George Hunsinger gives an overview of different Protestant views of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. These categories come from Brian Gerrish (1966).

Category Description Adherents
Symbolic Memorialism the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper are simply signs or reminders of a salvation accomplished by Christ in the past and communicated to believers in the present through the Word of God. Zwingli

Markus Barth

John Howard Yoder

Stanley Grenz

Symbolic Parallelism As the bread and wine are received by the faithful, so also does Christ impart himself spiritually at the same time. Christ is present with (but not in) the consecrated elements. Calvin

Otto Weber

Herman Bavinck

G. C. Berkouwer

T. F. Torrance


Symbolic Instrumentalism the consecrated bread and wine become mediators of Christ’s body and blood. The bread and wine do not cease to be bread and wine, but Christ joins himself as they are received. Luther

Calvin (sometimes)

Wolfhart Pannenberg


Source: The Oxford Handbook of Sacramental Theology, p. 410-12.

Bates-Bookcover-1In have been going through a series of posts on Matthew Bates’ book (The Hermeneutics of Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012).

Today I will offer his summary and criteria for prosopological exegesis (PE).

PE is a technique of interpreting Scripture common in the early church. As Bates describes it, PE “explains a text by suggesting that the author of the text identified various persons or characters (prosopa) as speakers or addressees in a pre-text, even though it is not clear from the pre-text itself that such persons are in view” (183).

The sociocultural backgrounds to PE in antiquity are 1) literary composition as a divinely inspired endeavor, 2) the world of theater, and 3) educational activities.

Bates comes up with the following technical definition for PE.

Prosopological exegesis is a reading technique whereby an interpreter seeks to overcome a real or perceived ambiguity regarding the identity of the speakers or addressees (or both) in the divinely inspired source text by assigning nontrivial prosopa (i.e., nontrivial vis-à-vis the “plain sense” of the text) to the speakers or addressees (or both) in order to make sense of the text (218).

He says there are four criteria for detecting PE.

(1) Speech/dialogue: the pre-text must involve a person who is speaking.

(2) Nontriviality of person: the speaker in the pre-text must be ambiguous or not identified.

(3) Introductory formulas or markers: the exegete usually (but not always) indicates in the text who he believes the speaker to be.

(4) Intertextual evidence: especially in the case where (3) is absent, if contemporary or later texts use PE to interpret a given pre-text, it is more likely that the text under consideration is also using PE when interpreting the same pre-text. Bates seems to be particularly interested reception history here.

This means that when Paul interprets the OT he sometimes attributes the speech to the Father, sometimes to Christ, sometimes to the Spirit, and at other times to other people.

Here is an example. Romans 10:16 reads

But not all have obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “O Lord, who has believed our audible message?

The quotation in the latter half of this verse is from Isa 53:1a. This verse fits the criteria, as it involves a direct address to the Lord by a speaker, and this speaker is ambiguous (“our” cannot simply refer to Isaiah). Using the insights of PE, Bates argues that the ultimate “speaker” of Isa 53:1a is not the prophet Isaiah himself but Isaiah speaking “as” the apostles of Christ. This reading is confirmed by Justin Martyr and Origen.

Paul believed that Isaiah was speaking in the character of future apostles and that the dramatic setting was Paul’s own present.

Brief Evaluation

I think there is something to this, but I also find it overly complex. Can’t we get the same results by a simple recontextualizing hermeneutic acknowledging that the Scriptures have a divine author who speaks both in and across time? Paul may be using this method, but for the classroom setting I would be more prone to looking at some underpinning assumptions about the nature of Scripture and how texts are appropriated rather than going through this explanation which is hard to summarize.

This does not mean Bates is not onto something, but there could be different avenues of arriving at this conclusion.


practice_of_painting___realistic_face_by_mirellasantana-d74ct5jIn post one I introduced the book by Matthew Bates (The Hermeneutics of Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012). In post two I spoke about his critique of intertextuality.

In this post I will briefly discuss some of his points about typology, allegory, and mimēsis.


The popular way to use the terms “typology” and “allegory” are to mark the distinction between better and worse forms of nonliteral exegesis. Bates picks up on Frances Young‘s proposal that both typology and allegory are part of a larger strategy of reading which she called “mimēsis” or figural representation. Young writes:

“Mimēsis was a key concept in ancient understanding of literature. The performance of epic or drama created a ‘representation’ of life from which the audience learnt. In the ancient Church mimēsis or ‘representation’ was important. It underlay the enactment of the saving events in the sacraments, as well as the ‘exemplary’ use of scripture: great heroes were listed to illustrate a particular virtue, so a character like Job came to embody patience, and Christ’s life and death were set forth as a way to be imitated. […] ‘Mimetic exegesis’ assumes the replay of a drama – an act or plot – and so had a place in forming ethics, lifestyle and liturgy.”

bbecb5cfcb6b96b53280b81251ddb76cTypology makes use of iconic mimēsis: that is, “representation (mimēsis) through genuine likeness, an analogy, ‘ikon’ or image.” This “requires a mirroring of the supposed deeper meaning in the text taken as a coherent whole.”

Allegory, on the other hand, makes use of symbolic mimēsis: that is, representation “by a symbol, something unlike which stands for the reality” (210). Bates uses the example of a painting to illustrate their differences.

A realistic painting with genuine correspondence to the eyes of the subject who posed for the painting, while at the same time the eyes hold a proportional relationship to the rest of the subject’s face would be an iconic relationship. But if an alien code is brought in to interpret the painting such as the subject represented in the painting symbolizes greed, then the bright eyes in the portrait might be regarded as silver coins. Or if the face had a skeletal outline it might symbolize death. The point here is that there is not an iconic relationship (the subject’s eyes) but rather a symbolic relationship (silver coins or the skeleton).

Bates affirms that Paul uses both types of mimesis and because of the associations with typology and allegory we should adopt iconic and symbolic mimēsis.

What Generates Our Reading?

Bates takes the argument further than Young though. He argues that both types of mimesis are not generative, but rather ornamentative. What generates these readings is the apostolic kerygma and Paul communicates through the ornament of mimēsis (typology and allegory).

Bates argues that we have typology and allegory backwards. Paul does not use typology or allegory as a method, but rather the apostolic kerygma and the present application generate these readings. Paul then decorate these readings with either typology or allegory. As Bates says:

the engine that drives this identification of “types” does not move from text to present application, but rather in reverse. It is only in light of the efficacious results of the apostolic kerygma, and hence through its realigning grid, that these mimetic correspondences between past and present can be observed by Paul (148).

To speak of typology or allegory as generating scriptural interpretation is misguided. It is only by virtue of the guiding presence of the apostolic kerygma that the mimetic relationship between the past and present can be observed as deliberately anticipatory and metaphorically labeled as a type in post hoc fashion by Paul.

So is Paul’s hermeneutic typological? Bates says the best answer is both “yes” and “no.” No because typology was not a reified interpretative technique available in Paul’s day and age. Paul did not go searching the Scriptures for types in and of themselves. But “yes” since Paul noticed mimēsis occurring between chronologically separated people and after noting this mimēsis he employed τὐπος language metaphorically to draw attention to that mimēsis.

Thus for Paul, the selection of a suitable trope occurs subsequent to the linking of the mental images. Thus, in the final analysis, Paul does use a “typology” of sorts, but only if properly nuanced.


On the first point, Bates affirms that Paul uses both iconic and symbolic mimēsis, and I would agree. Yet he goes onto argue that because of the associations with typology and allegory we should adopt iconic and symbolic mimēsis as our new terminology. I tend to think we should retain the more “biblical” language of typology and allegory and work at redefining their connotations.

I do wonder if these things are even closer than Bates and Young suppose. Peter Martens has an article where he argues typology is actually a subcategory of allegory or a type of allegorical interpretation.

Concerning what the engine is or what generates readings, Bates proposal is very different than the way I (and I think most people) have conceived of things. I will need time to let it simmer. One point is worth bringing up though. It is hard for me to escape the notion that Paul uses typology and allegory as reading strategies in and of themselves. Certainly the kerygma is the foundation or the light to the types. But Paul still seems to “find” types and thus could both the kerygma and mimēsis generate readings in concert? In other words, has Bates set up a false antithesis or has he clarified the order and placement of these things?




Intertextuality 2.0

September 22, 2015 — 2 Comments

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 10.15.34 PMIn post one I simply introduced the book by Matthew Bates (The Hermeneutics of Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012).

Today I want to note one criticism Bates levels against current forms of intertextual arguments.

The study of intertextuality was popularized by Richard Hays in his book Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. The book has spun off a whole cottage industry of “intertextual” studies.

Hays describes intertextuality as the embedding of fragments of an earlier text within a latter one.

Although Bates is appreciative of Hays’ work he thinks that that Hays (and others) view needs expanding. Much work has been done comparing Pauline exegesis with that of other early Jewish interpreters. While this is indispensable, Paul was a certain type of Jew who has come to very specific and radical conclusions about Jesus as the Messiah.

Paul is a Jew committed to Jesus Christ and therefore these comparisons between Paul and early non-Christian Judaism cannot capture the central features of his hermeneutic.The closest comparison for Paul is with other ancient “Christians,” not with Paul’s fellow Jews who do not share his convictions regarding Jesus as Messiah and Lord.

Thus Bates summarizes Hays and others mistake.

Hays’ intertextual model obscures the need to look beyond the source text to coeval and subsequent texts within a fully healthy intertextual model…He centers only on prior-occurring texts (p. 51).

This problem pervades not only Hays but much of the OT in NT studies. Bates then gives the example of the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament which ignores early Christian sources, especially those beyond the horizons of the NT.

What interpreters should do in intertextual studies is include Christian “co-texts,” “post-texts,” and “inter-texts.”


St_PaulI just finished reading a fascinating book on the hermeneutics of the apostle Paul. It is a revised doctoral dissertation from Matthew Bates who studied at the University of Notre Dame under David Aune. In The Hermeneutics of Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012), Bates argues that Paul employs something called prosopological exegesis.

Sounds fun doesn’t it? But what is it?

Prosopological exegesis explains a text by suggesting that the author of the text identified various persons or characters (prosopa) as speakers or addressees in a pre-text, even though it is not clear from the pre-text itself that such persons are in view

Of course Peter Leithart blogged about this method back in 2009 because he seems to be cognizant of everything.

The monograph is wide-ranging with a number of assertions. Over the next week or so I am going to jot down some salient highlights from the book.

I hope you will follow along.

Grace that is not disruptive is not grace–a point that Flannery O’Connor well grasped alongside Karl Barth. Grace, strictly speaking, does not mean continuity but radical discontinuity, not reform but revolution, not violence but nonviolence, not the perfecting of virtues but the forgiveness of sins, not improvement but resurrection from the dead.

It means repentance, judgement, and death as the portal to life. It means negation and the negation of negation. The grace of God really comes to lost sinners, but in coming it disrupts them to the core. It slays to make alive and sets the captive free. Grace may of course work silently and secretly like a germinating seed as well as like a bolt from the blue. It is always wholly as incalculable as it is reliable, unmerited, and full of blessing. Yet it is necessarily unsettling as it is comforting.

It does not finally teach of its own sufficiency without appointing a thorn in the flesh. Grace is disruptive because God does not compromise with sin, nor ignore it, nor call it good. On the contrary, God removes it by submitting to the cross to show that love is stronger than death. Those whom God loves may be drawn to God through their and be privileged to share in his sufferings in the world, because grace in its radical disruption surpasses all that we image or think.

– George Hunsinger, Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 16-17.