Hans Walter Wolff: The Finality of God’s Faithfulness

“…the Old Testament gives expression in the most manifold ways to the fact that the God who has called his people in love and given them gifts, cannot let his people go even amid faithlessness and judgment, indeed, that his final action for Israel still remains to be taken.

This final action is proclaimed by the New Testament.  Jesus Christ is the last Paschal Lamb that is offered for Israel.  He is the last King, who through his free act of love in his death renews with finality the broken covenant.  He is the last Priest of Israel, who through his own sacrifice takes away the sin of the people.  Now he is here in body, he whose shadow so often fell upon the old Israel.”

Hans Walter Wolff, “The Hermeneutics of the Old Testament” in Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics, ed. Claus Westermann (Richmond: John Knox, 1963), 175.

I recenetly spent 2 years going through the Minor Prophets in an adult Sunday school class.  I do not imagine one spends much time studying The 12 without running into Hans Wolff.  At least not someone who desires to study The 12 somewhat in depth.  And it is hard for me to imagine someone spending time with Wolff and not wanting to return to him.  Often.

I like to think of him as my “reluctant liberal” friend.  He accepts the documentary theory and all the typical source theories.  Or at least he gives lip service to them.   I have not come across him vigorously defending such ideas, but only mentioning them almost out of a sense of obligation.  So if you can get past the here and there unfortunate nods to unbelieving scholarship you will find many pungent observations and lustrous jewels like that above.  Or like the one below.

“If the texts stand, by origin or by adoption, in the service of witness to the God of Israel, and if no other than the God of Israel is God today, no hermeneutic principle can force the text to testify to God today.  But it is just for this reason that for proper understanding it must be said, no method can replace the Spirit of the living God as the proper expositor of the texts.”

ibid, 163.

As noted, both quotes come from his essay included in Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics.  The title is pretty explanatory.   It is a collection of translated German essays on Old Testament interpretation: von Rad, Westermann, Bultmann, Noth, Zimmerli, etc.  Several essays are worth attention.  Especially for recovering dispensationalists.  And Wolff’s shines as bright as any.

That we would trust the Father to answer His Son’s prayer to send the Spirit forth to be our teacher!

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