When the prophet Isaiah wrote (9.6-7) of a coming King who would establish the throne of his forefather David he said some mighty amazing things. He wrote this,
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this. (NIV)
I know that other famous Israelites had names like אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר where El is part of the name (e.g. Elijah = YHWH is God), so this doesn’t mean someone is deity. Nevertheless, there is a lot of “divinity” attributed to this character. He is a “wonderful” (פֶּ֠לֶא) counselor, which is a near divine wisdom. He is said to be the “Father of eternity” or “Everlasting Father”, which is a lot to say of any human. Yet he is a son, a child, and a prince of shalom.
The reign of this King is וְעַד־עוֹלָ֔ם, which can be a very, very long time, but it would could be a sense of “forever” as well. If we take any on of these aspects separately we can say there are reasons to avoid assuming a “divine” son, but if we read the whole thought block it is hard to avoid. Even if it is “exalted” language, it is saying something very impressive about this person.
Did the prophet know of whom he spoke? Maybe, but only through a glass darkly. Can we “prove” that this passage refers to Jesus Christ? No, but if we are Christians it is impossible to imagine who else fulfills these words. Personally, I cannot see anyone but Jesus here. Jesus is the one who is the divine counselor through the Spirit. He is the one who embodies the mighty God. He is the one who shows us the Father or “fathers” us into eternity. He is the only son/child who qualifies to be the Prince of shalom. And it is in Christ alone that we see the Davidic throne established forever.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture, about the Son! I think your point on “if we are Christians,” is the key interpretive move to everything that you are saying about how to understand this passage.
Btw, nice bold look for the blog 🙂 !
@Bobby: One of the distracting things about trying to discuss this passage on “even ground” as that people ramble on about being anachronistic or overtly presuppositional. Guilty as charged! I think Lk. 24 (after which this blog is dedicated) gives a “Christian” hermeneutic if we can say there is such a thing.
As to the blog design, I needed a change and something w. better font that makes it more readable. I think this does the job.
Yep, Lk 24 & Jn 5.39 to me give the primary reason, theme, and motif of all of Scripture; Jesus! I’m guilty too 😉 . . . although not too long ago (a few yrs ago, even) I would have been the one yelling anachronisitc or presuppositional or even allegorical. But I came to realize that I’m a Christian 😉 , which has ramifications for all kinds of things; including how and why I read Scripture. Mind you, I don’t totally throw LGH out; but I’m definitely more prone towards TIS nowadays. As Robert Walker, TF Torrance’s nephew says of his uncle’s view of Scripture:
Sorry for the length, but I think this fits into the “how” we should read passages like Is. 9.6-7 represent.
And yeah, the font is much easier to read on this template.
@Bobby: That sounds like the approach to Scripture that I have read Barth takes, though nuanced a bit. Scripture is not just a deposit of fact and information like an encyclopedia, but a place where the Spirit introduces the reader to Christ.
I agree with you that we don’t have to throw the historical-grammatical away. We just need to avoid “historicism” which I think has caused more problems than it has benefits. Too many people have stopped reading Scripture in favor of trying to read “behind” the text as if the events described are the real meat of the matter. While I don’t think the whole project is corrupt (e.g. I am thankful for those evangelicals who do historical Jesus and historical Paul studies), I do think it should have a secondary place.
I have been reading Kevin J. Vanhoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine (slowly) where he proposes a “canonical-linguistic” approach. It has been very intriguing regarding how Scripture can function as a guide for the church. I want to read Pelikan’s Interpreting the Bible and the Constitution soon as well.
I agree with you. And Torrance’s approach is definitely like Barth’s. I too, am reading Vanhoozer’s “Drama” slowly right now; it’s got some good stuff in it. Although, I’m noticing that Vanhoozer is rather Covenantal in approach; which I’m not all that keen on in some ways (ironically, so is Torrance 😉 — i.e. “Covenantal” ).
@Bobby: I must confess that I am a bit ignorant regarding the distinctives of a Covenantal approach. Is that the interpretation that grounds history in a covenant with Adam and one with Christ over against dispensations?
Basically, it is also called “Federal Theology;” which gets at the point you’re noting between the 1st/2nd Adams as the “Federal Heads” or representatives of humanity. It’s the system that has the Covenant of Works & Grace (& sometimes Redemption) through which all of salvation history is interpreted. The language of “Eden lost, Eden restored” is apropos to this system. It is the system that Michael Horton and places like Westminster Theological Seminary advocate for. And yes is often that system placed as the polar opposite to classic Dispensational modes of interpretation (albeit, Covenantalism has an older pedigree, in some respects). It developed as a system with folks like Heinrich Bullinger and Caspar Olievanus, Cocceius et alia; but of course some would claim an older Patristic heritage even found in Irenaeus and his recapitulation (which btw, I’m a fan of Irenaeus’ approach, but not “Federal” Theology).
Hope that helps clarify a little further.
@Bobby: That is the general understanding that I had of it. What would you say is its weaknesses in your view?
Are you sure you really want me to answer that 😉 ?
Primarily, w/o elaborating, that it is artificial; seems to be an imposition on the Text. I.e. posits an early Covenant (of Works cf. Hos 6.7) in the Garden; thus presupposing that God is (ontologically, even) a God who is Lawgiver vs. Grace and Love. This then sets in motion the need for the Covenant of Grace (once the Cov. of Works is broken by Adam/Eve) wherein Jesus comes and fulfills the “conditions” and the “contractual stipulations” set out by the Cov. of Works. Once He meets those, then it is said that God is free to show His love for the elect for whom Christ died. This is a problem, because it places the absolutum decretum, or absolute decrees between God and His creation. Or, God’s freedom is shackled by these decrees (exemplified by the Cov of Works); thus the decrees (and creation) end up shaping who God is, instead of His own self-determined free and gracious life.
So, bottom line: Covenant Theology makes God out to be a God of Law (metaphysically), and it creates a system where He “must” relate to His creation through “decrees” in a way that does not fit with the Trinitarian God revealed in Jesus Christ.
There are ways to frame “Covenantal” thinking so that you don’t end up with a rigid “Law-like-God;” Torrance and Barth are “Covenantal,” but they jettison two-covenants and the covenant of works, for just the “Covenant of Grace.” They argue that God has one-will (vs. two), and that God is a God of grace/love in Himself (in se). Thus, to frame God through “Law” (and then “Grace”) is simply artificial in light of Jesus’ Revelation of who God is.
I have some posts I could point you to that elaborate much more on this, but this is a basic kind of sketch.
@Bobby: The Barth/Torrance approach makes more sense of the two for me. I think of the Apostle Paul’s argument that the Law was intended to bring us to Messiah. Therefore, Law is not important in an of itself, but only in relation to Christ.
Do you consider yourself Dispensationalist? I am wary of either “system” because I feel like it will cause me to askew tensions in Scripture in favor of my “logical” “system”. I’d rather live with some unknown that feel the pressure to push a square peg through a round hole, and this is often how I felt when studying various systems.
I grew up classic dispy, when I started at Multnomah in undergrad (98) I converted to progressive dispy, and now I am historic premil. So no, I’m not dispy. The primary problem I have with dispyism is that by definition they make a Nation the point of salvation history instead of the Person, Jesus Christ. That’s been decisive for me. That is not to say that I don’t see important things in store for a remnant of ethnic Israel per Rom. 9–11 (but I see this all tie into Christ and the one people of God Eph 2). Anyway, don’t want to go down that road in this thread too much; but that’s where I’m at on that.
@Bobby: I like the Nation-Person distinction. We may suggest that we cannot even talk about the nation as having any real, valuable identity without Christ. I too think Rom. 9-11 gives some vague picture of hope for ethnic Israel, though I get nervous when I hear people speculating on what that entails.
Thanks for the interaction.
Thank you too, Brian.
The primary thing I see entailed with the Remnant/ethnic Israel (per Zechariah as well), is that there will be some who are saved (which I don’t think Rom 9–11 precludes from even happening right now, at least seminally). Of course, there is also the Land (Siniatic) Cov. (Gen 15–17 etc) that I see as a Future reality tied into the Davidic Covenant (which I see in force now, in an inaugurated form); which I see fulfilled in (two-stages in the future [the not yet]) the millennium and finally folding into the New Jerusalem (Rev 21–22). Maybe TMI 🙂 .
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