For a class at CBTS, I have been reading Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments. We were recently required to evaluate the chapter titled above. I found it to be a very thought provoking chapter and liked its content in general. Feinberg is very thorough and has a great ability to identify important details that demand consideration where others have, to use his words, "conflated a number of issues that need to be separated." The problem of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments is not an easy one.
That being said, I have several questions/problems with Feinberg’s proposal for meaning in the OT. Two of which I will highlight here.
First, Feinberg addresses the issue of meaning in the context of OT predictions and states that meaning is associated with authorial intent, in this case human and divine. I normally would have no problem with this statement. However, Feinberg spent the paragraphs before explaining that what he intends by “human and divine” is to say that the divine author’s intent is the same as the human author’s intent. I will illustrate why I disagree with this in a moment. But if we assume it to be true for the sake of argument, it makes his following explanation of sense and reference very confusing. Feinberg asserts that sense is roughly equivalent to meaning, whereas the reference is equivalent to the actual object or state of affairs referred to (117). In the case of OT prediction, the sense is easily known, but the reference is “not known except to God” (118). This last phrase is important, because it identifies the problem and possibly a false dichotomy. If an author knows both the sense and the reference, are they not both part of his intention, especially if the author is the One bringing about the reference? Clearly we cannot say that the human author knows both “sense” and “reference” in the case of predictive Scripture. However, the divine author does, and it would seem that both are what He intended. So I think that saying that there is a sense that is known by the human author and a reference that is not known by the human author may be legitimate. Conversely, I think that saying the reference is not included in the intention (and therefore meaning) of the divine author is illegitimate.
Furthermore, the fact that Feinberg displays his view of God in regards to God’s knowledge of the future in the quote in the above paragraph is significant, and it seems inconsistent with the idea that the human author and the divine author have the same intention. In the case of predictive literature, the human author’s intent is to give a snapshot of the divine author’s intent. Thus both of their intents are in line with one another, but the divine author’s is more informed so to speak, because He knows the actual referent.
I find a second problem in Feinberg’s discussion of types. If we assume that Feinberg’s statement about divine and human intent is true, again for the sake of argument, it would naturally be assumed that it should be applied across the board to genres other than predictive literature. Thus in narrative literature, the human author’s intent would give the meaning of the text. It would seem that Feinberg is departing from this with his discussion of OT types. If you stayed consistent, there would be two options (the second flowing out of the first): first, because the human author did not intend the type, the type is not included in the meaning of the text. Second, either the type must be abandoned because it is not what the OT text means, or one preach a meaning that is external to the text.
I find it difficult to see how the human author could have intended a type that would find its antitype in the NT. I am not denying that types exist—I find no difficulty in seeing how the divine author could have intended a type that would find its antitype in the NT; I am saying that types do not fit into a model of authorial intent where the intent of the divine author is limited to the intent of the human author. Even Feinberg would seem to agree with this conclusion when he says “it is not hard to accept that such analogies were intended by God. What would be a matter of debate is whether the analogy drawn in the NT is a true exegesis of the original event” (122).
So I repeat the question, if an author knows both the sense and the reference, are they not both part of his intention, especially if the author is the One bringing about the reference?