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Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos Hardcover – June 1, 2001
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About the Author
Vos was born in the Netherlands an emigrated to the USA in 1881. He earned degrees from Calvin Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Strasbourg (Ph.D. in Arabic). In 1894 he was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church in the USA. Before beginning his 39-year tenure on Princeton's faculty, he was professor of systematic and exegetical theology at Calvin for five years.
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THE LOGOS TITLE IN THE PROLOGUE TO THE 4TH GOSPEL:
Vos the exegete is masterful, and here takes special pains to destruct the Tubingen defective 'prolepsis' teaching on the full range of the word Logos, as referring pre-eminently to the pre-existent Christ in the first 14 verses of John 1. Genesis 1 and John 1 hold parallel glory to Jesus as the Mediator in creation, as His role was the role played by the divine word in Genesis. The temporal role that Christ fulfils and executes in the redemptive role as Messiah also does not do justice to the rich meaning of John 1. But, as the Logos who also sustains the world He created, a study so enriching and rewarding is offered, and we are guided under the hand of a master theologian to believe that the obvious progress of thought in John's Prologue speaks likewise in favor of this conclusion. Without doubt the Tubingen teaching is the universal interpretation of John 1, so Vos treads on fresh ground for most of us. After having read this, you will never again read the Prologue of John 1 with a diminished view on the glory of Christ's eternal supremacy.
'It will be seen at a glance how radically this interpretation differs from the most widespread view as to the structure of the Prologue.' p 67
PAUL'S ESCHATOLOGICAL CONCEPTION OF THE SPIRIT:
The style of many modern preachers, e.g. Jay Adams, centers on the subjective internal processes at work in the Christian life, which are, at best, grounded in moralistic exposés.
'For Paul, the Spirit was regularly associated with the world to come and, from the Spirit thus conceived in all His supernatural and redemptive potency, the Christian life receives throughout its specific character. The conception of the Spirit proves that what Paul meant to do is precisely the opposite of what is imputed to him: not to transmute the eschatological into a religion of time, but to raise the religion of time to the plane of eternity - such was the purport of his gospel.' p 125
Vos relieves us from this modern view by showing it to be the antithesis of Paul's teaching on the presence of the Holy Spirit. Vos emphasizes, instead, the Spirit's activity to hold out the future kingdom with its rich spiritual life as significant reward and a standard for holiness, which serves as the central motivation for sinners to be found worthy of such glory.
'In reality this whole representation of the Christian state as centrally and potentially anchored in heaven is not the abrogation, it is the most intense and the most practical assertion of the other-worldly tenor of the believer's life.' The Pauline Eschatology pp. 39-40
'For the gospel does not confine the hearts of men to the enjoyment of the present life, but raises them to the hope of immortality.' John Calvin, Institutes 2:10:3
'The great reality is the glory that is coming.' Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans 8:17-39 p 40
ESCHATOLOGY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT:
Vos unmistakably pioneered the two age model, with a guarded insistence that we should 'not expect a temporal Messianic kingdom in the future as distinguished from Christ's present spiritual reign, and as preceding the state of eternity.' p 27 Exploring the New Testament, Vos thought to define eschatological realities as 'that believers have already attained to at least partial enjoyment of eschatological privileges'. But Vos intensified its dissonance as opposed to Jewish tradition and expectation - because the two age model owed its inception to the Messiah, and when the Jews had chosen to reject Him, that rejection blissfully included His instruction on eschatology: "But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come." Matthew 12:32 Many today faithfully perpetuate Vos' scriptural idea of two successive ages enmeshed throughout the NT documents, while the refusal of some to accept Christ's teaching betrays their warm embrace of the Jewish depiction - and error - of a millenarian aeon.
'The New Testament does not follow the Jewish theology along this path', were Vos' fateful words.
HEBREWS, THE EPISTLE OF THE DIATHEKE:
'Now, since nothing is more certain than that such a conception of "berith" as a testament is utterly foreign to the intent of the Hebrew Scriptures, the position taken implies that the Seventy translating as they did committed a stupendous blunder.' p 166 Words that had an established association in biblical history were being wheedled out of their redemptive importance. Advocates of a supposedly new superior view preferred the synergistic contractual agreement or social arrangement, "testament", to the continuity of the monergistic "covenant". Geerhardus Vos, not his usual imperturbable self, systematically portrayed this inglorious linguistic ignominy, exposing the proponents of this thesis as exegetical frauds. 'Nor will it do to say that revelation in its progressive development has the right to modify a conception.' p 169 Vos called it 'unworthy of God', and went on to prove that a sustained usage of covenant is justified exegetically, through both the Old Testament "berith" and New Testament "diatheke". 'If regard is had not to the modern associations of the word covenant, but to the actual nature of the biblical "berith" as ascertained by induction, no ground for criticism on that score exists.' p 168 Vos was quick to denounce the premature findings of critical semantic investigation, and thorough in his foresight, as much modern practice continues to evolve the historical acceptance of congruity within the two covenants. Vos, however, carefully restored the covenant to its rightful place as a valid Christian concept.
"COVENANT" OR "TESTAMENT":
Commentators have long been divided over the meaning of diatheke in Hebrews 9:16-17, whether the word should be taken to mean its uniform meaning of "covenant", or whether an exception should be made for "testament". Geerhardus Vos objected strongly to Westcott's preference for "covenant": 'Hence Westcott's proposal to take diatheke even here as covenant cannot be accepted.' p 409 Vos further derisively called this 'figurative imagination'. Vos opted for the better word, "testament". The death of the Testator was required for the testament to come into effect.
Each shorter writing is an individual gem of brilliance.