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Is Jesus in the Old Testament?

9781596386341m

WTS is offering Ian Duguid's "Is Jesus in the Old Testament?" as a free eBook until 26 June.

GET IT HERE

You might think the book is free because it's only one word - a resounding 'Yes!'  But actually, we can be grateful there are a further 39 pages of material from Ian Duguid.

Here are some highlights:

This little booklet contends that Christ is present throughout the Old Testament. He is not merely present through a physical appearance here and there, or through the right interpretation of this or that Old Testament prophecy or type, but he is there on every page as the central theme and storyline of the entire book...

...According to Jesus and the apostles, then, when you interpret the Old Testament correctly, you find that its focus is not primarily stories about moral improvement, calls for social action, or visions concerning end-time events. Rather, the central message of the Old Testament is Jesus: specifically the sufferings of Christ and the glories that follow—both the glorious resurrection of Christ and the glorious inheritance that he has won for all of his people. Certainly, understanding this gospel should lead to a new morality in the lives of believers. It should motivate and empower us to seek to meet the needs of the lost and broken world around us and should engage our passion for the new heavens and the new earth that will be realized when Christ returns. But the heart of the message of the Old Testament is a witness to Christ, which centers on his suffering and glory, his death and resurrection.

...The ministry of Christ in his suffering and resurrection is thus the central focus of the whole Old Testament: he is the one toward whom the whole Old Testament is constantly moving, the one for whom as well as by whom it exists [emphasis mine].

The Old Testament is not simply the record of what God was doing with a motley crew of religious misfits in a land in the Middle East, far less a catalogue of stories about a series of religiously inspiring heroes. It is the good news of the gospel that we have been called to declare to the nations, beginning in Jerusalem and continuing until the message has been heard to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Well said. There are just a couple of points I would put differently though (I'm sure Duguid's devastated!)

Firstly, the book mentions the presence of Christ in the OT, which is a marked improvement on some OT theologies, but in practice Duguid doesn't demonstrate the fact or make anything of it.

The verses he quotes (p6-9) about the NT's assessment and use of the OT don't simply say that the OT is about Christ. They also speak of OT saints consciously trusting Him. The importance of this is well put by David Murray:

I’m a bit concerned that an overuse of [the "types and trajectories"] 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.”

I’d also like to encourage preachers and teachers to be clear and consistent on the question: “How were Old Testament believers saved?” The most common options seem to be:

1. They were saved by obeying the law.

2. They were saved by offering sacrifices.

3. They were saved by a general faith in God.

4. They were saved by faith in the Messiah.

Unless we consistently answer #4, we end up portraying heaven as not only populated by lovers of Christ, but also by legalists, ritualists, and mere theists who never knew Christ until they got there. Turning back again in order to go forwards, may I recommend Calvin's Institutes Book 2 (chapters 9-11) to help remove some of the blur that often surrounds this question.

Secondly, at points the book seeks to guard us from making direct Christian applications of the OT text (keeping us from allegory and moralism). But the kinds of warnings given sit, at times, uncomfortably with the NT's own assessment and use of the OT. Paul seems more comfortable with allegory and direct moral application than Duguid is.

I think this is important for many reasons, but one is well put by Tim Chester in his book "Unreached." (I don't have it to hand so I'll paraphrase.) Right towards the end, Tim speaks of gospel ministry in non-book cultures. In such environments he's often struck by the way people apply the bible's truth directly to their situation in a way he's been trained not to do. But upon reflection, Tim concludes that this direct immediacy to Scripture's voice is, in fact, the way the believers in the bible actually handle Scripture. The non-book culture is closer to the bible's own hermeneutic than the systems which preachers often learn.

If Tim is right - and I reckon he is - then it calls into question complicated systems of OT interpretation. If we're going to reach non-book cultures, can we really insist on passing the OT text through the stages which p13 outlines?

I remember listening to a fascinating lecture at Oak Hill by Don Carson. His subject was the OT quotations of Hebrews chapter 1.  His mission was to demonstrate that these OT texts were originally not 'concerning the Son'  but that now they were about Him. That's why the lecture was 2 hours long. It took all that time for him to run us through the steps of his argument. Like I say, it was fascinating. Carson often is.  But why did it take 2 hours to say what Hebrews takes no time to say: i.e. that Psalm 45 is "concerning the Son"?  It seems to me that these kinds of systems steal the bible out of the hands of the ordinary Christian and make us all jump through hoops of which Jesus and the apostles seem unaware.

Having said this, there are certainly OT interpretations that are false. It's not a case of "any road to Christ will do." But you see, it's the very idea of needing a "road to Christ" that reveals the real problem. I contend that the OT, in all its detail and historical contingency, is already and consciously a witness to Christ. Christ is already the Light illuminating the path. And He is the Way, not just the destination.

As an example of false interpretation, Duguid refers to a writer who allegorizes from the tabernacle's tent pegs - half in the ground, half out - to the need to proclaim the whole of Christ's atoning work - He was dead and buried (beneath the ground), but also risen and ascended (above it)!  Yes indeed that's a false use of Scripture.  But it's not that he found the wrong "road to Christ" and learning a better system would give him a better road. The problem is: he didn't take the Christ-centred origins of the tabernacle seriously enough. If I want to talk about Christ's death and resurrection, I don't need to take a road from the tabernacle. In the tabernacle we are already witnessing a profound proclamation of Christ's death and resurrection.

At which point, the heart of Duguid's book - showing the shape of the OT and re-telling its redemptive story - becomes a great help to us.  Indeed we need to know about prophets, priests, kings, the temple, the sacrifices, the significance of Adam, of Israel, of David, etc, etc. Inhabiting this world is essential for understanding the Scriptures rightly.  I'd just want to add that the Christian significance of these things is the Alpha as well as the Omega point.

***

With all that said, Duguid's book is a stimulating and useful read. For me though it highlights the need to insist on Christ's presence and promises as well as the patterns of the OT's "redemptive history".

4 thoughts on “Is Jesus in the Old Testament?

  1. Rich Owen

    Glen, this is a great post. Thank you for sharing about Duguid's free book. I'll defo have to have a read of that.

    I've enjoyed his little Genesis expositions very much, particularly Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace, but I have to say, he didn't seem as self consciously clear on the clarity, centrality or necessity of the Messianic hope of Isaac and Jacob, or that their stories are *primarily* proclaiming the "good news of the gospel that we have been called to declare to the nations".

    It is encouraging, as you say, that he's prepared to work outside the very narrow 'Redemptive History' framework, but it sounds as if the underlying principles of that hermeneutic are still underpinning his theology.

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