Monday, August 26, 2013

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Christ in the OT: Present or Absent?

There are several options open to exegetes when grappling with the real presence or absence of Christ in the OT:

A) Christ was ontologically present (ruling, leading, saving, speaking to his people) but cognitively absent. 

In other words he ruled, lead, saved and spoke to his people, but was The Jesus They Never Knew, as he was never revealed to them, or never revealed himself, as their Saviour-King.  The self-revealing of distinct persons of the Godhead being a matter that omitted from the revelation granted to the OT saints (although many exegetes would allow for puzzling, cryptic hints at plurality.  Therefore he was not personally addressed by his people in their prayers, was never the object of their worship, obedience, trust etc.

The tension between presence and absence can be explained from a variety of theological perspectives on a spectrum extending from liberal to conservative.  More on this in later posts.

B) Christ was ontologically and cognitively present to his people.

Pre-Augustine it was common to understand OT theophanies as the appearance of the Son of God to his people (a point made by H. P. Liddon in the Bampton Lectures on The Divinity of our Lord, 1866).

Manlio Simonetti underlines this in two footnotes in his Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church:
Following a tradition going back to the 2nd Century, Eusebius takes the Logos, the Son of God, as the object of these [appearances of God to the patriarchs and Moses], rather than God the Father.  (n. 3, p. 83) 
Theophilus' one concern is to make it clear that the one who walked in Paradise and spoke with Adam, was not God the Father, but his Son, the Logos, the subject of all the Old Testament theophanies.  (n. 20, p.33)
That the early church fathers understood the texts in this way is clear, why they read them in this way is another matter, and why many contemporary conservative evangelical scholars are averse to interpreting the texts in the same way is an intriguing question to pose.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

A sentence that smacks you in the head

To read the early church fathers is to immerse oneself into a world of theologians, preachers, and worshippers who were saturated in the Scriptures.  Whatever we make of their exegetical methods, speculations, and odd pre-occupations, they self-consciously based their thinking upon the authority of the sacred text of the Word of God.  Athanasius wrote that "The holy and inspired Scriptures are fully sufficient for the proclamation of the truth."

Whatever else may wish to discern as factors in their thinking (Hellenic allegorical methods of interpretation, strains of Platonic and Neo-platonic philosophy etc.) there can be no doubt as to their starting point; a point well recognised by O'Keefe and Reno in their refreshing primer Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible:
How many times must we read and teach Origen's On First Principles, a dauntingly speculative inquiry into the nature of God, the world, human existence and destiny, before noticing that the opening sentence stipulates that the Bible is the sole source of wisdom?   
To see that sentence and understand its meaning is like receiving a blow to the head. 
And to save you googling it, here is that sentence (and for good measure the one after it):
All who believe and are assured that grace and truth were obtained through Jesus Christ, and who know Christ to be the truth, agreeably to His own declaration, “I am the truth,” derive the knowledge which incites men to a good and happy life from no other source than from the very words and teaching of Christ. 
And by the words of Christ we do not mean those only which He spake when He became man and tabernacled in the flesh; for before that time, Christ, the Word of God, was in Moses and the prophets. For without the Word of God, how could they have been able to prophesy of Christ?