How to Read (and not read) the Old Testament



I. How do we read the Old Testament?
II. How should we read (and not read) the Old Testament?
III. The Old Testament’s shape
IV. Christ fulfillment of the Old Testament

How Do We Read the Old Testament?
It has been said that there is a majority of believers who functionally ignore the Old Testament altogether. I know for me for the longest time it seemed as though I were taught to make myself the hero of all the biblical narrative. Look for the principals that can be applied to your life to make you be “a man after God’s heart” or “live like Daniel” things along those lines. Sadly, that is the way a lot of people are instructed to learn from the Old Testament, we are not taught to look for the crimson cord that ties the OT and NT together which is Christ blood.
Or even worse than reading ourselves into the story, and not reading the stories at all is reading them and forgetting that they are true historical events in the lives of those being written about. If we separate the history from the story it will begin to lose its overall meaning and purpose.

How Should We Read (and not Read) the Old Testament?
This is the good news; we get to read the Old Testament in light of Christ. When we read the Old Testament in light of the Gospel we can see lives changed. In the book Duguid says, “This approach also suggests that the goal of reading our Bibles is not merely educational but fundamentally doxological—to move our hearts to praise and love our glorious and gracious God.”Duguid has a great diagram borrowed from the late Dr. Edmund P. Clowney, showing how we should and should not read the Old Testament. For example, we should start with the OT text, find its context, then locate the OT truth, find its place in redemptive history, its fulfillment in Christ, its significance, and lastly its application. What we should not do is start with the text and automatically jump to its fulfillment in Christ, or start with the OT truth and land on application right away.
For preachers especially it is easy to fall into the allegory method, where we start with the text and want to land the plane at the foot of the cross way to easily, when that may not be the ultimate conclusion of the text. One of the newest ways of interpreting Scripture and it has become an over corrective is what Duguid calls moralism. Where after discerning the original intent, the next thought we encounter would be, what is the timeless truth one should be looking for. While it is a little better it is still not the best approach one can take. There are many different things we should be looking for when reading the OT not just how do we apply it to our lives. But how does it show us the gospel. As noted by Duguid, “Application is important, but the gospel comes first.”

The Old Testaments Shape

The way we have set up our English Bibles is vastly different than the way the Hebrew Bible is established. The Hebrew Bible has three distinct sections The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. While our English Bible follows the model set forth by the Greek translation, following a more logical and historical order. We need to keep in mind “the Bible is never merely a recording of the facts of Israel’s story. Rather it is the record of God’s Word and it’s fulfillment.” So our English Bible now goes with the historical books which encompasses the Pentateuch, followed by poetic/wisdom books, and closed out with the prophetic works. Duguid expresses this, “The three major divisions in the English ordering of the Old Testament correspond to the three major ways of seeing God’s hand at work in the world.” It has been noted that Christ fulfills three differing roles those of priest, prophet and king. Duguid makes the argument he also fulfills the three major divisions of the OT, being a sage (wisdom), a sacred historian, as well as a prophet.

Christ Fulfillment of the Old Testament

As one spends time reading through the Bible they can begin to see a common thread weaved throughout and that is Christ himself. Especially if the reader takes the time to carefully read and understand the New Testament it shines a bright light on the Old Testament. There are a minimum of three major areas we can draw delineation of Christ back to the Old Testament, those are Jesus as the new Adam, new Israel, and the new David. He is also known as the greater Moses from the book of Hebrews.
Christ is our new representative when we come to faith in him, the same way Adam was our representative from birth. Just read Romans 5:12-20 and you get a clearer picture of the transformation that has taken place. In a typological way Christ represents Israel, he was born in Bethlehem, crossed over to Egypt like Israel did, he would spend forty days in the wilderness to represent the forty years, upon leaving the wilderness he was tested in a like manner as the Israelites were but he passed, answering Satan with the Word of God. And as the new David he would be the one to sit on the throne of Israel forever. Duguid points out, “As king, he was responsible for overseeing worship in the temple in Jerusalem, so his first act when he arrived there was to clear out the money changers and merchants who were defiling it (Matt. 21:12-13).” In all of these aspects Christ was the greater version of those who went before and fulfilled the roles perfectly which they were unable to do.

Looking for Christ in the Old Testament: Exercise

Genesis 3:15 is a great example of how to see where Scripture speaks of Christ. This verse is known as the proto-evangelium or the first giving of the Gospel. It is the promise of Christ coming and destroying the work of Satan. By looking at this verse how can we tell it is speaking about Jesus? Well for starters, it uses the singular word for seed, moving on beyond that what else can we take away from this text? Not just application but deeper understanding.

Isaiah 53 on the whole gives us much to digest, in way of understanding how to see Christ. Throughout the gospels there is much mention of this section of Scripture. How do we view this text, through what lens should we first see it? After, that we should begin the interpretive process. How do we fully see Christ in this portion of Scripture? Is the gospel being presented? How do we apply that to our lives?

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