Murray and I&I on Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15
A complaint, frequently voiced within the faculty and elsewhere, is that those with fundamental objections to I&I deal solely in doctrinal generalities and fail to engage the specific problem texts that I&I addresses. The following observations concern one such perceived problem.
In John Murray’s Collected Writings, 1 is an address (pp. 23 –26), “The Unity of the Old and New Testaments.” I commend reading it in its entirety. It concludes with the following two paragraphs:
The events of New Testament realization, as noted, afford validity and meaning to the Old Testament. They not only validate and explain; they are the ground and warrant for the revelatory and redemptive events of the Old Testament period. This can be seen in the first redemptive promise (Gen. 3: 15). We have a particularly striking illustration in Matt. 2: 15: 'Out of Egypt have I called my son'. In Hosea 11: 1 (cf. Numb. 24:8) this refers to the emancipation of Israel from Egypt. But in Matthew 2:15 it is applied to Christ and it is easy to allege that this is an example of unwarranted application of Old Testament passages to New Testament events particularly characteristic of Matthew. But it is Matthew, as other New Testament writers, who has the perspective of organic relationship and dependence. The deliverance of Israel from Egypt found its validation, basis, and reason in what was fulfilled in Christ. So the calling of Christ out of Egypt has the primacy as archetype, though not historical priority. In other words, the type is derived from the archetype or antitype. Hence not only the propriety but necessity of finding in Hosea 11:1 the archetype that gave warrant to the redemption of Israel from Egypt.
In this perspective, therefore, we must view both Testaments. The unity is one of organic interdependence and derivation. The Old Testament has no meaning except as it is related to the realities that give character to and create the New Testament era as the fulness of time, the consummation of the ages.
I&I discusses the Hosea passage and its use in Matthew 2 on pages 132-34 and 153, which should be studied for the comments that follow.
These two approaches have a similar interest, namely how the OT relates to the NT and what has taken place in Christ. But one does not need to ignore or minimize that similarity, in order also to recognize that it is undercut by a deep difference. In terms of the basic hermeneutical stance and commitments each reveals, it is difficult for me to see how these two approaches are compatible. It does not seem overstating to say that they are mutually exclusive.
The fundamental difference is apparent from the note on which each ends:
Murray: In this perspective, therefore, we must view both Testaments. The unity is one of organic interdependence and derivation. The Old Testament has no meaning except as it is related to the realities that give character to and create the New Testament era as the fulness of time, the consummation of the ages.
I&I: I should make one final observation. Matthew does not say that the events in Jesus’ boyhood life fulfill Hosea’s words. He says that they fulfill what ‘the Lord has said through the prophet.’ It is what God says that is important, and what God said is not captured by the surface meaning of the words on the page, but by looking at the grander scope of God’s overall redemptive plan (134; emphasis original).
And so Hosea’s words, which in their original historical context (the intention of the human author, Hosea) did not speak of Jesus of Nazareth, now do (153).
Murray is emphatic about the unequivocal “no meaning except” of the OT text and, true to the revelation-historical insight of Vos, emphatic also about the unambiguous unity, the “organic interdependence” and harmony, textual and didactic, there is between the OT and NT. For I&I, in contrast, any thought of unity, organic and interdependent, between the text of Hosea (what he, the human author, wrote, his intention) and the text of Matthew (his intention) is not only not present but denied, and with some emphasis. Contrary to Murray, given with the text of Hosea is ambiguity and disjunction, even contradiction it seems, between the meaning of the divine author and the human author (“what ‘the Lord has said through the prophet,’” on the one hand – “Hosea’s words,” on the other; again, “what God says” – “the surface meaning of the words on the page”). Further, there is a corresponding disjunction, again amounting to contradiction, between Hosea and Matthew, that is, contradiction between what the text of Hosea says and what Matthew says is said through the text of Hosea. This hardly squares, for instance, with the equation, as it has been expressed by Warfield: “’It says:’ ‘Scripture says:’ ‘God says’” (a chapter title in his The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, 299-348).
A different sort of equation is present in I&I, as foreign to Murray’s approach as it is unwarranted, an equation between what Hosea wrote and what he, as a human author with his personal, cultural and historical limitations, intended (=, apparently, what he happened to understand of what he wrote). As a result of this confusion, as already noted in the previous paragraph, what the text of Hosea says does not agree with what God says later, in Matthew, through the text of Hosea. And what God, the primary author, said and intended, as distinct from Hosea, when Hosea wrote, is anything but clear.
The view of I&I revolves around Matthew’s use of Hosea. But how do we know that Matthew has gotten it right or deserves preference? The answer, presumably, is from our assessment of “the grander scope of God’s overall redemptive plan.” But it is difficult for me to see how the “christotelic” criterion that determines this assessment of the overall redemptive scope of Scripture is not based exclusively on NT texts, to the exclusion of the OT, so that Christ is present only by being read into it from the vantage point of the NT (this is one of Bruce Waltke’s criticisms of I&I; see below). This criterion functions in a way that affirms and includes certain texts (in this instance, Matthew) while excluding or negating others (in this instance, Hosea). The OT text (“the surface meaning of the words on the page”) is played off against “the grander scope of God’s overall redemptive plan”; the one is at odds with the other. Luther’s reductive canon criterion, Was Christum treibet (“what urges/inculcates Christ”), seems present here in even less benign garb.
How are we to square this approach of I&I with that, for example, of Jesus? In John 5:46 he says, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” From the instance of Hosea above, it would seem, according to I&I, that what Jesus really meant to say was that Moses’ “words, which in their original historical context … did not speak of Jesus of Nazareth, now do”; or that what God both said and now says through what Moses wrote “is not captured by the surface meaning of the words on the page.”
But is that really what Jesus says or means to say? Further, when in the same context he says of the OT Scriptures generally, “these are they which testify about me” (v. 39), does he really mean that previously they, as a whole or at least in some parts, did not testify about him but now, in the light of his coming, they do? Again, is that what he means when he indicts those who “do not believe what he [Moses] wrote” and does so just as he specifically distinguishes that unbelief from the issue of belief in his own words (v. 47)? I very much doubt that it is. When in his final, post-resurrection teaching he affirms the necessary fulfillment of “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44), he hardly has in view what the OT, in part or as a whole, now means but did not previously.
The view of I&I, I can’t see otherwise, is not tolerable for a proper understanding of Scripture as the written word of God, interpreted in the light of its self-witness and the good and necessary consequences of that self-witness. More importantly, it is not tolerable given who God is according to Scripture. No amount of appeal to the incarnational analogy or the humanness of the Bible, properly understood, can change that.
Note: The footnote on the first page of Murray’s address (23) indicates that its original audience, in 1970, was the Christian Union of the University of Dundee, thus presumably a gathering of students. This further invites comparison with I&I, given that it has a similar intended audience, as its author and supporters are concerned to stress.