The Law of First Mention

I was gearing up to write a post about the so-called law of first mention which basically states that the way in which something is understood in its first occurrence in Scripture is the way it should be understood in every subsequent occurrence and then I realized that there once was a time when I was going to write something on this very subject but ended up shifting gears.  That post ended up being about tongues in 1Corinthians 14.  So as I just read that post and the first few comments that followed I saw that I had already said everything I was set to say in this post.

A bit of history: in that post I was responding to someone’s thoughts on tongues in 1Corinthians 14.  In their post they appealed to the law of first mention and suggested that 1Corinthians 14 is to be interpreted in light of Acts 2.  Geoff Smith noted that, “Interestingly enough, Luke-Acts was not written first anyway.”  I responded in kind saying:

Indeed. Funnily enough this post actually started out as a post about the “law of fist mention” but then I scrapped that and changed it to what you read now. But as I see it there are at least three ways we can argue for what exactly “first mention” is:

(1) First canonical mention (i.e., the first time it appears in the canonical order of books).
(2) First written mention (i.e., the first time it appears in writing).
(3) First historical mention (i.e., the first time is appears in actual history).

I suppose that this particular author would argue for #3 given that he uses baptism as an example and says that he doesn’t need to know what baptism in 1Corinthians means when he already knows about it from the Gospels. Clearly the Gospels were written after 1Cor. so that eliminates #2. I have to believe that he knows that the canonical order was not derived from some divinely inspired table of contents so that eliminates #1.

I was going to say all these things in this post but it seems I only have to repeat them.  And for the record, the author commented and said that he did have #3 in mind, which isn’t always the case with folks who appeal to this alleged law.  But I’ve said all this to say that this post should be interpreted according to the law of first mention, i.e., just read my initial comment to know what I think. ;-)



8 thoughts on “The Law of First Mention

  1. From my own work I think that would be non-sustainable. I think it’s demonstrable, and OK, that NT author’s quoted texts and “changed” their meaning to suit their particular need.

  2. This is somewhat unrelated, but speaking of tongues, do you have any posts that cover initial evidence? I know where you stand, but I couldn’t find any posts that argue your position. I’m also interested in learning about the differences between Spirit Baptism and salvation – anything (here or elsewhere) to which you could point me?

  3. Scott: I’d largely agree. I prefer to speak of the NT authors applying OT texts to new situations without assuming/arguing that their application is the same as the original authorial intention.

    Blake: I can’t remember ever actually writing up a post arguing for my position. There’s one or two somewhere stating that I believe that tongues is the initial physical evidence that one has been baptized with the Holy Spirit. As far as resources on the subject you might like to check out Chad Owen Brand, ed. Perspectives on Spirit Baptism (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2004) and Gary B. McGee, ed. Initial Evidence: Historical and Biblical Perspectives on the Pentecostal Doctrine of Spirit Baptism (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991; Repr., Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009). Hope that helps.

  4. First mention because… the order of the canon has always been fixed? I think this idea sounds rather superstitious.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s