The use of Scripture in Christian Zionism: a critical examination. Pt. 4
This post is still written for the purpose of setting the frame for my main arguments later, so please bear with me!
Those new to the ‘hermeneutical spiral’ of New Testament studies may be at a loss as to how to understand how the New Testament authors used the Old Testament scriptures. I remember, very early in my Christian life, reading in the works of some Christian apologists various ‘proofs’ for the truth of the Bible based on the fact that it contained hundreds of ‘fulfilled prophecies’ such that anyone who would care to read and check them out would be convinced of the truth of Christianity. I seem to remember looking some of them up and feeling anything but convinced! How on earth, for example, does Hosea 11:1 function as a predictive prophecy of the words in Matthew 2?
Matthew 2:14-15 ‘Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son”’.
At this stage I had not been a Christian for long and so I decided to put my bible down and trust that clever people had worked this sort of thing out! However, those who may be a little more attentive to detail will notice that the ‘this was to fulfil’ pattern is repeated in Matthew, is actually a pattern. Were these early Christians merely being manipulative in their use of Scripture? If we judge anachronistically, we may have to conclude in the affirmative. What is going on?
However, this is a pattern that we find not only in Matthew’s Gospel but also throughout the New Testament. The early church exercised a peculiar hermeneutic when reading the Old Testament texts. To isolate the precise nature of this hermeneutics is not simple, and there is a good deal of debate in scholarship at the moment as to how to define it. For example, Richard Hays has argued, in his important work Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, that Paul exercises an ecclesiocentric hermeneutic. Francis Watson, in his recent and also important Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith, has – rightly to my mind – challenged this claim and suggested that Paul’s hermeneutical is best understood as soteriological. However, I suggest that the way in which Watson defines this term is too broad to be of much help. Many others (Fee, Eckstein, Motyer etc.) argue that the hermeneutic we see at least evidenced in the apostle Paul is best understood as christocentric. However, if by Christology one understands that which relates to the person of Christ, and this as something to be distinguished from soteriology, the saving work of Christ, then I think we have a problem. I have suggested in my own exegesis of 1 Cor that Paul evidences an approach that reads Old Testament Scripture in light of the relation between risen Lord and believers. In other words, it is indeed christocentric if by that we do not neglect to appreciate the concrete expression of this hermeneutical moment in light of the life and passion of the early church believers themselves.
Labels: Christian Zionism