Does the Old Testament actually speak about Jesus?



Can we read Christ into the Old Testament?


According to Jewish tradition, no, and understandably so. According to Christian tradition, yes, since the New Testament interprets various passages in the Hebrew Bible (= Old Testament)  as prophecies that foreshadow the future life and message of Jesus. Christians commonly view other Old Testament texts this same way, following Jesus’ own example: “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

A classic expression of such linkage is Handel’s beloved oratorio “Messiah,” whose songs hailing Jesus Christ use not only the New Testament but a couple dozen Old Testament texts taken from Isaiah, Job, Lamentations, Malachi, Psalms, and Zechariah.

Many modern-day liberal scholars from Christian backgrounds side with Judaism and doubt that Old Testament writers could have been referring to Jesus. Now, surprisingly, an esoteric dispute on this theme at Pennsylvania’s Westminster Theological Seminary is dividing certain conservative Protestants.

The school announced in June that Old Testament Professor Douglas J. Green was being sent into early retirement after 22 years on the faculty. Green, who remains mum, is now teaching at Queensland Theological College in his native Australia. This fuss provoked Robert’s question, not to mention Internet buzz and a September protest petition endorsed by 92 Westminster alumni and other conservatives.

Background: This seminary requires teachers to pledge fidelity to Britain’s 17th Century Westminster Confession of Faith and two related catechisms. In 2008, it suspended controversial Old Testament Professor Peter Enns and then mandated faculty commitment to 52 new interpretations of the 17th century texts, titled “Affirmations and Denials Regarding Recent Issues.” The school next examined whether Green violated the added standards. In 2009, the trustees unanimously approved Green’s explanations of his thinking as “acceptable clarifications and allowable exceptions.”

The trustees have now reversed their exoneration of Green. It’s unclear exactly why.

Continue reading "Does the Old Testament speak about Jesus" by Richard Ostling.

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