Can one have a Christological interpretation that also pays due respect to the particular OT text in its particular context, or is this having one's theological cake and eating it too?
Thursday, 9 October 2008
Is Christological interpretation OK?
Josh McManaway of A New Testament Student has asked the question that, I think, most Christians do and should ask themselves at some point:
Yesterday, I gave a brief example of how I think a dialectial understanding of the relation of the two testaments helps preserve both the integrity of what Seitz calls the per se witness of both testaments, when read in relation to the one divine reality that evoked them both. This can be extended to the question of Christology, as it is Christ who Christians confess to be the one subject confessing Himself in both testaments.
The issue turns on what we mean by "Christological." In other words, which Christ are we looking to find in the Old Testament? The narratively portrayed Christ in one of the Gospels? The divine Christ? John's apocalyptic Christ? The Christ who is the eternal Logos? In other words, Jesus' identity is not a simple concept.
I think a lot of people struggle with the concept of Christological interpretation because they think it means reading the OT through the lens of the NT, subordinating it to the NT's own agenda. But that simply assumes that the NT on its own has somehow grasped the full reality of who Christ is. OT scholars such as Childs and Seitz, however, argue that both OT and NT are equal witnesses to the one Christ who transcends both testaments. This was the assumption of the NT writers, who read the Jewish Scriptures in order to understand Christ (see my thread on this), not in order to speciously back up their claims. The early church, too, read the OT to understand Jesus, and not just to apologetically back up the NT's own particular construal (though that did happen too).
In short, I think that before we can talk about the legitimacy of "Christological" interpretation, we need to figure out the meaning of the term.
P.S. One blog thread I really would like to read on this issue, whenever I find time, is Glen's Christ in the OT, influenced, I believe, by the illustrious Karl Barth.
P.P.S. For an example of what I'm talking about, see Nick Norelli's Gordon Fee quote. It is significant that the context of Nick's quote is a discussion of the Trinity.