This post was originally published at Rolfing Unshelved.
On Wednesday, November 11 from 12-1:15 pm at the front of the library, Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy will be facilitating a discussion on preaching Christ in the Old Testament. We will be examining some of the different perspectives and issues involved in that endeavor. Because of the complexity of this topic and the many subjects it raises to our attention, Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy will begin the Table Talk by making some brief introductory comments. These initial remarks will serve to focus subsequent discussion. And after discussing these matters in groups, we look forward to a time of interaction with Dr. Luy and Dr. Scharf on further questions and group observations.
I hope that you will bring your lunch and join us!
This blog post seeks to introduce you to the subject at hand–preaching Christ in the Old Testament–and to expose you to some of the issues involved in that conversation.
As Dr. Scharf recently wrote me in an email,
The practice of preaching Christ in the Old Testament raises a host of questions and subjects the preacher to significant perils as well as offering great promise. Navigating these waters requires that the preacher have a defensible theology, a valid hermeneutic, and exegetical expertise (enriched ideally by a grasp of the history of interpretation of the preaching text) as well as a love for his or her listeners, the required spiritual gifting, and prayerful reliance upon the Holy Spirit.
You’ll immediately notice from his statement that the issues involved here are multi-faceted.
You may have read my previous post entitled, Are “Authorial Intent” and “Christ-Centered” Mutually Exclusive? (if not, you may want to do so before continuing, although it’s not necessary).
But this post prompts the question, if we are to preach Christ in all of Scripture (that is, preach Christotelically; see my previous post Christ in the Old Testament: Christocentric or Christotelic Hermeneutic?), are we allegorizing? If Christ is not at all present in a text, then are we spiritualizing the text by preaching Christ?
I have had enough experience with a certain school of interpretation to realize that many people answer this question in the affirmative–unfortunately. It has appeared to me, however, that part of their reason for doing so was a fundamental misunderstanding, a confusion of typology and allegory. So, let me try to spell out some of the basic, introductory differences between typology and allegory.
As interpreters, teachers, and preachers of God’s word we desire to be faithful to the Biblical text. We know that this entails interpreting Scripture according to the Biblical authors’ original intent, historical context, and literary context, among other things. We don’t want to be guilty of eisegesis–reading our own thoughts and ideas into the text rather than getting our conclusions from out of the text (exegesis).
But at the same time, we know that Christ said the entirety of Scripture speaks of Him (Luke 24:25-27; cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12; Rom 1:2). And so as Paul, we would love to say that even in our expositional preaching “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).
But what about the majority of texts where Christ is not mentioned? How do we preach Christ then? Do we preach the authorial intent and then sort of arbitrarily jump to Christ at the end, tack on an altar call or two with some repeated “Just as I am” choruses?
We want to avoid moralism; so we want to preach Christ. We don’t simply want to draw conclusions like, “don’t be like Saul,” “don’t be like the Israelites,” or “be more like David,” as if this alternative is somehow more honest to the authorial intent. But how do we preach Christ-centered in passages that have seemingly little to do with Christ at all?
I think you get my drift.
The following is an excerpt from a Gospel Coalition blog post by Matt Smethurst in which he interviews Dr. Daniel Block on using responsible hermeneutics (method of interpretation) regarding Christ in the Old Testament. Daniel Block contrasts a Christocentric hermeneutic from a Christotelic hermeneutic. The latter he argues is a more responsible and accurate way to handle the Old Testament, read scripture canonically, and treat all scripture as Christian-scripture.
Perhaps we need to distinguish between “Christological preaching” and a “Christological hermeneutic,” as if under the latter we expect to find Christ in every verse of the Bible. While it’s not difficult to identify overtly Messianic texts (Psalm 2; 110; Isaiah 53; Micah 5:1-5; etc.), technically the OT rarely speaks of ho Christos, the anointed Messiah. Unless we overload that expression beyond what it actually bears in the OT, I don’t find “the Messiah” on every page. Still, YHWH is everywhere, and when I preach YHWH, I’m preaching Jesus, Immanuel, the Redeemer of Israel incarnate in human flesh. When I read Exodus 34:6-7, I see a description of the One whom John characterizes as glorious, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).