Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Christ in the Old Testament

Posted by kirkcaudle on January 27, 2010

“My soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him” (2 Ne 11:4, italics added).

As we study the Old Testament in Sunday school this year, we will see, and undoubtedly have already seen, types and shadows of Christ. These types and shadows might come in many ways, including those of people and events.

My mind turned to this subject while reading an old Ensign article by Andrew Skinner, “Finding Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.” In his essay, Brother Skinner points to many prophets and priests “anointed in ancient Israel to perform their special duties in imitation of the Anointed One.” These prophets and priests include, but are not limited to, Adam, Abel, Melchizedek, Boaz, and Joseph. However, looking for Christ in the Old Testament is by no means a novel idea.

The Earliest Christians struggled to make sense of the Jewish Tanakh (basically our Old Testament) in light of their new found faith. Christians in the third century asked the same questions as Christians in the twenty-first century, “where is Jesus in this book?” The Early Christian historian Eusebius (260-340) had an answer.

Eusebius stated, “Every prophet, every ancient writer, every revolution of the state, every law, every ceremony of the old covenant points only to Christ, announces only him, represents only him.” Because Jesus appeared absent from the Jewish text, to find him, the early Christians turned to allegory. They turned to types and shadows. Eusebius believed Jesus was indeed in the text, just hidden. Of course not everyone agreed with this approach, but from my understanding, this method held the dominate position.

As we study the Old Testament in Sunday school this year and ask, or are asked, the question, “where is Jesus in this book,” what are we to think? When I hear this question, my mind harkens back to an answer I once heard in a gospel doctrine class, “Christ is in every page of the Old Testament we just miss him.” Eusebius would surly agree. Do we believe that Jesus is “everywhere,” or can we go too far with that thinking and make false connections? Andrew Skinner points out some great examples of those that typify Christ, but how far should we carry this idea of allegory, types, and shadows in a Sunday school setting?

PS In case anyone is wondering (and you probably are not), kirkcaudle is the same guy as KirkC. My old nick was already taken, so I have a new one.

3 Responses to “Christ in the Old Testament”

  1. BrianJ said

    I’m inclined to try to understand what the writers of the text were trying to illustrate, as opposed to interpreting everything from my p.o.v. That means I often must try to restrain my modern, restored Gospel Christianity and think other terms.

    Just think, for comparison, that we really have very little idea what Christ will be like during his Millennial reign. We have some vague ideas, sure, but they are very vague. Now imagine people…oh, I don’t know when that will actually be, but let’s say 1,000 years from now…imagine those people reading our words and thoughts and interpreting them in “the full light of the Millennial Christ.” You just know that they’d get some things wrong, miss our point, etc.

  2. Robert C. said

    Kirk, I’ve been wondering about the exodus themes in general, and their typological relation to Christ:

    * Disaster is avoided as Adam and Eve are kicked out of the garden and precluded from partaking of the tree of life, and thus eternal damnation.

    * Noah’s escape in the ark allows the human (and covenantal) race to continue, just barely.

    * Isaac narrowly escapes sacrifice (paralleling the Book of Abraham account of Abraham narrowly escaping sacrifice himself).

    * Jacob narrowly escapes defeat in wrestling the angel. Joseph narrowly escapes death and starvation.

    And these are just the major figures in Genesis, whereas I think several minor figures in Genesis might also be thus characterized. (Might we also read Seth as a kind of “escape” of Abel? This opens another can of worms, hopefully to Brian’s glee, regarding the symbolism of the 2 goats in the scapegoat ritual, etc….) And of course other books of scripture take up this typological theme of exodus/escape also.

    My question, is, to what extent we can understand Christ in light of these themes, and to what extent we can understand these themes in light of Christ. Thoughts?

  3. kirkcaudle said

    Robert, I think the word “extent” you use in your question is exactly what I am getting at. I think there are definitely typologies of Jesus in the Old Testament, tons in fact, and in each of these Exodus themes, but the hard part is know how far to take them.

    I have considered of all of these connections before, save Abel and Seth. I wonder if this connection might be enlightened by reading some pseudepigraphic works (Life of Adam and Eve and The Book of Jubilees come to mind), or maybe they would just muddy the waters?

    In any case, the Abel/Seth connection has me thinking.

    Also, I tend to think along the same lines as Brian when interpreting scripture, less hermeneutical and more inline with the original intent of the author(s).

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