Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Richard Gaffin Study Day: Christ in the Old Testament

Session 2: Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics Interpreting the New Testament in the Light of the Old Testament: Christ in the Old Testament

Luke 24 Christ in the Old Testament
44 Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

25 And he said to them, "0 foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Does the Old Testament reveal Christ? Some conservative scholars (like Peter Enns, see here?) believe that Christ cannot be directly found in the Old Testament. When New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament with reference to Christ they were finding things in the text that were alien to the original meaning. Jesus' teaching here in Luke 24 calls that view into question. He taught that the Old Testament was about him.
The setting for Luke 24:44-49 is that in his resurrection body, Jesus has entered his state of exaltation, but he has not yet gone to the place of exaltation - at the right hand of the Father. What we have here in these verses is typical of Jesus' teaching during the 40 days between his resurrection and the ascension. This is an an extremely succinct account of that happened further. The vantage point in the passage is that of the resurrected Jesus. He is the same Jesus who was crucified, but he is different. Note, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you" (vs. 44). Jesus is no longer with his followers in the same way as prior to his resurrection.
This is a time of teaching, verses 44-47. In his teaching Jesus recapitulates what he said to his followers while he was still with them, vs. 44. In that period the focus of Jesus' teaching was the Gospel of the kingdom. Now Jesus shows that his message was the substance of the Old Testament, "that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." (vs. 44).
What is the scope/circumference of the teaching? Jesus said, "everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms". This is further unpacked in - verses 44-45. See also what Jesus said earlier to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, - "27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. " (v. 27) .
Does this mean that Jesus was speaking of all the things in the Old Testament than concerned him in the sense of a narrow range of directly prophetic material? Or did he mean that all things in the Old Testament had to do with him without exception? Gaffin opted for the second option. The whole of the Old Testament scriptures are ultimately about Jesus. In the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Christ is "the consent of all the parts [of the OT], the scope of the whole" (WCF 1 :5).
Verses 46-47 provide the focus/centre of the teaching, "it is written": Christ's death and resurrection (messianic suffering and glory) and world­ wide gospel preaching. This is what the Old Testament is all about: "Everything about me": Jesus' death and resurrection and the gathering of the church as a people who repented from sin on believing the gospel. In the Old Testament you cannot have Christ without his church. No promise was made to Israel that was not fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Where is this teaching found in the Old Testament? Not in one single verse, but in the whole as Christ is "the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole". The Old Testament without remainder is anticipatory and prophetic of Christ. He is inherent in the original meaning of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is to be understood in its redemptive-historical sense. Jesus is central to the revelation of the triumph of God in Scripture from Genesis 3:15 onwards.
Other passages in the New Testament back up this view. We have the apostolic preaching in Acts 3:18, 24 & 26:22-23.
Also 1 Peter 1:10-12
1. Salvation in Christ is the preoccupation of Old Testament revelation.
2. The prophetic message is unified by the one Spirit speaking through each of them.
3. The focus of the prophets is on the suffering and glory of Christ, vs. 11.
4. The Old Testament witness in its intention and focus was written for the new testament people of God, vs. 12. The Old Testament with its focus on Christ is for us.
Christ in the Old Testament - two extremes to be avoided.
Is Christ in every sentence of the Old Testament? Yes and no. It is wrong to restrict references to Christ to scriptures that are clearly messianic, like Psalm 16 or Isaiah 53. It is all about Jesus. But this does not mean that we have to go searching for hidden allegorical meanings that point to Jesus in every verse. It is not like the "Find Wally" books for children ("Find Waldo" US). But every Old Testament passage is about Christ when understood in a redemptive-historical context - covenant, kingdom etc. The tragic story of the decline and fall of Israel reveals that Jesus meets Israel's need. The Old Testament people of God were saved by believing in what Christ would do for them. The New Testament people of God are saved by believing in what Christ has done for us. But it is the same Christ who saves under both covenants. The Old Testement from beginning to end is about Jesus, John 5:46.

3 comments:

Charles said...

Thanks for posting this.

Exiled Preacher said...

Glad you found it helpful, Charles. Watch out for the next one on Paul's theology of the resurrection.

2 keys said...

If interpreting the NT in the light of the OT calls for fine-drawing particularly "the death of Jesus Christ on the cross" with what is already defined, developed and promised in the books of Moses, the writings of the prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24: 25-49), then Theology and Hermeneutics have not yet scratched even the surface!