“The truth is that there’s a lot in the Bible that isn’t about Jesus.”
So goes the thesis of an article recently published by Logos, authored by theologian Michael S. Heiser. Logos hosts his article here.
I have my own thesis: the entirety of the Bible concerns Jesus in some way.
How so? After all, Dr. Heiser’s article includes several references which seem fairly open-and-shut. He asserts Levitical prescriptions on the treatment of leprosy and prohibitions of who can and cannot enter the tabernacle worship space, the exposition of the moral decay of Israel in the period of the Judges, the Babel narrative, and Ezra’s command for the returned Exiles to divorce their pagan wives do not point to Jesus or foreshadow him. Specifically, Dr. Heiser mainly uses the language “about Jesus” three times in his paragraph decrying these passages connection to Jesus.
The problem with Dr. Heiser’s argument lies in how he has stated the relation of these passages to Jesus. Using this flat, reductionistic method, many passages in Scripture are not “about Jesus.”
-1 Corinthians 13 is not about Jesus. 1 Corinthians 13 concerns love.
-3 John is not about Jesus. In it, John provides specific advice to a fellow Christian.
-James 2:1–13 is not about Jesus. James has concerns about partiality, mercy, and justice.
Dr. Heiser indicates his understanding of the idea of all of Scripture concerning Christ being a direct pointer (in the manner of a road sign) to Jesus or a foreshadowing of Jesus, which would not differ terribly much. Surely, some beginning students of a Christ-centered hermeneutic (i. e. method of interpretation) speak in such ways without totally understanding all involved in such a thing, a novice’s skill does not provide the means to assess an entire enterprise. For example, my wife and I cannot defeat my seven-year-old son’s basketball team at the local YMCA and subsequently claim mastery of the sport to the degree of taking on the recent NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors. Overcoming low-skill adherents to the Christ-centered school of biblical interpretation does not a method defeat.
Space (ahem, reasonable length of a blog post) does not permit interaction with all his examples, but let’s examine a few.
Does the Babel narrative of Genesis 11 not speak of the fracturing of human civilization due to their rebellion against God? Rather than obey his command to spread over the face of the earth, they find themselves broken apart. Is this not part of the global scope of the redemption of humanity, which plays a key part of the worthiness of Jesus to open the scroll in Revelation 5?
Do the Levitical prohibitions of contact with leprous individuals say the name “Jesus”? No. Does Jesus transcend the Levitical regulation and cleanse those suffering from leprosy himself? He does. Previously, the immediate removal of leprosy came only at the pronouncement of a priest or through some sort of supernatural means as when Elisha dealt with Namaan in 2 Kings 5.
The Book of Judges does not end with, “But hey, Jesus will fix all this;” rather, it says Israel had no king and all the people did what was right in their own eyes. The book provides us a deep and sickening look at the depth of the sin of God’s people, and this is the sin which the Messiah came to uproot and tear out. There is a king in Israel, indeed in all the cosmos, for Jesus has come with grace as wonderful as the sin in Judges was atrocious.
Ezra’s ending provides no small amount of material for consideration, but in the rejection of the most intimate appropriations of paganism, we see the way prepared for the Son who will demand his people lay aside every encumbrance which would hinder them from coming to him.
Every text of Scripture concerns Christ, all of Scripture has a correspondence with his life, work, and rule. Right now, this minute, is there a young man who recently discovered the idea of the Christ-centeredness of the Bible and is telling some unwilling listener about Jesus hiding in every nook and cranny of the Old Testament? Of course there is. The same young man will also probably go on about his choice of dark roast coffee and the excellence of facial hair as well. If the young man had an interest in cars, he’d desire all people receive an auto inspection by him. But we do not say auto inspections and tune-ups are silly because of a silly advocate of them. Rather, we go to a reputable practitioner of inspections.
Do not go to the headstrong and brash fellow arguing for Jesus behind every rock in the Old Testament; go to the man who explains how Jesus is the rock from which the Israelites drank in the desert. See the Son of God in all his fullness by understanding how all of the Holy Spirit’s revelation, whether in law, poetry, narrative, or direct teaching paints a multi-faceted and rich picture of the Almighty God Incarnate.
Perhaps a man whose work receives publication 1800 years after his death provides a fitting comment to conclude:
“This, beloved, is the preaching of the truth, and this is the character of our salvation, and this is the way of life, which the prophets announced and Christ confirmed and the apostles handed over and the Church, in the whole world, hands down to her children.”
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, On the Apostolic Preaching, trans. John Behr, Popular Patristics Series, Number 17, (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), 100.