Reading Genesis & the ‘Old’ Testament as a Christian Book!

scroll 3 img_0126_595After writing an article on how to read the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), the author of said article has been “retired” from his post at the renowned Westminster Theological Seminary.

Dr Douglas Green is charged to be guilty of a “christotelic” hermeneutical method that severs the organic link between the Old Testament and the New Testament”.

Here is the example given of this approach which was the end of the story then regulates how the prior story is read and understood.

So why am I giving you this long illustration? To help you think about how you should read the Old Testament in general and Genesis in particular. Put simply, I want to suggest that you engage in two readings of Genesis. One is a first reading: Genesis on its own terms. Genesis as its own unfolding story, but also Genesis read as the first part of an even longer unfolding story. Genesis as an Israelite book, and not (yet) a Christian book!

The other way of reading is a second reading: reading Genesis in the light of the larger story’s surprise ending in the gospel – the story of the life, death, resurrection, exaltation of Jesus and his creation of a new people of God through the outpouring of the Spirit. I want to contend that a Christian reading of the Old Testament is, above all, a second reading. It’s a reading where you come back and make sense of the various scenes in Genesis, now with the knowledge that the story of Jesus (and his people) and not the story of Israel is the true, albeit unexpected, climax of the grand narrative in which Adam, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph (for example) play such important roles.

In other words, you let the Jesus-ending of Israel’s story reshape the way you interpret the particular passage you are dealing with. This is the way you read Genesis as a Christian book

Is this really the way for Yeshua-followers to read the Tanach, to read the end of the story (the New Testament) and then read the beginning (Genesis) in the light of it, in other word to Christianize the “Old” Testament so that it can have meaning for the Christian?

I appreciate a nuanced christotelic hermeneutic which can often reflect Second Temple Judaism’s (contemporaneous to the New Testament period) approach to reading and understanding the Tanach, seen in the assumptive practices of the Targumin and the developing midrashic system at that time.

Van Gemeren wrote his article Israel as the Hermeneutical Crux in the Interpretation of Prophecy for Westminster Theological Journal in 1983 where he claimed a new hermeneutic was at work to replace Augustine’s The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New Revealed, with the Old is by the New restricted the New is on the Old inflicted.

For those who are committed to the divine inspiration of both Testaments we must allow both Testaments to speak to us as God’s Word without overwhelming the integrity of the other. Not all the details in the Tanach speak of Yeshua, and it does not need to in order for Yeshua to fulfil Messianic prophecies. It is easy to have an over-developed Christology and expect to see Yeshua in all the details of the Tanach, a Chistotelic hermeneutic sees Yeshua as what the Tanach aims at rather than the centre of the Tanach, hence Christotelic (telos=aim) rather than Christocentric.

This area of debate about how to read the Tanach reveals is a fundamental error that needs correcting, with N.T. Wright and the New Perspective on Paul pushing too far in the Jesus ending of Israel’s story direction and consequently pushing Israel out or her own story!

Please note this post is not here as an opportunity to attack the New Testament, or faith in Yeshua, there are other threads where there is open debate on these issues. Comments off topic or offensive and seeking to deprecate a faith not your own, will be deleted. This particular post is for those who wish to discuss how Yeshua-followers can read the Tanach in the light of this debate on a christotelic hermeneutic.