On Biblical Theology and Interpretation

Christ in OT“Jesus became the direct and primary source of the
church’s understanding of the Old Testament”
— David Dockery, “Typological Exegesis”
in Reclaiming the Prophetic Mantle, 174 —

If reading the Bible well is a passion for you, you will appreciate the reflections of these interpreters of Scripture.


The Text, the Whole Text, and Nothing But the Text. Willem VanGemeren is right when he argues that the historical-grammatical interpretation is the way to read the Bible on its own terms.

Hermeneutics refers to the manner in which we listen to the text, relate it to other texts, and apply it. Hermeneutics calls for a discipline of mind and heart, by which the student of Scripture may patiently study the biblical text in its various contexts, including historical, grammatical, literary, and cultural.  This approach is best known as historical-grammatical analysis. (Van Gemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 27)

The Textual Horizon is not Enough. And VanGemeren is also correct to caution against exegesis which fails to consider the larger framework of the Bible.

The problem with the historical-grammatical method, however, is that students of the Word may be tempted to think that they have control over the text when all they have done is examine its constituent parts—but what grasp do they really have of its message?  Only after seeing how the parts fit together and how they relate to the rest of the book and to the rest of Scripture can the student master the clear message of the text.  Proper exegetical theology, therefore, requires synthesis. . . .

Interpretation also involves equal concern for the Old and New Testaments.  When the two parts of the Bible are held in careful balance, the continual tension between law and gospel, token and reality, promise and fulfillment, present age and future restoration, Israel and the church, and earthly and spiritual only enhances a christological and eschatological focus. (Van Gemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 29, 38)

OT Structures define NT Structures. T. F. Torrance urges us to see the way the New Testament makes use of the already-established Old Testament structures.

There are structures of biblical thought and speech found in the Old Testament which have permanent value, both for the New Testament and for the Christian Church.  That is why the Church is built upon the foundation not only of the apostle but of the prophets, and in that order, for the Old Testament Scriptures are now assumed within the orbit of the New Testament, for they provide the New Testament revelation with the basic structures which it used in the articulation of the Gospel, although the structures it derived from Israel were taken up and transformed in Christ. (T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 27)

On Navigating Horizons. David Peterson writes about the way Peter and Luke make use of Psalm 69:25 in Acts 1:20.

Things said of David or of righteous sufferers more generally in the psalms were interpreted as having their ultimate fulfillment in the life of Jesus as Son of David and Servant-Messiah.  Consequently, the enemies of David or of the righteous sufferer could be seen as foreshadowing the enemies of Jesus, without implying that the primary reference of the psalm was to Judas himself. (David Peterson, Acts of the Apostles125).

Christ the Fulfiller. Critiquing Covenantal and Dispensational approaches the interpretation, Graeme Goldsworthy puts Christ at the center of our interpretive framework (cf.  Luke 24:27, 44–49; John 5:39, 46; Acts 13:32–33).

There is a world of difference between Jesus making fulfillment possible and in Jesus himself being the fulfillment. Jesus is thus the primary goal of all the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament. It has been one of the mistakes of some Reformed theologians to emphasize the role of the church as the new Israel and the new people of God without first highlighting Jesus as the new Israel. The individualistic form of this perspective is to regard ourselves as the primary subject matter of all Scripture. Yet Jesus indicated that the Old Testament was about him, and thus it is not first and foremost about us. The lack of Christocentric perspective leads to some uncertainty about eschatology and, in particular, to the eclipsing of Christ as the centre of biblical theology. It also emboldens the still considerable number of Dispensationalists who dismiss the commonly held notion that the church is the new Israel as an illegitimate ‘replacement theology.’ In this they do have a valid point, but the term replacement is somewhat pejorative and clouds the issue. I would rather see the emphasis on ‘fulfillment theology,’ with Christ at the centre as the true Israel. (Goldsworthy, Christ-Centered Biblical Theology31).

Yes and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20). May the Spirit of the Lord who loves to speak of Christ give us eyes to see Jesus in all of Scripture.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds



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