Monday, 14 July 2008

Wilhelm Vischer on prophecy and fulfillment

According to B. Hägglund, one of the implications of the ancient patristic understanding of the "rule of faith" (regula fidei) or "rule of truth" (regula veritatis) is that Christian truth is a unity, witnessed to equally (though differently) by both the Old and the New Testaments. This claim concerning the relation between Scripture and truth is important for understanding Childs' so-called "canonical approach."

Interestingly, Wilhelm Vischer made a similar point in his book The Witness of the Old Testament to Christ (1949; for a random extract go here). Childs summarizes his approach in his article "Prophecy and Fulfillment," (1958; available on ATLA):

Vischer's book was epoch making in the vigorous manner in which the question of the relation of the Old Testament to the New was raised. According to him it is not doing full justice to the New Testament's understanding of the Old when the latter is conceived of merely as a history pointing to Christ as its goal. In this case fulfillment would mean the dissolution of the period of expectation in the light of the event itself. The unity of the Scriptures can only be maintained by seeing also in the Old Testament a direct witness to Christ since there is no break in the solidarity of faith between Testaments. Fulfillment cannot be seen on the level of time sequence as the occurrence of an event previously promised. Rather, that which was known in the Old Testament is made perfect in the New. The New Testament's interpretation is made normative for the understanding of the Old. At times Vischer conceives of the Old Testament witness in terms of types, but essentially he sees Jesus Christ actually at work in the Old Testament community (261, 2).
Childs' major issue would be with giving normative statement to the New's construal of the Old (theology requires the "discrete witness" of the Old, or, as Seitz says, its "per se witness"). Nevertheless, there are far more similiarities between this approach and Childs' canonical approach than between it and the theological proposals of von Rad and Eichrodt, which represent a fine-tuning of von Hofmann's Heilsgeschichtliche approach. The issue turns on the relation between narrative and ontology ...
For a quote on Childs' take on prophecy and fulfilment, go here.

P.S. For a brief review of Vischer's approach to Old Testament christology in his historical context, go here.

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