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Kaiser

Kaiser, Walter C. Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981. 

Strengths

Walter C. Kaiser Jr. does a good job in surveying the current crisis in exegetical theology and the definition and the history of exegesis in part one of his book (Alexandrian [implemented heavy allegory] and Antiochian School [implemented one sense or one meaning of a text]).  In the section concerning the current crises, Kaiser addresses the hermeneutical issues (science of interpretation).  The hermeneutical issue at hand can be found in Kaiser’s question, “Is the meaning of a text to be defined solely in terms of the verbal meaning of that text as those words were used by the Scriptural author?  Or should the meaning of a text be partly understood in terms of ‘what it now means to me,’ the reader and interpreter (24)?”  To Kaiser, the art and science of interpretation (hermeneutics) is critical because it will determine whether one will land at the right interpretation.  And since we want to hear from God, getting the right interpretation should be our aim.

In section one, as stated earlier, Kaiser ventures into the definition and history of exegesis.  Exegesis is a term derived from a transliteration of a Greek word that means “narration,” or “explanation” (43).  Often when the term exegesis is brought to surface, we think of mainly Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutics, but according to Kaiser, exegesis is more than just Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutics, or the master of Hebrew, Aramiac, and Greek, syntax, phrases, clauses, sentences, but also includes the syntactical-theological method too.  The syntactical-theological method consists mainly of a contextual, syntactical, verbal, and theological analysis.  In light of all those features, one major component Kaiser brings to the limelight is the importance of antecedent theology; as well as finding the proposition or sentence of each paragraph.

In regards to antecedent theology, Kaiser believes that newer revelation should be based upon older revelation rather than newer revelation being inoculated into older revelation.  To Kaiser, older revelation stands on its own feet and does not need newer revelation to shed light on it.  Without doing violence to the OT standing in its own feet, I do believe that “progressive revelation” is very helpful and does shed some light on certain areas of Scripture such as the Gospel, resurrection of the saints, etc. without doing violence to single meaning.  Progressive revelation is helpful because it completes the entire enterprise for topics such as the Gospel, eschatology, etc.

I really admired Kaiser’s tone in this book.  He is very passionate about the importance being biblical preachers and teachers; and getting the right meaning of the text across.  Another characteristic about Kaiser that I like is his commitment to hard work.  He pursues excellence in sermon preparation and does not like to cut corners by simply ignoring the Grammatico-Historical Method.  He takes it seriously.  His book convicted me and I pray that it will sanctify me in my sermon preparation when I am tempted to be lazy.

Weakness

The weaknesses are minimal.  But in terms of weaknesses, the book at times, can be a little dry. The myriad of names mentioned throughout the book got me lost in my reading. At some occasions, it took me a while to figure out who believed what because the names kept jumping one from place to another.  In addition, some of the foreign languages increased the technicality of the book—this made the reading at times difficult to read.

Because the book gets technical in some areas, I think the reading would be clearer if Kaiser used more illustrations and examples to explain his conceptions of biblical exegesis.

Questions

Another “possible” weakness; and this is up to debate, is the continual stress that one cannot impart later revelation into an older revelation.  I totally agree with Kaiser on this point.  I agree that the Old Testament stands in its own feet and does not need the New Testament to reinterpret the Old Testament or replace the Old Testament.  However, some argue that there maybe “exceptions” where the  NT writer can go beyond the grammatical-historical sense in his use of an OT passage without violating the single meaning (Robert L. Thomas, “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1).  That gets into the discussion of “inspired sensus plenior application” (ISPA) which treads into an area of advanced hermeneutics.  I can not discuss ISPA in detail because I will need to study ISPA more before I make an official stance.  A good book that I would like to finish reading that covers ISPA is entitled, “Evangelical Hermeneutics” by Dr. Robert L. Thomas.

To wet your appetite or your curiosity for now concerning ISPA, here is how it is defined by Dr. Robert L. Thomas in The Master’s Seminary journal article, entitled, “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament,”

When interpreting the OT and NT, each in light of the single, grammatical- historical meaning of a passage, two kinds of NT uses of the OT surface, one in which the NT writer observes the grammatical-historical sense of the OT passage and the other in which the NT writer goes beyond the grammatical-historical sense in his use of an OT passage. Inspired sensus plenior application (ISPA) designates the latter usage. Numerous passages illustrate each type of NT use of the OT. The ISPA type of usage does not grant contemporary interpreters the right to copy the methodology of NT writers, nor does it violate the principle of single meaning. The ISPA meaning of the OT passage did not exist for man until the time of the NT citation, being occasioned by Israel’s rejection of her Messiah at His first advent. The ISPA approach approximates that advocated by Walton more closely than other explanations of the NT use of the OT. “Fulfillment” terminology in the NT is appropriate only for events that literally fulfil events predicted in the OT.”

I will need to revisit this topic in the future.

Good Quotes

Below are lists of quotes that were insightful and had an impact on me.  I pray that I go back to these quotes as a reference.

Kaiser—

One more crisis must be faced before we begin to suggest some solutions of our own: the crisis in the pulpit. For large segments of the Christian Church it is a truism to say that Biblical exposition has become a lost art in contemporary preaching. The most neglected of all Biblical sections is the Old Testament—over three fourths of divine revelation! (36-37)”

Martin Luther—

Origin’s allegories are not worth so much dirt,’ for ‘allegories are empty speculations…the scum of Holy Scripture.’ ‘Allegories are awkward, absurd, invented, obsolete, loose rags.’ Such a method of interpretation, he opined, ‘degenerates into a mere monkey game.’ ‘Allegory is a sort of beautiful harlot, who proves herself specially seductive to idle men.’

For Luther, ‘The Holy Ghost is the all simplest writer that is in heaven or earth; therefore his words can have no more than one simplest sense, which we call the scriptural or literal meaning” (60-61).

Kaiser—

Calvin was not one whit softer on the allegorizers. Commenting on Galatians 4:21-26, he blasted every such introduction and foisting of numerous meanings onto Scripture as ‘a contrivance of Satan.’ And in his commentary on Romans, he inscribed a dedicatory letter to a friend in which he said: ‘Since it is almost his [the interpreter’s] only task to unfold the mind of the writer whom he has undertaken to expound, he misses his mark, or at least strays outside his limits, by the extent to which he leads his readers away from the meaning of his author….It is…presumptuous and almost blasphemous to turn the meaning of scripture around without due care, as though it were some game that we were playing. And yet many scholars have done this at one time” (61).

Kaiser—

Good exegetical procedure dictates that the details be viewed in light of the total context” (69).

Kaiser—

So the problem is not merely the common error of forgetting or disregarding the immediate context. It is, rather, the more serious error of attempting to atomize or fragment the text and then presuming that meaning can be attributed to phrases, sentences, or even paragraphs in isolation from the rest of the context” (70).

Kaiser—

The word context is composed of two Latin elements, con (‘together’) and textus (‘woven’). Hence when we speak of the context, we are talking about the connection of thought that runs through a passage, those links that weave it into one piece” (71).

Kaiser—

The exegete must feel that his primary obligation is to find this thread of thought which runs like a life stream through the smaller and larger parts of every passage. When this connection is missed or avoided, there is a fair chance that the interpreter may miss the scope, end, purpose, and entire plan by which the author ordered the various parts of his work. Thus the study of scope and plan belong to the study of a work’s context” (71).

Kaiser—

Once the exegete has determined the natural divisions and the literary type(s) of the individual book, it is time to get down to examining the passage that has been selected for exegeting. Usually this will be a periscope, or the like, consisting of one, two, or three paragraphs. It becomes evident that at this point the unit of concern must be the paragraph” (95).

Kaiser—

How shall we define and delimit the paragraph? Most of the criteria resemble those for marking off a section (see ‘Sectional Context’ in the previous chapter). The list includes the following: 1. The principle feature of a paragraph is a unifying theme. This is often indicated by the repeated use of the same term or concepts (‘love’ in 1 Cor. 13; ‘wisdom’ in 1 Cor. 2:6ff). 2. Rhetorical questions will often introduce a new paragraph (cf. Rom. 6:1). 3. A vocative form of address may commence a new paragraph (e.g., Col. 3:18—4:1). 4. Sudden changes in the text are one of the best ways to detect the beginning of a paragraph. For example, there may be an abrupt shift in the key actor or participant; the mood, tense, or voice of the verb; the location of the action; or the topic. The use of a striking introductory connective, be it a conjunction, preposition, or a relative pronoun, can also be an indicator. 5. Frequently what appears at or near the end of one paragraph is taken up and developed more fully in the next paragraph (e.g., ‘wisdom’ in 1 Cor. 2:5 and 6ff.)” (96).

Kaiser—

‘Block diagramming’ must be sharply distinguished from ‘line diagramming.’ A line diagram is what many of us drew in our junior-high English classes. Each sentence was analyzed by itself and basically formed a one-line diagram. The purpose was to aid the student in identifying the parts of speech and the grammatical function of each word in the sentence. A block diagram is much different. It attempts to analyze all the sentences in a paragraph and to put them into a graphic design so as to show how they function together as a paragraph and how the arrangement of that paragraph compares with the arrangement of related paragraphs” (100).

Kaiser—

A block diagram arranges all the material, regardless of its length, so that the interrelationships of the whole sentences, clauses, and phrases might be visually apparent at a glance. The advantages of block diagramming over line diagramming are: (1) it forces us to focus on the total flow and thread of meaning throughout the whole paragraph rather than on isolated abstractions of individual words or phrases; and (2) it offers invaluable preparatory assistance for preaching and teaching because we can immediately see what is nuclear in the paragraph (the theme proposition) and what is subordinate” (100).

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Introduction

Perhaps there is no topic about the Bible that fascinates the curious as fulfilled Bible prophecies.  There is something glorious about seeing what has been written down in the pages of Scripture that finds its fulfillment hundreds or even thousands of years later.  At the same time, questions do arise concerning the mechanics of how biblical prophecies work, such as how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament.  Does the plain reading of certain Old Testament passages hint at Messianic prophecy?  Or is the prophetic nature of these passages known only in light of the New Testament?  John Sailhamer writes, “Put simply, the problem of prophecy and fulfillment is the problem of the relationship of the OT to the NT.”[1]

How one answers the question of the relationship between the Old and the New has implication towards apologetics.  If there is nothing within the original Old Testament context that suggests a passage is a Messianic prophecy, the evidential value of the New Testament citing these texts as prophecies would be weakened.  At the same time, if the historical and grammatical readings of certain Old Testament passages are sufficient within their own original context to establish that they are Messianic prophecies which Jesus later fulfilled, the value of such prophecies would greatly lend its support towards the veracity of the Christian faith.

This paper will take the position that when the New Testament employs Old Testament passages prophetically, the use of these Old Testament passages are consistent with the historical and grammatical hermeneutic.  An important nuance here concerning the “historical” in the historical grammatical hermeneutic is that the interpretation of key terms in any given passage should also be informed by antecedent theology.  Thus, whenever the New Testament identifies an Old Testament passage as prophetic, the prophetic nature of the text can be derived on the basis of its original context simply by employing the historical grammatical method.  Space does not permit a survey of all the New Testament prophetic use of the Old Testament.  As a case study, this paper will explore Jesus’ use of Messianic Stone prophecy in Luke 20.

Method of Study

The first section of this paper will look at Luke 20 to situate Jesus’ use of the Messianic Stone prophecies.  This is followed in the next section with an exegesis of the two Old Testament passages that Jesus used in Luke 20 within each of their original contexts.  These two verses are Psalm 118:25 and Isaiah 8:14.  Then the third section will establish that both Psalm 118:25 and Isaiah 8:14 are Messianic prophecies in light of Genesis 49 as informing antecedent theology.  Relevant exegetical consideration of Genesis 49 will be discussed in this third section of the paper.

Jesus’ use of Stone Prophecies in Luke 20

The general background of Luke 20 is that this was towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, during the last week of His life on earth prior to His crucifixion.  In Luke 20, Jesus was confronted by the Jewish religious leaders who opposed Him.  Wishing to bring Him down, they provoked a series of religious debates with Jesus before the presence of the crowd of people gathering for the Passover in Jerusalem.

The religious leaders’ attacks were in the form of questions.  The first question was concerning Jesus’ authority (20:2).  The second question they threw at Him was concerning whether to pay taxes or not to Caesar (20:21-22).  It is in between these two hostile questions directed at Jesus that Jesus took the time to cite Old Testament Messianic prophecies (20:17-18).  In Luke 20:17-18, Jesus cites Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14.  What both these verses have in common is the word “Stone” in them.  For the purpose of this essay, both of these are referred to as the Messianic Stone prophecies.

The immediate context of Jesus’ use of these two Old Testament passages is situated in the section of Luke 20:9-18.  Here, Jesus told a parable to the people as His primary audience (20:9).  The parable is often called the parable of the wicked servants.  In this parable, Jesus taught the people that the religious leaders were out to kill God’s beloved Son as part of a continuous historical line of prophets sent from God who were persecuted.  The people’s response to this news was one of shock and disbelief.

It is then that Jesus cites Psalm 118:22.  Jesus responded to the horror of the people by saying:  “And while he was looking at them He said, ‘Therefore why is this written, “The Stone which the builders rejected, this one became into head cornerstone?”’” (Luke 20:17).  His comment here after the parable was integral to the parable’s meaning.[2]  Jesus is no longer talking in parable form but speaks plainly.[3]  Luke tells the readers that ὁ δὲ ἐμβλέψας αὐτοῖς (“And while he was looking at them”), which is not mentioned in any other Gospels’ account.[4]  The verb ἐμβλέψας here is an aorist active participle nominative masculine singular of the verb εμβλεπω.  Εμβλεπω has the idea of direct and intense gaze that commands attention, and is mentioned here to the readers to draw attention to Jesus’ following question.[5]  Luke perhaps wants the readers to understand the solemnity of the occasion.[6]

Jesus’ response to the people in Luke 20:17-18 was to vindicate the truth of His claim that the religious leaders will first kill the Messiah and that the religious leaders will then be rejected by God for their murder of God’s Son.  It is significant to note that Jesus presents His evidence in the form of a question:  “Before his shocked audience can recover, Jesus asks them what Psalm 118:22 means.”[7]  Questions are also great formats in apologetics since it actively pushes one’s hearer to interact with one’s evidence and perspective, etc.  The question that Jesus asks begins with a τί, which Johnson suggests should be taken as an interrogative adverb “why,” seeing that this is more “responsive” to the people’s exclamation than the literal “what then is this…”[8]

The evidence that Jesus cited to support His conclusion came from the Scripture.  Jesus’ strong bibliology is indicated here by the fact that He trusted in the authority of the Scriptures as that which will justify His theological claims.  He recites Psalm 118:22 verbatim from the Greek Septuagint.[9]  There are ironies in Jesus citation from Psalm 118:22.  To begin with, it was a psalm of national comfort that now indicts the leaders of Israel.[10]  During Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, a few days prior to this parable being told, the people had earlier cited Psalm 118:26 and attributed to Him as the coming King who comes in the name of the Lord (19:38).[11]  Jesus takes this Psalm and goes four verses prior to their verse to establish the point that the leaders (“builders”) of Israel will be judged.  According to Evans, “There is an additional touch of irony here when it is noted that the religious leaders called themselves the ‘Builders of Israel.’”[12]  The passage paints a severe imagery.  The basis of the severe judgment was because of their relationship to the “Stone.”

Stein believes that “the capstone refers to the head cornerstone that bore the weight and stress of the two walls built upon it.  Its function and importance was like that of a capstone in a cathedral without which the vaulted ceiling would collapse.”[13]  Nolland understand the chief stone a little differently, believing that it “may be a keystone locking into place the stones of an arch or some similarly constructed feature of a building.”[14]  Whether one takes the first view or the second, Nolland admits the “differences of imagery does not affect the final sense.”[15] Jesus here is alluding to the fact that He was the Stone that will be rejected, and rejecting Him will bring about severe consequence.

Jesus does not end with Psalm 118:22.  In verse eighteen Jesus goes on further in speaking about the devastating judgment upon those who reject the Stone.[16]  There are echoes of Isaiah 8:14-15 and Daniel 2:44 here.  According to Godet, “In Isaiah, the Messiah is represented as a consecrated Stone, against which many of the children of Israel shall be broken.”[17]  Isaiah 8:14 paints the “Stone of stumbling” as a trap for “the house of Jacob” and “inhabitants of Jerusalem.”[18]  The verb λικμήσει used here in Luke 20:18 have the idea of crushing and scattering grains in the winnowing process.[19]  It paints an image of those being crushed by the Stone to the point of fine powder.  Instead of the previous image of the Jewish leaders falling on the Stone here it is an imagery of them being crushed by the Stone falling upon them. [20]  The Stone is not just passive, but is active in judging those who reject Him.  The two verses taken together demonstrate that there are two possibilities for those who have rejected Christ: either they fall on this Stone, or the Stone falls on it.[21] There is a lesson here about the Son.  He might not be whom the vinedressers/religious leaders originally made Him out to be, and is no mere victim.  While in verse fourteen the son looks “vulnerable,” here in verse 18-19 one learns that He is an indestructible rock that would crush others.[22]

Evaluating verses seventeen and eighteen together, readers will see that Jesus has gathered Scriptural citations and allusion around the word “Stone.”[23]  He cites it to prove His point that the Messiah will be rejected and also as the source of doom for His enemies.  While Jesus masterfully proved His point, surprisingly Jesus in Luke 20 never took the time to prove that the Stone refers to the Messiah.  He just assumes the referent of the Stone to be the Messiah to begin with.  For modern readers, this sparks a series of questions:  Was Jesus justified in His belief that the Stone in Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14 referred to the Messiah?  Where did Jesus get the idea that the Stone referred to the Messiah from anyways?  And how does one go about justifying that the Stone refers to the Messiah?  Before exploring the justification that the Messiah is the referent for the “Stone” on the basis of antecedent theology, it is important to first consider both Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14 within it’s original context.

Messianic Stone Prophecies in their Original Contexts

Psalm 118:22

According to commentator Leslie Allen, Psalm 118 “was composed as a royal song of thanksgiving for military victory; but it is set in the context of a processional liturgy.”[24]  Psalm 118 is actually part of a series of six Psalms beginning with Psalm 113 through 118 which is known as the Hallel (meaning “praise”) Psalms.[25]  These Psalms would be sung by the Jews as a thanksgiving liturgy during the three major religious holidays: Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacle.  As a processional psalm, it was sang outside the temple gates and continued inside as well.[26]

Commentators have disagreed as to what Psalm 118 as a whole was originally about.  Fred Blumenthal explains the reason underlining this difficulty: “Of the 150 chapters of the Psalms only very few have an introductory heading describing their setting or purpose (e.g. 30:1, 34:1, 51:1-2).  For the vast majority of them, it is left to the reader to explore the different moods, feelings or situations which the author describes or expresses, and which vary from chapter to chapter.”[27]  Commentator Derek Kidner takes Psalm 118 as a picture of the “rescue of Israel at the Exodus, and the eventual journey’s end at Mount Zion.”[28]  Allen takes this to be in references to a Davidic king’s entrance into the city.[29]  Adele Berlin on the other hand, understands Psalm 118 primarily to be a celebration of God’s power of salvation.[30]

How one understand the meaning of Psalm 118 as a whole will shape one’s interpretation of Psalm 118:22 and determine whether it’s a Messianic prophecy or not.  For instance, due to Leslie Allen’s belief that this Psalm as a whole is about a king’s military victory, this has already inclined him not to view verse 22 as Messianic prophecy and makes him susceptible to miss any possible references to the Messiah altogether.  He sees verse 22 as a proverbial saying during the people’s praise of the king:  “To aid their praise they evidently cite a proverb that expresses transition from humiliation to honor, in which a generally discarded Stone became the foundation Stone stabilizing two adjacent walls (cf. Job 38:6; Isa 28:16; Jer 51:26).”[31]  Addressing Allen’s interpretation of verse 22 eventually requires one to address what he believes Psalm 118 as a whole is about.  The view that Psalm 118 is largely about a military victory has its problem, since warfare language does not dominate this Psalm.  If military victory of a king was the main point of this Psalm of praising God, one would expect multiple warfare terminology.  Even with the verses that Allen does interpret as descriptive of a conquering king, it is also possible to interpret these verses as God saving someone from persecution in general rather than a specific military victory.

Berlin’s believes that Psalm 118 is primarily about God’s power of salvation.  This view seems more likely to be the answer than Allen’s view.  The word salvation appears three times (v.14, 15, 21) and the verb “save” appears twice in this Psalm (v.25).  Metaphors of being save is frequently invoked  such as in verse 5, “The LORD answered me and set me in a large place,” verse 7, “The LORD is for me among those who help me,” verse 9, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD…”, v.13, “The LORD helped me,” etc.

Understanding the Psalm as about God’s power of salvation allows a better outline of the Psalm that respects its organic unity:

Call for Thanksgiving in light of God’s everlasting lovingkindness (v.1-4)

The LORD is a better Savior (v.5-9)

The LORD is a Savior against the nations (v.10-14)

The LORD is a Savior against death (v.15-18)

The LORD is a Justifying Savior (v.19-21)

The LORD is a rejected but precious Savior (v.22-29)

Evaluating Psalms 118:22 within its immediate context, the verse begins the section of the LORD as a rejected Savior.  In fact, the rest of the section seems to give prominence to the events described in verse 22.   The verse talks about a Stone being rejected by the builders.  While rejected by the builders, the second half of verse 22 further describes this Stone then becoming the chief cornerstone.  Verses 23-24 continues its focus on the Stone prophecy of verse 22, as indicated in verse 23 when the subject is the pronoun זֹּאת meaning “this,” that is referring back to the previous verse about what has happened to the Stone.  Verse 23 describes how this rejection and exalting of the Stone is done by the LORD.  The response from the Psalmist to this truth is stated in the second half of verse 23, that this “was marvelous in our eyes.”  The first line of verse 24 again informs the reader that this rejection and exaltation of the Stone was done by the LORD, a repetition to emphasize that this fact is important.  In the second line of verse 24, two verbs appear back to back:  נָגִילָה, which is a Qal imperfect first common plural verb of גִילָ “rejoice,” and נִשְׂמְחָה which is also a Qal imperfect first common plural verb, coming from the root שָׂמַח meaning “rejoice.”  Both verbs here are functioning as cohortative and understood as “Let us…”  What we should rejoice in is described as בֹו  (“in it”) with the “it” understood as the event in verse 22 of the Messianic Stone rejected and then raise to prominence.

It seems that whoever the referent of the Stone is, the topic of the Stone is important and out of it flows the remainder of the Psalmist praise to God (118:25-29).  Looking at verse 22 again, the Hebrew word for Stone here is אֶבֶן.  Here in verse 22,אֶבֶן is mentioned first with the order of object–> verb.  This breaks the typical Hebrew syntax of verb–> subject–>object.  אֶבֶן then is in an emphatic position, which the author placed there in order to stress the importance of the Stone.

Who is this Stone?  Whoever this Stone is, Psalm 118:22 predicts that this individual will be rejected and then accepted.  The verses that follows after verse 22 also teaches that this is the work of the LORD and that it is something to praise God about.  It seems that an understanding of this Stone prophecy requires further Old Testament background in order to know what this term is referring to.  The syntax of Psalm 118:22 emphasizes the term “Stone,” and perhaps this is calling attention to the reader’s previous background and familiarization with this title.  If this term is a reference to the Messiah, it is marvelous to consider the providence of God.  During the Jewish procession to the Temple, Psalm 118:22-24 was what the Jews prayed to God right before they entered into the temple area itself.[32]  It is as if God has providentially allowed the Jews to remember the Messiah and sing about the Messiah right before they went into the Temple.

          Isaiah 8:14

Unlike Jesus’ use of Psalm 118:22 in Luke 20, Jesus does not quote verbatim Isaiah 8:14 but instead makes strong allusions to this text in Luke 20:18.  Luke 20:18 states, “Everyone who falls on that Stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust” (NASB).  Turning to Isaiah 8:14, it states, “Then He shall become a sanctuary; But to both the houses of Israel, a Stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”  Both passages give references to (1) the Stone, (2) the Stone potential of striking someone and (3) the Stone as something that will cause others to fall.

The chapter context of Isaiah 8:14 must be taken into consideration.  David W. Pao and Eckhard J. Schnabel write, “In Isaiah 8 the nation is threatened with invasion by Syria and northern Israel, a crisis that prompted Isaiah to challenge the people to fear not conspiracy and invasion, but Yahweh.”[33]  The immediate context of Isaiah 8:14 is the paragraph beginning in verse 11 and ending in verse 15.  This paragraph must be seen as logically separate from Isaiah 8:16 onwards, since verses 16-23 makes a radical break from verses 11-15.[34]  Verse 11 declares what the LORD has said to Isaiah for the people, and the manner in which God says it.  From verse 12 onwards in this paragraph, the verbs now become plural, indicating that the words are now for the people from God directly.[35]  In verse 13, God calls His people to fear the LORD, though the people had a lot of fear going on in their midst of invading nations.  God wants them to direct their fear Godward, and have a theological awareness of the LORD.[36]  It is a reverential fear of Him that God wants.

Then in verse 14, Isaiah writes in the first half of the verse about the consequences for those who fear Him.  Oswalt comments, “To those who sanctify him, who give him a place of importance in their lives, who seek to allow his character to be duplicated in them, he becomes a sanctuary, a place of refuge and peace.”[37]  Moyter notes that the term sanctuary is not so much an asylum as it is a “holy place.”[38]  The second half of verse 14 also warns the reader about the devastating consequences of those who do not fear the LORD.  In his commentary on this verse, Edward J. Young writes, “To those in both the north and south God will be a Stone; to some a sanctuary, but to others a Stone of stumbling.”[39]  While in the English NASB the second half of verse 14 begins with, “But to both the houses of Israel, a Stone to strike…”, in the Hebrew the second portion of verse fourteen begin with “A Stone of stumbling and a falling rock…”  Like Psalm 118:22, the word Stone, אֶבֶן, as the direct object appears prior to the subject which is contrary to traditional Hebrew syntax.  The word Stone, and what it does, is in the emphatic, attention to the importance of the Stone.  This Stone will apparently cause devastating consequences upon those who were to stumble over it or having the Stone fallen upon them.

It is important to realize that this Stone is a title for a person and not just an inanimate object.  Isaiah actually talks more about the Stone later in Isaiah 28:16.  Here in this context, the LORD sends Isaiah to rebuke the ruling elite in Jerusalem (Isaiah 28:14).  In verse 16, God informs the leaders that He was going to lay in Zion a tested Stone.  Those who trust “in it will not be disturbed.”  It would be idolatrous for God to call man to trust in an inanimate creation of God.  It must therefore be a person, and specifically a Divine person in order for it not to be idolatry.  The next logical question would be whether Isaiah and his readers have any previous theological knowledge from Scripture that anticipates or is foundational for Isaiah’s discussion of this Divine Living Stone?

Messianic Stone Prophecies in light of Genesis 49 as Antecedent Theology

People do not typically think of the book of Genesis as a book that contains prophecy.  Typically, people think of Genesis largely as a work of narrative.  However, it seems that Genesis does make some prophetic pronouncement, and Genesis 49 is an important chapter that serves as the antecedent theology for the Messianic Stone prophecies.

Genesis 49 takes place towards the end of Jacob’s life.  Here in this chapter “the patriarch calls for the gathering of the ‘sons of Jacob’ for his official blessing (vv. 1-2), presumably pronounced from his deathbed (48:2, 21; 49:33).”[40]  According to Allen Ross, “Jacob, in faith and as God’s covenantal instrument, looked forward to the conquest and settlement of Israel in the land of Canaan, and then beyond to a more glorious age.”[41]

The prophetic nature of Genesis 49 can be gleamed from details within the chapter and also at a larger macro-structural level.  By the macro-structural level, what is meant is the analysis of the book of Genesis and the Pentateuch as a whole, while paying attention to the transition between the genre of narrative, poetry and epilogue summary.  John Sailhammer explains:

A close study of the author’s use of narrative and poetic texts, however, sheds considerable light on the final shape of the work.  The technique of using a poetic speech and a short epilogue to conclude a narrative is well known in Biblical literature and occurs frequently within recognizable segment of the Pentateuch itself.[42]

Genesis 49 happens to be one of the three poetic chapters in the Pentateuch that Sailhamer has identified as major structural juncture in which a prophetic discourse follow a large unit of narrative.[43]  The other two chapters are Number 24 and Deuteronomy 31.[44]  Sailhamer explains how, “In each of the three segments, the central narrative figure (Jacob, Balaam, Moses) calls an audience together (imperative: Gen. 49:1; Num 24:14; Deut 31:29) in the ‘end of days’ (Genesis 49:1; Num 24:14; Deut 31:29).”[45]  The phrase “end of days” is important in understanding Genesis 49 and the other two major structural juncture of the Pentateuch.  Seeing that this prophetic formula appears not only in Genesis 49 but in two other prophetic chapters in the Pentateuch reinforces the position that Genesis 49 contains prophecies.  Sailhamer goes on to say,

To summarize what appears to be the overall strategy of the author in these three segments, we might say that one of the central concerns lying behind the final shape of the Pentateuch is an attempt to uncover an inherent relationship between the past and the future.  That which happened to God’s people in the past portends events that still lie in the future.  Or, to say it another way, the past is the seen as a lesson of the future.[46]

This narrative–>Prophetic poetry–>Epilogue pattern is the ground for why readers are justified in looking for typology in the Pentateuch.  But within the details of the chapter, Genesis 49 also has a prophetic tone to it as indicated by verse 1, with the use of “listen” such as parallel with Isaiah 48:14 use of “listen” prophetically, and as it was mentioned above, the idiom “in days to come.”[47]

In this chapter, there are titles of the Messiah that first appear in Scripture which sets the precedence for the Messiah to be called by various titles.  For instance, the section in Genesis 49:8-12 is devoted to Judah.  Since the Messiah would come from the line of Judah, in verse 9, Judah is described as a lion, which sets the precedence for the Messiah to be called the Lion of Judah in extra-biblical literature (Gen. Rab 98.7, Ezra 11:37; 12:31) and in the New Testament (Revelation 5:5).[48]  John Calvin has noted that the phrase “the scepter will not depart from Judah” in verse ten refers to dominion.[49]  It is a terminology that symbolizes monarchy.[50]  What is fascinating about this prophetic pronouncement about Judah’s heir will include a king is that this occurs hundreds of years before Israel had any kings in office.

It is in Joseph’s section of Jacob’s blessing in verses 22 through 26, that the Messianic title “Stone” first makes its appearance in Scripture.  In context, the Joseph’s section gives an oracle of how Joseph’s two tribes will experience military victory.  Here in this section, there are references to Judah again, in verses 24.  Specifically, the reason why Joseph’s bow would remain firm and his arms will be agile is because of “the mighty One of Jacob.”  The preposition מִ indicates the source of Joseph’s prowess.  The verse goes on to describe how Jacob’s tribe will be the source of one who is the “Shepherd” and the “Stone of Israel.”  Allan Ross comments how there are wonderful titles of God here: the Mighty One of Jacob, the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel, your father’s God and the Almighty.[51]  What is fascinating is that these titles are also given to the Mighty one who is to come from Judah’s line.  In the same way that verse 24-25 is the antecedent theology for future Scriptural use of the title “Shepherd” for the Messiah, the title of the Messiah as “Stone” finds it antecedent here.  It is marvelous to see that while Biblical Hebrew have several terms for “stone” or “rock,” in the case of the Messianic Stone prophecies of Genesis 49:24, Psalm 118:24, Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16, the consistent Hebrew word for stone is אֶבֶן.[52]  The word אֶבֶן refers to natural and precious stone.[53]  It is a fitting title for the Messiah, which Isaiah 28:16 specifically describe as precious.  For those who know the Messiah, He is indeed someone valuable and precious.  For those that do not know the Messiah, the Messianic Stone prophecies have made it clear what the dire consequences look like.

Bibliography

Allen, Leslie. Psalm 101-150.  World Biblical Commentary.  59 Volumes.  Edited by David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Dallas: Word Books Publishers, 2002.

Baron,David. Types, Psalms and Prophecies.  London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1907.

Berlin, Adele.  “Psalm 118 Critical Notes.” In Journal of Biblical Literature 96, no. 4 (December, 1977): 567-568.

Blumenthal, Fred. “Psalm 118.” Jewish Bible Quarterly 39, no. 2 (April-June 2011): 115-117.

Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 2: 9:51-24:53. BECNT. 12 Volumes. Edited by Donald A. Hagner and I. Howard Marshall. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996.

Calvin, John. Genesis.  Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2001.

Evans, Craig.  Luke.  New International Biblical Commmentary.  18 volumes.  Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990.

Godet, Frederic Louis. Commentary on Luke.  Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1981.

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke.  The New International Commentary on the New Testament. 18 Volumes. Edited by Gordon D. Fee. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.

Kidner, Derek. Psalm 73-150.  London: Intervarsity Press, 1975.

Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Gospel of Luke.  Sacra Pagina.  18 Volumes.  Edited by Daniel J. Harrington.  Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991.

Lenski, R.C.H The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel.  Columbus, Ohio: The Wartburg Press, 1946.

Matthews, Kevin A. Genesis 11:27-50:26.  New American Commentary.  Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2005.

Marshall, I. Howard. The Gosepl of Luke. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Edited by Donald A. Hagner and I. Howard Marshall. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978.

Moyter, J. Alec.  The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Illinois:  Intervarsity Press, 1993.

Nolland, John. Luke 18:35-24:53World Biblical Commentary.  59 Volumes.  Edited by David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Dallas: Word Books Publishers, 1993.

Oswalt, John N.  The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing House, 1986.

Pao, David W. and Eckhard J. Schnabel. “Luke.”  In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

Ross, Allen P. “Genesis.”  In The Bible Knowledge Commentary.  Colorado Springs, Colorado: Victor, 2005.

Sailhamer, John H. “The Canonical Approach to the OT: It’s Effect on Understanding Prophecy.” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 30, no. 3 (September 1987): 307-315.

Stein, Robert H. Luke. The New American Commentary.  Edited by David Dockery.  Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1992.

Young, Edward J. The Book of Isaiah: The English Text, With Introduction, Exposition and Notes Volume 1: Chapters 1 to 18.  Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974.


[1] John Sailhamer, “The Canonical Approach to the OT: Its Effect on Understanding Prophecy,” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 30, no. 3 (September 1987), 307.

[2] Darrell L. Bock, Luke Volume 2: 9:51-24:53, BECNT, 12 vols., edited by Moises Silva, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996),1602.

[3] R.C.H Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, (Columbus, Ohio: The Wartburg Press, 1946), 982.

[4] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke,  Sacra Pagina, 18 vol., edited by Daniel J. Harrington, (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991), 306.

                [5] Ibid.

[6] I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke. The New International Greek Testament Commentary, edited by Donald A. Hagner and I. Howard Marshall, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978), 732.

[7] Craig Evans, Luke, New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990), 299.

[8] Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, 306.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Bock, Luke Volume 2, 1603.

                [11] Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, 982-983.

                [12] Evans, Luke, 299.

                [13] Robert H. Stein, Luke, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 493.

[14] John Nolland, Luke, World Biblical Commentary (Dallas, Texas: Word Books Publishers, 1993), 953.

                [15] Ibid.

                [16] Stein, Luke, 493.

                [17] Frederic Louis Godet, Commentary on Luke, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1981), 433.

                [18] Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, 306.

[19] Ibid.

                [20] Stein, Luke, 493.

                [21] Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, 984.

                [22] Nolland, Luke, 954.

[23] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke,  The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 18 vols., edited by Gordon Fee, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 709.

[24] Leslie Allen, Psalm 101-150, World Biblical Commentary (Dallas, Texas: Word Books Publishers, 2002), 165.

[25] David Baron, Types, Psalms and Prophecies, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1907), 269.

[26] Allen, Psalm 101-150, 165.

[27] Fred Blumenthal, “Psalm 118,” Jewish Bible Quarterly 39, no. 2 (April-June 2011), 115.

[28] Derek Kidner, Psalm 73-150, (London: Intervarsity Press, 1975), 412.

[29] Allen, Psalm 101-150, 163-167.

[30] Adele Berlin, “Psalm 118 Critical Notes,” Journal of Biblical Literature 96, no. 4 (December, 1977), 567.

[31] Allen, Psalm 101-150, 167.

[32] Blumenthal, “Psalm 118,” 117.

[33] David W. Pao and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Luke,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 362.

[34] John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing House, 1986), 235.

[35] J. Alec Moyter, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, (Downers Grove, Illinois:  Intervarsity Press, 1993), 94.

[36] Ibid, 95.

 

[37] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 234.

[38] Moyter, The Prophecy of Isaiah, 95

[39] Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah: The English Text, With Introduction, Exposition and Notes Volume 1: Chapters 1 to 18, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 312.

[40] Kevin A. Matthews, Genesis 11:27-50:26, New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2005), 885.

[41] Allen P. Ross, “Genesis,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Victor, 2005), 98.

[42] Sailhamer, “The Canonical Approach,” 309.

[43] Ibid, 310.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Sailhamer, “The Canonical Approach,” 310.

[46] Sailhamer, “The Canonical Approach,” 311.

[47] Matthews, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 885.

[48] Ibid, 891.

[49] John Calvin, Genesis, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2001), 367.

[50] Matthews, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 892.

[51] Ross, “Genesis,” 99.

[52] Matthews, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 906.

[53] Ibid.

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