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Questions for Bunyan

In our Lord’s Day posts we are presently going through John Bunyan’s exposition of Genesis. At the end of this week’s installment, Loki noted that we don’t necessarily agree with all of Bunyan’s interpretations of the text. Today I want to question his interpretation of the creation account, specifically his spiritualization of the events.

  1. “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so” (v 9).

    The waters under the heaven represent the peoples of the world. The dry land represents the church, which has been separated from the waters “that the church may be rid of their rage and tumult, and then she will be fruitful.”

  2. “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night.”

    The Sun is a type of Christ. The Moon is the church, and the stars are “types of the several saints and officers in this church. And hence it is that the sun is said not only to rule, but it, with the moon and stars, to be set for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years, &c. (Rev 1:20).”

    “That as the sun was not made before the fourth day of the creation, so Christ should not be born before the fourth mystical day of the world; for it is evident, that Christ, the true light of the world, was not born till about four thousand years after the world was made.”

I could go on, but suffice it to say that every creative event is figurative of something else. I have only begun reading the Puritans in the last year, and this is the first treatment of Creation, or any Old Testament text, that I have read. So I have some questions.

Is this typical of their understanding of Genesis?

Is there any validity to these parallels?

Covenant Theology likes to spiritualize things that ought to be taken literally. Is this Covenant Theology gone mad?

What do you think? I know there are one or two genuine theologians (as opposed to pretenders like me) who stop by from time to time. What can you tell me?

2005-12-06 at 2:30 PM MT | |

Blogger Jonathan Moorhead sayth,

“Is this typical of their understanding of Genesis?”

I think this is the key question. I would imagine Bunyan would condemn our modern hermeneutic as infantile and unspiritual.

12/06/2005 6:56 PM  
Blogger ThirstyDavid sayth,

That is the question that interests me the most.

I wonder if other Puritan theologians would agree with these symbolic interpretations.

12/07/2005 8:58 AM  
Blogger Raggle-Taggle Gypsie sayth,

My instinctive reaction is that this stretches things a bit. I believe that everything can be formulated or viewed in such a way as to interpret it as being symbolic. I think part of the test for such ideas is 'is it profitable.' I also think that when God intends something to be symbolic, once you recognize this, the parallel is very clear and distinct. For example, in Egypt when the blood of a lamb was put on the door posts, it was very clearly symbolic without any stretch of the imagination. It was also God not only leaving a sign that He was planning for the sending of His Son, but giving the Israelites a situation that they could relate to when Christ did come and they could understand a little better what His blood did for them.
So, I would ask of these parallels drawn: do they clearly serve a purpose? Are they clearly evident?
Naturally, this is only an instinctive response devoid of Biblical referance, so take it as you will.
- Gypsie

12/08/2005 1:16 PM  
Blogger ThirstyDavid sayth,

Gypsie, your hermeneutic is correct. It takes a good stretch of the imagination to see it symbolically, as Bunyan did. Since there is no text that cals these events types or foreshadowings, I don't think we should.

12/08/2005 2:38 PM