Monday, April 15, 2013

The Judaizing Calvin by Aegidius Hunnius

Aegidius Hunnius (1550-1603) was a Lutheran theologian in the scholastic tradition. In The Judaizing Calvin, he goes through Calvin's commentaries and gives various examples in which Calvin departs from the historic Christian understanding of the Old Testament and instead adopts Jewish interpretations. In some cases, Calvin even seems to call into question the Apostles' interpretation of Old Testament passages. Hunnius's rhetoric can get pretty harsh at times. At one point he accuses Calvin of giving the middle finger to Jesus and the Apostles and at times the reader might doubt some of what seems to be a hyper-rectilinear reading of the Old Testament when he claims that certain prophecies only apply to Christ. It would seem better to me to see Jesus as literally fulfilling what often was fulfilled in a metaphorical way with the prophet's lifetime. I would agree with Hunnius for instance that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of these passages but I think we can also find a metaphorical fulfillment in  Israel, and the church. But if Hunnius misses some of the trees in the forest, Calvin seems to miss the forest. There's quite a few examples where Calvin dismisses the Christo-centric interpretation of the church fathers and there's a few cases where he does this even when the Apostles endorse this interpretation. Sometimes he says that the Apostles were metaphorically applying something to Christ that was literally fulfilled at some previous time and sometimes he even says that the Apostles basically lifted something out of context from the Old Testament and that the surrounding context has nothing to do with Christ.

If you read the Ancient Christian Commentary series, you'll find that the church fathers actually read the Scriptures in a way very similar to the way the Apostles did. The Apostles would often select not only prophecies but what would appear to be declarative statements or descriptors about Israel and God in the Old Testament and apply them as prophecies of Christ even though a strict reading of the Old Testament passage wouldn't lead you to conclude that you were reading any kind of prophecy. The church fathers did much the same thing. They both took Jesus' words seriously that all of Scripture is about Him. But Calvin only considered some Psalms and some portions of the Old Testament to be about Christ even in to the point of disagreeing with the plain words of the Apostles. I think we can see the fruit of Calvin's method in many modern commentaries, whether they are conservative or liberal. Modern commentaries in general often have a hard time finding Christ in the Old Testament. Dispensationalists often even have a more difficult time finding Jesus in the Old Testament and in a similar way to Calvin seem to discount the commentary given by the Apostles.


Jerry said...

rather profound and wide-reaching conclusion

SamWise said...

Thanks for this! I couldn't understand why Calvin would dismiss obvious Messianic passages. In this he represents the "Modernist" arrogance of deciding what was the "Word of God!"

He sounds like Karl Barth!