In keeping with prior posts on hermeneutics (that is, how to read and actually understand the Bible in some reasonable fashion), more hermeneutics, discovering the nature of God, and too many posts to link to directed at shaking a bit of sense into mindless pop Christian culture, check out Ben Witherington, once again, as he provides a great post on how we should read the Old Testament in light of the New Testament.
The “old dude” I’m referring to is “Saint” John Chrysostom, one of the gems of the Early (4th Century) Church. We don’t hear too much from Chrysostom, and some may never of heard of him. It seems as though many people assume that there were no brilliant theological minds between the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther (or Calvin, for you Reformed folks). Born in 349, Chrysostom was actually a contemporary of Augustine, who was 5 years younger. Chrysostom became the Archbishop of Constantinople, while Augustine joined the Church in Italy after being converted in Milan. Of course, at that time there was still only one church, although Rome always seemed to always claim a higher status. While both men are considered saints in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, the West seemed to follow Augustine’s thinking, while Chrysostom seems to carry more clout in the East. But, enough history.
The point that Witherington & Chrysostom make concerning the reading of the Old Testament is that since the coming of the New Testament (basically, I think, the appearance of Jesus) the Old Testament must be read and interpreted in light of the New Testament. Here’s a quote that Mr. W quotes from Chrysostom:
Now when you see these things merely sketched out you neither know everything nor are you totally ignorant of everything, but you know that a man and a horse are drawn there, though they are indistinct. But you don’t accurately [or fully] know what sort of emperor or what sort of prisoner it is until the truth of the colors comes and makes the face distinct and clear. For just as you don’t ask everything of that image/portrait before the truth of the colors, but if you receive some indistinct knowledge of what is there, you consider the sketch to be sufficiently ready , in just that same way consider with me the Old and New Testaments , and don’t demand from me the whole fullness of the truth in the [OT] type…For as in the painting, until someone draws in colors it is a shadowy sketch.
Much weirdness comes from reading the Old Testament separate from the New, and as a consequence confusing how the testaments fit together. Witherington says:
Now what is so interesting about this whole hermeneutical approach is that it believes that one must do justice to the history if one is to do theology and ethics right. Christianity was a religion grounded and founded in history, and so theology proper was a reflection on God’s mighty acts in history which had a before and after to them. It was not an abstract science or philosophy where one took ideas and simply linked them together without them arising out of historical events and their substance. In the end, Chrysostom’s hermeneutic mirrors that of Paul and the author of Hebrews. It would be my view that we should go and do likewise.
Good stuff again from Mr. Witherington. Go read the whole article.