, , , , ,

I have heard it said the resurrection changes the way we read the Old Testament. Luke records two events in chapter 24. Both are used to support changing the way we read the OT.

The first event is the men on the road to Emmaus. “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them (two men) the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27).

The second event is similar, “‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day . . .'” (Luke 24:45-46).

Christ, “is saying that all Scriptures speak of him in the sense that he is the climax of Israel’s story.”[1] The entire OT as a whole is about Christ. The OT leads a person to know “who he is and what he did.” Most people can agree with Enns on this point. But Enns goes further and explains the resurrection changes the meaning of the OT under divine intention. Therefore we must read the OT “Christianly” so that we truly understand it.

The reality of the risen Christ drove them to read the OT in a new way: ‘Now that I see how it all ends, I can see how this part of the OT, too, drives us forward.’”[2] The resurrection is therefore the hermeneutical key of Scripture. It is the central event that changes OT meaning, for we must read the OT “in a NEW way.” It allows for a divine rereading of the Old and New Testament with the resurrection as the foundation for interpretation. The original authors intent, purpose, and meaning are now susceptible to divine change because of the resurrection.

I do not think anyone would question the OT points forward to Christ. But it seems many people will say, because of the resurrection, we need to see Christ in EVERY text because Christ “explained the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures” (Lk 24:27). This is really the crucial issue. Is Christ in every jot and tittle of the OT? Was Christ able to exegete the entire 48 books, line by line, on a seven mile walk from Emmaus to Jerusalem? Or are we now able to read the NT back into the OT?

Another question needs to be asked too. Did people need the resurrection to make sense of the OT and how it points to Christ? This second question is very important. Enns and others seem to explain the Christ event is needed to unlock what OT Scripture says or even change OT meaning?. In some ways, it is the magic decoder from the Cracker-Jack box. But is it possible the OT makes sense, but due to Jewish religion and teaching people misunderstood the OT?

Here are four observations from Luke, history, and John that help us answer these questions.

1. It seems odd to say Luke 24:27 and 45-48 are hermeneutic passages. What is being proclaimed is this. Luke telling the story of the resurrection, now, in the middle of His narrative, provides a new hermeneutic? Luke is telling the story of Jesus and testifying regarding Jesus’ words, but did Luke really intend this to be a lesson on future hermeneutics? It seems to go against the nature of chapter 24 to say Jesus now teaches a new hermeneutic.

2. Look at the context of Luke 24:27. This verse is used to claim Jesus had to teach the men how He is in the OT. But evaluating the context proves Jesus expected them to have this knowledge already. The men seem confused about the empty tomb of Jesus (24:22-24). Jesus response to the mens’ confusion is an insult. “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken” (25).

Now, if these men need the resurrection to make sense of the OT, then to call them foolish at this point is unfair. Jesus denounces their lack of knowledge and faith in EVERYTHING the prophets have spoken. Jesus expects these two men to understand the prophets. The other option is Jesus unjustly criticizes these two men and they are being persecuted for righteousness sake.

3. The Israelites at the time were looking for the Messiah to set up His kingdom on earth. Their theology did not plan for a death, burial, and resurrection from the Messiah. Nor did their theology plan for two advents and an end to Law. But Jesus emphasis on “all Scripture” seems to indicate they were not considering all the evidence (like Psalm 16 and Isaiah 52-53).

4. Is Jesus really saying every jot and tittle of the OT points to Him? Should Psalm 1 contain Jesus? No. First, I find it hard to believe Jesus explained every verse in the OT and then showed him in that text. Second, Jesus does not tell them, find me in every text, reread it with the resurrection in mind.

The Bible is about the Triune God. It is completely okay if a Bible verse teaches us solely about the Father in that passage. The OT does point to Christ when you consider its context and the direction of Israel and their relationship to the Lord. There are also specific passages that talk about the Messiah too. Psalm 2, Psalm 22, Psalm 16, and Psalm 110 all talk about Christ specifically. We can learn a lot about Him from those passages, but the OT does not lay out the timing of fulfillment. By the end of the OT, a person has an idea about the character and life of Christ. They should know what to look for and they should recognize Him when they see Him.

The good news is God gives us an example of someone who knows the OT and recognizes Him. John 1:45, “Philip finding Nathanael and saying to Him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Jesus even indicts the Pharisees for their lack of faith in believing what Moses wrote concerning Him, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me” (John 5:46). Again, if the resurrection is needed, then the indictment against the Pharisees is unfair and Philip’s wisdom is prophetic. (Now, Philip and Nathanael were probably believers and enlightened by the Lord so they could understand Scripture). Both cases in John prove a person could understand the OT enough to recognize Jesus, they did not need the resurrection event.

It seems more likely the disciples had false expectations of Jesus ministry and did not understand EVERY prophecy concerning Him. They thought Jesus had come to set up His kingdom on earth. Jesus then teaches them the prophecies they did not understand and helped them see the prophetic plan from the Father. Therefore, was Christ saying He is in every jot and tittle of the OT? No. Is the resurrection the key link to unpacking and understanding the OT? No. Can we change the meaning in the OT because of the resurrection? No.

To this author, it seems we need to understand the context, grammar, history, and author’s intention in any passage we study. It is unfair to David to read Christ into texts He is not there. That does not diminish Christ in the OT or the fulfillment of the OT, but it does remain faithful to the OT author, the Triune God.

[1] Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 153

[2] Inspiration and Incarnation, 120.