Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, pp. 57-58:


We have a resource that can enable us to stay calm inside no matter how the storms rage outside.

Here’s a clue: Mark has deliberately laid out this account using language that is parallel, almost identical, to the language of the famous Old Testament account of Jonah.

Both Jesus and Jonah were in a boat, and both boats were overtaken by a storm—the descriptions of the storm are almost identical.

Both Jesus and Jonah were asleep.

In both stories the sailors woke up the sleeper and said, “We’re going to die.”

And in both cases there was a miraculous divine intervention and the sea was calmed.

Further, in both stories the sailors then become even more terrified than they were before the storm was calmed.

Two almost identical stories—with just one difference.

In the midst of the storm, Jonah said to the sailors, in effect: “There’s only only thing to do. If I perish, you survive. If I die, you will live” (Jonah 1:12). And they threw him into the sea.

Which doesn’t happen in Mark’s story.

Or does it?

I think Mark is showing that the stories aren’t actually different when you stand back a bit and look at it with the rest of the story of Jesus in view.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “One greater than Jonah is here,” and he’s referring to himself: I’m the true Jonah. He meant this:

Someday I’m going to calm all storms, still all waves.

I’m going to destroy destruction, break brokenness, kill death.

How can he do that?

He can only do it because when he was on the cross he was thrown—willingly, like Jonah—into the ultimate storm, under the ultimate waves, the waves of sin and death.

Jesus was thrown into the only storm that can actually sink us—the storm of eternal justice, of what we owe for our wrongdoing. That storm wasn’t calmed—not until it swept him away.

If the sight of Jesus bowing his head into that ultimate storm is burned into the core of your being, you will never say, “God, don’t you care?”

And if you know that he did not abandon you in that ultimate storm, what make you think he would abandon you in much smaller storms you’re experiencing right now?

And, someday, of course, he will return and still all storms for eternity.

If you let that penetrate to the very center of your being, you will know he loves you. You will know he cares. And then you will have the power to handle anything in life with poise:

When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of woe shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Print Friendly

Comments:


75 thoughts on “Keller on Jonah and Jesus”

  1. Ted Bigelow says:

    Or, it could be that similar things really happened to both Jonah and Jesus, and that the Holy Spirit didn’t lead Mark to make any reference or allusion to the text in Jonah.

  2. Adam says:

    Great little snippet from Keller on “the sign of Jonah.” I’ve often wondered, does the story of Jonah have to be historical? Couldn’t it be a parable? Seems to me that Jesus’ particular use of it leaves Jonah’s historicity open to interpretation.

    1. JT Caldwell says:

      Adam,

      Re: “…does the story of Jonah have to be historical? Couldn’t it be a parable? Seems to me that Jesus’ particular use of it leaves Jonah’s historicity open to interpretation.”

      A parable? Jesus: “For just as Jonah was [parabolically] three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be [parabolically] three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

      Reading the story of Jonah through the words of Jesus questions the historicity of his own burial and resurrection. Let’s not parabolize that which is historical and vital for our faith in the Son of Man.

      1. JT Caldwell says:

        Correction: Reading the story of Jonah [parabolically] through the words of Jesus questions the historicity of his own burial and resurrection.

        1. Mark S says:

          It can question it, but need it disprove the burial/resurrection?

          1. JT Caldwell says:

            It makes the historical event questionable. It can’t disprove it.

            1. Mark S says:

              Then, what’s your problem?

              1. JT Caldwell says:

                No problem here. I don’t read the story of Jonah parabolically.

              2. Mark S says:

                What’s the problem, then, with reading it parabolically? Sorry if I was too vague.

              3. JT Caldwell says:

                Pointing back to my original comment, if we read Jesus’ words as though parabolically interpreting the story of Jonah, then we also interpret what he says about being three days and three nights in the heart of the earth parabolically.

                Reading parabolically – To read something as a parable, is to read it as simply a story and not historically true.

                To read the story of Jonah parabolically is to read the story of Jesus’ burial and resurrection parabolically–interpreting both stories as simply a story and not historically true.

                Key words in Matt 12.40: “…just as Jonah was…so will the Son of Man be…”

                Meaning: In the same/similar way that Jonah was…so will the Son of Man be.

                Jesus reads and identifies with the story of Jonah as he sees it is literally true, personally relevant, and historically accurate.

              4. Mark S says:

                But you said that if the story of Jonah is indeed a parable, that that would not disprove the literal burial/resurrection of Christ.

              5. JT Caldwell says:

                I think we disagree on the meaning of ‘disprove’.

              6. Mark S says:

                Here’s what I think could be possible: The story of Jonah is a parable. Jesus could certainly use a parabolic story to illustrate something that would literally happen.

                That’s what I mean when I say I don’t think that having Jonah be a literally true story would disprove Christ’s literal death/resurrection.

                I’d invite you to enlighten me on your meaning of “disprove.”

              7. JT Caldwell says:

                Jesus certainly could, and has used parabolic stories to illustrate something of literal significance.

                However, this does not disprove my belief that “Jesus reads and identifies with the story of Jonah as he sees it is literally true, personally relevant, and historically accurate.”

                Nor does this statement disprove your belief that “the story of Jonah is a parable.”

                In the end, both statements of belief cannot be true. Either way, you or I cannot prove or disprove either one.

  3. Ted Bigelow says:

    Thanks Adam.

    By your openness to the non-historicity of Jonah – you just made the case for my point better than I did.

    Mark didn’t write anything that explicitly refers to Jonah. Men write things that read such connections into the text – leading dear Christians to mistakenly view the text as parabolic and non-historical. That opens a door you don’t want to go through.

  4. Andy says:

    Similar events happened to both Jonah and Jesus, because Jonah was a typological Christ. (Much like Isaiah, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, etc.) Mark doesn’t explicitly make the connection, but he strongly implies it with the parallel “boat/storm/sleeping down below” introduction. Remember, there are no “coincidences” in the Bible.

    Besides, that Mark subtly draws attention to this similarity shouldn’t lead anyone to conclude the Jonah story is merely a non-historic parable unless they are already inclined to suspect that in the first place. (Erroneously, I would argue.)

    Jesus makes clear in Matt 12:41 (and Luke 11:32) that the events of Jonah were real, historical events when he says “the men of Ninevah will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it”. His statement becomes gibberish if you take him to be saying, “the metaphorical men of Ninevah.”

    1. Tom says:

      You know, Andy, your point about there being no coincidences in the Bible reminds me of a show I saw on PBS on Bible Codes. Using Bible codes, they have found where the Bible speaks about the 9/11 attack and the same 9/11 cluster has references to Bin Laden, airplanes, etc.

      I’m sure glad there are no coincidences in the Bible… ;-)

      1. Andy says:

        Ha, I think you know that’s not what I meant.

  5. Thanks for posting this section from Keller Mr. Taylor.
    The comparison is intriguing. Praise be to Christ, that he will calm all storms in eternity.

  6. Ted Bigelow says:

    Hi Andy,

    You wrote, “Jonah was a typological Christ.”

    What makes you confident enough to assert that publicly?

    Of course, Jonah’s 3 days in the fish are typological of Christ’s 3 days in the tomb, because the text makes it explicit, as you point out.

    But to go beyond that…. and say Jonah himself is a type of Christ… I mean, really? Like, someone could study the life of Jonah in the OT and in him see Christ prefigured…. Of course, we can all be creative.

    So using your creativity, why then isn’t Peter a type of Christ? Or Judas? Or doubting Thomas, or Simon Magus? Or Esau? Or Shimei?, etc. etc.

    What controls your creativity to associate Bible characters as “types of Christ?” For me, its the explicit and clear statements in Scripture.

    Consider: your freedom and creativity to associate biblical characters with the Son of Man is the freedom and creativity that allows Adam (in his post above) to hope in a non-historicity in Jonah.

  7. casey says:

    Ted,

    I understand your caution in identifying parallels in scripture that aren’t explicit. But in this case the parallel between the stories of Jonah and Jesus in the boat appears to be too strong for Mark or Peter to not notice in ho they worded it.

    Every prophet, priest, and king of the OT was a type of Christ, as the offices themselves were types. The still leaves a lot of varibaility in how well they lived up to it.

    Noticing these parallels doesn’t reduce scripture to non-historical literature, but raises reality as God’s artwork of redemption.

  8. Ted Bigelow says:

    Hi Casey,

    “the parallel between the stories of Jonah and Jesus in the boat appears to be too strong for Mark or Peter to not notice in ho they worded it”

    How do you know this?

    “Every prophet, priest, and king of the OT was a type of Christ, as the offices themselves were types. The still leaves a lot of varibaility in how well they lived up to it.”

    So men who dishonor their office are types of Christ? OK. Judas dishonored his office as an apostle. Is he too a type of Christ? Absalom dishonored the office of king. Is he too a type of Christ? Is every northern King, including Ahab, a type of Christ? How about the Southern kings? Rehoboam, Jehoram? Jehoiakim, who “did evil in the sight of the LORD his God?”

    Jonah dishonored his role as prophet at practically every turn. By calling him a type of Christ, you’ve reduced the value of the type and anti-type to hyperbole and foppishness. It ceases to be edifying.

    1. Andy says:

      Ted, you’re thinking of it in an individualistic sense. You’re wondering “how was Rehoboam a type of Christ” when the actual question should be “how is the Davidic king a type of Christ?” As Casey already pointed out, the office itself is typological, not the individual.

      As for Jonah, Jesus makes the association himself in Matt 12:40. I’m merely affirming it. Was he dishonoring himself by making the comparison to such a fickle OT prophet? Of course not. Was Paul dishonoring Christ when he compared him to fallible Adam in Rom 5:14? Of course not, because his point was not that Adam’s entire life prefigured Christ’s entire life, but rather that ONE ASPECT of Adam’s life (his covenantal headship) prefigures that of Christ’s.

      Typology doesn’t insist that a person’s WHOLE LIFE match Christ’s, it only affirms that some aspect of their lives anticipates greater realization in Christ.

      You asked, “What controls your creativity to associate Bible characters as “types of Christ?” For me, its the explicit and clear statements in Scripture.”

      I would agree, and also include the IMPLICIT statements in Scripture. Do you believe in the Trinity, even though it’s not stated explicitly? Of course, because it’s affirmed IMPLICITLY over and over.

  9. Adam says:

    Ted, be careful with how you indict folks (I don’t “hope” in non-historicity). btw, Casey is dead on with typology. :)

    Anyway….

    Great post Justin. Keller is almost always insightful and pastoral in his exegesis, something I would like to emulate. I am in a denomination that is in desperate need of biblical authority, and yet I come across many within my church that find Keller deeply engaging and encouraging. He is one of the few pastors/teachers that has that sort of appeal. Praise God for those who are able to bring unity without sacrificing purity!

  10. Matt says:

    So Ted, what is Christological in Jonah? Anything? And, speaking of dishonor, what about in David?

    1. Andy says:

      …and Moses? …and Adam? …etc.

  11. Ted Bigelow says:

    Andy, one of these things is not like the other.

    The Trinity is both implicit, and explicit. Jonah as a type of Christ is neither.

    Mat. 12:40 does not equate Jonah as a type of Christ in his prophetic ministry, but is strictly limited by the words of the Lord to the 3 days analogy. He is no more a type of Christ than the Queen of Sheba (Mat. 12:42).

    I already made this point above, and asserted that you grant yourself freedom and creativity to go beyond what is explicit in the text, and asked you why you believed it was OK for you to do this. I’m still waiting, and if I don’t get a response, will assume that’s not a point you want discussed. At that point I’ll drop the thread.

    All recognize the theological point that a man’s life in the OT does not have to match the life in Christ in every respect to be a type. If a man’s life in the OT did match Christ in all regards, he would be Christ. You’ve only given a straw man argument. David is a type of Christ for so many clear statements in Scripture, esp. 2 Sam. 7, and other places (Psalm 110:1). In other words, one can read it.

    But that doesn’t make every one of David’s sons who became king a type of Christ. In most cases they did evil in the sight of the Lord. Yet you want to claim them as types becasue they held the Davidic office for a season. I can’t go there. I can only go as far as to say their office was a type. Have fun making Absalom a type of Christ.

    Same with Jonah. The office of prophet is a type of Christ. Fine. But not Jonah. He dishonored the office.

    I’m unwilling go to the place the Scripture’s don’t go – that every prophet/priest/king was a type of Christ. It empties the type/anti-type pattern of any meaning.

    Going back to the thread’s original issue, I asked you how you *know* that Mark was patterning the sea account of Jesus sleeping in the boat after Jonah. You did not answer this. So again, if you do not answer the question, I’ll assume you do not want to carry on a back-and-forth, and I’ll just bow out. Blessings.

    1. Andy says:

      Ted, I know it’s Monday, but what’s with the bellicosity? I didn’t say I *know* it, I just believe it’s a reasonable inference. How do you know that I’m a real person interacting with you, and not just a computer program designed to waste your time? You don’t, it’s merely a reasonable inference.

      You’re basically nit-picking because you don’t think Mark’s implicit organization of this particular passage is explicit enough to warrant Keller’s inferences. Fine. But just because some DO see think it’s explicit enough doesn’t mean they’re violating sola scriptura.

      “I’m still waiting, and if I don’t get a response, will assume that’s not a point you want discussed.”

      What is this, junior high debate club? As I recall, the usual response is, “Just because you didn’t like my answer doesn’t mean I didn’t answer.”

      I pointed out that there are things that are IMPLICIT in Scripture that are still nevertheless true, even if they’re not stated EXPLICITLY. Do you deny this?

      “Have fun making Absalom a type of Christ.”

      Yeah, if anything is a strawman, this is.

      And you’re mistaking the Queen of Sheba bit, as well. The comparison goes like this: As Jesus is to “this generation”, so was Jonah to the Ninevites, and so was Solomon to the Queen of Sheba.

  12. Matt says:

    Ted, is Keller “wrong” here in the sense of he should not have said this, or are you granting him freedom to connect these dots, even if it goes beyond what you see as Christological in the Old Testament? I’m wondering to what level does this rise for you?

  13. Ted Bigelow says:

    No bellicosity intended. Blame it on me.

    Sorry, it was to Casey I asked “how do you know?” – not you. Again, my bad.

    Peace.

  14. Ted Bigelow says:

    Matt: Keller is wrong.

    His application is right theologically. But that application is not the Spirit’s intent in that passage.

  15. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Agree with Ted Bigelow.

    Any arguments or interpretations claiming that Jonah was not a historical fact-narrative is deeply, deeply mistaken.

  16. Matt says:

    OK, Ted so if you’re preaching through Jonah, and time comes for application, you’re calling people to believe in the truth of some aspect of what you’ve said from the Book of Jonah. What kinds of things do you say?

  17. Ted Bigelow says:

    Matt: give me a section of Jonah and I’ll try to answer.

    Although I think the more pertinent question is: what is the proper interpretation of Mark’s account in Mark 4:35-41 if it isn’t “Jesus calms our life’s storms, now and forever,” and hence, its proper application?

    Check out a great article from Haddon Robinson:
    http://www.preachingtodaysermons.com/heofap.html

  18. Aaron Kahler says:

    What I struggle with is this portion:

    In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “One greater than Jonah is here,” and he’s referring to himself: I’m the true Jonah. He meant this:

    Someday I’m going to calm all storms, still all waves.

    Jesus says…. what He meant was…

    I have thought upon this throughout the morning and will continue to do so, but at this moment I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable making that same statement in which Keller is reading Mark’s account back into Jesus’ words in Matthew 12.

    I’m ok with the parallels between the Mark account and Jonah. I agree that Jesus is stating that the story of Jonah is type of His burial and resurrection. But can you then read the parallels in Mark 4 and put them into Jesus’ mouth in Matthew 12?

    It seems to me that in Matthew 12 Jesus is pointing out that Gentiles repented upon hearing the preaching of reluctant prophet. While the Jews are hardhearted in the presence of the prophet par excellence.

    So “what He meant” is more in line with the more immediate context of Matthew 11:21-22 (Tyre and Sidon would have repented, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for them) than the context of Mark 4.

  19. Jacob says:

    I don’t think Keller is wrong in his application, but I don’t see explicit language in the text of Jonah that likens him to Christ. Like others have mentioned, using this in a typological way mustn’t negate the historicity of the Jonah account.

    So while I would have no problem at the end of the account using the text to point to Christ, I wouldn’t think it would be helpful to say the entire purpose for this text is just as an illustration of Christ.

  20. Matt says:

    Ted, I don’t want clarification on Mark 5. I accept your disagreement with Keller there based on your view that Jesus cannot be seen in Jonah (the man).
    But I’m wondering if you see Jesus at all in Jonah (the book).
    I’m imagining you preach this real story (Jonah) and you want to offer real hope (Jesus) so where do I find it in the story, and from your perspective can you? Is Jonah the book at all Christological?

  21. Ted Bigelow says:

    Matt: gotcha.

    All over the place in Jonah are redemptive texts that are fulfilled in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Its incredibly evangelistic. After all, there is nothing like the cross and the Spirit’s testimony to it that prove “salvation is of the LORD” (2:9).

    Beyond this, I’d be open on how to “see Jesus” in Jonah (the book). But I think His redemptive accomplishments are in theme and application, rather than interpretation (except 1:17). Can you show me others?

  22. Matt says:

    This is where we just disagree. I think “showing you others” would be in the things like what Keller did in his Christological Jonah. Keller doesn’t need me to defend him, but I remember he made this comment once about his wife’s reaction to his sermons:

    “Your sermons are great! They’re rational, they’re biblical, they’re exegetical, and they show me how I should live and what I should believe. But every so often, suddenly at the end, Jesus shows up. And when Jesus shows up, it stops being a lecture and becomes a sermon to me. When you say, ‘This is what you ought to do…’ I know. Now I’m clearer on it, perhaps a little more guilty…
    But sometimes you get to the place where you say, ‘This is what you ought to do, but you probably can’t do it, but there’s One Who did. And because He did it on our behalf and in our place, we believe in him and we’ll begin to be able to do it too.’ I want to do that! I have hope. And I begin to see how I can.”

    Keller does this very well (I see Jonah, I see Jonah and Jesus, I see Jesus) and with all due respect, I don’t find misplaced “redemptive accomplishments” when he does.

    I read Robinson’s article and in return, I’d recommend Keller’s sermon at the inaugural Gospel Coalition Conf. where he explains what he sees as the priority of “Christocentric preaching.”

  23. I would really recommend to those who don’t understand why Keller preaches the Bible this way, to listen to the lectures he did with Edumund Clowney called “Preaching Christ in a Post-Modern World” in which he lays all this out. Just google it and you’ll find it.

    1. Andrew Morrison says:

      I strongly second this recommendation. Keller and Clowney’s basic argument is that the NT authors didn’t just give us texts in which to find Christ, but gave us a hermeneutical method to follow. Lots of questions like these are raised and, in my opinion, answered well in that series of lectures. I haven’t read it, but I imagine Clowney might deal with some of these issues in this book too: http://www.amazon.com/Unfolding-Mystery-Discovering-Christ-Testament/dp/0875521746

  24. But I think His redemptive accomplishments are in theme and application, rather than interpretation.

    Bingo.

    Thanks, Ted, for your labor on this issue. It’s important for us to apply the proper hermeneutics to the text. It’s hard to say anything negative about those who want to find Jesus in every text, because obviously we want to exalt Christ and honor Him as having first place in everything.

    However, I hope the mainstream of evangelicalism learns that it’s more honoring to Christ to interpret and preach His Word the way it’s written, rather than creating places to find Him where He’s not intended.

    Like you said, Jesus is always in the application, but not always in the interpretation. He belongs in every sermon, but is not in every text.

    Thanks again.

    1. Andrew Morrison says:

      “It’s important for us to apply the proper hermeneutics to the text. It’s hard to say anything negative about those who want to find Jesus in every text, because obviously we want to exalt Christ and honor Him as having first place in everything.”

      How do we know the proper hermeneutic isn’t to find Jesus in every text? The authors of the New Testament seemed to find him in many texts that didn’t explicitly say they referred to the Messiah, e.g., Heb 1:6 and 2:12. Are we to simply say of such mysterious texts “They were inspired,” and not seek to understand the Christological hermeneutic of the Spirit working through the apostles?

      “…it’s more honoring to Christ to interpret and preach His Word the way it’s written, rather than creating places to find Him where He’s not intended.”

      Again, how is the text written? OT prophets spoke of Christ, many of them unintentionally and unwittingly (1 Pet 1:10-12), but it was the Spirit who was ultimately speaking their words that foretold, foreshadowed, pre-figured, and, in light of the events of Jesus’ life, explained the work of the Messiah. Shouldn’t our ultimate aim be to understand the intention of the Spirit speaking in every text?

      1. John Thomson says:

        Andrew

        Your comment here and above are excellent. I am not sure we can find much if anything in the NT that suggests Joseph depicts Christ but the parallels seem too obvious to be denied.

        However, opinions may differ regarding specific examples the NT writers surely provide a hermeneutic and not a definitive list.

      2. Andrew, thanks for your questions. My reply is forthcoming, but because it is quite lengthy, it is awaiting moderation.

      3. How do we know the proper hermeneutic isn’t to find Jesus in every text?

        Because that’s not how anyone communicates. The Old Testament is God’s revelation to His people; it is Him communicating a particular message through a particular author in a particular context to a particular audience. Just like you don’t want me interpreting your words in a way that adds to or takes away from them, neither should we do that to the Biblical authors, unless we have explicit — and yes, Spirit-inspired — warrant to do so.

        Walt Kaiser helps here: “The first New Testament believers tested what they had heard from Jesus and his disciples against what was written in the Old Testament. They had no other canon or source of help. How, then, were they able to get it right?” I think that’s a formidable question that needs to be answered. How did the early believers understand what was going on? They had no New Testament through which to interpret the Old Testament. They verified the claims of the Apostles based on what the OT taught (cf. Ac 17:11), just as they had been taught (e.g., Deut 18:22). They based their understanding on the plain, ordinary, historical meaning of the Old Testament. That is precisely the basis for statements like, “Have you not read?” Jesus and the Apostles hold people accountable for what the prophets said about Him, implying that it was to be understood as it was written. The disciples on the Emmaus road are a case in point. Jesus expected that they understood what the prophets had clearly said, not what the Spirit mysteriously intended. This is why Paul could say in Acts 26:22 that he had preached “nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place.”

        And if statements were made that amplified or further-applied the meaning of certain texts, those speakers and writers were in fact speaking/writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So to answer your question: “Are we to simply say of such mysterious texts ‘They were inspired,'” Yes. That, in fact, is the Biblical model.

        Again, how is the text written?

        That’s a silly question. The text is written how it’s written. You answer that question simply by reading whatever the text is in question.

        OT prophets spoke of Christ, many of them unintentionally and unwittingly (1 Pet 1:10-12)

        This is untrue. It’s simply not what the text says. The prophets inquired about what particular person and what historical time such things would take place. Kaiser helps again: “It was only the issues of the timing and the circumstances connected with Messiah and his works that baffled [the prophets] in 1 Peter 1:10-12. On the main facts, however, they were crystal clear: (1) they knew they were speaking about Messiah [v. 11: "sufferings of Christ"], (2) they knew Messiah must suffer [v. 11: "sufferings of Christ"], (3) they knew Messiah would also be glorified and triumph [v. 11: "subsequent glories"], (4) they knew the order, that is, that the suffering would come first and then the glory [v. 11: "subsequent glories"], and finally, (5) they knew they were writing not just for their own times but for ‘us’ in the Christian church as well [v. 12: "not serving themselves, but you"].” Also, see my above comments about both Jesus and Paul affirming the perspicuity of the prophets, and thereby affirming that they knew of what they were speaking.

        1. Andrew Morrison says:

          Trivial aside: how do you guys do italics on here?

          “Because that’s not how anyone communicates. . . Just like you don’t want me interpreting your words in a way that adds to or takes away from them, neither should we do that to the Biblical authors, unless we have explicit — and yes, Spirit-inspired — warrant to do so.”
          Pardon me if I’m too blunt, but you’re assuming what you’re trying to prove. You’re assuming that seeing Christ in every text is adding to the text instead of proving that it is. As for whether that’s how anyone communicates, I’m not sure. There are a lot of people even on this blog who write one thing but whose words communicate to the more perceptive a deep insecurity and need to prove theological and intellectual prowess.

          “And if statements were made that amplified or further-applied the meaning of certain texts, those speakers and writers were in fact speaking/writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So to answer your question: “Are we to simply say of such mysterious texts ‘They were inspired,’” Yes. That, in fact, is the Biblical model.”
          That doesn’t seem to match Paul’s model of reasoning from an allegorical interpretation of Genesis in Galatians 4:21-31. “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” (v. 21).

          “The text is written how it’s written. You answer that question simply by reading whatever the text is in question.”
          Does your approach to the text lead you to Paul’s interpretation in Galatians 4, or even to hear such a reading without dismissing it out of hand? Would teaching such hermeneutics to first century Jews lead them to give any hearing at all to Christ and the apostles?

          Your comment about 1 Peter 1:10-12 is true. I shouldn’t have quoted that text in reference to that point about the OT authors speaking of Christ without knowing it. What I was getting at was the incompleteness with which they understood the person and work of Christ, things so wonderful even angels were not permitted to see them. I think Galatians 4, Hebrews 2:12-13, and Matthew 2:15 are sufficient to demonstrate that OT authors sometimes unknowingly spoke of Christ and the church. There are many others I’m not thinking of now.

          1. Trivial aside: how do you guys do italics on here?

            You put the letter “i” in between with no spaces before the word you want to italicize, and then afterward you put /i in between with no spaces.

            Pardon me if I’m too blunt, but you’re assuming what you’re trying to prove.

            That wasn’t too blunt, but I don’t think so. I’m saying that Scripture is God communicating. And I’m saying that when you take part in normal communication, you don’t look for hidden meanings in people’s words (unless you have some agenda). You simply take them at their word, giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are saying what they mean.

            There are a lot of people even on this blog who write one thing but whose words communicate to the more perceptive a deep insecurity and need to prove theological and intellectual prowess.

            See, now that’s not very nice. I didn’t take any swipes at you.

            You might call it “more perceptive.” I think Scripture calls it arrogance, and not believing all things.

            That doesn’t seem to match Paul’s model of reasoning from an allegorical interpretation of Genesis in Galatians 4:21-31.

            Of course, that’s an isolated example, as opposed to the multiples of texts that demonstrate a straightforward interpretation of the OT. Nevertheless, my understanding of Galatians 4 is that Paul is not giving us a model of hermeneutics and calling us to follow that example. Rather, he is answering the Judaizers with their own incorrect hermeneutics, showing them how, even using their own errant interpretive conventions, the Scriptures don’t support their legalism. I think that understanding is supported by the fact that Paul explicitly states, “This is allegorically speaking,” as if to signal that this is an exception, not the rule. If you’re interested, Phil Johnson preached on this not too long ago and ably expounded this idea.

            Does your approach to the text lead you to Paul’s interpretation in Galatians 4, or even to hear such a reading without dismissing it out of hand? Would teaching such hermeneutics to first century Jews lead them to give any hearing at all to Christ and the apostles?

            See above.

            I think Galatians 4, Hebrews 2:12-13, and Matthew 2:15 are sufficient to demonstrate that OT authors sometimes unknowingly spoke of Christ and the church.

            Well, I spoke about Galatians 4. Hebrews 2:12-13 cites Psalm 22, which is clearly a Messianic psalm where David is speaking as Messiah would speak (compare 22:1 and Matt 27:46), and picks up only on the fact that Messiah will call us “brothers.” In Matthew 2:15, I believe Matthew is referencing Hosea 11:1, not explaining that this is how Hosea 11:1 should have always been understood. Even so, as I said before, in cases like these you have a Spirit-inspired account. We are not Spirit-inspired interpreters.

            1. The italics thing didn’t work. You hit shift+comma, i, and shift+period at the beginning; and the same with /i at the end.

            2. Andrew Morrison says:

              Thanks for the tip on the italics, Mike.

              See, now that’s not very nice. I didn’t take any swipes at you.

              You might call it “more perceptive.” I think Scripture calls it arrogance, and not believing all things.

              How did you know that was a swipe at you? I think you might be reading something into my words that’s not explicitly there. :-) I’m as guilty of that as anyone else here, and I perceive it first in myself, and because I can perceive it in myself, I sense it in others too, but I may be wrong.

              Good points on Galatians 4, don’t have time to answer right now, but I did want to clarify my perceived swipe at you.

      4. Shouldn’t our ultimate aim be to understand the intention of the Spirit speaking in every text?

        It’s fundamentally wrong-headed to assume that the Spirit’s intention was different than the original author’s intention. There’s simply no basis for that. First, it violates sound hermeneutics; i.e., the demonstrably agreed-upon rules of communication by anyone who takes part in communicating, as I mentioned above. I hate to keep quoting Kaiser, but he gets it right:

        “If individual speakers or writers are not sovereign over the use of their own words, and if meaning is not a return to how they intended their own words to be regarded, then we are in a most difficult situation—everyone communicating, but no one in particular ever receiving (or knowing if he has adequately received) the message.” And again, such a theory of hermeneutics as you support, “would make the inspired writer a secondary element in the process and even a nuisance at times, while God, the principal author, is viewed as supplying directly to interpreters many additional meanings that exceed those originally intended by the human authors.”

        Not only does it violate proper hermeneutics — the ordinary, everyday principles upon which you and I rely to even communicate on this blog — but it is not the Biblical model. In Preach the Word, Paul House has a chapter on preaching OT narratives, and in it he examines Stephen’s handling of the OT narratives in a Gospel message in Acts 7 and Paul’s handling of the same in Acts 13. His observations are insightful:

        “[Stephen] does not feel the need to include Jesus in Old Testament stories that do not address the Messiah, but he does preach to that point in history, for it is the climax of the story.” As Ted and I said before: Jesus is in the application of every text, but not necessarily in the interpretation of every text.

        Further: “Jesus is at the center of the narrative [i.e., Paul's sermon in Acts 13:13-49], yet he is not the whole narrative. He is also not inserted into every phase of the narrative. Abraham, Moses, David, and Paul have their parts as well. … Not telling their stories impoverishes an understanding of Jesus’ story and of the story of final redemption and resurrection that Jesus will complete. Inserting Jesus at the wrong places can lead to a diminishing of what he achieved.”

        This is what I was saying when I said it’s more honoring to Christ to interpret and preach His Word as it has been revealed, rather than trying to read Him into every text. The former is exegesis. The latter is, without question, eisegesis.

  25. Ted Bigelow says:

    Matt:

    “I think “showing you others” would be in the things like what Keller did in his Christological Jonah.”

    Yeah. I thought so.

  26. Andy says:

    Here’s another: What about Joseph?

    Rejected by his own people, accepted by gentiles, becomes a servant, gets falsely accused, humbled, and then exalted to the king’s right hand, saves those gentiles (albeit only physically, from famine), and ultimately, his own people as well.

    Even though it’s not explicitly stated anywhere in the NT (to my knowledge), is it wrong to see a typological connection between Joseph and Christ here? Or is the proper hermeneutical response simply to chalk it up as a pleasant similarity and nothing more?

    Am I creating a place to find Christ where he’s not intended? Is it wrong to make this connection that isn’t explicitly stated in scripture? (Although I would argue that Stephen strongly implies a connection it in Acts 7.)

    1. Jacob says:

      I think where the issue comes is when we say, “The entire interpretation of the story of Joseph is that he is a type of Christ.” Well, that’s not true. Joseph was a real person, and the story actually happened. Can you use it typologically? Sure, Joseph is a type of Christ. But when the text doesn’t explicitly state that is the entire purpose for the story of Joseph, then I don’t find it helpful to negate the actual Joseph, the actual story, etc.

      After all, the story of Joseph had huge implications as to the actual nation of Israel and their being saved from the famine. If the story doesn’t really happen, then Israel dies in the wilderness and there is no such thing as Christ and no such thing as typology.

      1. Andy says:

        Agreed 100% – it would be a mistake to ignore the very real implications for the actual covenant people at the time of the famine, as well as the stark example of God’s sovereign purposes (over the course of decades) in providing not only for his people but also the Egyptians, just as it would be a mistake to ignore the historical Jonah and the very real implications for the city of Ninevah in their repentance.

        Reflecting on God’s care for Egypt shown through Joseph and his care for Assyria shown through Jonah resonates nicely with Isaiah 19, particularly the final verse: “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”

        1. Might I simply add, that this is why Keller and Clowney call it a “Redemptive-Historical” way of teaching the Scriptures.

          Every little story in the Scripture is pointing to the big story of Jesus Christ. The types, the patterns, and the symbols all are to bring us to Christ.

          To ignore the nuances of the little stories show we don’t care about the big story and to ignore the pervasive reality of the big story shows we don’t know what the little story’s point is.

    2. Jacob says:

      Of course you didn’t negate the actual story of Joseph in your plea for a typological reference there.

    3. Ted Bigelow says:

      Andy – make your case from Acts 7.

      1. Andrew Morrison says:

        Ted, I’m not the Andy you asked, but I’ll offer the beginning of an answer to your request for a case from Acts 7.

        Stephen’s indictment against his “brothers and fathers” (two terms used in v.7 and repeatedly in the chapter to refer to the Israelites) is summarized “As your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51). Their rejection, persecution, “betrayal and murder” of Jesus the Righteous one (v. 52) is the same as their fathers treated Joseph (v.9), whom Pharaoh made “ruler over Egypt” (v. 10), and Moses, who when he first attempted to help his people, was asked “Who made you a ruler…?” (v. 27), but later was sent by God as “ruler and redeemer” (v. 35). Stephen notes how Moses predicts that God will send another prophet like him “from your brothers” (v. 37).

        While Stephen doesn’t explicitly identify Joseph as a type of Christ, he does connect the Jewish leaders’ response to Jesus to that of their fathers toward Joseph and Moses, who is identified in this text as a forerunner of Christ. Both Joseph and Moses were initially rejected by the Israelites, but God then raised them up to a place of authority and a source of redemption. He did the same with Jesus, a point Stephen seems on the verge of making in vv. 52-53 when he is cut off by their rage. He mentions their murder of Christ, and if his message is to follow his pattern with Joseph and Moses (and other apostolic sermons in Acts), he would next mention God’s vindication of Christ through the resurrection. Perhaps God Himself fills in where Stephen is cut off by imparting the vision of the exalted Christ.

        Interesting too that Stephen’s dying words echo those of Christ (vv. 59-60; cf. Luke 23:34,46), and that Saul, who witnesses and approves the execution, is later confronted by the risen Christ with the words “Why are you persecuting ME?” (Acts 9:4). Could it be that not only do Joseph and Moses typify Christ in their rejection by the fathers and vindication by God, but that Stephen himself does too?

  27. Jake says:

    Was the point of the text the point of the sermon?

    It’s an interesting observation, but I find the plain sense of that passage in Mark, i.e. Christ the man is God, with the power to calm winds and waves, far more compelling. I think it’s a stretch to say The Holy Spirit intended for us to make the connection to Jonah.

    Is there a plenary sense? Did the Holy Spirit intend for us to understand this passage to teach that Christ is God with the power to control even the weather (the plain sense) AND that Christ is a type of Jonah, calming the storms of our sin by “throwing Himself into the ultimate storm, under the ultimate waves, the waves of sin and death.” (The Keller sense)

  28. Ted Bigelow says:

    Thanks Andrew. Beautifully done.

    So the question we have before us is this:

    Do commonalities in 2 separate texts, that in themselves make no explicit connection, grant the interpreter the “right/power/option” to “claim/imply” those two texts are linked by the Holy Spirit?

    Or, to simplify, Since we can make connections, was it therefore the Holy Spirit’s intent to have us see that Joseph in Gen. 37-50 or Acts 7 a type of Christ?

  29. Matt says:

    It’s been very interesting to hear the other side of this. I’m curious. Have any of those of you who think Keller is wrong read Tchividjian’s book on Jonah (which was a sermon series), and if so, do you think his applications are mostly wrong?

    1. Ted Bigelow says:

      Not me. Care to elaborate?

  30. Matt says:

    Well, for example, Tchividjian writes, “In the New Testament, we discover that Jesus is the fulfillment of every promise and prophecy, and the substance behind every shadow. And we’ll find some of those shadows right here in Jonah.” There are 2 “everys” there. Is that too strong? Too encompassing?

  31. Ted Bigelow says:

    Hi Matt:

    I believe it, but not like you or Tullian. I believe it literally.

    For example, concerning Babylon, God says:

    “Therefore the desert creatures will live there along with the jackals; The ostriches also will live in it, And it will never again be inhabited Or dwelt in from generation to generation. (Jer. 50:39).

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but you (if you embrace Tullian’s eschatology and hermeneutic) want to see that figuratively fulfilled in Jesus 1st coming.

    But peple are in Babylon today: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylon

    To make Jer. 50:39 fit a non-literal schema of interpretation, you have to go back to this original issue here in the post – that of imposing your creativity on the text – the same imposition that allows you to assign Jonah as a type of Christ.

    Because, you see, people and animals are in Babylon today. And no one today lives in Sodom (Jer. 50:40).

    But without bringing my Adamic-creativity to the text, I see this being fulfilled in His 2nd coming and the establishment of His 1000 year kingdom (“in those days” – Jer. 50:4, 20).

    So you see, “every promise being fulfilled in Jesus” can be a crutch to support one’s pre-existing theology. Its like a sermonic style looking for text to preach, instead of text producing its own preaching. I think the approach that takes a text and creatively gives it a “Christological hermeneutic” only exposes the shakiness of the interpreter to deal with the text on its own terms.

    Peace, brothers – I’m just challenging you.

    1. Jake says:

      Thank you, Ted!

  32. Matt says:

    Thanks. Can’t say I agree with your thinking on a lot of this, but I appreciate your clarifications! Been a good discussion for me.

  33. Fadi Hanna says:

    And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27 (ESV)

  34. Ted Bigelow says:

    Hi Fadi – welcome to the thread.

    Are you saying that Jesus took the 2 through every text in the OT, and showed them a Christological heremeneutic?

  35. Ted Bigelow says:

    Mike,

    The crickets are deafening.

    1. Andrew Morrison says:

      The crickets are deafening indeed, and weeping may last for a night but joy comes in the morning. I appreciate the points you’ve made, Ted, and hope to reply sometime before long, but don’t have time at the moment.
      Hopefully we can all agree on the truth of Proverbs 27:17.

  36. Andy says:

    Ted, your tone alternates between “Peace, brothers, I’m just challenging you” and passive-aggressive condescension like “The crickets are deafening” and “Yeah. I thought so.” These latter sort – bordering on sneering – are the kind that discourage open discourse.

    Honest debate is good, but we must be cautious that we’re not simply arguing for the sake of arguing, or trying to sate our pride by making others look foolish. These are our brothers in Christ, not our enemies, and it’s very difficult to persuade via ridicule.

Comments are closed.

Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

Justin Taylor's Books