Is this a rock or not? I Would like to know

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Sat Feb 17 20:30:03 EST 2001

Dear Charles,

I would just like to clarify things. I was I think the first to introduce
the New Testament and an evangelical Christian perspective into this thread.
But I did not state and do not hold that 'the "Old Testament" was a
"foreshadowing" only'. Rather, to me this literature is 'still a meaningful
basis for faith and worship'. This is also the historic Christian position,
though we insist on the 'only'. New Testament interpretations of the Hebrew
Bible are of course important, but the HB must be understood firstly for
what it meant in its own context, and only secondarily as interpreted in the

I do not recognise my position in what you write here and would hope that no
Christians would hold this.

Peter Kirk

-----Original Message-----
From: Charles David Isbell [mailto:cisbell at]
Sent: 16 February 2001 20:48
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: Re: Is this a rock or not? I Would like to know

I have been fascinated at some of the responses on this issue over the past
48 hours.  Since several have demonstrated a willingness to impute to me
positions that I simply did not and do not now hold, I want to take the
opportunity to clarify exactly why I said what I did in my original posting.
I neither implied nor stated that I wished to have "the Christian
perspective" censored.  In fact, censorship is not and never has been the
issue.  I objected to two things.  [a] The appeal to Paul used uncritically
to demonstrate that the "Old Testament" was a "foreshadowing" only. I felt
and still feel that this is insulting to those of us for whom the Miqra' is
still a meaningful basis for faith and worship.   The idea that the HB is a
foreshadowing only implies that it cannot stand on its own, and IN MY
OPINION overlooks the distinct possibility that the HB may have had
authentically spiritual and meaningful meaning and function within the faith
community that first produced-selected-copied-transmitted it.  If this
"Pauline" perspective is assumed as THE way in which to read the HB,
"peshat" is destroyed, and the HB is presumed to have no intrinsic value in
its own right.  Whatever is a foreshadowing is by definition not the real
thing, merely a hint of what the real thing will soon be known to be.  I do
feel that the characterization of the Scriptures of one faith by members of
another faith is improper and arrogant, in short--insulting.

[b] I also objected to the statement that a johannine interpretation
"proves" THE meaning of the HB verse in question.  In point of fact, once a
NT perspective has been declared as proof of what the HB means, ALL OTHER
POSITIONS ARE LOCKED OUT.  This is itself a form of censorship because it is
intended to trump all other possibilities and end the discussion.  Since you
[I am not targeting anyone in particular here] already have your proof from
your sacred text, what purpose is left to a list of scholars to continue
discussing?  Once proof is achieved, further investigation and discussion
are forestalled, non?  I am well aware of the importance of the NT, both
historically and currently in the lives of many of our list members.  In one
of my earlier posts, I explicitly stated my position as follows:  "To say
that the NT or early Christianity or even a modern sect of Christianity
understands a BH passage in a particular way is not offensive to me at all,
and I have not implied that it is."  My reaction was against the idea that
ANY particular reading of a BH passage must be viewed as authoritative
simply because it is part of the sacred text of Christianity [or any other

Look, over twenty years ago I wrote about the concept of "virgo intacta" in
ANE languages.  I felt at that time that I understood the words involved
[betulah, `almah, parthenos, etc.]  Yet in the past few weeks, this list has
aired the scholarly opinions of several people whom I respect who differed
from me on one or more point, and in the process I learned a great deal
more.  That seems to me an appropriate function of a list like this one.  We
did not all agree about "virgin."  Some of us expressed our disagreements
strongly, even sharply.  Had any one of us taken an axe to the subject by
saying something like "My sacred text says this and thus it is PROVEN," none
of this meaningful discussion could have ensued.

Who is the censor here?  I have not yet stated my personal view of what the
"rock" in question means.  Frankly, I don't know, and would appreciate
seeing other scholars share their perspectives, point me to relevant
literature, etc.  But if the meaning is already proven by the NT, why
bother.  Now is this over-reacting, as Dave has been careful to say twice?
Is this said because I have a chip on my shoulder, as Dave also avers?  Or
could another be correct, who wrote to me in private [he is free to reveal
his identity should he choose] to express his frustration at the fact that
some few members on our list seem determined to force us to go over this
same ground repeatedly.  Periodically, this same issue surfaces.  Each time,
the attitude of NT "proof" of HB texts "proves" to be offensive to many of
us.  Can this not be the time when those who are responsible for this
offense will finally "get it?"  I am not trying to eliminate Matthew or any
other author from the discussion.  I am pleading for Matthew [or John or
Paul] to be cited as one cites other sources rather than as THE source that
settles and ends the discussion.  By all means, let us be free to cite
Matthew or John or Paul or Yohanan ben Zakkai or Rashi, etc.  But citing
them is far different than slamming any one of them down on the card table
to trump everyone and everything else.

These issues are important to me, and I have expressed strong feelings about
them.  As Shabbat approaches and I prepare to pray and study texts that are
far more to me than "foreshadowing," I ask forgiveness if I have been
offensive to anyone or have argued ad hominem.

Shabbat Shalom,
Charles David Isbell

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