For Paul, Christ died and rose “in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3–4). Peter said that the prophets spoke of the “suffering of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1 Pe 1:10–12). Jesus himself affirmed that — “as it is written” — ”the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead” (Luke 24:46). But Christian scholars today disagree on exactly if and how Christ should be found in the Old Testament. I’m grateful for Brian J. Tabb and Andrew M. King for gathering together some of these perspectives in Five View of Christ in the Old Testament.
Here are the authors and my summaries of their view:
- First Testament Approach by John Goldingay. We should not try to read Jesus into the Old Testament. We uncover the meaning of the Old (First) Testament through the human author’s intent and what it meant to his own audience. The New Testament doesn’t prove Christ from the Old Testament but uses it to help us understand things about him.
- Christotelic Approach by Tremper Longman III. We should first read the Old Testament with sensitivity to authorial meaning and historical context. However, Christ is the goal of the Old Testament, so we should “read again” to see how the passage in question foreshadows Christ and is relevant to him.
- Reception-Centered, Intertextual Approach by Havillah Dharamraj. The Christian reader compares texts and probes their relevance to Christ. Text associations are achieved through intuition, “icons” (shared words, themes, or other points of contact), and the Christian tradition, such as liturgy, poetry, and music.
- Redemptive-Historical, Christocentric Approach by Jason S. DeRouchie. Christ is the center and climax of God’s work in the Old Testament. He can be found through direct messianic prophecies, the trajectory of the redemptive story, the covenants, typology, ethics, and in the person of God himself.
- Premodern Approach by Craig. A Carter. We must reject the assumptions of modern scholarship, including the grammatical historical model of interpretation, and return to the assumptions and approaches of premodern interpreters who saw Christ abundantly in the text and provided us with a model to do so.
Each perspective addresses certain questions about the divine nature of scripture, the tools for responsibly finding Christ in the text, and the benefits of this perspective. Then each chapter shows the view in action with three key texts: Genesis 22, Proverbs 8, and Isaiah 42. The editors are to be commended here, as they most likely chose these questions and texts, and certainly ensured the authors stayed on task. This makes it easier for the reader to compare and contrast the views.
After each chapter, the other authors respond. For the most part, the authors understood and represented the others fairly and honed in on tangible points of agreement and difference. Finally, the author offers a rejoinder to the responses. This is a welcome addition, as it allows the author to accept or reject the others’ characterizations of their view.
One major root of difference lies in the authors’ view on the relationship between author(s), text, and reader. At the risk of oversimplification, I see the major points of departure as follows:
- Author (human): Goldingay and DeRouchie both emphasize the importance of the human author’s intent, but disagree on what they intended to write as regards Christ. For Goldingay, the prophets spoke to their own audience and rarely, if ever, wrote of Christ. DeRouchie holds that even characters in the text (Abraham, for example) consciously thought of Christ.
- Author (divine): Carter focuses on the divine author’s intent, which allows him to make more bolder claims about a text’s relationship to Christ, especially in contrast to Goldingay and DeRouchie.
- Author (human then divine): Longman’s two-readings approach largely corresponds with two levels of authorial intent—human and divine. His “first reading” exegesis often falls between Goldingay and DeRouchie and his “second reading” finds resonance with DeRouchie and Carter.
- Reader: This leaves Dharamraj’s perspective, which emphasizes how the reader, in community and with guidance of tradition and schoalrship, sees Christ in the texts.
For those curious about my own perspective, I was scandalized by Goldingay’s chapter. Dharamraj’s was a welcome change. Her focus on associations that arise from text, liturgy, and community rang true with me. As a new Anglican, I’m learning first hand how liturgy sparks associations between texts and Christ without recourse to scholarly arguments. I appreciated Longman’s chapter but am closer to DeRouchie and Carter’s perspectives. However, I felt that they both went a bit too far in their respective emphases on human and divine authorial intent.
I think that including a text-centered approach would have been illuminating. A text-centered approach is less concerned with reconstructing the author’s intent and historical context behind the text. Nor does it focus on the reader in front of the text. Rather, it emphasizes the compositional structure of the text and intertextual connections across the canon. Such an approach would have revealed the shared assumptions among most of the essays while presenting unique responses to them.
Five Views of Christ in the Old Testament is probably the best multi-view book I’ve read, not only because I am deeply interested in the subject matter, but because the editors presented such a relevant range of views and strong proponents of them, all while keeping the discussion focused on key discussion points. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to consider how we should see Christ in the Old Testament.