In text of an email exchange obtained by the Capstone Report, SBTS Professor Jim Hamilton said a full Gospel understanding of Messiah could was not contained in the Old Testament.
In an email discussion on what the Old Testament saints understood about the work of Jesus, SBTS Professor Hamilton told Professor Ishwaran Mudliar, “I think God could have revealed all this in a flash to OT saints, but I don’t see evidence of it in the text. I think progressive revelation happened.”
This view fits with Hamilton’s writing in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Where Hamilton only briefly sketches Isaiah 53 as a undefined crushing of an undefined servant on Israel’s behalf.
The context of the discussion on what the OT Saints knew
Hamilton was asked by Professor Ishwaran Mudliar, “Did the saints of the Old Testament believe in the death and resurrection of the Messiah for their salvation?”
Hamilton replied: “I think they believed that the redeemer promised in Genesis 3:15 would defeat the serpent, the agent of evil, that he would suffer in doing so (bruised heel), and that when the redeemer defeated the serpent he would roll back the curses and renew a state of affairs like Eden but better.
“I think things were revealed progressively, so it’s possible that David had more things put together than Moses, and that Isaiah stood on their shoulders and saw even further.
“The disciples and all the Jews were surprised by Jesus saying he was going to be crucified, and the Jews were so strong on the conquering Messiah theme that Paul says the cross was a stumbling block to them (1 Cor 1). Paul also says in Eph 3 that these things were not revealed to the sons of men in former generations as they have now been revealed to the Christian Apostles and Prophets. At the same time, Peter indicates in 1 Pet 1:10–12 that the OT prophets were struggling and studying to figure out who and when the Spirit was indicating when they predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.
Hamilton asked for Mudliar’s view. Prof. Mudliar expounded a view that the Old Testament contained the needed information for the OT saints to believe the Gospel. He wrote:
In sum, my view is like Justin’s in Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, and Ireneaus’ in Against Heresies, and Calvin’s in Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 6, including their beliefs in Christophanies. I also hold to Walter Kaiser’s view (contra sensus plenior) on Messianic prophecy. The elect of all ages believe in the Trinity and the Gospel (Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and salvation) by the work of Christ and His Holy Spirit (Acts 16:7; Phil 1:19; 1 Pet 1:10-12)…
“Yes, I think they believed in Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and salvation.”
Under a heading of The Gospel of Christ in the Old Testament, Mudliar provides about 800 words outlining his argument. A small sampling of the argument:
• There is only one way of salvation, in the Gospel, from the time of Adam until the end of the world (Isaiah 43:10-11; 45:22; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 1:1-4, 16-17; 10:9-13; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:22-23).
• There is only one Gospel from the time of Adam until the end of the world (Galatians 1:6-10; 3:6-9; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4; Revelation 14:6).
• To believe in the Gospel is to believe in Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Romans 1:1-4; 10:9-13; 14:9; John 1:29; Acts 19:4; Galatians 3:1-14; Luke 24:46-47; 2 Timothy 2:8; Revelation 1:17-18; 2:8).
• Christ and His Apostles repeatedly assert that the Old Testament contains this Gospel (Luke 22:37 [from Isaiah 53:12]; 24:25-27, 44, 46-47; John 5:39-47; Acts 2:22-36 [from Psalm 16:8-11; Psalm 110:1]; Acts 3:13-26 [from Deuteronomy 18:15, 19; Genesis 22:18]; Acts 4:23-31 [esp. 25-26; from Psalm 2:1- 2]; Acts 7:1-60 [esp. 51-53]; Acts 8:26-40 [esp. 30-35; from Isaiah 53:7-8]; Acts 10:34-43 [esp. 43]; Acts 13:13-41 [esp. 33 from Psalm 2:7; esp. 34 from Isaiah 55:3; esp. 35 from Psalm 16:10]; Acts 17:2-3; Acts 18:24-28; Acts 24:14-15; Acts 26:6-8, 22-23; Acts 28:23-28 [esp. 23 and 28; from Isaiah 6:9-10]; Galatians 3:1-14 [esp. 8]; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 1 Peter 1:10-12).
• The saints of the Old Testament were saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ because of the Holy Spirit and by means of the Word of Christ (Genesis 3:15; 15:6; Habakkuk 2:4; Isaiah 45:22; 52:13- 53:12; 64:6-7; Psalm 14:1-3; 32:1; 96-100; Luke 24:25-27, 44-49; John 3:1-21; Luke 11:13; Deuteronomy 29:4; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-27; Zechariah 4:6; Romans 4; 10:9-17; 11:1-6; Galatians 3:1-14; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 1:22-2:3).
Then Mudliar makes a compelling point: “If John the Baptist preached the Lamb of God and taught people to believe in Jesus (John 1:29; Acts 19:4), if Isaiah (practically every other chapter including chapter 53) taught about Christ and John the Apostle says that Isaiah saw Jesus (John 12:37-43), then why couldn’t Adam, Abraham, and Moses, know these same things (1 Pet 1:10-12)? Adam knew God before the Fall, Abraham was a prophet (Gen 20:7; Page 3 of 4 Ps 105:8-15) and model of faith (Gen 22:1-19; Rom 4; Heb 11:8-19), and Moses communed with God in the tent of meeting (Ex 25:22) and received unambiguous oracles unlike any other prophet (Num 12:6-8).”
The understanding of Messianic prophecies are part of a major scandal rocking SBTS after Dr. Russell Fuller outlined allegations that New Testament Professor Jonathan Pennington teaches and promotes postmodernism. Of importance in that conversation is the understanding of Isaiah 53.
Dr. Jonathan Pennington argued that Christians are “brainwashed” by reading the New Testament, Fuller said.
“He (Pennington) is agreeing with Crump and what Crump says is, it’s a self-induced illusion to believe that the Old Testament teaches some type of messianic paradigm that some Messiah would come years and years later and he’s going to you know heal the sick raise the dead forgive sins that he would die and ascend to heaven,” Fuller said. “All these things are a self-induced delusion… Pennington goes on to say even key passages…even passages like Isaiah 53, you would be hard-pressed to see that as truly messianic. He (Pennington) is denying that the Isaiah 53 and many passages of Scripture teach anything about Messiah at all.”