Your Old Testament Is Christian

Editors’ note: 

The new August 2019 issue of Themelios has 214 pages of editorials, articles, and book reviews. It is freely available in three formats: (1) PDF, (2) web version, and (3) Logos Bible Software.

This study supplies an initial framework for a biblical theology of hermeneutics. My thesis is twofold.

First, I will argue that the Old Testament (OT) is Christian Scripture, that God originally gave it to instruct Christians, and that the OT authors had a sense that at least some of their words would be more meaningful for those living this side of the cross than for those living before it, whether believer or non-believer. As such, the OT message is in many ways more clear and relevant for Christians today than it ever was for those before Christ.

Second, I will argue that faith in Christ alone supplies the necessary light for seeing and savoring God’s revelation in the OT and that Jesus’s appearing in salvation history supplies the necessary lens for more fully understanding and appropriating the divine author’s intended meaning in the OT.

1. NT Reflections on the Audience of OT Instruction

Paul believed that God gave the OT for new covenant believers. Referring to the statement in Genesis 15:6 that Abram’s faith was “counted to him as righteousness,” Paul asserted that “the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also” (Rom. 4:23–24). Similarly, just after identifying Christ as the referent in Psalm 69, the apostle emphasized, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Further, upon recalling Israel’s history in the wilderness, Paul said, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11). In each of these three texts, Paul used third-singular verbs to stress that the OT author wrote his text intentionally for the benefit of believers living this side of the cross. The apostle’s use of the passive does not clarify whether this was only God’s intent as the ultimate author, or whether this was also the OT human authors’ intention. What is clear, however, is that for Paul, the OT was Christian Scripture and fully applicable to believers when read in light of Christ.