Daniel Block, Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College, has written a new commentary, The NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012). He was recently interviewed about this new work (“Slow Down! A Different Perspective on Christ in the Old Testament”). It is a fascinating interview. For example, consider the following provocative statements made by Block:
- The book would be better understood as “pastoral preaching” rather than the deutero-nomos, the second law;
- Moses would be better understood as a pastor-teacher than a law-giver because God alone legislates, not Moses or any other person, and the book consists of Moses’ sermons;
- Deuteronomy is more closely parallel to the Gospel of John than to Romans, as Deuteronomy narrates redemptive historical events while expounding their theological significance;
- Jesus is not a second Moses, he is YHWH!; Paul is the second Moses in the New Testament;
- The identity of the divine redeemer is YHWH and Jesus; the interpreters of the great acts of redemption are Moses and Paul.
Though not all agree with all of Block’s conclusions, I being one of those, they are thought-provoking.
His final response addressed the question about preaching Christ in the Old Testament.
Perhaps we need to distinguish between “Christological preaching” and a “Christological hermeneutic,” as if under the latter we expect to find Christ in every verse of the Bible. While it’s not difficult to identify overtly Messianic texts (Psalm 2; 110; Isaiah 53; Micah 5:1-5; etc.), technically the OT rarely speaks of ho Christos, the anointed Messiah. Unless we overload that expression beyond what it actually bears in the OT, I don’t find “the Messiah” on every page. Still, YHWH is everywhere, and when I preach YHWH, I’m preaching Jesus, Immanuel, the Redeemer of Israel incarnate in human flesh. When I read Exodus 34:6-7, I see a description of the One whom John characterizes as glorious, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
Actually, we’d improve our hermeneutic if we interpreted the OT Christotelically rather than Christocentrically. While it’s hermeneutically irresponsible to say all OT texts have a Christocentric meaning or point to Christ, it’s true that all play a significant role in God’s great redemptive plan, which leads to and climaxes in Christ. This means that as a Christian interpreter my wrestling with an OT text must begin with trying to grasp the sense the original readers/hearers should have gotten, and authoritative preaching of that text depends on having grasped that intended sense.
However, my work as a Christian interpreter doesn’t end there. I must ask several additional questions:
- Where does this event or institution fit in the grand scheme of redemption, whose goal and climax are in Christ?
- What lexical and conceptual vocabulary does this text contribute to later interpretation of the mission and ministry of Christ?
- What view of God that we later find embodied in Christ is presented here?
- How was YHWH’s redemption and calling of Israel analogous to our redemption and his calling of us in Christ?