt show me the path of life: In thy presence is fullness of Joy; In thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16:8-11).
The historic David did not keep the Lord always before him. He got his eyes off the Lord and fell, sinning most miserably and wretchedly. One unconfessed sin called for another, and that one, still unconfessed, called for another. David was enmeshed in a series of moral lapses and sins. He certainly was moved. His heart was not always glad. Neither did his soul rejoice; and his flesh was not always dwelling in safety. Moreover, when he died, he went to Sheol and, so far as the record goes, remained there. His body was placed in the tomb and saw corruption—that is, decomposition and decay. When he went down into Sheol, the Lord did not point out to him the path of life and he did not come forth.[9]

Cooper’s LDR and the accompanying argument from Psalm 16 for its legitimacy offers the advantage of affirming a literal NT rendering of the OT passage. However, such a conclusion necessarily abandons single meaning in the OT passage. That seems not a particularly favorable trade.

Instead of such a profound hermeneutic maneuver, it seems more likely that the Psalmist was referring in verse 8 to his own positional relationship with his Lord – much like God called David a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14). If LDR is in view in verse 8, who is being referenced? Who is the “I” in verse 8? Did the Messiah have the Father at His right hand? That would create a directional contradiction with Ephesians 1:20, for example (Father and Son aren’t both at each other’s right hand are they?). Also, is there some concern on the Father’s part about His being shaken? This is odd language if referring to God.

Further, verse 9 echoes an oft-repeated refrain from David that his relationship with the Lord brought him constant peace and joy. The references to that end are too numerous to list here. Should we assume that in all such cases LDR is in view?

If, on the other hand, David is actually referring in Psalm 16:8 to the Messiah as Yahweh,[10] then Peter’s reference that “David says of Him…” would not require that Jesus fit every characteristic mentioned in the Psalm 16 quote, or that Jesus be the antecedent to the first person pronouns in the section. All that would be required for a literal rendering is that Jesus is the Lord (in Ps 16:8 and Acts 2:25), and that based on Acts 2:31, He was the “Holy One” who would not undergo decay (based on the resurrection theme of Peter’s Acts 2:24-29).

There is no inherent exegetical reason to conclude that the first phrase of Psalm 16:10 and Acts 2:27 needs to refer to the same person as the second phrase of 16:10 and 2:27. In short, there is no reason to assume that the first person references to David should be applied to anyone other than him, because the third person references offer enough to support Peter’s Acts 2:31 assertion that David anticipated the Messiah’s resurrection.

Even in Peter’s apparent connection of “You will not abandon my soul to Hades” (Acts 2:27) with “He was not abandoned to Hades…” (2:31), Peter cites τὴν ψυχήν μου (first person singular) in the first phrase, while referencing simply the (aorist passive indicative, third person) verb ἐγκατελείφθη. First, Peter references the soul, then simply the person. Is it more probable that Peter is connecting the two because of a double reference in the whole passage, or that Peter is saying both are true of Jesus, even if David may have only intended the second phrase (with the third person) directly in reference to Jesus?

Both ISPA and LDR are plausible explanatory devices. Both have advantages, and it is possible that either is correct. However, both seem to possess significant disadvantages – specifically in that they fail to escape inconsistency on the pivotal issue of single meaning. It is due to that inconsistency that it seems worthwhile to seek a different model that might better represent the Author’s intention for our understanding of the Text.



ISPA allows for human authors to add divinely inspired secondary NT meanings to OT texts. LDR allows for God to have embedded secondary NT meanings within OT texts. If instead of working from the premises of these two allowances we worked from the premise that God and the human authors He employed all consistently utilized single meaning (as a necessary linguistic device), then what would be the best understanding of NT use of the OT? Such an understanding would need not only to alleviate the necessity for secondary meaning either in OT and NT, but would have to also hold up under exegetical scrutiny. John’s parallelism of foreshadowing and fulfillment introduces us to such a model.


Johannine Use of πληρόω as Hermeneutic Indicator

John uses the lemma πληρόω fifteen times. Seven of those instances do not connect OT and NT passages (3:29, 7:8, 12:3, 15:11, 16:6, 16:24, 17:13), but rather speak of filling in the most literal sense (filling a room, joy being fulfilled, etc.). Another two instances of πληρόω reference the words of Christ, directly:


…to fulfill the word which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost (aorist) not one” (18:9).


to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke (aorist), signifying (present active participle) by what kind of death He was about to die (present active infinitive) (18:32).


The first of these refers back to John 17:12, but doesn’t quote or reference the OT directly. It does, however give us indication that fulfillment is not necessarily connected to prediction. The second of these occurrences does refer to the occurrence of a predicted event. This shows that John’s usage of fulfillment is nuanced, with at least two possible modes of operation: fulfillment related to direct prediction, and fulfillment unrelated to direct prediction.

Four occurrences of πληρόω are accompanied by aorist verbs translated directly from OT passages:


This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed (aorist) our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed (aorist)?” (12:38).


“I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up (aorist) his heel against Me’ (13:18).


“But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated (aorist) Me without a cause.’ (15:25).


So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; this was to fulfill the Scripture: “They divided (aorist) My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots (aorist).” Therefore the soldiers did these things (19:24-25).


In the latter three instances (13:18, 15:25, 19:24), the OT referents are not overtly predictive, but refer to recorded experiences of David in Psalm 41:9, 35:15, 69:4, 22:18, respectively. It is entirely possible that David wrote these Psalms as predictive, but there is no internal indication that he did, and they match (even if only poetically) his own personal experience. The implication is that these are later applied to Jesus, not because of their predictive nature, but because in some way they were foreshadowing – or prior illustrations – of something that would later take place.

The first reference, from Isaiah 53, does seem predictive in the sense that the entire chapter discusses the incarnation and death of Messiah. There was no historical referent during Isaiah’s time that fit the chapter 53 description. So in this instance, fulfillment seems to indicate the happening of a directly predicted event.

Two of the remaining four occurrences of πληρόω make allusion to the OT without quoting it:


“While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished (aorist) but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled” (17:12).


Here Jesus alludes to Psalm 41:9, though he doesn’t quote the passage (of course, His Father knew the passage). The passage referenced is not predictive, but lacks fulfillment or completion until it is embodied in the ministry of Christ.

There is still yet another reference from John that helps us to understand John’s foreshadowing and fulfillment model. This one is particularly helpful because it helps the reader to understand that John is using fulfillment and completion as virtually synonymous concepts:


After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty” (19:28).


Here John connects the idea of fulfillment with accomplishment or completion. In this instance John uses τελειωθῇ rather than πληρόω to indicate completion of, presumably, Psalm 69:21. This is a Psalm of David, and throughout the Psalm, the Lord is referred to in the second person, and David is in the first person. There is nothing in the Psalm that demands the first person be divine. John’s use of τελειωθῇ here helps us understand that Psalm 69:21 was not predictive, but rather a foreshadowing of a later event. John does not redact the meaning of the Psalm (from Davidic first person to divine first person). Rather it seems he is assigning purpose to the OT writing: the events of Psalm 69:21 were incomplete (in need of fulfillment) until a very similar – or nearly identical ­– event happened to Jesus.

John’s use of πληρόω and τελειωθῇ gives us insight into his view of fulfillment not as necessarily and always the occurrence of a predicted event. Instead, John seems to recognize OT referents often as foreshadowing, or illustrations beforehand, which point to the coming Messiah. It is much like the concept made evident in the prescription of Exodus 12:46. The Passover Lamb was to have no broken bones. There was no prediction accompanying the prescription. Nonetheless, regardless of whether or not the initial recipients of that prescription understood the symbol of the unbroken bones (as foreshadowing of the coming Messiah, who would be the ultimate Passover Lamb with unbroken bones), they were given a prescription that would remind them of their deliverance. The primary application of the prescription was clear, and they were to obey it literally. LGH in the OT, and then LGH in the NT – there is no evolution in the hermeneutic model employed from Moses to John. That John is advocating the concept of foreshadowing and fulfillment is even more evident by his use of the term σημεῖον.


John’s Use of σημεον as Hermeneutic Indicator

John uses the lemma σημεῖον seventeen times in his Gospel. In eight of those instances John uses them as narrative markers. In the first of those mentions, John describes Jesus’ signs as manifestations of His glory, and as having the outcome of the disciples’ belief in Him:


This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him (2:11).


In the second of John’s seven narrative markers, he again connects Jesus’ signs with the outcome of belief:


Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing (2:23).


The third reference minimally descriptive, though it introduces a numerical continuation from the first mention:


This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee (4:54).


The fourth and sixth references both describe the outcome of His signs not as belief, but as a following. The fifth occurrence carries with it the recognition on the part of some who acknowledged the Messiah had come:


A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick (6:2).


Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (6:14).


For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign (12:18).


The penultimate of these mentions describes the outcome of unbelief. The progression was complete. At the first performance of the signs, there was belief, then mere following, and finally, unbelief:


But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him (12:37).


The final narrative marker using σημεῖον includes John’s purpose statement, that the signs were recorded so that the reader would believe in Him and have life in His name:


Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (20:30-31).


The purpose and progression evident here in John’s Gospel is significant. Signs are employed not as ends in themselves, but as purposed for belief. The narrative journey undertaken by John in his Gospel culminates in the wrong response by those who witnessed the signs, and ultimately calls readers to a positive response to the evidence presented through the signs. Even though the signs were actual happenings that are communicated via single meaning, they were illustrative – manifestations – of the glory of the Messiah. This is a vital principle in the JPFF model for understanding NT use of the OT: there was no metaphor involved in the communication of these events, yet the events themselves were metaphor designed to invoke a response.

In seven more occurrences of σημεῖον John uses the term quoting people who are either responding verbally to Jesus, or talking about Him to others. The first and third of these instances shows that signs were associated with evidence of Messianic identity. The Jews had a Scriptural expectation that the Messiah would come with signs to demonstrate who He was. Similarly, the second instance expands on the concept of Messianic authentication and identification. The expected signs would come through divine empowerment, as Nicodemus recognized:


The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” (2:18).


this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (3:2).


So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?” (6:30).


Jesus’ signs were so significant, and so parallel to what was expected of Messiah, that the fourth instance in this category underscores a broad public understanding that Jesus was indeed meeting the authentication and identification expectations with respect to signs performed. Any unbelief there might have been was no result of a failure on His part to fulfill Scriptural expectations:


But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, “When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?” (7:31).


Still, there was confusion on the part of many leaders. Their expectations had gone beyond what was revealed in the Text. Their understanding of the Sabbath exceeded the Biblical mandate. Because of that faulty evaluation, they mischaracterized Him as a sinner. Thus their legalism blinded them to the identity of their Messiah, as evidenced by the fifth mention of σημεῖον in this context:


Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them (9:16).


Though John’s message was not authenticated by signs of his own, he fulfilled his ministry of preparing the way for and announcing the Messiah. In this sixth reference, many recognized that the signs of Jesus’ ministry not only showed the authenticity of Jesus’ ministry, but John’s as well:


Many came to Him and were saying, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true” (10:41).


Tragically, in the final of the references in this category, the leaders are now concerned with how they can stop Jesus, because the evidence of His signs is so great, and many are believing in Him. These leaders are in fear for the future of a system that was a fiction and not Biblically derived, yet their loyalties to the system did not allow them to see their own grave error:


Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs (11:47).



In the two remaining instances of σημεῖον in John’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking, first in response to the royal official whose son was sick. He challenges the people listening (referring to the second person plural, not directly only to the royal official), that they would require evidence for the claims being made:


So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe” (4:48).


After making the statement, the official demonstrated his faith by insisting Jesus come to heal His son. Jesus rewarded His faith with the miraculous healing of his son – a miracle that demonstrated Jesus’ Messianic identity.

In the final occurrence in this category, Jesus reminds the crowd that their interest in Him extended beyond the performing of signs to their own realization of personal benefit. He calls them to belief in Him, claiming ultimately to be the bread from heaven:


Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled (6:26).


The signs recorded in John’s Gospel served the specific purpose as demonstrative of the Messiah’s divinity and identity. Those who witnessed His signs understood much of the Messianic expectation set by Scripture, and Jesus Himself recognized that the works He did provided resounding testimony to His claim as Messiah (Jn 5:36). The signs demonstrate a precedent – both in revelation and expectation – that the Messiah would fulfill Scripture literally, and in so doing prove His identity. The problem was that the people expected literal fulfillment of the miraculous signs. They got what they expected in that regard, but some failed to expect literal fulfillment of Messianic suffering and sacrificial death (as in Isaiah 53). In that, they got what they didn’t expect, and as had been predicted, many stumbled over Him, fulfilling literally that prediction.[11]

John’s use of σημεῖον and his connection by that term of Scriptural, Messianic expectation and fulfillment illustrate that John recognized a kind of parallelism between the miracles, or signs, and the truth to which they pointed. That truth was embodied in the Christ. He is the antecedent that the events were designed to unveil. The miracles were events that literally happened and were communicated literally, but they were illustrative of something much greater: Him. And it is with this concept of the parallelism of foreshadowing and fulfillment in mind that we can understand John’s use of the OT in a fulfillment context.

Sometimes John identifies fulfillment as a happening of a predicted event. Sometimes he presents fulfillment as the culmination of a foreshadowing. Sometimes that foreshadowing is specifically quoted from the OT, other times it is more general and not tied to a particular passage. But in every Johannine fulfillment context, there is no hermeneutic adjustment of OT meaning for the NT usage, nor is there any hint of a shift from plain and single meaning.



John’s parallelism of foreshadowing and fulfillment provides a model whereby we can understand that the OT was written with single meaning in view, that the NT does not adjust or alter that meaning, and that Biblical meaning is not subject to change in any context. John’s hermeneutic approach to the foreshadowing of the Messiah and fulfillment of that foreshadowing in Christ through His signs and other activities provides a significant hermeneutic precedent for Biblical interlocutors of today. The parallelism in John’s writing between the metaphorical anticipation and the literal realization goes far beyond the simple predication and coming to pass of events.

In Matthew 16:4 and Luke 11:29 Jesus identified Jonah as a sign pointing to Himself. Notably, both writers use the same terminology (σημεῖον) employed by John. Jonah’s water adventures literally happened, and they were communicated in a narrative way that demands normative, literal understanding. Yet, Jesus presented those events as a sign pointing to Himself – specifically to His burial and resurrection. The events of Jonah were not in themselves metaphorical, nor were they communicated with any anticipation of metaphorical interpretation, yet Jesus utilized those events as a metaphor that was fulfilled – or culminated –in Him.

Just as a pronoun has an antecedent, foreshadowing has fulfillment. In grammatical analogy, the fulfillment is the antecedent and the foreshadowing is the pronoun. The pronoun has single meaning and only one referent, but the usage may not be fully understood by the reader until the antecedent is identified in the text. Rather than appeal to ISPA or LDR to understand the connection between Psalm 16 and Acts 2, for example, we could apply the JPFF model and understand that Psalm 16 was referencing David’s personal experience when he used the first person, the Father when he used the second person, and the Son when he used the third person. We are not informed that David looked forward to the resurrection until Peter tells us so (Acts 2:31), so when we read the passage without Peter’s enlightenment, we are not bereft of any of its meaning, we just don’t know of the passage’s full usage. In the same way, we don’t know simply from a reading of Jonah how those historical events will be used later in God’s plan.

In short, where ISPA and LDR are wrestling with the potential of changing meanings, JPFF argues for a set and unchanged meaning with augmented usage. This is the great advantage of JPFF over ISPA and LDR. Change in meaning is the subject matter of hermeneutic significance. Change in usage has nothing whatsoever to do with hermeneutics, but is more a question of aesthetics. God’s ultimate purpose to glorify Himself and demonstrate His own character is an aesthetic enterprise, and His use of literal happenings as metaphor contributes greatly to that enterprise. JPFF invites us to resolve the issue of whether there is change in meaning and consider the aesthetic function of OT passages referenced in the NT.



Perhaps in hopes of arriving at a better alternative to ISPA and LDR, Walter Kaiser, Darrell Bock, and Peter Enns advocate for three different views on NT use of the OT. Kaiser proposes a view suggesting there is single meaning and unified referents, Bock recognizes single meaning with multiple referents and contexts, and Enns argues for a fuller meaning with but a single goal.[12]

Kaiser recognizes “wide acceptance of sensus plenior among contemporary evangelicals,”[13] and suggests this acceptance as underscoring the need for the conversation. Kaiser concedes that the “deeper meaning of sensus plenior cannot be found in an exegesis of the OT text.”[14] Further, he defines eisegesis in this context as, “reading backwards from the NT into the OT texts new meanings not discoverable by the rules of language and exegesis.”[15] He borrows E.D Hirsch’s distinction between meaning (which is unchanging) and significance (which can vary per context), and illustrates change in significance by quoting S. Lewis Johnson on Psalm 41:10 as alluded to in John 13:8 – “The logic…found here is…simply this…David prefigured the Messiah…Jesus’ use of an Old Testament type may have been the pedagogical precursor for Peter’s similar use of the Psalms in Acts 1:16.”[16] Kaiser concludes “One need only to distinguish meaning from significance as E. D. Hirsch has argued all along,”[17] and consequently, “all Scripture is inspired by God and remains useful – not always for the same thing, but in no way is it declared to be antiquated and subject to new meanings from subsequent biblical writers or readers.”[18]

Bock builds his own argument on the premise that, while the OT context plays a significant role in how a passage us used, it is not the only factor.[19] Bock’s key premise is, “that God works both in his words and in revelatory events that also help to elaborate his message…the use of the OT in the NT is not just about texts; it is about God’s revelatory acts. The two often combine in prediction and pattern, to show what God is doing in history through word and deed.”[20] Bock’s approach seems nearly to blur the special revelation / natural revelation distinction, regarding God’s actions as communication. Thus God’s revelation is not merely God-breathed, but also God-accomplished (my term). Further, Bock lists as the fifth of six theological presuppositions in understanding the NT use of the OT “Now and not yet (the inaugurated fulfillment of Scripture),”[21] and includes it as one of the “crucial underpinnings of how to read the OT…”[22] This is an example of a theological hermeneutic, and on these points shows marked difference from JPFF. JPFF shares the same advantages over Bock’s view as it does over ISPA – where Bock is trying to come to grips with apparent change in meaning, JPFF acknowledges only change in usage. With respect to meaning, JPFF possesses a greater degree of objectivity over Bock’s single meaning, multiple referents/contexts view.

Enns offers a view rooted in the question of how true it is that hermeneutic tensions are actually at odds with an inspired text.[23] Enns suggests his effort is “to recognize that God is the God of history, and Scripture is God’s gracious revelation of himself and his actions in the concrete, everyday world of ancient Semitic and Hellenistic peoples…”[24] Enns argues that the “NT authors’ engagement of their Scripture was not directed by grammatical-historical principles.”[25] Instead, he views Second Temple literary practices and traditions as of “self evident” value in understanding the NT use of the OT.[26] Enns doesn’t view the Scriptures as exegetically different than Second Temple literature. Instead, the major difference is thematic – the Scriptures are Christotelic, whereas other literature isn’t. Hence, the distinctive is not derived hermeneutically, but rather thematically.[27] Consequently, Paul’s (for example) hermeneutic model is determined by his times, and we should seek to follow the apostolic model – which means to understand what Paul was doing before we can understand what the text means to us today.[28]

In Enns’ view, OT meaning changes for NT writers, and meaning changes for us as well. Meaning is not a constant, though the thematic center (Christ) remains the same. “The interpretation of the OT by the NT authors is embedded in their cultural moment.”[29] Because of this changing meaning, Enns refers to Scripture as being humiliated, much like Christ was humiliated.[30] Ultimately, Enns’ “Christotelic approach” is a reframing of a redemptive hermeneutic, and is, like Bock’s, a theological hermeneutic above all. It is worth noting that Enns does not view his hermeneutic as a method that can be learned as if from a manual. He suggest “God’s word is too rich, deep, and subtle for that. But following the NT authors – or better, committing ourselves to learning more and more just what that means – is indispensible for Christian interpretation of the OT.[31] Enns’ view is markedly distinct form JPFF. Meaning changes, and is driven thematically based on a theological presupposition.

Of these three views, Kaiser’s seems very close to JPFF, recognizing the distinction between meaning and usage, and preferring to understand that meaning does not change, though usage does.

[1] Robert L. Thomas, “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” in The Masters Seminary Journal, 13/1, Spring 2002: 79-98.

[2] Ibid.: 79.

[3] Ibid.: 80.

[4] Ibid.: 80.

[5] Ibid.: 80.

[6] Ibid.: 80.

[7] David L. Cooper and Burl Haynie, “The Fifth Law: The Law of Double Reference” in Rules of Interpretation: Articles from Biblical Research Monthly, 1947. 1949. (Biblical Research Sosicety) at

[8] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah (Ariel Ministries, 2003), 4-5.

[9] Cooper and Haynie,

[10] It is common in the OT for the pre-incarnate Messiah to be referred to by the name Yahweh, see e.g., Gen 12:1-7.

[11] Is 8:14, Mt 16:19, 1 Pet 2:4-10.

[12] Gundry, Berding, and Lunde, general editors, Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008) Kindle Version, Location 521.

[13] Location 876.

[14] Location 942.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Location 1136-1149.

[17] Location 1527.

[18] Location 1566.

[19] Location 1988.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Location 2053.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Location 3135.

[24] Location 3148.

[25] Location 3196.

[26] Location 3206, 3221.

[27] Location 3260.

[28] Location 3379.

[29] Location 3669.

[30] Location 3693.

[31] Location 3923.

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