I’m going to try and “cut to the chase” in this post. I want to talk about the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, but let us first begin with talking about the exciting topic of bricks.
At the Billy Graham library there are individual bricks that folks walk on which have been brought together in such a way that they form a big cross (when looked at as a whole). In other words, the particular bricks have been joined together under the unifying theme of the cross.
Now, when we look at the O.T., we see many individual verses. These verses are like the bricks at the Billy Graham library. Somehow they relate to each other in such a way that they form something coherent like the individual bricks at the Library form a cross. Just as someone did not scatter a bunch of bricks in random places at the Library so God did not scatter verses in randomness since He is the God of order.
Now, someone might say “Well, there is not a unifying theme (singular) to the O.T., but there are unifying themes (plural).” However, that is like seeing the O.T. as a collection of unified maps that show us the roads in Toronto, Moscow, and Spokane. I don’t think we want to go that route.
Unless we want to treat the O.T. as a bunch of random particulars or a collection of themes that do not relate to each other under the umbrella of a unifying theme, then we must seek the unifying theme that brings the particular O.T. verses and themes together. But what is that theme?
Well, if we look over at the N.T., we will see plenty of places where an individual O.T. prophecy has been fulfilled in the N.T. in some way. However, that is merely seeing how a particular O.T. prophesy is fulfilled in the N.T. What we need is “the” unifying theme that encompasses all the particulars that make up the entire O.T. So, here is the question: Does the N.T. give us the theme that unifies the entire O.T.?
I would answer that question with a resounding “yes!”. I think there are at least three sections in the N.T. which show us what theme unifies all the “bricks” that make up the entire O.T.
In Matthew 5 Jesus said “17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
In Luke 24 Luke states concerning Jesus this: “ 27And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself…44And he said unto them, ‘These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures’”
In John 5 Jesus said “39[You] Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (bracket mine)
I think all of these texts cover all of the Old Testament: “law/prophets” in Matthew 5…”Moses and all the prophets/the psalms” in Luke 24…”the Scriptures” in John 5.
And I think there is one unifying theme: Jesus Christ.
Now, I would like to focus a bit on John 5:39. When you read what Jesus says in the first part about the Jews searching the Scriptures, does that not make you want to say “Well, what’s wrong with that!”?
In fact, Jesus goes on to talk about the Jews being “in them [the Scriptures]”. Jesus acts as if these Jews were doing something wrong by searching and being in the Old Testament Scriptures. What’s going on here?
Well, it is when you read the rest of the verse that you see what Christ’s problem with the Jews was. Jesus said “they…testify of me.” In other words, the Jews were camping out in the Old Testament instead of being pushed towards Christ by the testimony of those same Scriptures.
Accordingly, what I see Jesus saying is that the O.T. was never intended to be seen as an end in itself (thanks Jon Zens). It was always intended to point us to something…eh, SOMEONE beyond itself!
The unifying theme of the Old Testament is not law or Israel. The unifying theme is the Messiah. That is not only the umbrella. That is the emphasis.
Therefore, if we read the Old Testament without allowing it [as a whole] to point us to Christ, then I think the necessary implication is that we are reading the Old Testament as if we were unbelieving Jews.
The Old Testament is the land of shadows. We are not to settle down there like the Jews of old because those shadows point us to Christ. The New Testament is the land of fulfillment. And it is Christ doing the fulfilling.
Let’s just say it: The Old Testament is pushy!
If we camp out in “shadowland” and never feel the push towards Christ…if we interpret individual O.T. verses [in Psalm 23, the Ten Commandments, etc] as if they were an end in themselves, then how are we not approaching the O.T. with the wrong approach which will lead to wrong conclusions?
Jesus has revealed the unifying theme of the O.T. and that theme is Him. Therefore, to try and approach the O.T. without this unifying theme is like looking at individual bricks and either missing that they form a cross or thinking that they form something other than a cross.
Now, I anticipate that someone will object to what I am saying by thinking this “Well, what you are advocating will lead people to read their Christology [i.e., the study of Christ] into the O.T. instead of interpreting the plain sense of the O.T. in its own context…it leads to reading into the Bible instead of reading out what is there”.
However, I would respond by saying “In the light of what Jesus says about the entire O.T. pointing to Him, then what right does any of us have not to read it as testifying of Him?”
This is not Gnostic! This is not elitist! This is not ivory tower! This is the word of Christ we are talking about here.
Jesus is the theme of the Old Testament and this is for those who wear overalls and play on tricycles.
We might disagree on how the O.T. points to Christ. I understand that. But…
Do we have any business disagreeing on the notion that the law…all the prophets…the Scriptures all come together and form a picture of Jesus?