Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bullinger and Irenaeus?

Recently, I came across this interesting excerpt from the pen of R.R. Reno of Creighton University:

“Irenaeus of Lyon provides us with the key categories for describing the patristic consensus about the meaning and role of scripture. Like the Christian readers who taught him, Irenaeus presumed that the Old Testament, however diverse in style and content, was a single text with a unified point or message. Following the standard terminology of the ancient rhetorical tradition, Irenaeus called the unified message of scripture its "hypothesis." At one level, Irenaeus saw this hypothesis as literary. The bible hangs together on its own terms, and readers sensitive to the hints and clues in the text will gravitate toward a unified reading. But more importantly, according to Irenaeus, the hypothesis of scripture reflects the fact that the entire world is governed by a single divine plan, or "economy." This economy is a multi-layered sequence of created realities, historical events, divine ordinations and laws. In other words, for the church fathers, the entire world-process is a meaningful system shaped by God's intention. Finally, following Ephesians 1:10, Irenaeus argued that all the complex facets of the divine economy, including the vast system of signs that make up the Old Testament, are recapitulated in Jesus Christ. Recapitulation (anakephalaiosis in Greek) is another standard term in the ancient rhetorical tradition. Even in contemporary English we speaking of ending a speech with a "recap," the conclusion when the speaker drives home the main point or hypothesis with a restatement of the main arguments in pithy, vivid summary.4 Christ is the basis and end point. He is the reason or purpose and the culminating summation of the great divine speech that we call reality.
For Irenaeus and the patristic tradition as a whole, scripture is the semiotic medium in which God encodes the pattern of the divine economy. How scripture is so encoded remains obscure. There was no settled patristic consensus about a so-called doctrine of inspiration that would specify the way in which scripture embodies the divine economy within itself. But there was a consensus that the undeniable literal heterogeneity of scripture depicts a single divine economy. "Anyone who reads the scriptures with attention," writes Irenaeus, "will find in them a discourse about Christ, and a prefiguration of the new calling [of the Gentiles]. For Christ is 'the treasure hidden in the field' [Matt 13:44], that is, in this world (for 'the field is the world' [Matt 13:38]), but he is also hidden is the scriptures, since he was signified by types and parables which could not be understood, humanly speaking, before the consummation of those things which were prophesied as coming, that is, the advent of Christ."5 The unity of scripture grows out of the singularity of divine purpose in and for all things, and this divine economy is directed toward fulfillment in Christ. Thus, the goal of spiritual exegesis is to bring Christ the treasure hidden in the field of scripture into view, and in so doing to bring the mind of the reader to desire to live more fully in his truth.”

It’s quite suggestive to see parallels in the way Bullinger handles Scripture. What do you think?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

More on Bullinger and the Old Faith

The following citation from The Old Faith demonstrates the extent to which Bullinger emphasizes the continuity between the old and the new covenants. The difference in the ‘new’ is more evident, ‘more clearly practiced, accomplished, fulfilled and performed.’

“I will declare, that God now also through the appearing of his Son would bring into the world and set forth none other religion, none other faith, neither any other salvation, than even the same which was shewed to the old fathers: saving that all things are more evident, more clearly practiced, accomplished, fulfilled, and performed; for the which cause also all figures, sacrifices, and ceremonies do cease: for in Christ is all perfection. Yet shall we not therefore cast away the Old Testament, as some ignorant, unlearned, and foolish people do, but have it in greater reputation; forasmuch as we shall know now through Christ, what every thing signifieth, and wherefore everything was thus and thus ordained, used and spoken. Now shall every man first have a courage to read the law and the prophets, when he seeth whereupon every thing goeth. And thus also at the beginning did the holy apostles preach Christ unto the Jews out of the law and the prophets, as it is oftimes mentioned in the Acts of the apostles. And our Lord himself, when he went with the two disciples toward Emaus, and preached so unto them, that their hearts burnt within them, he began at Moses, and went through all the prophets, and opened unto them the old scriptures, and shewed them that so it behoved Christ to suffer, and to enter into his glory. This is the cause also that the scriptures of the New testament hang all together and refer themselves to the scriptures of the Old Testament; so that these cannot be right understood without the other, no more than the gloss without the text. The text is the law and the prophets, the exposition are the evangelists and apostles.”

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bullinger and The Old Faith (1537)

This work consists of eleven sections which collectively affirm the fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ. It is particularly in Section 4 that Bullinger directly refers to the covenant as can be seen from the following quote:

“For Noe was of our faith, even of the seed of God, and put his trust in in the blessed Seed, our Lord Jesus. Yea, the ark or ship of Noe was a figure of Christ, as we may easily understand by the words of St Peter. Seeing then that Noe was preserved through the ark, it followeth that he was saved by Jesus Christ: therefore is it manifest, that he first believed in Christ. Noe also was he, with whom God first renewed the covenant made with Adam. For it is but one covenant only, even the foresaid promise and end, made by God unbto Adam. Howebiet, the same covenant was afterward at certain times renewed by reason of certain occasions. Here might Noe have thought that all the world and all men should utterly have been undone; forasmuch as the Lord said, ‘I am determined to destroy all flesh.’ Therefore immediately he addeth moreover, and saith: ‘But with thee will I set up my covenant,’ that is to say: ‘whatsoever pertaineth to my covenant, and what I have promised Adam already, the same will I surely and constantly make good; and though I now destroy the world, yet will I perform my truth through thee. For I will preserve thee alive, that the blessed Seed promised afore may hereafter be born of thee in his generation.’”

It is to be noted that pundt was used exclusively by Bullinger for “covenant” in this particular quote. The Old Faith clearly emphasizes the unity of the covenant and that men and women of both Old and New Testaments have the same faith, viz faith in Christ. Thus Section 3 covers “Of the first faithful Christian, Adam and Eve.” In the quote above Bullinger states that “Noe was of our faith, even of the seed of God, put his trust in in the blessed Seed, our Lord Jesus.” Furthermore “it followeth that he was saved by Jesus Christ; therefore is it manifest, that he first believed in Christ.” These statements are all rooted in Bullinger’s understanding of the covenant.