Reading the OT: More than Typology, Substance

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frog

Puritan Board Freshman
Background
I have been trying to understand how to read the Old Testament and in doing so I came across some writings by Scott Clark on the topic. In this article he says things such as:
  • All this means that God the Son did not first appear in the history of redemption in the incarnation, but has been mediating the knowledge of God and saving his people for thousands of years before. This is how the Apostle Paul read the history of salvation and why he declared, “There is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
  • Paul did not see only occasional types of Christ in the Hebrew Scriptures. Rather, he saw God the Son actively operating throughout Scripture. In other words, the unity of the covenant of grace is not merely typological but substantial.
  • The writer to the Hebrews also saw Christ as the center of redemptive history. Much is made of the heroes of faith and of the quality of their faith in Hebrews 11, but not enough is made of the object of their faith. Moses turned his back on privilege in favor of identification with God’s people, because “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt… ” (Heb. 11:24-26).
  • More than looking forward to the incarnation, Hebrews also places God the Son at the center of the action of the story of redemption. Arguably, no place was more basic to Israel’s national identity than Sinai, and whom does Hebrews place thundering at the top of the mountain? Jesus, “the Mediator of a New Covenant” (Heb. 12:24).
  • The one to whom we have come was there all along, with whom Jacob and Moses spoke “face to face” (Gen. 32:30; Exod. 33:11)
  • Following the pattern established by Jesus and the apostles, we find that Christ is revealed by an extensive series of types (illustrations of the reality to come) in the history of redemption. Jesus and the Apostles, however, have clued us in to an even more profound way of reading Scripture whereby Jesus does not simply appear typologically, but as a pre-incarnate actor in the drama of creation, fall, and redemption.
  • He was the agent of creation. John 1:3 says that “All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made.”
  • It was he who made the woman, conducted the wedding ceremony, whom Adam heard coming in judgment in the garden (Gen. 3:10), and who pronounced the curse. It was also the Son who preached the gospel for the first time: “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15) and who covered his people (Gen. 3:21). Read this way, this narrative takes on new depth. This is neither saga nor idle promise, for with this oath the Son solemnly committed himself to incarnation, suffering, and death in order to conquer the enemy. He did so again in the covenant-making ceremony of Genesis 15:17. It was he who went “between the pieces,” swearing a maledictory oath against his own life (Gen. 15:13). The mysterious figure with whom Jacob wrestled, and with whom he spoke “face to face,” (Gen. 33:20) was none other than the Mediator. That same person revealed himself to Moses as the “I Am” (Exod. 3:14; John 4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51, 8:12, 58). Not only was his incarnation illustrated by the blood on the doorposts (Exod. 12:7) but it was he who sent the plagues and led his people through the Red Sea. [cf. Jude 5]
In summary, what really stood out to me was that in the OT more than typologically, the pre-incarnate Son of God is present substantially and actively. (Perhaps substantially is not the right word).

I hear lots about the typology of the OT. That Jesus is the true and better Adam, the true and better ark and that God rescuing Israel from slavery points forward to our redemption in Christ from sin. I also know/hear, though not through a sermon series on Exodus (more through a Q&A or in a systematic), that people were saved the same way in the OT and in the NT. In particular, saved by grace alone through faith alone.

But what I wouldn’t hear is that Christ was the one who sent the plagues and led his people through the red sea. It was Christ who made the woman and conducted the wedding ceremony and who preached the gospel for the first time. That it was Jesus the mediator of a new covenant who was thundering at the top of Sinai. It would be said that God did all these things, and I guess one could deduce that because Jesus is God that it was him, but I guess it was also the Father and the Spirit? But I’m not sure if this is what is meant when Clark says that Christ did these things - I confess ignorance here that I don’t know how the Trinity should shape my understanding when I see in the OT references to God; I probably primarily think of God the Father and when it mentions the Spirit of God I think of the Holy Spirit. But if all references to God in the OT are referring to Father, Son and Spirit, then why does the New Testament place such a heavy emphasis on the Son when interpreting the OT? And not also on the Spirit? E.g. Philippians 2:10 it seems that “Jesus”, not the Spirit or Father, is placed where “me/God” was in Isaiah 45:23.

Furthermore, if we were going through a sermon series on Exodus it might be said that the Israelites eating manna and drinking from the rock points forward to us also being sustained by a miraculous provision of God, though not in bread and water but in his Son. That is, it would be understood (primarily if not only) typologically. Though it would not be said (unless only because Paul explicitly says it - but this hermeneutic wouldn’t be applied throughout) that they ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink AS US (1 Cor. 10:1-5)! And that this rock was Christ (in some way). It would only have been said that it pointed to what our redemption would be like or that this was a type that pointed to our redemption.

To be clear, it would never be denied that in the OT Israel was saved (eternally) by grace through faith. But this fact would never come up in preaching through a book. I guess it would be viewed as somewhat alien to the text. Yes in Exodus it would be said that they were saved (temporally) from slavery in Egypt and this occurred through God’s gracious activity and through their trust in him. But this would only be linked as a type and pointer to God’s gracious salvation of us in Christ.

I was reading a TGC article and David Murray said the following which seems to pick up on what I’m not used to hearing:
I’m massively encouraged by the church’s renewed interest in preaching Christ from the Old Testament, and especially by the increased willingness to see how Old Testament people, places, events, etc., point forward to Christ. This “types and trajectories” (or redemptive-historical) hermeneutic has many strengths. However, I’m a bit concerned that an overuse of this tool can give the impression that Christ is merely the end of redemptive history rather than an active participant throughout.

Puritans such as Jonathan Edwards were masters of balance here. In his History of the Work of Redemption, Edwards shows Christ as not only the end of redemptive history, but actively and savingly involved from the first chapter to the last. He did not view Old Testament people, events, etc., as only stepping-stones to Christ; he saw Christ in the stepping-stones themselves. He did not see the need to relate everything to “the big picture”; he found the “big picture” even in the “small pictures.”

Question
Does anyone know of any books that explain this way of reading and understanding the OT, at more than just a typological level or referring generally to God but at a substantial level with Christ himself as an active participant? In particular, I’d love a book that defends and makes the case for why and how we read the OT in that manner (theory) and also a book or sermon series that demonstrates how to read the OT with a view to more than just typology (practice).

P.S: I'm not sure if this is the appropriate sub-forum to post this question. Though it seems that my misunderstandings and what I don't hear preached is likely linked to the conception of covenant theology.
 
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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Hi Jack,

It sounds like you've made a wonderful discovery, Jack. For years I have said that we should spend at least three times as much time in the Old Testament as the new. The reason is apparent. It is roughly three times as big as the New Testament. It's from the Old Testament that I learned the greatness of God, the beauty of God, the power, the joy, and the severity. That he is merciful, kind, gentle, forgiving, patient, zealous for the Church, and zealous in his love for us-- and will by no means acquit the guilty. All of this was the Lord Jesus Christ who presided over the whole project of man, from creation to the Eternal state. It's all his domain.

May the Lord bless you richly in your expanded vision of the excellent, wonderful Book of God.

Ps - please pardon any typos; I dictated this into my tablet in a hurry
 
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jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Well, I'm reading Diedrich Bonhoeffer's work on the first three chapters of Genesis and that's exactly the approach he took. It seems a bit safer to recommend Biblical theologians like G. Vos who see all of Scripture in its place in redeptive history.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Jack,

Vos, Clowney, and Johnson go beyond typology to see the Bible as an organic, unfolding interpretation of God's saving actions, the substance of which is Jesus Christ (a la Luke 24 and John 5).
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Vos, Clowney, and Johnson go beyond typology to see the Bible as an organic, unfolding interpretation of God's saving actions, the substance of which is Jesus Christ

(It's always good to hear from you, Rev. Lane)

Greetings pilgrims,

I used to work to find Christ in the Old Testament. I read books on the subject. And by the grace of God, I did often find Him, particularly in the Psalms. But it was almost exclusively typology for which I searched. That has all changed for me.

Now, except those rare times when we hear things like, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him," I hear the voice of God as the voice of the Lord Jesus. I have been reading in Exodus a portion that some people find boring. But now, these same chapters fill me with joy and wonder as I realize another side of Jesus.

Exodus chapters 25 through 30 covers such topics as instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant, chapter 26 has the exhaustive details of building the Tabernacle; chapter 27 has directions for the Bronze Altar, and the Court of the Tabernacle, chapters 28 and 29 combined have 78 verses about the Priest Garments and the Consecration of the Priests. Does that sound exciting to you? It does to me now when I realize that it is the pre-incarnate second person of the Trinity, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who gives these detailed instructions. Brothers and sisters, if you do not know Jesus of the Old Testament, you do not know half the story about our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

To find out much more about your advocate and Savior, Jesus, I encourage you to read through the Book of Job again with the things I've said in mind. Especially notice the way the Lord speaks to Job in chapters 38-41. I can almost guarantee you will see a side to the meek and mild Jesus, that you have never seen before.

God bless,
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
This is how I've been reading the Psalms for years (as the voice of Christ speaking, revealing much of his inner life in his manhood and his glories), so I'm so interested to hear more along the lines discussed here. Thanks for posting.
 

frog

Puritan Board Freshman
Exodus chapters 25 through 30 covers such topics as instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant, chapter 26 has the exhaustive details of building the Tabernacle; chapter 27 has directions for the Bronze Altar, and the Court of the Tabernacle, chapters 28 and 29 combined have 78 verses about the Priest Garments and the Consecration of the Priests. Does that sound exciting to you? It does to me now when I realize that it is the pre-incarnate second person of the Trinity, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who gives these detailed instructions. Brothers and sisters, if you do not know Jesus of the Old Testament, you do not know half the story about our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Wow, I don't think I've ever read Exodus 25-30 with the excitement you describe :(. I want to read my Bible, especially the OT, and see Jesus as the goal and substance. I'll have to read Job 38-41.

How did you come to understand the OT like that? Why do you think it is Jesus giving the instructions?

Probably one of my biggest concerns when I read the OT is imposing something onto the Bible that is not really there. I've started reading Dennis Johnson's "Walking with Jesus through His Word", and he gave the example that Augustine saw the dimensions of Noah's ark were the same as the human body and so it's the body of Christ and the door and wood of the ark anticipated the cross and the spear in Christ's side. And Johnson says this is quite dubious and speculative. I want to handle God's word rightly.
 

frog

Puritan Board Freshman
It seems like Vos etc. are good at canvasing the Bible and showing Christ as the center, but (understandably!) they don't go through every chapter in a book in the OT and expose all the glories there. I'm also looking for a resource that does this with a book in the OT.

So, does anyone know of any good sermon series or commentaries that go through a book in the OT and read it in a manner that it was meant to be read - with Christ as the goal and substance - and make the case for that reading? E.g. In Calvin's institutes, when talking about the promise of the land to Abraham he doesn't just assert that it was primarily about the heavenly city, Calvin demonstrates and proves from Scripture that this must be the case from Genesis and from other parts of the Bible. I'm looking for something like that, except through a book of the Bible.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Sophomore
(It's always good to hear from you, Rev. Lane)

Greetings pilgrims,

I used to work to find Christ in the Old Testament. I read books on the subject. And by the grace of God, I did often find Him, particularly in the Psalms. But it was almost exclusively typology for which I searched. That has all changed for me.

Now, except those rare times when we hear things like, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him," I hear the voice of God as the voice of the Lord Jesus. I have been reading in Exodus a portion that some people find boring. But now, these same chapters fill me with joy and wonder as I realize another side of Jesus.

Exodus chapters 25 through 30 covers such topics as instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant, chapter 26 has the exhaustive details of building the Tabernacle; chapter 27 has directions for the Bronze Altar, and the Court of the Tabernacle, chapters 28 and 29 combined have 78 verses about the Priest Garments and the Consecration of the Priests. Does that sound exciting to you? It does to me now when I realize that it is the pre-incarnate second person of the Trinity, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who gives these detailed instructions. Brothers and sisters, if you do not know Jesus of the Old Testament, you do not know half the story about our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

To find out much more about your advocate and Savior, Jesus, I encourage you to read through the Book of Job again with the things I've said in mind. Especially notice the way the Lord speaks to Job in chapters 38-41. I can almost guarantee you will see a side to the meek and mild Jesus, that you have never seen before.

God bless,
Exodus 25-30 is FAR more engaging than the Chronicler’s begats. I really struggle with asking “why is this here?” Especially when Paul tells us to avoid endless genealogies! I get the significance of Christ’s pedigree and God’s care for each of our names, but those sections are tough.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Exodus 25-30 is FAR more engaging than the Chronicler’s begats. I really struggle with asking “why is this here?” Especially when Paul tells us to avoid endless genealogies! I get the significance of Christ’s pedigree and God’s care for each of our names, but those sections are tough.

The way to understand the genealogies is as shorthand for the stories in which they appeared earlier in the history of redemption. So, you need to read the Chronicler in 1 Chronicles 1-9 as summarizing the entire history of the world up to that point, and whenever you come across a name you recognize, you are supposed to remember the story that goes with the name. Furthermore, the addition of many names that have no stories tells us that there are no little or forgotten people with God. Jesus died for them, as much as for the well-known people. Lastly, do not forget that this is YOUR spiritual genealogy. These people are YOUR spiritual forefathers.

It seems like Vos etc. are good at canvasing the Bible and showing Christ as the center, but (understandably!) they don't go through every chapter in a book in the OT and expose all the glories there. I'm also looking for a resource that does this with a book in the OT.

So, does anyone know of any good sermon series or commentaries that go through a book in the OT and read it in a manner that it was meant to be read - with Christ as the goal and substance - and make the case for that reading? E.g. In Calvin's institutes, when talking about the promise of the land to Abraham he doesn't just assert that it was primarily about the heavenly city, Calvin demonstrates and proves from Scripture that this must be the case from Genesis and from other parts of the Bible. I'm looking for something like that, except through a book of the Bible.

The commentaries of our own Iain Duguid do this very well. I also highly recommend OT works by Dale Ralph Davis, John Mackay, John Currid, Richard Phillips, Phil Ryken, Derek Thomas, John Woodhouse, and Derek Kidner, who all do what you want them to do.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
How did you come to understand the OT like that? Why do you think it is Jesus giving the instructions?

Hi Jake,

Sorry, I am so long in getting back to you.

This partial answer is just a few highlights. I have been swamped, working six long days a week since May 7th. (holidays not excepted)

I underlined some phrases.
Let's start at the beginning.

Genesis 1:1-3
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

Although the whole Godhead was involved in creation, which Person of the Trinity was the foreman and master builder?

John 1:1-5,9-10
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.

Colossians 1:15-17
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him, all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Hebrews 1:2
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

I could stop here.

Who spoke to Moses to the burning bush?

Exodus 3:14
God said to Moses, "I am who I am ." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel: 'I am has sent me to you.'"

John 8:56-58 (you should read from verse 48)
Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad." So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."

Who led the Israelites out of Egypt?

Exodus 12:51
And on that very day, the LORD (Yahweh) brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.

Jude 5
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

1 Corinthians 10:1-5
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

I am out of time for now. But to me, the Scriptures are clear. Jesus was in charge of the whole project of man.
 

frog

Puritan Board Freshman
The commentaries of our own Iain Duguid do this very well. I also highly recommend OT works by Dale Ralph Davis, John Mackay, John Currid, Richard Phillips, Phil Ryken, Derek Thomas, John Woodhouse, and Derek Kidner, who all do what you want them to do.
Thank you! I'll check them out.

Does anyone know of any older commentators who are in this line too?
 

frog

Puritan Board Freshman
I just came across this blog post (https://christthetruth.net/2008/05/14/Christ-in-the-old-testament-13/) and it seems to make a solid case (it's a series) that the NT isn't teaching a "re-reading" of the OT - like re-reading the OT in the light of Christ - but to read the OT as it was intended which will take you to Christ.
The New Testament does not teach a "re-reading" hermeneutic. Instead Jesus and the Apostles appeal to the Hebrew Scriptures as that which interprets them. (cf Acts 17:11; 26:22). They claim to be giving the prima facie, originally intended, Christian meaning which should always have been understood by the faithful.
This is very different than what I've normally experienced when people preach and tell me how to read the OT. But it seems to align best with what Jesus says here: For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. (John 5:46 ESV). Not, if you believed in me you could re-read Moses. But that Moses actually wrote about Jesus. It reminds me when Calvin's talking about the promised land to Abraham in his institutes and then notices that it's not primarily about Canan, but about the new heavens and earth because in Genesis (this point is also made in Hebrews) Moses says that they were sojourners and wanderers whilst in Canan.

Is this correct?

He also goes on to make claims (https://christthetruth.net/2008/04/29/Christ-in-the-old-testament-5/) about the clarity of the Trinity in the OT, which I have never heard before:
My point is not that the OT betrays hints, shapes and shadows of triune structure


My point is not that NT eyes can see trinitarian themes in the OT


My point is not that we go back as Christians and now retrospectively read the trinity into the OT


My point is not that the OT gives us partial suggestions of trinitarian life that are then developed by NT fulfillment


My point is that these texts read on their own terms and in their own context (as the Jewish, Hebrew Scriptures that they are) demand to be understood as the revelation of a multi-Personal God. The only proper way to understand these texts is as trinitarian revelation. These texts are either to be understood triunely or they are mis-understood - on their own terms or any others! What I am setting out to do is to simply open up the OT and show what is actually there. I have already acknowledged that I have a dogmatic commitment to christocentric revelation, but I hope to show that the OT texts themselves bear this out.
And the Scripture proofs Glen Scrivener provides seem quite compelling.

He also makes an interesting observation about what is the mystery that is now revealed in the NT (of particular interest is it wasn't the gospel nor the trinity etc.):
Here Paul spells it out. This is the mystery, this is what was unknown and is now being revealed - *not* trinity, christology, justification etc etc! This is the mystery: How to administrate the togetherness of Jew and Gentile in the one body! In OT times you could be a Gentile in Israel but you had to be circumcised etc. The mystery concerns the "together"ness of Jew and Gentile - the word 'together' appears 3 times for emphasis. How do you now have Gentiles qua Gentiles as members together? That will take some thinking through. The OT points forwards to this time. But it doesn't tell the Apostles how they're going to administrate it. Should Peter separate out from the Gentiles when he eats or what? Should he go to Cornelius' house? Should Timothy be circumcised? What about Titus? What do we do about dietary laws? Special days? What should multi-national church look like? What do we do now that the Seed has come and Sinai's "use-by" date has passed?? The Spirit of God is going to have to make known the details of this administration.

Is this way of reading the Bible true? It seems to fit - though it feels so alien to what I've ever heard before (a bit like Scott Clark's post) that I'm wanting to check.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Jack,
It's delightful to see how God is directing your interest into something resembling the NT (and we might say, the Reformation's) understanding of the OT, which then becomes the one way to read the whole Bible once the NT was committed to writing.

Many if not most of the PB members go to churches where this Christ-centered approach to understanding the Bible (with probably some minor permutations) is simply their habitual instruction. It can be hard for a fish to describe "water" when it is the environment they inhabit.

For those of us inside this environment, your "diving in" is a welcome addition; and it will seem to many of us that questions like, "Is this true?" is a bit odd, seeing as you are now swimming around with us and enjoying it. But we should rejoice to be reminded of how good we have had it, and continue to have.

While some expounders of the faith in this fashion are not (strictly speaking) "covenant theologians," it seems to me that some version of covenant theology is that which best makes sense of the deep waters of our faith. It is not merely a shallow NT pool, but is intimately connected with the oceanic OT depths beneath. It's actually all one body of water.

At the risk of undue self-promotion, I would recommend clicking on my own sermon's page; or better yet, on just about any other PB pastor's sermon links. Listen to preaching of various OT passages and books. You will benefit from the methodological books, the overview treatments, the commentaries already mentioned.

But this theology is better caught than taught, if I may borrow that expression. Immerse yourself in presentations of this way of seeing the Bible: that it is first and foremost God's self revelation, most especially in Christ both in anticipation (OT) and in the flesh (NT). The Bible is secondarily about those who rightly relate to God through his Mediator, our Prophet, Priest, and King. And thirdly, it warns of those who remain stubbornly apart and alienated from God.

The Bible is not about how anyone/everyone can have their best life now, a parody of the Christian message if ever there was. It is not about instructing men on cultivating a "godly social order." If some man gleans pearls of wisdom from the Bible, OT or NT, by which he governs his life and personal relations, even employing them for public service, good for him... if and only if he is a true friend of Christ. If he has no such Friend, the Bible may still provide a man with those "pearls," but as exhibits of God's law they will in the end condemn him rather than being his pride on judgment day.

Neither the OT nor the NT have as their aim setting forth moral examples (good and bad), or a parochial interpretation of history. There are moral examples, and there is a peculiar history related therein; but the examples are especially for expectation of Christ (either as a superlative fulfillment of the good, or a polar opposite of the evil), and the history is the history of the church (not a national archive) and God's superintendence of it for his own purposes. In the midst of all these particulars the main character is God, always he is the Actor to which attention is diverted.

Relax, rejoice, and renew your mind by taking this plunge. Try not to worry. Keep in mind that there's no profit in rank allegorizing. That's not what the apostles did, it's not what Jesus did, it's not what later prophets of Israel did with earlier prophets. Stick rigorously to the inspired text itself for the keys to unlocking its riches. Delight yourself in the Lord, in the Word.
 
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