You know from the get-go that coming from a reputable Christian Old Testament scholar like Ian Duguid the answer to this question – Is Jesus in the Old Testament? – will be a resounding “Yes!” It is something we all want to affirm heartily. But you will not expect to find in a mere 40 small-size pages the in-depth answer that Duguid (Professor of Old Testament, Westminster Theological Seminary) provides for us here.
What’s the Point?
We are all aware that the Old Testament writers prophesy of Christ, of course. And we all can point out, say, Isaiah 7:14 or 9:6 or Micah 5:2 or Genesis 3:15 or Isaiah 53 to make the point. And well we should.
But Duguid writes to stress that not just here and there but the whole drift of the entire Old Testament and every page throughout is about Jesus. Nor is he willing to stoop merely to imaginative ways of “finding” Jesus “behind every bush – burning or otherwise” (as Duguid humorously puts it). But he does insist that the Old Testament in all its 39 books is a story that in itself is incomplete and a story that moves inevitably to Jesus.
Throughout his little book Duguid explores “what it means to rightly see Christ in the Old Testament,” and he examines “some specific ways in which the Old Testament focuses on and prepares us to see and understand Christ and his ministry in the gospel.” Duguid further demonstrates that to see Jesus as the centerpiece of the story is to follow the lead of Jesus himself and his apostles, the New Testament writers.
How Do We Get There?
Duguid exposes the problems of both allegorical interpretation and allegorical moralism, and, borrowing from Ed Clowney, he identifies a proper method of Old Testament study that begins with contextual exegesis and interpretation and moves forward via an alert redemptive-historical awareness which directs us to Christ and only then finding its “personal application” to the Christian life.
Probably the leading value of this remarkably informed and delightful little book is Duguid’s concise demonstration that the Old Testament is a story that “was designed from the outset to belong with the New Testament as part of a single book.” Viewed in large picture the Hebrew ordering of the books of the Old Testament “has an ‘unfinished symphony’ feel about it.” And even in the English Bible’s ordering of the books the Old Testament unmistakably looks beyond itself to Jesus as presented in the New Testament.
Duguid also traces out some major themes that carry the Old Testament story into the New Testament. Jesus the New Adam, the New Israel, and the New David all drive us to see the life and ministry and sufferings and death and resurrection of Jesus as the centerpiece of the canon and “the central focus of the whole Old Testament: he [Jesus] is the one toward whom the whole Old Testament is constantly moving, the one for whom as well as by whom it exists. The Old Testament itself, viewed in light of Christ, “is the good news of the gospel that we have been called to declare to the nations.”
All this has certain ramifications with regard to the purpose of the Old Testament and the value of the gospel to the Christian. Lessons in ethics and morals are surely to be found in studying the various people and events of the Old Testament, but its over-arching message is not about them or us – it is about Jesus. And it is only in the continued reflection on this gospel-shaped message about Christ that motivation toward an obedient life is found.
Moreover, “this approach also suggests that the goal of reading our Bibles is not merely educational but fundamentally doxological – to move our hearts to praise and love our glorious and gracious God.” How could we ever have missed that?
That Christ is truly the central theme of the whole Bible is a theme that has always been of great interest to me, and we are blessed to live in a generation of biblical scholars who have grasped the Christ-gospel centeredness and flavor of the Old Testament as well as the new. I love this subject and eagerly read on it often. What is particularly exciting is that at this point in the history of biblical studies this conversation among scholars has been made increasingly accessible to the rest of us. And this is one of the chief values of Ian Duguid’s Is Jesus in the Old Testament? It is a 40-page jewel. Pastors and teachers will find here a wealth of understanding crunched into short space. I trust that with each reading it will rekindle believing hearts with a new appreciation of Christ – and of the Book that was written about him.
Fred G. Zaspel is one of the pastors at Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA, adjunct professor of Bible at Lancaster Bible College – Center for Urban Theological Studies (CUTS) in Philadelphia, and executive editor here at Books At a Glance.