Too Much Jesus in the Old Testament … Makes for a Bad Presbyterian

Over at CT, Kevin Emmert has a piece on, Can You See Too Much Jesus in the Bible? referring to WTS-Philly’s decision to “retire” Doug Green because he found more Jesus in Ps 23 than the Westminster Board was comfortable with (assuming you don’t think the real reason was to poleaxe him because he was the last remaining friend of Peter Enns).

Green told CT:

Christians should interpret the Old Testament with the same stance as the New Testament writers, “with the conviction that the Old Testament is read correctly only when it is read with Christ as the goal or telos of Israel’s story,” said Green. “Christian interpretation of the Old Testament is ultimately an act of re-reading or reinterpreting that section of the Bible through the lens of what God has done in Christ.”

In contrast, Greg Beale (a fine biblical theologian in his own right) said that:

The Old Testament writers were aware of an implicit meaning (known completely by God) that New Testament writers expressed more fully and explicitly.

I’m currently working on Romans 9-11, which has over 30 citations/allusions/echoes of the OT, and I have to say that Green’s view is exactly what happens. For instance it is beyond dispute that, in its original context, Deut 30:12-14 “says” even implicitly what Paul takes it to “mean” in Rom 10:5-8. Paul definitely re-reads Deuteronomy 30 and 32 christologically, it was not part of original authorial intent, but is more properly a new covenant reading of the text. For anyone to think that Rom 10:5-8 is a grammatico-historical exegesis of the text, in good Old Princeton fashion, is simply nonsensical. In fact, the CONTUOT section on Romans by Mark Seifrid, edited by D.A. Carson and G. Beale, says exactly that. Paul speaks in the “manner of” Moses, he’s not claiming that Moses thought he was writing about Jesus, there is a temporal remove between the two.

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  • Jonathan Bonomo

    Perhaps worth noting, too, is that Calvin’s exegesis of Rom. 10 follows very similar lines as yours. Calvin would not say that Christ is the object of such OT passages according to the intention of the original human author, but that such passages are rightly applied to Christ by way of accommodation and application.

    On Rom. 10.6-8: “Moses mentions heaven and the sea. But Paul, as though there was some spiritual mystery concealed under these words, applies them to the death and resurrection of Christ. If anyone thinks this interpretation is too strained and too refined, let him understand that it was not the intention of the Apostle strictly to explain the passage, but to apply it to his present subject. He does not, therefore, repeat verbally what Moses has said, but makes alterations, by which he accommodates more suitably to his own purpose the testimony of Moses.”

    See also Calvin’s comments on Psalm 8.5-6 and how that is taken up in Heb. 2, among other (How he treats the Sarah/Hagar “allegory” in Gal. 4 is also intriguing).

  • Steve_Winnipeg_Canada

    I’ve read a little about this retiring of Dr Green and quite honestly can’t quite figure out what the fuss is. Is it basically about how much the OT authors knew? Is it that simple?