Introduction by Peter Y. De Jong

Index & Table of Content

This article by Professor Benne Holwerda, who before his death in 1952 taught at the Reformed Theological School in Kampen, the Netherlands, first appeared in Gereformeerd Theologisch Tijdschrift (Volume 43) under the title "De Heilshistorie in de Prediking."

I. The Relevance of the Problem

Some twenty years ago Prof. Ridderbos gave a talk on The Old Testament In Our Preaching. In that speech this renowned Old Testament scholar said, among other things, that:

"The preaching of the O.T. also has great significance for promoting the correct understanding of the historical progression of revelation. Modern man calls for the shortest road to God, meanwhile setting aside the history of redemption. Even outside the movement of modernism one notes a superficial type Christianity which supposes it is sufficient to proclaim what God in Christ wants to be for the individual heart and life. But God, on the contrary, has given his revelation to us with a historical progression; for the nourishment and up building of the congregation. It is important that a correct understanding of this progression be propagated". [1]

The problem to which Prof. Ridderbos alludes lies at the center of interest today and consequently has become the subject of lively discussion. In one way, the interest in this discussion is a healthy sign. We may be grateful that ministers wish to be faithful in the "promotion of a correct understanding of the historical progression of revelation", and also that they wish, by means of such promotion, to nourish and build their congregations. Yet now that this question has, in the last half year, become coupled with the so-called subject of "doctrinal differences," there is reason for me to believe that this debate threatens to go awry.

Dr. J. Douma, for example, wrote a series of worthwhile articles entitled Exemplariche Prediking (Exemplaric Preaching) but noted therein that it was lamentable that the Gereformeerd Mannenblad, (a periodical published by the League of Reformed Men's Societies in the Netherlands) edited by Rev. van't Veer, was "used to propagate recent notions which cannot be reconciled with that which has been taught by the Reformed heritage ever since Calvin's day." "It is rather alarming", he continues, "that in these dynamic times, one area of thought after another must be won." [2] In the same essay Dr. B. Wielenga wrote a series of articles entitled Reformanda in which he devoted an article to the subject of "doctrinal differences." He finds it noteworthy that,

"The proponents for the renewal movement do not, as is usual seek to join themselves to some current of thought outside the church but actually they proceed as upholders, one-would almost say discoverers, of the actual Orthodox Reformed point of view... They proceed with a sharp, flint-edged idea of revelation and set themselves up as Christological pearl-divers of Holy writ, especially of the Old Testament." [3]

Such expression, it seems to me, has a most disturbing effect on the fruitful progress of our discussion. When a context is suggested that is not present, when certain motives are imputed which are not intended, or when an agreeable qualification is made, then such affirmations can only serve to impede our mutual interests. I should like to stress that we must trust each other to the nth. degree. Much is demanded of us ministers these days. We should do well therefore to avoid anything that would place our brotherly love in jeopardy.

Despite the fact that we are affected by our differing theological stances, I should hope that we are agreed at least on this one point -- that we cannot do without each others' support. True enough, a large number of disagreements have come to light; nevertheless, I judge it to be in order to expect that we may, by continuing our discussion, appear to stand closer theologically than we ourselves have often supposed. Perhaps we may even reach complete agreement.

To be specific, allow me the attempt of eradicating a different type of misunderstanding than the one which has to do with the discharge of our mutual interests. From a discussion with one of my colleagues I learned that some suppose that the proponents of the "redemptive-historical" method of preaching have only sharp criticism in reaction to the homiletical attempts of their "exemplaric" brethren. Such a conjecture is most unjust. Although I and others have gradually become strongly convinced of the correctness of the redemptive-historical method, I have never heard any of my fellow adherents dispute the fact that many fine and worthwhile elements are found in the sermons of their "exemplaric" brethren.

True, we are of the opinion that these fine elements are occasionally somewhat veiled on account of uncertainty and imprecision as to method, but we do not for a moment affirm that such lack of clarity fails to plague many of our own sermons. Rev. J.Douma refers to a sermon of Rev. van Dijk on Judges14, but everyone knows that a large number of other sermons, also structured by the redemptive-historical method, could also be criticized. That is not the point at issue. There are sermons with many notable elements despite their vagueness of method, and there are also sermons far below the commonly accepted ideal. Our discussion, however, is not about practical results, but rather about the most correct method for achieving better results.

I can well understand the criticism that is sometimes levelled at those redemptive-historical sermons which are introduced by affirming some such statements as, "Actually, we are here dealing with Jesus Christ, not with Abraham or David." Granted, such an introduction is irritating, especially when it has become a stereotype already. Given this admission, however, I should still like to invite others to acknowledge that such an uninspiring formulation testifies to a serious attempt to come to grips with the actual content of the text.

After dismissing from our discussion all manners of personal allusions which can but serve to obscure our common concern, a notable question remains. To what cause must we attribute the great interest in these redemptive-historical questions? Two factors, I suggest, must be mentioned.

a) The more intensive study of bibliological subjects by our own theologians.

No one will wish to dispute that since the above mentioned address by Prof. Ridderbos ever increasing attention has been devoted to the science of exegesis and related subjects. At the dawn of this century dogmatics was pretty well the only Biblical science. Since 1920 there has not been a decrease of interest in dogmatic questions, but in connection with the growing number of biblically oriented publications, the exegetical foundation to dogmatics has been given greater emphasis. After 1922 the Korte Verklaring appeared, the series of Bottenburg; Prof. Grosheide wrote his Hermeneutiek; Prof. Ridderbos his Het Godswoord der Profeten and Prof. Schilder stimulated the interest in redemptive-historical questions by many articles, as well as by many keen insights in Christus in Zijn Lijden.

Despite the abundance of material, we were immediately beset with difficulty. Admittedly the preacher had a wealth of exegetical material; besides he now had guidelines for dealing with the historical elements of the Bible. The big problem however was how these rules were to be put into practice. Especially with respect to the historical books, the complaint was rather common that the exposition was strongly literary-historical. In recognition of the need to take a stand against Wellhausian and related trends, such a complaint appeared to be justified. But the man who had to enter the pulpit was plagued with the question, "What is the content of Revelation in this passage, what is the good news of God for the congregation hic et nunc?" To some degree the characterization of Schreiner was valid also for our church:

"Die homiletische Situation der Gegenwart ist deshalb durch die Tatsache gekennzeichnet, dass die Predigt der Kirche wo immer sie die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft um Rat und Unterstutzung befragzt, zwar uber viele wichtige dingen Auskunft erhalt, aber fur die entscheidenende Arbeit, namlich den Offenbaruntgehalt biblischer Aussagen in ihrem Bezug zum historischen Befund erkennen zu kennen und umgekehrt, den Weg verspert sieht." Even verder klaagt hij zelfs, dat de tegenwoordige stand der O.T.ische wetenschap "'instrumentaliter' eine Abhangigkeit herbeifuhrt, die der Predigt den Weg des christlichen Vertstandenisses des alttestamentlichen Zeugnisses nicht nur in vieler Hinsicht bahnt, sondern auch verbaut." [4]

Naturally we would express these ideas differently. Although our preachers find themselves in a more favourable position, we can well understand the complaint of Pastor von Bodelschwingh:

"Eine Net erfuhr ich als besonders brennend; den Zwiespalt zwischen der Theologie als Wissenschaft und dem personlichen Zeugnis von Christus in der praktischen Verkundigung", [5]

b) The exposition of the O.T. by the dialectical theologians is the second factor responsible for the increased interest in historical redemptive questions. Obviously the place which this theology had come to have in our country was of such a nature that proper account of their exegetical procedures had to be given. Again our preachers were faced with the problem of deciding to what degree this exegetical literature was useful for sermon preparation. Thus interest in the history of redemption was promoted by the exposition of the dialectical theologians that is -- to the extent that this interest had not already been promoted by the dogmatic works of the theologians.

II. Misunderstandings About the Problem

In the course of time a growing misunderstanding about the complex of questions came into light of day. These misunderstandings can for the most part be attributed to an entirely different interpretation of the terms here used.

In a series of articles I tried to isolate the difference between points of view as to the method of dealing with historical materials by distinguishing between the "Christocentric" and "exemplaric" method. Since that time this distinction has entered into the discussion, even though the first term was often substituted by the term "redemptive-historical". These terms were chosen for the sake of brevity in an attempt to typify the uniqueness of each of the two methods. The second method I called "exemplaric" because it finds a solution by treating biblical history as a number of independent happenings which are examples for us. The first, in contrast, I named "Christocentric" because its aim was to understand all the historical accounts in their relation to each other, in their mutual inner unity, in their relation to the center of salvation history -- Jesus Christ. Since at that time I was already afraid of being misunderstood I wrote that this terminology ought especially not to be so understood that the adherents of the second method would not wish to place Christ in the center. At that time I also tried to avoid another misunderstanding by writing, that,

"whoever wishes to interpret the historical elements in a Christocentric way as mentioned above, must not forget that this historical material was written for our example; indeed he must proceed on that basis and must show why these historical elements can be examples for us." [6]

I clearly said that the difference was concentrated around the question of whether we were treating many independent happenings or whether we were dealing with one history of salvation. Whatever the specific cause, in many instances the specific meaning of the terms I then used was overlooked in the subsequent discussion.

For example, the adjective of Revelation history (openbarings-historisch) has often been taken to refer to the scientific description of redemptive history instead of to the revealed history itself.

In the Heraut, Grosheide published several articles about this discipline and all of us are in complete agreement with what he wrote. In a closing article, Dr. Grosheide discusses the relevance of this discipline for preaching. He says that the history of revelation (geschiedenis der openbaring) rests on the exposition of scripture and must never be used alongside of it.

"One cannot choose to take his point of departure history of revelation and interpret a part of Scripture on that basis. That would be circuitous reasoning of the first degree." [7]

There is no quarrel on that score. But it was never the intention to take our point of departure in this branch of science and then exegete by means of a principle thus derived. On the contrary, the intention was to exegete out of the conviction that the history of redemption (heilsgeschiedenis) as it has been revealed to us, is a unity and thus we intended to escape what Dr. Grosheide described as the big danger in sacred history: namely that this history be presented as separate units; that the truths of the Bible be told in a beautiful manner, but that their meaning for the work of Christ be overlooked; and that what is of the greatest importance be suppressed -- positively giving the congregation a richer knowledge of God and a better eye for his majesty and glory. Grosheide's aim is precisely the aim to which the proponents of redemptive-historical preaching have allied themselves; but it never occurred to them to exegete (and consequently to distort) Scripture by way of a principle derived from a particular science.

Apparently such a scientific interpretation of the term "redemptive - historical" has filled J.Douma with the fear that the Christian be sacrificed to a new type of intellectualism, because Scripture is regarded as a book that only the scientist can work with. It is this interpretation too that lies behind his warning against a new form of clericalism.

Just as preaching "dogmatically" does not involve bringing dogmatics to the pulpit, so also preaching "redemptive-historical" does not involve a course in the history of revelation. Admittedly it is possible that someone or other has occasionally slipped up on this point, but in view of the present stage of development in this science I would judge this danger to be less serious than that of introducing purely dogmatic considerations.

A similar sort of criticism can be levelled against the interpretation of the term "Christocentric." One gets the impression that many take the term to refer only to the person of the Redeemer. Rev. J.Douma, for example, grants that Christ is the core and center of God's salvation in Scripture, but notices also that God has given us much that lies around the core. Thus many appear to be afraid that the rich content of Scripture will be narrowed down, that those who use the redemptive-historical method are exclusively concerned with what God does to bring his Son into the world, and that only the cross and redemption will be emphasized. Possibly that impression has from time to time been given. In discussions and in the themes of sermons I have occasionally noted an expression that could give the impression that in every text of O.T. the development to the central fact of Christmas was central. Indeed, in that way a type of preaching could develop that might be termed Jesucentric, staurocentric, or soteriocentric, but Christocentric I should not choose to call it.

Much discussion has centred around the term "Christocentric." Recently Edelkoort distinguished between Christ and Messiah. "Messianic" was intended to refer to Christ's kingship, while the name "Christ" primarily referred to the idea of a universal redeemer, rather than exclusively to the idea of kingship. Yet even Edelkoort in the latter instance was referring to the person of the universal redeemer. It cannot be denied however that gradually the name "Christ" has been recognized to have a broader content. Today the term "Christocentric" means that Christ is the content of all revelation. Thus the term does not merely refer to his person, but also to his work. As a title of his office, I should think this broader usage of the name is justified. To use the words of J.Douma, "'Christocentric'" also includes all that God has given around the core." It was never the intention to exclude all but the nucleus, rather the intention was to protest the isolation of anything from the core and consequently to protest preaching about it in an un-christocentric manner.

Perhaps it is possible to find a term with more clarity. Several attempts have been made in that direction - Ridderbos prefers to speak of "theo-christo-centric. Herntzich and Schreiner prefer "Trinitarian" and Grosheide claims that christocentric exegesis will at the same time be theocentric because Christ is He who paves the way for the honour of God. "The theological, rather than the soteriologlcial emphasis," he claims, "comes to the foreground in revelation."

Whatever term we choose, the term "christocentric" must in any case include all the work of God, redemption as well as judgment, the giving of the law as well as discipline. However else one wishes to describe it, the term must refer to the personal as well as to the work of the redeemer, to Christ in all three of his offices, and to both "parts" of the covenant.

The term "exemplaric" has likely given the most difficulty. Obviously this term does not excel as far as clarity is concerned. While studying 1 Cor.10 in connection with this question, I noticed that in his Novum Testamentum Latine, Nestle, although he uses the word "exemplum" a number of times, translates "tupos" with "figura" and in other places translates "forma" rather than "exemplum." I tend to agree, seeing that "figura" and "forma" indicate that a certain fact is an image (beeld) of something in a later period -- these terms clearly have an historical aspect to them that "exemplum" does not have.

In the debate, it has frequently been argued by Rev.J.Douma, and others with him, that their own objection was directed only at the exclusiveness of the redemptive-historical method, that they wanted to leave room next to it "also" for the exemplaric; thus they have pleaded for a "higher synthesis" of both methods, or at least for a maintaining of the "exemplaric aspect." Yet one must look intently into what the point is here. If the intention was solely to lay the emphasis on the fact that preaching on historical materials ought to be practical, no one would object. Otherwise, it would no longer be preaching. But just the fact that they warn against "exclusiveness" and desire a "synthesis" points in the direction that they wish to combine two conflicting methods. Completely in line with the way in which they interpret the respective terms, they now see the matter in this way -- that the redemptive-historical aspect is of great help to us for the science of the history of redemption, whereas the exemplaric aspect is indispensable with a view to the practical application.

Now I am afraid that many in the application, that is to say, in preaching, will by this procedure still have a tendency to lay aside the "redemptive - historical" method as too 'scientific', and then for the sake of the practical will hastily make historical equations.

Over against that approach I wish to express as my firm conviction that in order to have a sound application the historical moment must be brought into consideration, even though it tends to make the application more difficult. In other words, the 'exclusive' redemptive-historical method, exclusive of a single "exemplaric" element, is the only method which can lead to a sound application. It is not proper to take account of the historical moment in the exposition and then to ignore it in the application. If there is anything that would give an ambiguous character to preaching it is this.

On this point many have appealed to Grosheide, and justly so, it seems, for he wishes to do two things. First, one can take into consideration what significance a certain segment of sacred history has in the whole revelation. This means the "Christocentric" is brought under discussion.

But after that, in the second place, each historical account, within its particular place must also be considered apart from the place that it has in, and the significance that it has for, the whole of God's revelation, it proclaims something to us ... One could ask about the virtue which is here extolled, or the sin which is punished .... The first would point more in the direction of the history of revelation; the second, to the application.

Yet I doubt that it is really Grosheide's purpose that one may overlook the historical aspect in the application, thus making it exemplaric in the strict sense, i.e. that one would lift the application out of the historical context.

For Grosheide gives no homiletical rules for the application, but hermeneutical rules for interpretation. In that connection, his concern is with finding the leading ideas. And that is why he gives us these two pointers: take note of the material in its larger context, and look closely at the text in particular. It deals, thus, if I may put it this way, with the longitudinal and the cross-sectional dimension of the text. By means of the first, we discover its place within the rest of the revelation; by means of the second, we find out the specific meaning of the text. The author also warns, "the point here is not something which is two-faceted ...but the second is the particularizing of the first. Accordingly, the one may not be separated from the other.

Surely, this must be his intention seen also in the light of what he writes elsewhere: " ... that the Scriptures always and everywhere deal with the Christ, and that a portion of Scripture is interpreted properly only if it has been brought into relation with Christ." Furthermore: "…… that history also gives us admonition."

History also stands in a certain relationship to Christ. for it is precisely there that He stands in the center; but that is also why history retains its hortatory significance. Thus there is no hortatory significance next to, but around the "Christocentric" character of redemptive-history.

III. Attempt at Setting Up the Problem with Precision

In pointing out the misunderstandings which have formed around the problem we already had to give quite frequently a thetical explanation. 'Yet we must elaborate this more fully. It goes without saying that this is nothing more than an attempt to set forth the question more precisely. As I see it several aspects, are to be brought into our discussion.

First of all, I would like to mention the preservation of the 'unique' character of the historical materials. Naturally, it is not possible in terms of the aim of this lecture to examine too extensively the question of the place which "history" has in Holy Scripture. For this reason I would like to point to a few special studies which have appeared with respect to this question: J. Hempal, Altes Testament und Geschichte, and A. Weiser, Glaube und Geschichte in Alten Testment; while for the N.T. we can mention: H.D. Wendland, Geschichtsanschauung und Geschichtsbewusstsein im neuen Testament.

Here we have to do with the special character of the historical materials. Everyone knows that every kind of material brings along with it its own rules of interpretation: an historical account is something different than a section of a prophecy or an epistle; and a psalm bears yet another character, and again, the wisdom literature possesses a wholly unique mark. The point is that, therefore to handle an historical account as a fact of history, and not, for example, as a parable.

Whoever considers it possible that God allowed a certain history to be written in order to present only instruction in the form of illustration, loses from view, in my opinion, the distinction between the history of Ahab and Naboth's vineyard, and the parable of the good Samaritan, even though definite similarities between the two could be pointed out.

In particular, we intend to examine closely the question of what is the relationship between the historical materials, on the one hand, and the dogmatical, ethical, (etc.) sections, on the other. Then, in my opinion, it cannot be open to question that the dogmatic materials rest upon the historical, and not vice-versa. The great redemptive miracles of the exodus from Egypt, the giving of the law at Sinai, etc., are assumed by the prophets; the work of Jesus Christ, as it is historically set forth in the Gospels and Acts, is explained in all its richness in the Epistles. But once one admits that the historical lays the foundation for dogma and ethics, it is impossible for him any longer to see the historical materials as merely a source of illustrations alongside of it. The dogma-foundational function of redemptive-history excludes a dogma-illustrative function; for it should be quite obvious that, with this last option, dogma and ethics would merely be set forth as concrete illustrations, and would thereby be presupposed in the historical materials.

Naturally, it is not denied that you may illustrate a certain "truth" from an historical account, particularly, when you preach on a text from the Epistles, or on one of the commandments. When you preach the ninth commandment, you may select an illustration, e.g. from Genesis 12, (Abram's lie of emergency); in a sermon on James 1:6. (he who doubts is like a wave of the sea), you can make the exposition very concrete -by referring to Thomas (John 20); and in a sermon on Eph. 6:5-9, the relation between master and slave, the exposition could be made very illustrative by the use of Gen. 16, (Sarah and Hagar). As long as you are searching for an illustration for such a text of Scripture, you need not limit yourself to the biblical materials; in certain cases you could also illuminate a text by turning to men in church history: Calvin, Kuyper, or whomever you might wish to consult.

Thus it is possible to interpret a dogmatic text by appeal to a specific account in the history of redemption. But if one has chosen a historical text, then he must consider it with accordance with its own nature, and not as merely illustrative.

A sermon on Genesis 12 may not degenerate into a sermon on the lie of emergency; a sermon on John 20 may not deal with doubting; a sermon on Gen. 16 may not deal with social interrelationships. And therefore, when those who support the redemptive historical method warned against the dissolution of history into all kinds of 'pictures' which are to function as examples for us, their objection was directed at this -- the fact that men were handling historical materials "illustratively" and overlooked their "dogma-foundational" significances.

You do understand that this additional terminology is not employed here in order to replace the term "exemplaric" and "redemptive-historical" These terms are not means to be scientifically exact, for if they were, they could conceivably unleash a new confusion of tongues. Our only point in using this additional terminology is for descriptiveness, it is only an attempt to 'restate' one of our distinctions, for the sake of brevity.

Secondly, one must take note of still another point. The question of the recognition of the (external) context is also in order here.

One of the most crucial rules of hermeneutics is that, with each segment of material, attention be paid to the context. Whoever removes an utterance of Scripture from its context can make the author say something entirely different than he intends. I only have to refer to the manner in which Matt. 17:8 has been used as an inaugural text: "And they lifting up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only."

Yet it is striking that this rule is so frequently abandoned with respect to historical materials. Men often take each bit of material by itself, and then end up with incidental scenes from the lives of Abraham, David, and others. And some try to arrive at the application by constructing a parallel between such a "picture' and an incident out of our own lives.

In the very nature of the case this procedure signifies a great levelling process. Actually, whoever mentions the word 'history' is speaking of something dynamic, of movement; and connected with history is the development, growth, and progress. History always means ONENESS and forward movement at the same time. But whoever ignores the context and dissolves an ENTIRE history into a great collection of independent stories, loses both 'unity' as well as 'progress.'

It is clear where this latter method leads in the area of redemptive- history: by this fragmentary method, one simply blocks the way to preaching effectively on these materials; but because they have severed the historical bond between David, Abraham, and ourselves - the bond of the relationship to the one, ever-growing redemptive work of God in Christ - they must now, in order that they may still be able to make an application, construct another connection; and usually they do it in this manner - instead of recognizing the historical connection, they search for the oneness in a psychical resemblance.

Or to say it more precisely: one has here a shift from the history of redemption to the ordo salutis, which is so characteristic of Philo. As concerns Philo, Lagrange has defined his method very keenly as follows: "He transposed history into the domain of religious philosophy. He did not evaporate it to the point of denying its existence. But the principle lesson of history became moral instruction. Instead of leading Israel's destiny by means of revelation toward the Messiah, God showed that He kept a watchful eye on the perfecting of each soul in particular''.

Philo also lost view of the history of redemption. For him all items were independent stories. He read into each story that which God did for every individual soul, and then drew a parallel with what He does for our own soul. Instead of the history of redemption in which everyone has his own time and place and function, he set forth the ordo salutis, which is the same for all.

Naturally I do not deny that essentially we stand a great distance from Philo. We see things in a much more orthodox perspective than he. Our basic concern is not morality but religion. But most of all we speak about what God in Christ means for our own heart and life. But as far as the essential view of history is concerned, there is positively great agreement. There is quite a bit of preaching which truly tries to be 'Christocentric' and yet is not. One can say many true and beautiful things about what God in the coming of Christ (3 illegible words here, SW) and then draw a parallel with what He is for us in the Christ who has come.

But unintentionally and unwittingly you have stepped over from history to theordo salutis; then you no longer ask what meaning or purpose Abraham, Elijah, etc. had for God's one, ever-increasing, progressive work in Christ but the very opposite - what significance God in Christ has for them. Surely the Christian stands in the center here though that was not the intention.

Furthermore, as concerns method, a certain affinity to Philo is readily discernable. For even though one can ignore progress in history, yet it repeatedly asserts itself. It is not easy to draw a parallel between the experiences of Abraham, Elijah, etc., and our own. Consider for example, Abraham, who of us would leave his country and kindred behind as he did, who has to flee because of hunger as he had to, who has hazards as he did with Abimelech, who has difficulties in his tent as he had with Sarah and Hagar? If in these things you should wish to find similarities (with our experiences), you would have to stretch the meaning of these experiences considerably, whether by means of a parallel which remains absolutely on the periphery and which has nothing to do with a real analogy, or by means of allegory, which is equally forced. And surely, there is no one who would be as extreme as Philo; but I believe that it is possible to find plenty of examples of both. Men have drawn superficial parallels not only when using Matt. 17:8 as an inaugural text (that the congregation may see only Jesus in preaching of their new pastor), but also when using Jn. 2:2 (Jesus was also invited) in the usual way, as a marriage text (thus young people must also invite Jesus into their married life); or when 1 Kings 19:7 (Arise, and eat, else the journey will be too great for you) must function as a text for the Lord's supper. Allegory is also far from dead: Matt. 8:23ff (storm on the sea) often receives an application which deals with the spiritual storms on the 'sea of life'; Luke 24:29 (stay with us, for it is toward. evening and the day is now spent) is applied in the style of "Abide with me", Jn, 21:7 (John says at the Sea of Tiberius, ('It is the Lord') often becomes a sermon on Providence - in all our baffling experiences then we must learn to see that 'It is Lord.' All of this to the complete neglect of the actual content of the text! Correct and even edifying observations are made, but these have nothing at all to do with the text.

This is exactly the same as Philo. In his days, the Pentateuch was: "the means for the edification of the pious. But this use of the Pentateuch was made difficult by the fact that much in it appeared archaic ... and lacking in relevance for the readers. At this point Philo wants to offer assistance by attaching to each word in the Pentateuch a chain (reische) of thought by means of his allegories which is meant to aid the reader in achieving fruitful meditation." But in the meantime he gave them something entirely different.

And this was also intended by the warning against 'psychologyzing' in preaching. That was not an objection to psychology nor even less an evidence of a low opinion of 'God's work in us' but only an opposition to a method which concealed the actual content of the text under a multitude of edifying observations.

In opposition to this, we should maintain with Grosheide, that we must ascertain how a specific portion of sacred history has meaning within the whole of revelation and 'that a portion of scripture is expounded well if it is related to Christ.' If one does not view a historical fact as a part of a larger whole, if one does not note the organic bond but views them fragmentarilyno good exposition is possible and therefore no good sermon. These terms, "organic, fragmentary", so not once again claim scientific, sharp distinctness, but can perhaps yet again indeed help to illumine from a different angle the matter under discussion, "heilsgeschichtlich or exemplaristic."

We must mention yet a third point, viz.; the question of the deference due to the internal textual coherence. We are not finished when we have indicated the lines of connection in their historical context. As I have just mentioned, Groshieide intends that we shall also view each text as a complete entity -- included indeed in a larger context and not divorced from it, but nevertheless possessing a distinctive significance and function in that larger whole. This concerns the peculiarity of each text or the "cross-section" in distinction from the "longitudinal section" if I may call it such.

Grosheide speaks of the "profound meaning" or also of "synthetic" exegesis. This profound meaning is not meant as a more profound meaning beneath or opposed to the grammatical-historical meaning; if this were the case one could not escape the acceptance of a sensus duplex. At best one can speak of a sensus compositus. But only exact grammatical-historical exegesis can lead to the discovery of the profound sense. Therefore "synthetic" exegesis is not a second thing next to literary (exegesis): "Synthesis is here... used as the summation of analysis"; one can thus say that it moves in an opposite direction, covers the same course by a different route. Only such indication of the profound meaning completes exegesis, and the "profound meaning speaks of Christ." Whoever asks what really is the issue does not neglect the incidentals but tries correctly to find a leading thought which controls all incidentals and does justice to them, according to Grosheide.

The objection has been voiced that heilsgeschichtliche method would become monotonous. Because one chose to point out Christ in each historical fact, the danger would be great that it would really amount to the same thing in each sermon; and it has been supposed that one ought to warn against such an impoverishment of the manifold richness of scripture.

That, however, was the very last thing intended; I meant precisely the opposite, that by this method one escapes the danger of monotony, precisely because one lays all the emphasis on synthesis. Each historical fact is, according to this conception, composed indeed of all sorts of elements; but these elements have acquired in this place a very definite connection; and this very special connection is that which gives each text a unique significance in the whole of revelation; each fact thus has its own content and its own application. Only synthetic exegesis grasps the peculiarity of a text and therefore makes it possible to always remain fresh.

The heilsgeschichtlich method will never lead to impoverishment and wouldn't think of always sounding the same note. The danger of impoverishment, which is unavoidable through. the exemplaristic method, is precisely what it will prevent.

Actually it is the same as in chemistry. If I have some water (H20) and wish to speak of its significance and peculiarities, I must not speak of the qualities of the components of water (H) but of H as it is involved in very definite connection with O. And with sulphuric acid not of H but of the completely different connection H2SO4.

This is approximately the way it is with preaching. Whoever does not deal with things synthetically but rather atomistically does not do justice to the text. Then he accomplishes one of two things: either one makes all sorts of practical observations with the various subdivisions of the text, but because he misses the main thought there is no unity, and the listeners complain that it hangs together as sand, or he lifts a certain element out of the whole and preaches about that "atom." It is then that one cannot escape the danger that the richness of scripture is not discerned. Then he would be able, e.g. to preach both the same sermon on Matt. 11:1-8 (the doubt of John the Baptist) and on John 20:24-29 (the doubt of Thomas) -- Jesus delivers from all doubt. I do not deny that he then says true things, or even less that the congregation derives something from it; I only say that he ought to say these things with another text. The peculiarity of these texts is not preached like this. If things were viewed synthetically the preacher using Matt. 11 would have spoken about the crisis of the preaching of the gospel while John 20 deals with the specific Easter confession: My Lord and my God. According to the atomistic treatment one can make the same application to Gen. 22 (the trial of faith on Moriah) and Matt. 15:21ff. (the trial of the Canaanite's woman's faith), but according to synthetic exegesis that is never possible.

Perhaps someone will ask what the question "synthetic or atomistic" has to do with the problem "heilsgeschichtlich or exemplaristic." Everything, I think. For a moment ago it became evident that the method which we, for the sake of brevity, call the "exemplaristic" has this peculiarity: that it accepts the historical facts, then asks what God has been for this or that biblical saint, and then views this as an illustration - as an object lesson - of what he chooses to be for us. One then seeks a parallel between the situation in which God was something for the biblical saints and situations in which he will be the same for us. This comparison one then sees between John the Baptist/Thomas and us in doubt, between Abraham/the Canaanite woman and us in the trial of faith. But because none can still at any time have doubt precisely as Thomas, and because none can be tested concerning his faith exactly as Abraham, we are compelled to let the peculiarity of their doubt and trial of faith drop. Thus, we are forced to speak of doubt, trial of faith, etc. in general, abstracted from their synthetic connection with the main thought of the text. The exemplaristic method thus compels us of necessity toward atomistic treatment.

You must understand me well. Some apparently suppose that theheilsgeschichtlich method chooses to know exclusively about the "way of Christ" and that it sacrifices all else in the text of this idol. That it would thus ignore a certain instant that speaks of God's work in us: that it would have no consideration for the spiritual life of Thomas, etc. But nothing is less true. A text is composed of a multitude of elements, and all ought to be considered: Elijah's mantle, Peter's sword, John's doubt and Balaam's ass. Yet none considers, I think, preaching in connection with Elijah's mantle on Christian fashion or in connection with Balaam's ass fulminating on cruelty to animals. Why not? Because he would have wrenched such an element out of its context. Even less may one atomistically make an application of John's doubt to our own. He ought first to assign to that element of doubt its very special place in the synthetic context before he may arrive at the application.

Therefore, I would like to mention, as the third moment of the problem at hand, the question "atomistic or synthetic?"

Perhaps we should have brought even more things up for discussion. But I hope I have succeeded, through this analysis, in putting more sharply the question which up to now has been understood in the not thoroughly transparent terms " heilsgeschichtlich-examplaristic." Summarized briefly, it amounts in my opinion to this:

a) Will a person permit Heilsgeschichte to retain its function as a foundation for dogma or treat it illustratively?

b) Ought one to treat this history in its organic connection or may he elucidate it fragmentarily? Not in its development, but leveled out?

c) Should one work synthetically in the explanation of each fact or is atomism admissible?

Now that things have been put thus, I hope that hereafter it will be more clear that a synthesis of methods is out of the question. Also, the question is not whether one may use history as an example, not at all, but in what manner one may do so. Whether it may also take place illustratively, fragmentarily, and atomistically.

Therefore the appeal which has been frequently made in the course of discussion to 1 Cor. 10 and Heb. 11 seems to me unfounded. It is said that scripture speaks plainly there of "examples". The Rev. J.Douma has assigned himself the task of going through all the books of the N.T. to determine the significance of 'example' in the N.T. That is very worthwhile. But it is unfortunate that he did not enter into the sizeable question whether the N.T. speaks of 'examples' in the heilsgeschichtliche or in the examplaristic sense of the word -- both terms conceived in the sense determined above. Consequently, we have not made any progress in the consideration of the real problem.

I confine myself here to 1 Cor, 10 and Heb. 11 because in my opinion these chapters are the most important ones for the discussion, and the other references are related to them. First of all then 1 Cor. 10, where those things which took place in the wilderness are said to have occurred as examples for us upon whom the end of the ages has come. It should not escape our attention that Paul here (a) exegetes 'synthetically'. He isn't concerned with the vice of grumbling in general but with the murmuring against God's redemptive acts. The Rock was Christ. The application then becomes also (synthetically), "Let us not tempt Christ."

Then I would also note that Paul (b) explicates and applies this history organically, He will have nothing to do with historical equivalences; of course he says expressly, "us upon whom the ends of the ages has come," and (c) he retains the history in its factualness, and not as a concrete illustration, as an illustrative instruction in a determined thesis.

For tupos (example) has in Paul a very definite historical tone. Goppelt stated in his significant book, ''Typos, (Die Typological Deutung des Alten Testaments im Neuen)" concerning this, "As far as we can tell Paul uses the Greek word tupos as an expression for an advance representation of the coming in a preparatory history." "The object of typological meaning presents itself when a naturally more complete and greater fact is perceived as having been established by God." " Der Typus ist wesentlich nicht das verkleinerte Abbild des Antitypus, sondern die einer andern heilsgeschichtlichen Ebene angehorende Vorausdarstellung die den Umriss, die Grundzuge das komenden Wesenhaften andeutet und mit dessen Erschoinung jede selbstanige Bedeutung verliert," this latter statement in opposition to Philo who wants to see type simply as an inferior image.

O. Michel notes concerning this text, "Das was das A.T. als geschehen berichtet, ist allerdings wircklich geschehen; aber es ist nicht nur um unsertwill geschehen!" He is in agreement with Leitzmann and J. Weiss who stress that Paul sees the O.T. facts as 'Vorbildung' of the happenings of the Messianic end time, and that the end in itself stands entirely in the background. And then he follows "Das A.T. ist also weder ein dogmatisches Lehrbuch fur Paulus noch einfach ein padagogisches Geschichtsbuch, sondern vielmehr ... eine Offenbarung einer geheimnisvollen typologischen Heilsgeschichte." "Auch von hier aus erscheint das ganze A.T. als tupos auf die Endzeit hin."

Thus not, "They are written illustratively, graphically. pedagogically for a pattern for us, as an example; but, they have happened as a previous image, a prefiguration of the Messianic time. Image, thus, has not an exemplaristic, but a pure heilsgeschchtlich content.

The case is somewhat different with Heb. 11. Here there constantly recurs, 'through faith'. That is illustrated from many passages. Yet this proves nothing opposed to the heilsgeschichtlich method. For it has already been admitted that there is no objection to the choosing by dogmatic texts of illustrative material from the Heilsgeschichte. One would thus be able to say, "The writer demonstrated in the course of his argument, which bore a dogmatic and not a heilsgeschichtlich character 'through faith' from history. Thereby nothing is said concerning how one should preach on the material itself.''

Nevertheless, we can go further. Not only does Heb. 11 say nothing against this method, this whole view of Heilsgeschichte is the foundation of Heb. 11. Goppelt writes, "Hier scheint die typologische Beziehung in eine Gleichstellung der 'Wolke von Zeugen' mit der gemeinde Christi verschoben zu sein. Aber es handelt sich nur um eine Veranderung der Blickrichtung. Het historisch gelijkteken dus slechts schijnbaar aanwezig. Gottes werk kann von Anfang an bis zur Stunde immer nur im Glauben erfasst werden, Glaube ist immer ... Festhalten an unsichtbaren, insbesonder zukunftigen Dingen. Obwohl so dem Ziel der Aufsfuhrungen gemass aller Nachdruck auf das Gemeinsame gelegt wird, ist doch auch hier der durch die Erscheinung Christi erfolgte Bruch der Welzeiten und die dadurch bedingte typologische Art nicht ubersohen." The writer thus rightly indicates a communal moment in all of these accounts, but he yet retains the particularity of what Moses did in faith in distinction from what Abraham did; he thus continues to view things synthetically. He does not read things fragmentarily; he posits no historical equivalences, for all faith of all men was an expectation of the future, of the caesurs which would come in history with Christ. Tupos in 1 Cor. 10 and 'pistis' in Heb. 11 are thus both preached heilsgeschichtlich. Heb. 11 is also not concerned with the fact that they have not received the promise. In this way God had provided for us somewhat better, "because apart from us they should not be made perfect".

The heilsgeschichlich method thus retains completely the significance of the pattern but then in the qualified sense which the word has in Scripture.

IV. The Hermeneutical Side of the Problem

If we have succeeded in posing the question more sharply, then the great difficulty yet remains of how we should seriously execute heilsgeschlchtlich preaching. The question is continually raised by many, "How must I deal with this particular text? How do I arrive at the proper heilsgeschichtlich, organic, synthetic exegesis?" And if I have found it how does it continue in the application?" We can thus distinguish the hermeutical and the homiletical sides of the problem. We state first that there are indeed for both divisions a couple of common directives but still there are no precepts to give. Schreiner states, not inappropriately,

" Die praktische Theologie hat keine Gesetze zu entwickeln und nichts ware verkehrter als van ihr Rezepte zu erwarten, womoglich solche, die unbedingt in jedem Falle brauchbar waren."

Indeed there is already a fairly extensive literature. In recent years this problem has boon investigated in many publications from the viewpoint of dialectical theology. They have not tried to exegete in a practical way large sections of the Bible Christocentrically; above all else they have also grappled with the question principally and theoretically. With respect to the practical works the studies of W. Vischer and H. Hellbardt are most notable. Regarding the theoretical expositions we are here directed above all to the introductions to these works particularly the literature arising around Vischer's treatment of the Pentateuch. Before we survey this material in relation to our preaching, we ought to reflect on the large preliminary questions.

1. The dialectical treatment, especially that of the O.T.

Really the entire German literature concerning this subject, and for a large part the Dutch also, is more or less 'dialectical', in orientation. I know that and could ask the question whether it is possible to speak about dialectical theology as a unified theology because the mutual differences have manifested themselves with increasing sharpness. The contrasts with regard to O.T. preaching also have become very great. Yet the term dialectical can give us an impression of its theological root ideas, and therefore also of the starting point of the preaching, of the majority of those who have participated in the discussions and the practical attempts.

In his well known book, Berkhouwer spoke about the "isolation of the Reformed view of Scripture" not the least after having been confronted with the dialectical doctrine of Scripture. Therefore if we want to prevent accidents when we make use of this literature, we shall do well to remember that isolation in the view of Scripture also means isolation in exegesis, hermeneutics, and homiletics. "One has to be able to judge the discernment before one may take this work to hand," wrote Schilder in a review of De Wilde's Leviticus. This pertains practically to everything which has been published till now. In view of this, we must start with determining our position over against the dialectical approach of the O.T.

The great turning point came in 1934 with the publishing of volume I of Vischer's Das Christuszeugnis des alten Testaments. Already before this the typical Wellhausian approach had to make room for a method which inquired not so much about the origin of a book but about the religious worth of it. (Rud. Kittem, Grossman). Gradually, they became more positive. However, they did so without conquering the basic error of relinquishing in principle the canon of the O.T. The question of the relationship between the O.T. and the N.T. remained unresolved and therefore also the question as to the "Christocentric" character of the O.T. Nevertheless, Vischer reemphasized that the O.T. gave "witness to Christ". Many have followed him since in speaking about "das Christuszeugnis des A.T".

This characterization, which has been derived from John 5:39 presently becomes suspect for him who takes note of the peculiar distinction which is made in this camp between witness and revelation. The term "witness" betrays the dualism of Scripture-Revelation; Scripture-Word of God.

Following in the tracks of Karl Barth, Scripture is here seen as a sign of revelation. Incarnation and inscripturation are considered to be of the same genus, at least there is a high degree of parallelism. Thus Vischer sees the Scriptures of the O.T. and N.T. then as "swaddling clothes" which have been given to us as a sign. In, with, and under the content of the O.T. is the Word of God to be heard. Not the external history of Israel is God's revelation but God's activity must be seen in, with, and under that history.

However, Vischer does emphasize the reading of the O.T."wie es dasteht, im besten Sinne naiv," and therefore takes an aversion to a "pneumatische Exegese; der psychiasch-rationale Process des Lesens und Verstehens (darf) nich zu Pneumatolog werden." He recognized the danger that we carry our own thoughts into the Bible, yet he allows for allegory and typology, "Im weitesten Umfang, wie man sie sich in einer modernen Exegese nicht mehr hatte traumer lassen." This allegorical method, of which Hellbardt is also repeatedly guilty (and which is naturally more understandable in Lutheran than in Calvinistic circles) has invited severe criticism. However, and this confirms the lack of certainty of some, at the same time this method has also been defended. Schreiner, e.g., does not want to limit himself to the historical sense because of the fact that the same truth, in the mutual discussion among people, "eine verschiedene Tiefte und eine verscheidene Bedeutung entfalten kann, je nach Lage und Frage des Horers." [8] With all his objections of Vischer, De Wilde yet asks himself whether in just this way "he has not spoken to the N.T. congregation according to the Spirit.

Of course the question is not whether a word has more content than the speaker knows but rather if it means something different than the speaker intends. Thus the question has rightly been asked: Sensus sucrae scripturae duplex?

Something else is connected herewith. From this side a strong emphasis has been put on faith as condition for right exegesis. No reformed man would raise objection to this as long as it is understood in the sense of Moller: " Ist der Forscher unglaubig ofer behandelt er seinen Stoff wie etwas Lebloses, so ist die Theologische Aufgabe weder erfast noch orfult." [9] However, the intent is evidently another one, Vischer does assure us: 'If Jesus really is the hidden meaning of the O.T. Scriptures, then an honest philosophical exegesis must somehow touch upon it. But some pages further he states, "Only the Holy Spirit is able to open up the Bible and to disclose its real meaning. The author has hidden himself in such a way in his work that no exegetical can unveil him; it desires to and must become its own interpreter if it is to find a reader." Actually, the proof of the Scripture, John 5:59, has been handled here in conflict with its actual intent.

The dualism inherent in the term "Zeugnis," (testimony), automatically means an unresolved tension between a literary historical and 'pneumatical' exegesis, between knowledge and faith. Certainly there are authors who see through this. Breit for example, writes, "with that the problematic is freely postponed. The question is not here historical there theological exegesis, but the formulation of the question is radically different: either theological exegesis including, literary criticism, history of religion, etc., or a treatise on religion. Furthermore, there is no difference between pneumatical and historical exegesis." Hempel says concerning this matter, "The contemporary historical, the literary-criticism, the history of religions' explanation of the O.T., in short, historical criticism in all its varied branches stands not in opposition to the theological considerations of the O.T. as a document of revelation, rather it shaped the O.T.'s necessary and indispensable prerequisite whereas, as a matter of fact, the O.T. deals with the reality of the revelation of God in time, with a once for all historical action."

In the pneumatical exegesis many authors avoid the results of the historical sciences, especially such men as Hellbardt and often times Vischer; or else it is declared that this too belongs to the foolishness and weakness of God, that the Word becomes audible and visible only when it is surrounded by historical, geographical, and scientific errors. "It is therefore, a peculiarity of theological exegesis that it maintains within its bounds two opposite positions of knowledge which strive for unity." Here we see the construction of an 'offence' which obscures the real scriptural 'offence.' It is a pity that even a man like Herntrich, who gave a good critique of Vischer remains caught himself in the above mentioned dualism and in the constructing of such 'offence' as accompanies it.

The publicly confessed dependence on Barth comes to the fore not only in the conceptions concerning Scripture, but also in the conception of history although the latter is not of great significance for our present discussion. Vischer formulates his conception concerning this point as follows: "Do we accept that the two parts of the biblical documents have in reality the same content, that the O.T. and N.T. testimony stand over against each other like two halves of a choir in a circle and point to the same center, and that there stands in this center like a historical incarnation Immanuel, God with us? He also sees the diverse covenants as concentric circles of different sizes. Heintrich has correctly remarked that Vischer still speaks about a history of revelation but actually he does not take the revelation of God in history seriously in spite or his assurance to the contrary. Basically this means a docetic "Auflosung" (disintegration), of the redemptive history and therewith of the 'testimony of Christ'. This is the reason why Vischer is so non-committal when it comes to historical questions. This does not present difficulties for the allegorical exegesis but it does to someone who actually believes the " heilsgeschiedenis" and its continuation.

With such a construction the question becomes interesting as to how one has to see the relationship between the O.T. and the N.T. Vischer says it this way: The O.T. says, what Christ is, the N.T. who he is. The salvation in the O.T. so far as its essence is concerned differs from nothing we receive. There is, however, a difference as to the "austeilung" (administration) and the "Darbeitung" (performance). But however much the Bible maintains the real historicity, this history is eternal presence. "Everyone can only become contemporaneous with the time in which he lives and then only with one, to live with Christ on the earth," he repeats after Kierkegaard. The following quotations may show how close Vischer comes to a complete levelling: "In their carnality, in their time controlled limitation, in their historical accidentalness, the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments testify of this incarnation ... signs, identifying signs as the Son of God born in a stable are as good for those who seek him in the O.T. as well as those who seek him in the N.T."

The well known words from Eph. 4, "There is one body, one Spirit, ... one Lord," compel him to remark: "This description, with which the apostle has drawn a cross section through the Christian Church of his time, touches also a part of the longitudinal section through the historical epoch of the Church of Christ. Consequently, G. Von Rad's criticism of Vischer is being widely shared, namely, "that he has been seriously mistaken in as much as he also searched for the incarnated Word in the O.T.", since this means a pure identification of both testaments. De Wilde also does not see a difference in essence, but only in form: for him too the O.T. is already a testimony of the fulfilment. But --and this is one of the typical contradictions with Vischer--at the same time the N.T. is yet only promise. Because (in following Barth) with fulfillment he does not understand that that which was promised came, although initially so, but that the promises were confirmed. Also the N.T. Church must be a hoping Church; otherwise she would not be the Church of the crucified but of the glorified Christ. While at first he saw the gospel as the, "extreme actualization of that which is written in the O.T," it is now clear that this actualization is not a realization, that the Kerygma does not point to facts.

Repeatedly one comes across these contradictions: emphasis on the 'carnality' of Scripture and the necessity of biblical criticisms, doubt concerning the biblical criticism, a practical ignoring of the weakness of Scripture. There is a difference between the O.T. and N.T. and they are being equalized. The O.T. already witnesses to the incarnation, the N.T., however, is only a confirmation of the promise. On the one hand one finds scriptural proof and honest philological exegesis which must be able to find Christ; on the other hand there is "faith", because exegesis does not find the Spirit; the Spirit is never a human possibility, to become secure of God apart from the freedom of God, to be present or not to be present according to his will.

For that matter. one must be careful in every respect because the disturbing thing is that almost all the terminology of the confession has received new content. I already cited the concept of the incarnation: the "heilsgedachten" of the O.T., become flesh and blood in Jesus. However, this reality is nothing but a promise confirmed. Similar ideas are held concerning the cross. Often the "cross" has the meaning of scandal, an offense for the mind; this is the "kruisweg van het woord."

Revelation of God is always at the same time also a veil, and even in that offense, scandal since the revelation of God in history is always toctum cruce'-- remains hidden beneath the cross. When De Wilde comes to dealing with Gen. 12, then he says among other things, "But then the call is also: go out, separate yourself from everything, which ties you down, give up your securities and certainties, go unprotected in the open field, only with my word. That is the cross, the weariness and the grief, that is death...Here again where God descends is first of all the end of man, the judgment". What if one should read something like that when one tries to deal with the text in a Christocentric manner; and mind you this is being said to people who already like to hear about 'their' cross. The danger is great that both the minister and the congregation will bypass the content of the text. Somewhere, De Wilde also speaks concerning "the problem of the theodiceo which culminates in the revelation of Jesus Christ". Because it is precisely in the confines of the covenant, facing God, that man becomes (!) a sinner. Nowhere else does he become this. Yes, we can also say it this way: "Where man became a sinner, there is the covenant, the righteous (!!) suffers and dies; there he must suffer and die." These are well known sounds, but they have acquired a foreign content. "Man as man is under judgment."

Obbink says concerning Vischer that "he really does not rise above his dogmatic suppositions." Really that typifies all these writers including Obbink himself. Of course one can say that it is never possible to approach a test presuppositionless; "the dogma of the church may not function as preconceived opinion", according to De Wilde. However, in this way, the minister and the congregation become estranged from the dogma of the church because one does not allow himself to be told by Scripture what revelation, incarnation, and the cross is. Therefore, the question, which Herntrich asked in another connection, becomes valid, whether "this objectivity is not exactly abandoned here, which can only lie in this, in order that one lets the lines, the valuations and the aim of the object be shown him, i.e. from the O.T. itself and instead these valuations become authoritative, those which one brings from unrelated sources to the message of the 0.T."

A very peculiar position is taken by E. Hirsch. 0. Brocksch typified him and not unjustly so, as 'Mavion redivivus.' Hirsch opposes the Barthian theology very sharply. He even speaks of "bad theological flippancy" in their treatment of the O.T. For him the O.T. is "that invalid book raised up in the N.T." In preaching the reinterpretation of the O.T. is therefore a necessity, because the O.T. is law, 'law oriented religion,' Jewish, and therefore, "Similarity with the N.T. not according to its present being, but according to its being, to which it was broken down by the New. Yet the O.T. remains a necessity for preaching, because "only in the experience of the antagonism between the law and gospel do we hear the Gospel."

However, Hirsch suffers from the same theological rashness of which he accuses the dialectical theologians. Therefore it is well for us to say with Strahmann that in the Christian Church we are lacking entirely a historical, scientific, indisputable, clear and sure relationship to the 0.T.

Therefore it is difficult to come to a different conclusion than the following: in spite of the fact that these authors have gathered much useable material, yet precisely when they did their exegesis their method is nevertheless principally objectionable. Their theory with respect to the preliminary question is of such a nature that what they submit as theological, "Christocentric Pneumatical' exegesis cannot rightfully claim any one of the four terms. Exegesis which is worthy of the name, unfolding of that which is embedded in the words. The exegesis will be 'pneumatic' only in its commitment to the Word.

The contrast comes into focus very sharply with De Wilde in his commentary on Leviticus. There he says, "the natural 'Wassenschaftler' does not understand the things which are spiritual; on the contrary, they will be foolish to him. He is not able to understand them because the spiritual sense is scientific nonsense for such a man. As he sees it many 'mad' Pauls are running around who are not suffering from erudition but from a mental condition which one might term 'spirituality.'

Over against this the following axioms of Reformed 'pneumatic' exegesis must apply: the spiritual sense can never be scientific nonsense; those two go together. Every exegesis that does not account for being 100 percent scientific, will not let us find the spiritual sense. For the preaching it means this: since the proclamation of the Word is not based on philological exegesis, it is never pneumatish, theological, or Christocentric. Faith is not a separate organ that hears the Word of God in, with, and under the written material, much less is it an organ which should perceive what is crucified by thought. Konig is definitely right when he says that "nur die allgemein menschliche Denkraft" is requested in exegesis. "Intellectual enlightenment by the spirit is enough." The natural human being does not accept the things that are spiritual, he hears it but rejects it. Actually nothing is left over of the sin of unbelief on this contested standpoint; the heavy accent which faith receives makes void the scriptural concept of faith; this is no scriptural faith.

Therefore we wish to maintain the meaning of faith, in a dual sense for the reformed preaching in its own peculiar way.

(1) Faith is necessary in the sense of accepting the self-testimony of scripture. Men may not impose a message on scripture. Men must allow scripture to say that which it wants to say that is: objectivity as we have explained in faith to the perspicuity.

(2) Faith as condition for good works, according to L.D. 33. Preaching is worthwhile only when it is founded on Jesus Christ, and a definite will to serve him in obedience.

But this faith, just because it is scriptural faith, does not tolerate a separation, an antithesis of Godly and human factors: we are confronted in the Bible with a marvellous 'two-in-oneness' a Godly and human factor which can be theoretically distinguished, but which the exegesis may never separate for a moment. Because when exegesis separates these factors, she has lost the Scripture as God's revelation which came to and through men. This is already more adequately explained under the subject "the deeper sense."

2. The Rules for historic material according to Grosheide

If we retain the salvation-history method, it is clear that this kind of preaching takes a great deal of preparation. Immediately it can be pointed out that one cannot simply give a 'key' to it. Grosheide never tires of saying that with respect to the N.T. a special gift is necessary. This however does not exclude the fact that the gifted person keeps himself to certain rules and methods which can be set forth.

a. Detect the place in the whole of revelation.

b. Investigate that which is specific in each text.

c. Take into account that every historical book has its own tendencies.

I think that this sums up the most important factors and that there are no other rules for the O.T. I would like to emphasize a few of the things that were mentioned under III, where we tried to set up the problem with some precision.

1) Personally I think it very beneficial to deal with it in series. That goes together with what was said above concerning the matter of "organic- fragmentic." It does not work simply by taking a periscope out of a greater cycle, but rather to proceed as Grosheide suggests, by placing it in the whole of revelation.

2) Profound detailed exegesis in connection with what was said about the point: "synthetic-automatic"

3) It is of great importance to determine exactly what God does in a certain section. Often we begin immediately by looking at the persons, and are busy identifying them with people of today. Of course we may not forget the human aspect since each detail asks for attention. But we should always see those human deeds a reaction in God's action. Abraham and Abimelech for example: this is not the sin of a white lie in general but an attempt to secure in this way the promise of the seed, the heir. Then a person is on his way to discover the specific meaning of a text. The same is true of Israel's grumbling: we are not dealing here with the sin of rebellion, but with the rejection of God's redemption as they had seen by the water from the rock; 'The rock was Christ.'

4) It is also especially necessary to observe whether the specified people act in the quality of an office. When I have discovered either faithfulness or unfaithfulness to an office, then I am well on my way. One is at the same time guarded from 'staurocentrisch' (cross-centred) preaching. With respect to Elijah I don't have to insist on drawing a parallel to the cross as long as we see him as the bearer of the Word, on whom the spirit of Jesus Christ rests.

3. The Specific Difficulties In the Old Testament

Although the difficulties in the N.T. are quite great, they obtain a special accent in the O.T. It is difficult to see immediately the relation between the N.T. and the O.T.

The definition of that relationship as 'law-gospel' will shed light over it. Especially when men like Hirch do not take 'law' in the specific sense of Galatians anymore. In this connection 'law' is never seen as autosoteric, nor is it a rule of thankfulness. The big question is whether we can bring this whole relation under this heading even if we take 'law' in the Pauline sense. In the light of the letter to Galatians itself, this does not seem possible to me; the 'law' is something that comes later on.

Neither is it obvious what is meant by 'promise-fulfilment'. I have pointed already to the dialectic structure of this. But we have to be just as careful with the old 'Weissagungsbeweis' of Hofman as with the spiritualization of relations by Koning. Because there is something right in all those opinions: with the dialectic thinkers we agree that the N.T. does not preach the complete fulfilment, with Hofman we see that the O.T. announces many details that find their literal fulfilment in the N.T., and together with Koning we see that the blessings of salvation of the N.T. are often spiritual. The drawback lies in absolutizing.

We cannot find the answer in Vischer's 'what-who' relation either. The O.T.does not say much about Christ, who he is, whereas the N.T. says many things about what Christ is. Maybe it is best to see the relation as a 'less-more.' The less of the O.T. gradually becomes more up to Christ, but the more of the N.T. is not everything,

Therefore we need a thorough knowledge of the use of the O.T. in the N.T. Not only to see how scripture itself sees the relation, but also materially. Then we can begin to discern the big lines. We ought to refer especially to Rom. 9 -11, Galatians, 1 Cor.10, 2 Cor.3 and Hebrews, as well as Revelations, as those places in which most O.T. material is used.

Much light is shed on those principles in two articles by E.T. van de Born:"De Verbondsgedachte van het O.T.", and also "van het N.T." Other material can be found in: W. Eichrodt: "Theol. of the O.T." (I, iff, 255ff); L. Goppelt: "Types & passim"; the series of J. Kroeker: "Das Lebendige Wort", H. Breit on Deuteronomy.; M.B. van't Veer on Elijah in "Mijn God is Jahwe"; E.T.v.d. Born: "De Wijsheld van de Prediker", A.H. Edelkoort: "De Christus Verwachting van het O.T.", S.G. de Graaf: "Verbondsgeschiedenis I & II" ; in addition there is a handbook by L. V. Andel, an abundance of material in Kittel's T.W.N.T. and finally in the works of K. Schilder.

V. The Homiletical Side of the Problem

We have already stated a couple of times that 'application' is not attacked by the history-of-redemption method. We should go into this matter a little more. There seems to be some pre-apprehensions that this kind of preaching is too intellectual or theoretical. Now I think that we ought to make a distinction here. A possible lack of application by young preachers is certainly not evidence of a wrong method but of an understandable lack of experience which is excusable since he is not yet fully acquainted with the whole of reality.

On the other hand many church members testify that this method has given them a more accurate view of the scriptures. I have met many people who at first thought that the preaching was too cold and abstract but later on honestly confessed that by this kind of preaching they had received great comfort and were more convinced in their faith.

Furthermore we will have to ask ourselves if this criticism has the proper motifs. People ask for 'warmth', 'something to live by'. That sounds very nice but quite often it is nothing else than a narrowing down of the contents of scripture reducing it to the theme 'God and soul.' There are many church members who find no 'warmth' in a sermon about the church, nor do they think that a sermon about the progress of the kingdom is very practical. Of course it should be something to live by but then only that of which God says we should live by and not that which we just happen to think will do us some good. The taste of the church people does not always correspond to God's Law which is sometimes very narrow but quite often much broader.

Everything that God has revealed is of practical concern for us. Kuyper was very angry with the ministers who dealt over and over again with some obvious, and matter of course parts of the truth. These they presented to the congregations with a kindhearted speech approaching their material first through one text and then through another. It is something different to preach the whole Word of God. Nor is it every man's task to make clear to others the whole history of redemption from creation through the book of Revelation, in the whole of its context and to understand and teach it in its mystical sense, and in its symbolic and spiritual sense. An incident from the life of a patriarch or a part of David's hardships, or the struggles of God's prophets should not be presented to the congregation as a scene in itself. Otherwise we could just as well take any person out of history about whom we happen to know many interesting facts, and to whose words and actions we could apply the same remarks.

No, rather all these facts and events in holy history should be seen as parts of one whole, as pieces of the great work of God's revelation. These things must be seen as parts of history set aside to show how God worked through these men for the future of His church and for the revelation of His work of grace to the glorification of His name.

We have to be very careful with the 'subject-object' scheme. These terms are used here in the current significant sense. We have to see that the 'objective subjective' dilemma is not acceptable for preaching. For in both cases men reduce preaching to dealing with the loci and the struggle then is with a number of loci. In such a case the question becomes whether the 'locus de salute' must be dealt with in every sermon. But dealing with loci is no preaching and neither will it be by means of a shot of 'salute.'

A few examples rather than a long story will show that salvation-history preaching does not exclude the application. First of all I think about Luke 24; the men on the road to Emmaus are reproached by Jesus for their unbelief and slowness of heart in regard to all that was said in the scriptures. They are very depressed on this first Easter day. Then Jesus teaches them to understand scripture. He explained what was written concerning himself. This teaching of Jesus is a summary of the O.T. but it is Christocentric and that makes them say 'Stay with us.' This has caused many exegetical errors. They were asking the unknown Lord this question. This evening is often devotionally allegorized so as to mean all evenings in life but to do this is to emasculate the text. It is nothing more than that this Christocentric preaching set their hearts aflame and their hunger for more was awakened in them.

A second example is a scripture passage to which Mr. Beyse drew my attention. In his discussion of Acts 13 he pointed out that Paul preached in the synagogue in a historical redemptive way with the result that the heathen asked him to preach the same sermon on the following Sabbath when it was attended by almost all the people in the city, provoking the Jews. So this preaching surely attracts. And also this preaching certainly brings on the crisis.

Now concerning the application, I would like to refer to what Rev. C. Veenhof said at a speech at a rally of the Geref. Mannen Bond (the League of Reformed Men's Societies) which is full of quotations from Kuyper and therefore very valuable. "I would say that as far as I can see the explication - application scheme should be rejected because the matter of a subjective - objective is involved and because the character of the Word of God and the preaching is intentionally obscured. It seems more correct to me to see what is called application as a concretization of the text content for the congregation here and now. The whole sermon is explication then from A to Z but also applicatorily directed even from the first sentence and thus it remains the service of the Word".

Another matter that we have to deal with in a broader view is the question of the personal element in the preaching. At this point we come in direct contact with the problem of 'collectivism-individualism'.

Some quotations to begin with. Prof. Ridderbos wrote, "In general we can say that with the replacement of the Old dispensation by the New, personal life came more to the fore. The covenant made with Israel had a national character and although the believers had a personal faith life which was vital as for example the psalms clearly indicate, and furthermore even though the N.T. considers the believer not an isolated entity but as members of the covenant, that is especially as members of the Body of Christ, yet it does not eliminate the fact that the N.T. speaks much more to and concerning the believers than the O.T. Dr. C. N. Impeta, who agrees with these words, refers to Barthimeas, Zacheus, and the parable of the lost sheep. Prof. Grosholde presented an article about 'Enkeling en Gemeenschap.' He fears that there is worldly influence when the covenant is emphasized. That is not only the result of worldliness although it surely has a wrong influence. It can also be that the church undergoes the influence of the world unawares. Grosheide sees it in this way: for 40 years individualism was almighty in the world but in the present time a different spirit moves through the world. The individual person is of very little importance. He has to give way for the country and the people.

And we see again the consequences in the Church. There is much less pressure for conversions, only an insistence to live by the covenant. They place the covenant of grace in the center and focus all things from this vantage point. But the insistence on personal conversion is hardly ever found.

Apparently some are of the opinion that those using the heilsgeschichtlich method run the risk that they do not keep themselves unspotted from the world. However I doubt this. As far as I can judge it seems to me that the proponents of this method are very energetic to combat the spirit of the world. Among other things, it appears that here they simply discuss the whole problem of collectivism - individualism as worldly. Grosheide rightly notes concerning this that the world swings continually from the one pole to the other. That cannot be otherwise because there appears to be a relationship of tension between the individual and the community. This problematic has been continuously imported into theology. Frequently it is represented that the O.T. is collectively oriented while the N.T. has a strong measure of individualistic tendencies. One meets with this construction, e.g., in the otherwise fine study of F. Baumgarter concerning the character of O.T. piety. But we must reject this construction of tension with regard to the Bible unconditionally. There is no indication that we would meet with this disjointedness in the relation between the community and the individual in the Bible. Above all, theology has recently purified and deepened our insight in this respect. So J. Harrmann, e.g., writes in an article dealing with prayer in the O.T.,

"die Frommigkeit des einzelen Israeliten immer eingebetten gewesen ist in sein Bewusstsein, dem Bundesvolk anzugehoren, und der Einzelne hat mit seinem individuellen Glauben an dem Glauben der Religions und Voksgemeinschaft teilgenemmen, als deren Glied er des seinem Volke geschenkten Gottesverhaltnisses auch fur seine Person teilhaftig wird. Immer wider machen wir darum im A.T. die Erfahrung, dass der Beter als Glied des Jahwevolkes betet. Auch das Gebetsleben, wie das sonstige Glaubensleben, des israeliten ist nicht sowehl durch die Beziehung Israeliten zu Jahwe…"

Note also in this connection the comments of Eichrodt and Hempel on the problem of individualism and collectivism.

It is my concern that the biblical relationship is properly understood. Proceeding from the heilsgeschichtlich method naturally does not deny that even on this point there has been development in revelation. This problem of progress is present in the case of the church (first interwoven with the patriarchal family, then bound to the life of the Israelite state and the cultic center in Jerusalem, and finally expressly in the community at Pentecost). The same progress is also present in proper connection in regard to the place of the individual in the community. I therefore believe we may say that the light of the N.T. on both is fuller and richer, and therefore these two are more sharply differentiated for us. Nevertheless, it seems to me that it is unproven and unprovable that the N.T., would indicate a structural difference in comparison with the O.T. Furthermore, I do not think the emphasis is here actually placed differently.

The proofs which Dr. Impeta gives rather indicate the contrary. The N.T. always views the individual as a member of the community. Meanwhile, one may not forget that Christ, with complete personal healing, continues to intend to stir the multitudes to faith. Moreover, if I consider Rom. 11 (trunk and branches), 1 Cor. 12 (head and members), the church as the body of Christ in the Ephesian epistle, and the rigorous personal admonitions which Paul in Rom. 12:1-8 gives in the framework of the church community, then I cannot even discover a difference in emphasis between the O.T. and the N.T. In my opinion, Ridderbos stated correctly in 1922, "If it is true that for a sound development of the life of faith a knowledge of the spiritual community as it is realized in the church is indispensable then it is certain that the rich development of the communal life as it in presented in the O.T. possesses a very special significance for Christian proclamation." The opposition from the heilsgeschichtlich method is never directed toward application as such nor toward a personal element in proclamation. It would only free the application and the personal element from a scheme on which the Scripture does not rely.

Why should a heilsgeschichtlich sermon result in the loss of an application through seeking the particularity of the text? Why should the personal element be repressed? I recall what Herrmann said concerning the significance of ethnic history for one's personal prayer life. I can point to a statement by Ridderbos that an insight in the historical course of revelation "is of great significance for an understanding of God's direction in relation to one's personal life also." The applicatory and personal elements attested by Heilsgeschichte in Ps. 66, which is classified by Eichredt as liturgy for an individual votive offering, is splendid. This Psalm connects the personal experiences with those of the whole of Israel and derives solace precisely from the Heilsgeschichte.

One can indeed say that the application here becomes somewhat more difficult (one must not, however, exaggerate this) because he takes account of the historical difference. With regard to the method of this application, each can profit from Moller's pointers. He indicates that we should take account of (a) the "schon" of the O.T. revelation, (b) the "noch nicht" of the N.T. fulfilment in the O.T.,(c) the "nicht mehr" of the O.T. shadow in the N.T., and (d) the "noch immer" of the O.T. in the N.T.

This method produces good results. In Ps. 32, e.g. (the benefit of the forgiveness of sins) one comes to the conclusion that that this invariably obtains in the N.T.; after the sacrifice of Jesus Christ this Psalm receives a still stronger accent through the method of "how much more" (technically, kal wahomer or "light and heavy"). It is a different case, e.g., with Ps. 84 (the longing for the courts of the Lord). Perhaps even here the difference between exemplaristic and heilsgeschichtlichapplication can be clearly shown. The exemplaristic application is "We must also experience that longing. Do you feel it now?" But the one who interprets it by the heilsgeschichtlich method says, "The poet is a man of great misery." He is acquainted with the temple as God's cultic place; but he can come only rarely into the courts; he cannot live and work within the temple walls, and this makes him envious of the sparrows and swallows.

But this misery is done away with in Christ. Through him the place of worship is now established everywhere; life and work are now permanently bound to the temple. We are admitted not only to the courts, but to the holy of holies. Then the application becomes, "How immensely rich we are since Pentecost. Then there is call for the admonition, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" Unfaithfulness in church attendance can then be much more harshly reprimanded.

For that matter, that same historical difference must be reckoned with in material from the N.T. I am thinking of Thomas. The exemplaristlc application is, "We have also our doubts, we are also freed by Christ." But in the heilsgeschichtliche method one puts things differently and I mean by this better. One then asks about the background of his doubt. This is not to psychologize. Has it been melancholy, or intellectualism, or is it bound up with his struggling valorous nature? To be sure, the Bible itself gives several pointers. Thomas did not believe the resurrection (John 11:16), and this was connected with the fact that he as yet did not know that Christ was the Son, God manifest in the flesh (following John 14:5ff). Now Christ brings Thomas to confidence in the resurrection, and thus to the confession, "My Lord and my God!" This however, he does for our sake since the church was "built upon the foundation of the apostles." This means on the foundation of Thomas as well. Christ intends hereby to make possible our Easter confession, with confidence and personally.

No longer does he accomplish this through an appearance as with Thomas, but through the apostolic preaching. Therefore it is written, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." Thomas is blessed, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see." But more blessed are they who have no more need to see. This grows out of the application concerning Christ's current mode of revelation not through an Easter appearance, but through a proclamation of Easter. And following the proclamation, each must say for himself, "My Lord and my God."

Finally, we must keep in mind the fact that whoever follows this method is encircled by perils. That is not due to the method, but our weakness. I will mention some who, to speak accurately, deceive us through the application. For whoever makes an application draws a parallel between then and now. Here in lies the peril:

1. Strained Parallelism -- one forces each text into a predetermined mold. This danger I consider relatively slight. Not when one points in each case to the cross or the incarnation. Then one does not elude schematism. But whenever one views "Christ" as a description of the fullness of God's revelation and exegetes exclusively organically-synthetically, he courts this danger. One seldom starts with the presupposition, "Here is a revelation of Christ, but what is here said concerning him must yet be determined."

2. Much more serious is the capricious parallelism of allegory. Even with the examplaristic method this danger is not overcome (vide supra). Because of the fact that exegesis is exclusively of that which is written, one must confine himself to the historical meaning, which also has a prophetic perspective and can say more than the writer himself was aware; but the prophetic perspective lies always in the continuity of the historical sense, and can never come into conflict therewith. I believe that we see the folly of Vischer's allusion to the eucharist when Melchizedek offered Abraham " bread and wine." Hellbardt is equally arbitrary when he reaches the conclusion that the church can scarcely conquer as long as it remains in the area of promise from the notice that Abraham pursued Chedorlaomer to Dan, the later northern boundary of Israel and presumes to prove that from the fact that the biblical writer does not select the geographic name Laish, but the "spiritual name" Dan. Even in the writings of my own school of thought there are scores of examples to be seen (which is connected with what was above called the Philenic movement of history -- according to the ordo salutic). None in this day and age will again find in the meeting between Isaac and Rebecca that the "soul" finds "its Jesus."

Nevertheless such a one as DeGraaf is very close when he says, " Just as Christ called Rebeca, so shall he call all who belong to him to be incorporated with him. In this the particularity of Rebecca's call is overlooked, and the historical setting is neglected. The Scriptures do not engage in this manner of allegorizing. not even in Gal. 4 or in Revelation. We must be fully conscious of the danger of "Alexandrianism."

3. Then there is the peril of impure parallelism through association, i.e. one through incidental details leaps to something completely different, "When I think of Jacob and his wrestling by night, as a matter of course I think of Jesus and his wrestling by night at the Kidron." We come across such frequently in Vischer. I read somewhere in De Graaf, "We must all wage the same battles as Ishmael, when we must recall that our life lies not in ourselves but in Christ." He thus draws a parallel between Ishmael-lsaac and us-Christ. But Paul's train of thought in Gal. 4 seems better -- the struggle between those who are born after the flesh and those who are born after the Spirit.

4. The danger of levelling parallelism. By this I mean that the parallel as such is pure, but that one negates the historical utterance or even forgets to indicate the points of change. One runs across this frequently in De Graaf when Abraham or someone else is compared to Christ. But the inner connection, the historical development, is not completely indicated; and therefore it is unsatisfactory. Then one actually places a text from the N.T. alongside a notice from the O.T. and simply posits a likeness between them.

Thus the difficulties are still great, but, on the other hand, through mutual effort we can indeed overcome. There are stacks of writings in libraries, and there is also some very significant material sitting unused on shelves in some study or other. Whenever we can be of service to one another, there is a great deal that may be gained. Above all else, because we have the promise that the Spirit will open the eyes of our understandings.


I. The Relevance of the Problem

II. Misunderstandings About the Problem

III. Attempt at Setting Up the Problem with Precision

IV. The Hermeneutical Side of the Problem

V. The Homiletical Side of the Problem

1. Strained Parallelism
2. Much more serious is the capricious parallelism of allegory
3. Then there is the peril of impure parallelism through association
4. The danger of leveling parallelism


(1.) Ridderbos, J. in "Schild en Pijl" #8, Kampen: J.H. Kok, 1922.

(2.) De Heraut, Jan, 25, '42 (#3339)

(3.) Ibid, March '42 (#3348)

(4.) H. Schreiner, Das A.T. In Der Verkundigung, Scherin (Meckl.) 1937, page 13,18.

(5.) cited by Mellar, Bibl.Theol. Das A.T.Zwiken (Sachseg) 1938. [ ed. note ( unreadable original copy)]

(6.) Geref. Mannenblad, #4, April '40.

(7.) Heraut, December 14. '41.

(8.) "May unfold a different depth and a different meaning, depending on the conditions and questions of the hearer".

(9.) If the researcher is an unbeliever or if he treats his material as something lifeless, then the theological task has neither been understood nor fulfilled."