Monday, October 6, 2008

Is a Christological interpretation of the OT an honest one?

It seems that, among Hebrew Bible scholars, there is a bit of trepidation about letting New Testament scholars and theologians alike have a go at interpreting the Hebrew Bible. There seems to be a sense of injustice done to the text by the NT scholar, not letting the text "speak for itself." This happens quite a lot, but here's the post over on James Getz's blog that has sparked my question.

Certainly, Christological interpretations of the OT occur in the NT itself - but again, were the NT authors being fair in their hermeneutical practices? Were they allowing a text to speak for itself or were they ripping it out of context?

Can one have a Christological interpretation that also pays due respect to the particular OT text in its particular context, or is this having one's theological cake and eating it too?

EDIT: (10/7/08):
Douglas Mangum gives a bit more reasoning behind his answer on his blog.
Phil Sumpter responds to this overall issue on his blog (not my questions specifically, but still good answers).


Douglas Mangum said...

Josh, you're asking the right questions. My answer to your final question is yes, you're trying to have your theological cake and eat it too. Christological interpretation is an innovation of the NT, not something inherent in the OT text. That doesn't mean the NT writers were "ripping it out of context." They were interpreting within a specific theological framework. The rabbis of the Mishnah, Talmud, etc. were equally innovative in their use of the Hebrew Bible. Jewish exegesis demonstrates that Christological interpretations aren't necessary readings of the text. Therefore, it can't be inherent in the particular context unless you take the theological commitment that reading Christologically is the only right way to read it.

Josh McManaway said...

Doug - Your comment that "Jewish exegesis demonstrates that Christological interpretations aren't necessary readings of the text. Therefore, it can't be inherent..."

That's a really good point. There, naturally, had to be some sort of appropriate interpretation prior to Christ. I'm dumbing down your good point, but you get what I'm saying.

Thanks for the comment.

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks for the link. I think the issue also has to do with what we mean by "Christological." Which Christ are we looking to find in the OT? The narratively portrayed Christ in one of the gospels? The divine Christ? The Christ with burning eyes in John's apocalypse? The Christ who is the eternal Logos?

I think a lot of people struggle with the concept of Christological interpretation because they think it means reading the OT through the lens of the NT. But that simply assumes that the NT on its own has somehow grasped the full reality of who Christ is. OT scholars such as Childs and Seitz, however, argue that both OT and NT are equal witnesses to the one Christ who transcends both testaments. This was the assumption of the NT writers, who read the Jewish Scriptures in order to understand Christ (see my thread on this), not in order to speciously back up their claims. The early church, too, read the OT to understand Jesus, and not just to apologetically back up the NT's own particular construal (though that did happen too).

So, I think that before we can talk about the legitimacy of "Christological" interpretation, we need to discern what it means first of all.

Josh McManaway said...

Hey Phil,

Those are great points. I hadn't even considered really digging into what "Christological" means in terms of a hermeneutic. Thanks for the comment.

Scott Bailey said...

If I used the exegetical practices of the NT authors in any of my exegesis classes I would most likely receive an "F".

Anonymous said...

Is a non-theological interpretation of the Bible a possible one?!

Phil Sumpter said...


check out Nick Norelli's post and comments.

Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

learning management system said...

This is the battle between logic and its religious belief. This is a great article to read on.