David Dockery (and R. T. France) On The Christocentricity Of The Old Testament

Timmy Brister conducted an interview with David Dockery at Provocations and Pantings last week. Timmy is providing us an opportunity to submit some of our own questions to Dr. Dockery this Monday evening.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I have painstakingly fought both sickness and error prone typing to post a great quote from a book by Dr. Dockery. This book, Biblical Interpretation Then and Now: Contemporary Hermeneutics in the Light of the Early Church, has been a help to me in my understanding issues surrounding Biblical Interpretation. One of my favorite passages in the opening pages of the book, and really drew me in. I finished the book in two days. Hopefully, you will be inspired to buy the book for yourself and glean treasures which will help you to see Christ in the Scriptures.

Jesus understood the Old Testament christologically, and it is from him that the church derives its identification of Jesus with Israel. In the temptation narratives (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13), Jesus’ own estimation of his status and calling is reflected in his answers from Deuteronomy 6-8. In this old Testament passage Moses, following the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, exhorted Israel toward wholehearted obedience and continued faith in the divine provision for them. It was a time of hunger and testing, preparatory to a special task, in which God disciplined his nation Israel (Deut. 8:5), to teach them to worship only the true God. Jesus, at the end of the forty days, accepted afresh his messianic mission and his status as the Son of God, seeing himself in some sense as the new Israel, succeeding where the old Israel had failed. His belief in his forthcoming resurrection after three days seemed to be motivated both by the promise of Israel’s resurrection (cf. Hos. 6:2) and by seeing himself in light of the Jonah story (cf. Jon. 1:17; Matt. 12:40). He observed his own experiences prefigured in the psalms of vindication and suffering, used both by individual Israelites and by corporate Israel (Pss. 22, 41, 42, 43, 118).

R. T. France sums up the evidence of the synoptic Gospels in these words:

He uses persons in the Old Testament as types of himself (David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jonah) or of John the Baptist (Elijah); he refers to Old Testament institutions as types of himself and his work (the priesthood and the covenant); he sees in the experiences of Israel foreshadowings of his own; he finds the hopes of Israel fulfilled in himself and his disciples, and sees his disciples as assuming the status of Israel; in deliverance by God he sees a type of the gathering of men into his church, while the disasters of Israel are foreshadowings of the imminent punishment of those who reject him, whose unbelief is prefigured in that of the wicked in Israel and even, in two instances, in the arrogance of the Gentile nations.
R. T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament: His Application of Old Testament Passages to Himself and His Message (London: Tyndale, 1971), 75.

In all these aspects of the Old Testament people of God, Jesus saw foreshadowings of himself and his work. This resulted in opposition from and rejection by the majority of the Jews, while the promises concerning Israel were partially fulfilled in the new Christian community. The history of Israel had reached its decisive point in the coming of Jesus. The whole of the Old testament pointed to him. He embodied the redemptive destiny of Israel, and in the community of those who belong to him that status and destiny are to be fulfilled.

Because Jesus saw himself as the representative of Israel, words originally spoken of the nation could rightly be applied to him, and because Jesus is the representative of humankind, words spoken originally by the psalmist can be fulfilled by him (cf. John 13:18; 15:25; 19:28). For Jesus, the key to understanding the Old Testament was located in his own life and work, for everything pointed to himself. The New Testament writers, following the pattern of Jesus, interpreted the Old Testament as a whole and in its parts as a witness to Christ.
David Dockery, Biblical Interpretation Then and Now: Contemporary Hermeneutics in the Light of the Early Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992) 24-25.

HT: Pester Steve Weaver



Filed under Bible, biblical interpretation, books, David Dockery, reading

7 responses to “David Dockery (and R. T. France) On The Christocentricity Of The Old Testament

  1. Nathan White

    What a great post. I can’t tell you the veil that was lifted from my eyes when I put on the Christ-centered goggles of viewing the OT in light of what Christ has accomplished. Dispensationalism, on the other hand, use to cause me to focus on Israel the nation, the promises and future for them, and I completely missed the entire purpose of the law and prophets.

    It is amazing to me how presuppositions can lead one to see only what he wants to see, even when a true believer and honestly desiring to approach the text honestly. However…if we get the fact that CHRIST is IT when it comes to the scriptures, those presuppositions have a way of disappearing.

  2. Jeremy Weaver

    I think when you take this christocentric view of the Scriptures everything makes much more sense.

  3. bluecollar

    That post was EXCELLENT!!!

    Are the authors mentioned in this post (R.T. France) New Covenant Theology?

  4. Jeremy Weaver

    I’m pretty sure they are not, Mark.

    However, you probably see this like I do, as an excellent foundation for NCT.

  5. bluecollar

    Yes I do! Thanks for the response.

  6. Nathan White

    an excellent foundation for NCT

    I certainly don’t know about all that šŸ™‚

    I know that NCT strives to take a ‘Christ centered’ approach on interpreting the scriptures, but I just don’t see how they actually fulfill that claim.

  7. Jeremy Weaver

    I’ll pray that the veil is lifted form your eyes Nathan.

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