Is a Christological Hermeneutic Irresponsible ?

Where's Wally by infomatique
Where’s Wally by infomatique
Too often I come away from sermons on the Old Testament – whether ones I’ve listened to, or ones I’ve preached! – feeling that they ended up being a little less about faithful exegesis and a bit more about the inventive dexterity of the preacher in managing to draw Christ out from a verse where he probably wasn’t hiding in the first place!

I believe that all Scripture points to Christ. I believe that he was prophesied about in the Old Testament. I believe he should be central to our preaching. But I also believe that shoehorning him into every verse can sometimes do more harm than good. And when we simplistically and unthinkingly try and do the ‘Christ-in-every-verse’ thing, it can end up being somewhat like spending hours pouring over photos of crowds looking for Wally, coz wherever there’s a crowd he must be there!

I’m being a little facetious (in case you hadn’t noticed) but I do think this is a difficult issue, and I do fear that many preachers have jumped on the preach-Christ-in-every-verse bandwagon without necessarily being equipped to do so in a way that maintains exegetical faithfulness. It’s hard to do right.

So I found this interview at The Gospel Coalition with Daniel Block really helpful. Most of it is on the book of Deuteronomy and Block’s new commentary, but the final few paragraphs are especially interesting and pose some great questions every preacher should ask themselves. He writes:

We must indeed preach Christ from all the Scriptures, even as we recognize that a book like Deuteronomy, for example, has precious little to say about the coming Messiah.

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).

Actually, we’d improve our hermeneutic if we interpreted the OT Christotelically rather than Christocentrically. While it’s hermeneutically irresponsible to say all OT texts have a Christocentric meaning or point to Christ, it’s true that all play a significant role in God’s great redemptive plan, which leads to and climaxes in Christ. This means that as a Christian interpreter my wrestling with an OT text must begin with trying to grasp the sense the original readers/hearers should have gotten, and authoritative preaching of that text depends on having grasped that intended sense.

However, my work as a Christian interpreter doesn’t end there. I must ask several additional questions:

1.  Where does this event or institution fit in the grand scheme of redemption, whose goal and climax are in Christ?
2.  What lexical and conceptual vocabulary does this text contribute to later interpretation of the mission and ministry of Christ?
3.  What view of God that we later find embodied in Christ is presented here?
4.  How was YHWH’s redemption and calling of Israel analogous to our redemption and his calling of us in Christ?

Do you agree? How might this perspective help you think and preach differently?

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