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.


Does King David Need a Christian Voice?

PsaltersDonald M. Poundstone a retired minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church,one of the Presbyterian denominations in America, has written an article about issues surrounding how Christians can sing all the Psalms. His denomination along with others have a welcome tradition of singing the Psalms in communal worship. There are some groups who adhere to exclusive psalmody, the practice of only singing Psalms in their church worship services. That being said, Poundstone wonders how Christians can sing for example the imprecatory Psalms that call for destruction of enemies using graphic and dramatic language along with other Psalms that express negative sentiments for Israel’s national enemies. Poundstone wonders how can Christians sing Psalms that don’t explicitly mention Jesus or have more brutal concepts of revenge and nationalism that have not been tempered by the New Testament.

Pounstone’s answer is to follow Isaac Watts and “strive to give King David a Christian voice”! Here is this quote in context:

But we also ought to recognize the limitations of the Psalter’s outlook, especially when compared to God’s final revelation in the New Testament. This is why we should follow in the footsteps of hymn writer Isaac Watts, who famously said three hundred years ago that we must strive to give King David a Christian voice. A minister in our church told me he believed God gave us the psalms in order to teach us how to write hymns. How true!


However do David’s words need Christianizing as Watt and Poundstone claim in order for them to have value for Christians, are the Psalms not the inspired Word of God and have value and speak God’s truth and heart and redemption history whether they are all immediately singable for Christians or not!? Does God’s Word need altering so it is more palatable and culturally acceptable for modern non-Jewish singers? Obviously not.

There is however, also a disturbing parallel in the call to give King David a Christian voice, to what German Christian Nazi group the German Christan did in WWII when even their hymns were de-judaised and the Tanach (Old Testament) seen as too Jewish.

Rev Sizer – Jews were Never Chosen People & Attacking Christian Zionism is the Gospel!

Stephen-Sizer-1Anti-Zionist crusader vicar Stephen Sizer will not only speak at mosques and on TV station of oppressive Islamic regimes to Muslims and to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign atheists, he will also share he message of animosity towards Christians who support Israel, to reformed Christian ministers in the guise of the Yorkshire Reformed Ministers Fraternal with 24 affiliated churches in the Yorkshire area.

The YRMF is led by the minister of Sheffield Presbyterian Church Rev. Dr Kevin J. Bidwell and Pastor Ben Hutton of Thornhill Baptist Church. I initially left a comment on their blog asking why they had thought it was so important to have invited Sizer to speak, however the comment was quickly deleted and there seems to be no desire to dialogue on this question. However a cursory glance at Bidwell’s blog reveals how enamoured he was with Sizer’s talk primarily because he has bought-into Sizer’s straw-man presentation of Christian Zionism as a one-size-fits-all theological bogeyman, or as Bidwell calls them “Israel fanatics”. It is informative that Bidwell seems to suggest that all political and this-worldly interests and issues are not for the Christian, citing Jesus’ words that His Kingdom is not of this world. However we live in this world, so to some extent His Kingdom is, of this world without being worldy! 

Bidwell has imbibed Sizer’s rhetoric  “some Christians wrongly seem to become engrossed in Middle Eastern politics.” One could however, claim that Sizer himself has lunched-out regularly on his engrossment in Middle Eastern politics and Bidwell was happy to have him speak and partake in Sizer’s obsession with Middle Eastern politics, however for Bidwell it seems OK when it is the anti-Israel side of the obsession. I doubt very much that the minister’s fraternal will have another speaker to balance-off the perspective Sizer brought. I would be happy to be proved wrong on that point.

At 8:50 in his highly political and biased talk, dressed as theology, to the august gathering of Yorkshire ministers Sizer claimed that Christian support of Israel is easily dismissed, as it is merely hot air in a balloon which he will provide the pins to pop, in fact only one pin is needed and Sizer will generously give the anxious ministers several to help them out!

Sizer starts his talk off with his usual scaremongering about the Israeli-Arab conflict being the most dangerous conflict in the world today, ignoring all other global challenges and the potential conflagration scenario that the Ukraine-Russian-USA(EU)-Russian conflict could easily develop into both economically and militarily.

Sizer claims the Old Testament can ONLY be read through the eyes of Jesus and the Apostles, so much for all scripture, (which was the Old Testament when Paul wrote to Timothy), being God-breathed.

Sizer claims at 10.51, if you preach what a Jewish rabbi could also preach, there must be something wrong with it. This is surely an exaggeration, I’m sure there are many things said in sermons in church and synagogue that are repeated in both.

Sizer asserts, and warns that it may sound anti-Semitic, that the Jewish people as a race were never God’s chosen people at 14.51 mins.

Sizer also recites his usual over-the-top statements from select minority of American Christian Zionists leaders and then claims all that he does in attacking Israel and her Christian supporters is really the Gospel after-all! So for Sizer attacking Christian support of Israel is the gospel. Sizer is deluded if he thinks his new Crusade against Israel is actually the gospel. I wonder if any of those ministers saw through this talk and challenged Sizer’s ‘other gospel’.

Flip the Israel obsession coin and on one side you will have Hagee and on the other you will find Sizer. These ministers seem happy to have one side of the coin because it seems more theologically reformed because of Sizer’s attack on chiliastic eschatology and the Augustinian hermeneutic recycled and renewed by N.T. Wright that Sizer builds upon.

Sizer’s talk can be accessed here.