Christ-centered Bible reading

A worthwhile thought-starter here on the difference between modern ways of reading the Bible and the approach taken by the ancient Fathers, including the writers of the New Testament.

Here’s an excerpt, but I really suggest you follow the link and read the excellent comments as well:

….several key points about the Fathers’ nonliteral and image-laden reading of the Bible.

1. The New Testament authors clearly applied Old Testament texts in ways that departed seriously from the plain, surface meaning of the text. When Paul cites Psalm 19 in Romans 10 (“their voice is gone out into all the world”), he applies the Psalmist’s statement about the heavens to the preaching of the apostles. This runs against the plain meaning, said Wilken.

2. The books of Scripture do not bear their own significance. They must be united to something greater, which is Christ. Thus Paul interprets the creation of man and woman as a great mystery, which is Christ and the church; and he interprets the water-giving rock in the Sinai desert as Christ.

3. Typically, such creative renderings of the Bible are focused on the Old Testament. That is because the Old Testament text signifies Christ, but the New Testament text does not signify another Christ. It requires no allegory or analogy to reveal the Incarnate Word.

4. The Fathers also understood the interpretation of Scripture to require the reader’s participation in the spiritual reality of the text. Thus it is not enough to say that Christ was crucified. We must also say, “I am crucified with Christ,” and thus also I am raised with Christ.

On point #3, above, I’d like to make a further comment.  While it is true that it is not “another Christ” that the NT signifies, we do see Paul saying, “even if we had known Christ according to the flesh, we now know him [in that way] no more; therefore if anyone be in Christ there is a new creation… (2 Corinthians 5:16-17),  Thus Christ in the NT is not just the historical figure of the rabbi from Nazareth, but is the salvation of the world, good news to the nations (ethne, Gentiles), the beginning and end of history.  As such, the full application of the meaning and presence of Christ in all situations, “in whom is hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” requires, it seems to me, a continual re-envisioning of the world as it is (not just as it was in the first century) and, it seems to me also, we have ample precedent in scripture and in the work of the Fathers for  applying by extension and analogy the truth of Christ to emerging circumstances, just as the Fathers and the NT writers did with respect to ancient Hebrew texts.

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