Biblical Theology and Supercessionism

Joel Willitts asks an important question:

Can biblical theology be done without a supersessionistic application of typology?

It’s really the problem of the two testaments, again. Do we read in a forward direction or in a backward one? Here’s another post that gets at the same question is a slightly different framework. Andrew Perriman builds out on Scot McKnight’s observation with this paragraph:

In a stimulating talk that is partly a response to the Gospel Coalition argument, Scot McKnight quotes a line from Nietzsche: “the text has disappeared under the interpretation”. McKnight thinks that this is what has happened to the word “gospel”: the text has disappeared under the interpretation. Reading backwards is a way of keeping the text buried under layers of interpretive tradition.

Here’s the thing. While I consider myself broadly Reformed, I’m very sympathetic to these more narrative readings of the text and hesitate to read later texts back into earlier ones (at least exclusively so). Perhaps my dispensationalist roots are part of this (so too with Joel Willitts, perhaps?). It does seem to me the idea that we have to read the Old Testament (particularly) on its own terms before we can read it in a Christian sense is something I learned early on, and that many Reformed readers are less willing to do. So, dispensationalists, I will hypothesize, can be very interested in and attracted to these more narrative readings, and may be able to read N. T. Wright and the NPP with some greater sympathy than some of my more confessional Reformed friends.

Now I’m a bit of a both/and guy – so I’m willing to read the text both ways. So I’m not limited to forward looking narrative readings of the text; theological interpretation has some attraction to me also (it seems a bit more backward if I can keep using this metaphor), and it seems we can’t deny that we’re Christians as we approach the OT text. Progressive dispensationalists like Bock and Blaising speak of complementary hermeneutics, and perhaps some both/and approach like that might be able to bridge the gap. Because I love biblical theology – and teach systematics, too. I think there remains a bit of work to do here.


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