How should we read and interpret the stories of the Old Testament? Many Christians today would answer this question by saying that a person like David is basically presented to us as a moral example. We need to have faith and courage like his if we are to slay the Goliaths in our own lives. But in John 5:39, Jesus reveals that this way of reading the Bible is completely off track. “You search the Scriptures,” he says, “because you think that in them you have eternal life; but it is they that bear witness about me.” On this program, Shane Rosenthal discusses the significance of Jesus’ claim with Dennis Johnson, author of Him We Proclaim and Walking with Jesus Through His Word.
“I think the tendency would be to take an account like David fighting Goliath and see ourselves as needing to be like David with the kind of courage and faith that David had—and not to see what I think in the context of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, and Kings and the flow of the whole testament is that David, at that point, is a glorious preview of Christ. David says, “I come in the name of the Lord of Hosts,” against Goliath, and Jesus would later be greeted as the one who comes in the name of the Lord to fight our greater enemy. If we are anywhere in 1 Samuel 17, we are the Israelites who cower in fear when Saul is in charge—and then when David wins the victory, we follow him into the victory. He’s the preview. He’s the foretaste of Christ, the Messiah.”
Term to Learn
“The Scope of Scripture”
The Reformation insisted on the centrality of Christ to the entire Scripture. This centrality does not result merely from the fact that Christ is the goal and center of the messianic and covenantal history between the call of Abraham and the eschaton, but also from the ultimate focus of meaning of every text in Scripture on the work of God in Christ. Luther could insist that the genuine books of Scripture were known by their witness to Christ. Ursinus likewise declared that Christ is taught throughout the whole of Scripture as the foundation of doctrine and as the summation and focal point of the biblical message. On the one hand, this view could lead to a highly Christological reading of the Old Testament, particularly of the Psalms and the prophets. On the other, granting the relationship between Christ as the word incarnate and Scripture as the accommodated form of the eternal word and wisdom of God, it served to reinforce the doctrine of Scriptural authority and to main a more dynamic view of the text in relation to doctrine.
(Adapted from The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation s.v. “Scripture”)