Israel As the Hermeneutical Crux in the Interpretation of Prophecy (II) -- By: Willem A. Vangemeren

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 46:2 (Fall 1984)
Article: Israel As the Hermeneutical Crux in the Interpretation of Prophecy (II)
Author: Willem A. Vangemeren


Israel As the Hermeneutical Crux
in the Interpretation of Prophecy (II)

Willem A. VanGemeren

In the review article1 of Graafland’s Het Vaste Verbond2 four questions were raised:

(1) How have the “tensions” in Calvin been transformed into eschatological positions?

(2) Are the present eschatological options the result of polemics instead of exegesis, a desire for consistency rather than tension, and an attempt of closure rather than openness?

(3) Why has the place of the OT and particularly the OT prophets been practically reduced to the level of historical “documents”?

(4) Is the contemporary hermeneutic to the OT prophets consistent with a Reformed hermeneutic of Scripture?

The purpose of the present study is to trace the development of the place of Israel in Reformed theology and to consider the Reformed hermeneutic of the prophets. In the process of our study I shall endeavor to address the four issues listed above.

Important to the resolution of these questions is the consensus that there is no clearly-defined position on Israel in Calvin’s writings. S. Gerssen in his study of Zionism in the light of Calvin’s writings agrees with A. J. Visser’s brochure3 that since there were no Jews in Geneva Calvin was not forced to crystalize his position on the Jews.4 Graafland has already demonstrated that Calvin

did not leave us with a systematic treatment on the future of the Jews.5 Reformed confessions, therefore, are silent on the future of the Jews.

Although Calvin has assumed no systematic stance with regard to the future of the Jews, his theological and hermeneutical position emphasizing the unity of the covenant lays a solid foundation for the resultant appreciation of the OT. A natural consequence of the important place of the OT in Calvin’s theology is his respect for God’s ancient covenant people. Calvin’s heirs inherited a “regard” for the Jews, as Van den Berg has demonstrated.6 He explains that Dutch Calvinists’ interest in the Jews arose from the study of the Hebrew language of the OT, the fascinating culture of the Jews, the Calvinistic interest in the OT, and the hope for the conversion of the Jewish people.7 However, contact with the Jews was limited and consequently the issue of t...

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