Friday, March 13, 2009

(How) Should We Look for Christ in the Old Testament?

If you’re anything at all like me, you feel two impulses related to finding Christ in the Old Testament. First, you know he’s there and you want to pull out everything possible. But second, you’re a little bit allergic to allegorical approaches that seem to find a bushel of toadstools for every acorn they stumble upon.

One of the most helpful resources I’ve encountered in years of intermittent reading is this faculty forum on Christology in the OT at Southern Seminary. Moderated by Tom Schreiner, panelists include Duane Garrett, Peter Gentry and Jim Hamilton.

The central point that all three panelists seem to affirm is that we need to follow the exegetical approach of Jesus and the Apostles, but following Jesus and the Apostles doesn’t mean we abandon grammatical-historical exegesis. Jim Hamilton passes on a foundational perspective when he says:
John Sailhamer is correct when he argues that the OT is a Messianic document written from a Messianic perspective in order to provoke and sustain a Messianic hope.
The primary bone of contention in the panel is typology. Peter Gentry actually critiques Grahame Goldsworthy, an author who’s currently influential in Reformed circles. Gentry contends that it’s insufficient to say that everything is typological of Christ. If everything is typological, nothing is. Luke 24 “doesn’t say that every passage in the OT speaks about Christ,” Gentry argues, “but that everything written about him in the law, prophets, and writings must be fulfilled.”

The panelists participate in a nuanced, thought-provoking discussion of the parameters of OT typology. Gentry offers the criteria of correspondence, rooted in history, demonstrating escalation, with a biblical warrant for a typological reading in the context. For a fuller explanation of those criteria, you'll need to listen. Maybe twice.

I would recommend this resource about as much as any I’ve ever encountered. It doesn’t say everything about the topic, but I think you’ll have the opportunity to observe a productive clash of ideas in a pretty short period of time.

The participants refer to a couple resources that develop the concepts in greater depth: Richard Davidson’s Typology in Scripture and S. Lewis Johnson’s The Old Testament in the New.

To those I’ll add John Sailhamer’s Pentateuch as Narrative. Behind this intimidating title you’ll find an accessible commentary on the one coherent book that OT Israelites understood Genesis through Deuteronomy to be. To Sailhamer, the OT is not a semi-random collection of old stories intended to instruct our morality. Instead, He exposes a variety of strategies that the author employed (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) to communicate a theological message. And that theological message is a Christological message.

P.S. Andy Naselli just posted a discussion of related matters from Doug Moo.


Bob Hayton said...


This looks good. I wonder though if Graemesworthy is a bit of a whipping boy for scholarly evangelicals. What I've read of him doesn't smack of "everything in the OT is typology". I recently finished a book I'd highly recommend which steers well clear of a one-size fits all approach to seeing Christ in the OT (i.e. all is typology). But I wonder if the guys on the panel will give it the time of day because it is published by P & R and is dedicated to Edmund Clowney.

The book is Dennis Johnson's Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scripture. Mohler highly recommends it, however (at least on the book's back cover). The book is 450 pages and it covers homiletics and hermeneutics with an emphasis on the history of hermeneutics/preaching and a defense of preaching Christ from the OT. The best part of the book is the author's two chapters of illustrating his method in several genres from both testaments. Fantastic stuff and very helpful.

Thanks for the post I'll have to give the forum a listen.

Blessings in Christ,

Bob Hayton
Fundamentally Reformed

brian said...

I don't think Southern or its professors would look down at (much less whip up on) Goldsworthy. Nor is it a place with ill feelings toward P&R and those like Edmund Clowney. As one who just left Southern, Clowney and Goldsworthy were required reading for my hermeneutics course, and Goldsworthy was a featured lecturer the year prior to this panel discussion.

I'm not sure what leads you to think there is such bad blood between these groups. Certainly they disagree on some issues, but its done in gracious and generous ways. In fact, (just an anecdote form this particular panel) I know that Hamilton and Gentry were walking together on their way to the discussion. Gentry kindly leaned over to Hamilton and said something to the effect: "I love you brother, and I respect your view of typology, but I want you to know that I'm going to disagree with you on the panel."

Seems like we could use more of this charity in things not essential. And I'm grateful that it was the tone modeled for me at Southern, alongside rigorous study.

Bob Hayton said...

Thanks, Brian. From some of the things I've read/heard, it seems that in some circles Graemesworthy and company do get a bad rap. Ben's post seemed like that was happening here. Glad that isn't the case, and yes charitable disagreement is a virtue.

Thanks again,

Bob Hayton

Ben said...

I certainly didn't get the sense in that panel that Goldsworthy was a whipping boy. Gentry just thought he's wrong.