This blog series is inspired by a lecture I had the privilege of attending by Dr. Ronald J. Sider. At the beginning of his lecture, he outlined some basic guidelines for how we should interpret the Bible. Though not every article is directly from this lecture, I am drawing heavily upon what Dr. Sider presented, however I am also drawing upon my education and experience. My hope is that each of these articles will help all of us more faithfully read and understand the Holy Scriptures.
In my last entry, I quoted Dr. Ron Sider, who said that we should, “Understand [the] text within the entire biblical canon and develop what the entire canon teaches on the topic with Jesus Christ as [the] final interpretative key”
Last time I elaborated on the first part of that quote regarding the context of a verse within the grand narrative of the Bible. I didn’t address the second half of that, because I thought it deserved an entire post of its own.
What does it mean for Jesus Christ to be the final interpretative key? What Sider is talking about is commonly called a “Christo-centric hermeneutic”. What this term means is that our interpretation of the Scriptures centres around Christ. It means that we read the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus, we read the Gospels as the story of Jesus, and we read the rest of the New Testament as a message for us about how to live as followers of Jesus.
This is deeply related to the last post, about understanding what we read in light of where it fits in the overall narrative of the Scriptures, a narrative in which God is the hero, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the pinnacle and climax of the story.
So much of the Old Testament, even those “boring” books of laws are best understood through the lens of Christ. They remind us that we are sinners, but there is so much more than that. In the books of the law we find things that point to Jesus, like the laws about sacrifices offered to atone for our sins. Though in the Old Testament it was animals that were killed to atone for sins, Jesus became the perfect lamb, that was slain as an atonement for our sins, once for all time.
In the New Testament we find all sorts of imperatives and advice meant to help us as we seek to follow in the ways of Jesus. Though we are to share our faith with others, and be ministers of reconciliation, helping people be reconciled to God, these instructions are often for believers, as we live among non-believers. They are not things for us to forcibly impose upon all the unbelievers around us, but rather instructions for us who follow the way of Jesus. The way of Jesus is different than the way of the world, and so we read the New Testament epistles to help us on our journey of faith, understanding them in light of the work of Christ.
It is often a joke among us Christians that the answer to everything in Sunday school is “Jesus”. And though we may chuckle at this, it is Jesus who is at the core of our faith, and it is through Him that we can properly understand the Scriptures. At times I read books by Jewish theologians and philosophers, which have greatly enriched my understanding of the Old Testament. At times, though, it causes me to lament. There have been moments where the Jewish author asks questions about God, or about what a passage might mean, a question I can tell they are honestly wrestling with, and a question with is fully and beautifully answered in the person and life of Jesus—if the writer would have viewed the New Testament as the Word of God as well, they would have the answer that they are so fervently searching for.
As we study the Bible, let us always remember Jesus, and read every passage in light of our Saviour and His life, work, death, and resurrection.