The Reformers, Scholastics, and Hosea 6.7: Exegesis and Covenant

Richard Muller, in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (PRRD) volume II on Holy Scripture, uses Hosea 6.7 to show two things: first, continuity between the patristic and medival commentators and Reformation/Post-Reformation commentators.  Second, he uses it to show the Reformation development of the pre-fall covenant.

Does Hosea 6.7 talk about Adam breaking the pre-fall covenant (covenant of works in Reformed theology) or men breaking covenant in general?  Muller notes that the majority of patristic and medieval commentators concluded that the Vulgate was accurate here: ipsi autem sicut Adam transgressi sunt pactum (like Adam they transgressed the covenant) (p. 437).

In the Reformation and post-Reformation exegetical tradition, while a few argued for “like man” in Hosea 6.7, most commentators stuck with the prevailing historical exegetical conclusion that “like Adam” is the preferable translation.  Muller notes that though Reformation covenant theology did not use this text as the locus classicus (chief text) to prove the covenant of works, it was one of many places in Scripture that the federal theologians would use to describe and explain the pre-fall covenant.  In Muller’s words, “Hosea 6.7 was not viewed as crucial to the establishment of the basic doctrine of a prelapsarian covenant, but was nevertheless almost invariably cited as an indication that the fall into sin was the abrogation of a primal covenant” (p. 438).  As an interesting side note, the “minority” view of Hosea 6.7 (like man) was captured in the KJV.

As another interesting side note, Muller argues (well, in my opinion) that the “majority” use of Hosea 6.7 indicates the “ongoing relationship of English to Dutch and German Reformed theology, where the tradition of translation had long favored the translation ‘like Adam'” (p. 440).  It may also show the influence of the Dutch Annotations upon the Whole Bible on the Westminster divines.  In simpler terms, the agreement on the use of this text to argue for a pre-fall covenant shows how the Presbyterian and Dutch/German Reformed theologians were well on the same page of covenant theology.

Historical theology is a teacher.  First, it teaches the importance of the history of exegesis.  Second, it teaches that the Reformers’ use of proof-texts was not rationalistic.  This is a great humble and careful use of proof texts: we use them, but at the end of the day if they are debatable, we use other clearer parts of scripture to make the point.  We don’t base doctrines on a single, debatable text.  This is exactly what we mean by the analogia Scripturae: clear and unambiguous texts are the basis for interpreting unclear or ambiguous texts.  We don’t need the latter, nor bend and mold them to make our point, but we do rest on the former because they have bended and molded us to see the point.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

3 thoughts on “The Reformers, Scholastics, and Hosea 6.7: Exegesis and Covenant”

  1. Richard, I’d say it does . . .

    All 4 vols. are an amazing collection as well . . . you’ll enjoy them much.

    Oh – and nice work on the Hexateuch blog!


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