What if the answer is no? What if the authors who produced the OT have no concept of the Christ that we know? What if the supposed “prophesies” of Christ in the OT are creative interpretations by early followers of Christ to make the book appear to confirm the details of his life (and the details of life massaged to parallel passages in the OT). This happens to be the assumption of most biblical scholars today. Does such a view produce particular problems for LDS readers of the Bible?
With respect to the New Testament and early Christian literature which reads the Old Testament as if it spoke about Jesus, such a view may be explained by reference to a particular interpretative tradition with hermeneutical rules that allow for such a reading. In no way do I suggest that such a reading is not legitimate. Indeed, I think that one can read Christ into the Old Testament, so long as one is aware of and explicit about such a reading. That is, one can identify Christ with antecedent characters, motifs, and episodes to explain the significance of Christ to ancient (and contemporary) audiences.
Can the Book of Mormon belong to a similar interpretive tradition? That is, can one identify the Book of Mormon prophets with a tradition of reading the Hebrew prophets messianically? Is it possible that they too saw themes of a suffering messiah in Isa 53 as early Christians did, albeit entirely independently? Might they too have expected a new David to come from Jerusalem (er, the land around Jerusalem)? The reasons that scholars deny that Christ as we know him was known to the ancient Israelite prophets is because such notions of future-telling not only lack credibility but also the details of the text don’t support such a messianic tradition until much later in Jewish history, and even then the known messianic traditions don’t match up with the new tradition centered around Jesus of Nazareth.
The Book of Mormon, however, is quite different. It insists on a robust messianic tradition with a greater degree of specificity concerning the prediction of future events. The Book of Mormon (along with the PoGP) thus contribute to what Melodie Moench-Charles once called, the “Christianization” of the Old Testament. It fills this interpretative gap of the missing Christ from the OT by unmistakably insisting on a pre-Christian reading of the OT with specifically Christian themes and a degree of prophetic future-telling simply missing from the OT.
For some, such a Christocentric Israelite tradition forms the single greatest anachronism of the Book of Mormon. For others, it provides the missing link between ancient Israelite religion and early Christianity. Either position acknowledges a lack of awareness of Christ as we know him by the authors of the OT. The missing Christ from the OT is conceded all around.
The problem of the missing Christ from the OT thus presents either a challenge or an opportunity for believers in the Book of Mormon. However, it produces a problem (or an opportunity) with respect to the OT as well. As soon as one denies the historical (as opposed to hermeneutic) Christocentrism of the text, its relevance is called into question. While the Book of Mormon presents a clearly Christocentric Israelite religion, thus locating a pre-Christian precedent for Christianity, the OT offers a tradition which either did not present Christ at all, thus needing to be read into the text by later interpreters, or even a tradition of interpreting the earlier texts in light of Christ.
If the authority of the OT is rooted in the fact that it is used by a later interpretive tradition of NT writers to understand Christ, the Book of Mormon highlights the missing Christ from the OT and creates a problem for its authority by suggesting that it could have and should have either spoken of Christ directly or produced an autogenic interpretive tradition about Christ in advance of Christ’s advent. We are put in a position of having to confront the radical difference of the OT from the NT and BoM with respect to a knowledge of Christ in a way that those who accept the NT alone need not confront.