A New Commentary on Deuteronomy

Greg Strand – November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

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:

  1. Where does this event or institution fit in the grand scheme of redemption, whose goal and climax are in Christ?
  2. What lexical and conceptual vocabulary does this text contribute to later interpretation of the mission and ministry of Christ?
  3. What view of God that we later find embodied in Christ is presented here?
  4. How was YHWH’s redemption and calling of Israel analogous to our redemption and his calling of us in Christ?

Greg Strand


Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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