Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament

Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament

Has the Bible bound Christians to a narrow and mistaken notion of Jesus?

Should we listen to other gospels, other sayings of Jesus, that enlarge and correct a mistaken story?

Christopher Wright is convinced that Jesus' own story is rooted in the story of Israel.

And he describes God's design for Israel as it is fulfilled in the story of Jesus.

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Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament is an eloquently insightful, although fundamentally flawed, text written by Dr. Christopher J. Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament has a thoroughly missiological emphasis which flows naturally from Wrights experience as an evangelical Anglican missionary in India and as a dean, and later principal, of a missions-training institution, All Nations Christian College in the United Kingdom. Wrights work is an interesting primer to the consideration of Old Testament insights into Jesus, but his work is severely hampered by a humanist perspective which limits Jesus omniscient divinity. Wright delineated his manuscript into five areas in which Jesus is considered in light of the Old Testament: the Old Testament story, promise, identity, mission, and values. The Old Testament further contributes to an understanding of Jesus identity as a macrocosmic metaphor which depicts Jesus relationship to God the Father via the sonship of Israel. The teachings of Jesus were essentially Old Testament teachings, including to love ones neighbor, to imitate Gods mercy, to be different from the world, and the need for a full reorientation to enter the Kingdom of God. The law, which is by design a universal blessing, follows a scale of values which Wright argued that Jesus affirmed. Wrights intention with Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament was to establish the Old Testament as the source of Jesus insights into God the Father and Jesus roots to His personal identity and mission. Wright implemented a frequently wonderful clarity in his articulation of the Old Testament grounds and references for Jesus many titles, the unique moral value scales in biblical theology, and the Bibles covenantal history. V. Philips Long of Regent College in Vancouver wrote in the Presbyterion that Wrights book was clear, informative, and exhilarating, and was ideal for Christian students embarking on a course of biblical and theological study. Horton of Springfield, Missouri, however, wrote in his review for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society that Wright took too great a liberty in his expression of replacement theology and labeling of many Old Testament promises as being figurative living and transformable rather than literal. Frank Thielman, of Beeson Divinity School of Birmingham, Alabama, published a review in Christianity Today in which he described Wrights work as illuminating but less detailed in analysis than Walter Kaisers The Messiah in the Old Testament. All such insights must always be held in check, however, by remembrance that Wright both limited Jesus self-awareness of divinity and labeled swaths of covenantal promises as being figurative, not literal, when the biblical texts themselves make no such indications. Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament does not present new information or ideas, but rather provides interesting insights into preexisting content. When read with discernment, however, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament can be a valuable primer for those new to evaluating Jesus in light of the Old Testament and for experienced Christians, ministers, and scholars the book can be a source for fresh insight from a perspective outside of modern conservative evangelicalism.

Chapter One: Jesus and the Old Testament Story Wright opens his book by beginning at the beginning of the New Testament, using the genealogy of Matthew 1:1-17 to demonstrate the Old Testament qualifications of the Messiah. First, it demonstrates that Jesus was a real Jew. Genealogies were an important means of establishing Jewish identity. This identity helps people to understand His purpose and message, which are in the context of the Jewish and Old Testament culture (1-3). God had promised a nation to Abraham that would be a blessing to all nations which would serve as the launch point for the universal plan of redemption for all the world (see Genesis 12). This messianic status means that Jesus presence coincides with Gods redemptive plan for the nation of Israel and the world (5-6). Like Matthews genealogy, Jesus is the segue between the Old and New Testaments. Moreover, He is the prophesied one who will fulfill all the Old Testament prophecies and inexorably move the world forward in Gods plan of universal redemption as the culmination of salvation history. His mission will fulfill the Abrahamic covenant of Genesis 12, demonstrating that God keeps His promises (39-49). He begins with the infancy narrative and early childhood of Jesus to show that the story involves a broad range of people and nations. The Old Testament features many promises that are ultimately fulfilled by Christ. Old Testament promise also involves an ongoing level of commitment as evidenced by the covenants between God and humanity. First, it involves a new relationship with God in that it includes all the faithful of all people groups. The promises of God are unwavering, and He fulfilled them all through Jesus Christ. This fulfillment was made possible by the existence of the Old Testament promises as best exemplified by the various covenants, which serve as a sort of road map to universal redemption. Chapter 3: Jesus and His Old Testament Identity This chapter deals with the concept of sonship and what it meant in Old Testament times and addresses the idea of Jesus as the Son of God. Matthew 3:17 reads, This is my son, whom I love, the one in whom I delight. The obedience of Jesus as the Son of God paves the way for the redemption of humanity and the universe. This messiah ushers in a new age of blessing, sacrificing Himself for fallen humanity (147), which involves Him serving as both the identity/representativein the sense of a proxy for sinful humansand destiny of the nation (148). In fact, Jesus was bringing a liberation and salvation that would ultimately stretch to the ends of the earth and beyond, but not in the form many of the Jewish people believed it would come (144-145). He is to bring law and justice as ethical values and social priorities of God to the nations and saturate them with compassion, enlightenment, and freedom. In particular, the books of Deuteronomy and Psalms were important to understanding the values God had inculcated in his people. To obey Gods law whole-heartedly is the natural result of the redeemed status of the Jewish people and such obedience results in the blessings overflowing to other nations. Thus, the law is not going away with the coming of the Messiah, so it is important to see how He built His values and priorities around it. This means being distinct or apart from the worldly society; this is achieved by modelling God. The assurance that the law is in place for the good of humanity is a further motivation.

I found the book helpful in tracing the OT thematic elements through the Gospels.

This second edition includes a new final chapter on the divinity of Christ (something he thought he could presuppose in his first writing, but which he came to feel required clear articulation in today's world). But this book is also worthwhile reading for experienced students, as Wright brings erudition and great knowledge to his study, even if he wears it lightly.

Wright tries to shed light on specific Old Testament passages and how they relate to the historical Christ as primarily understood through the gospels socially, politically, ethically, and theologically. Withal the book itself is neatly divided into five neat sections dealing with Jesus as He relates to specific themes exegeted from Old Testament text; namely, the narrative of Israel, the covenants of God, Messianic identity, Messianic mission, and ethics. Wright seems to do a great job at explaining the basic narrative of the Old Testament, but seems to fail to provide any information about the main thesis of his work in the entire first chapter, and instead spouts off a few a priori historical facts like Jesus was Jew, and Jesus was the Son of David. Rather, he prefers to call them all promises whereupon he describes the nature of these in relation to God. Chapter four deals with the mission of the historical Jesus; Wright weights parts of the gospel narrative in light of Old Testament passages. For example, on page 67, Wright states, There is no evidence that Cyrus ever acknowledged Yahweh (Isa 45:4, you do not know me, seems to rule it out)it seems unlikely that he ever heard of the predictions concerning him made in Isaiah 40-45he simply acted in the exercise of his own ambitions, thereby in the mystery of providence also carrying out Gods promise. However, this does not rule out the possibility that Cyrus, albeit still under the control of Divine Providence, did in fact know of the specific prophesies written about him the Hebrew Scriptures. Albeit there certainly is not just one form of hermeneutic or interpretation concerning Old Testament prophesies, Wright appears to be shelving all other possibilities for his eclectic interpretive approach. Im not here to criticize ones denominational creed, however, Wright seems to fall way off track in proving his thesis when he states dogmatically what type of hermeneutic needs to be used for all Old Testament prophesy. To protestant covenant theologians, for hundreds of years, the idea of a literal fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies concerning the re-gathering of the Jews and the creation of Israel seemed absurd. Wright seems to imply Jesus as a mere historical human figure, (prophetic fulfillment of Christs eternality Mic 5:2 is conspicuously absent) as he states things numerous times over like: Jesus saw himself as fulfilling the mission of the Servant of God (Wright, 157), and, Jesus drew on another figure from his Hebrew Bible and that was the Servant of the Lord (Wright, 154), and again, Presumably God the Father knew that His son, by age thirty, was so steeped in his Hebrew scriptures that he would not only recognize the texts but also understand all that they were meant for his own self-identity (Wright, 106), and once more, The Old Testament set forth a mission, a mission which Jesus accepted as the driving aim of his own life (180). According to Wright, God the omniscient Father would only presumably know that His eternally begotten Son the Second Person of the Trinity would recognize prophesies about Himself (good thing Jesus studied His Hebrew Scriptures a lot or we might have not had a Messiah!) Wrights book is replete with gross underlying erroneous statements, which directly cut into the heart of orthodox Christian Christology. Wright continually views Jesus as the historical man who seemed to accept the divine calling from God in a form of Adoptionism or Arianism that, given the nature of his own assertions, cant really be refuted with any other portion of his book. As far as the point of the book, its quite hard to write a book to a Christian demographic about how Jesus is seen through the Old Testament, and not prove your point, regardless of how bad ones thesis, prose, and diction is.

Wow, read this book to really start appreciating the Old Testament.

This is a helpful book regarding the continuity between the Old Testament and Jesus. Jesus continues the Old Testament story, "fulfills" OT promises, bears an identity shaped by OT models and paradigms, carries on the OT mission, restores OT values, and is the OT God incarnate.

A highly-readable volume on "Christology" through the Old Testament.

Wright goes in depth on theological and historical points and yet keeps the book clear, organized, and interesting.

  • English

  • Religion

  • Rating: 4.15
  • Pages: 267
  • Publish Date: April 8th 1995 by IVP Academic
  • Isbn10: 0830816933
  • Isbn13: 9780830816934