Herma and Herman Neutics: Is Christ the Center of Scripture?
Most Christians I suspect would answer “yes” in some sense to my title question. But that “in some sense” contains a diversity of meanings. Some of the key questions that move us toward an answer to what sense is Christ the center of scripture include:
-Does every passage somehow speak of Christ?
-Is he the “hermeneutical key” that unlocks the mystery and meaning of scripture?
-What about passages that seem to contradict what we know of God through Christ?
According to Luke, Jesus explains to the disciples after Easter, the two on the Emmaus road and those gathered in Jerusalem, everything in scripture that relates to him and what has happened to him (24:25-27, 44-49). In John Jesus asserts that the scriptures point to him (5:39-40). This does not mean, however, that every passage somehow speaks of Christ or to the circumstances of his life even if they point to him in more general ways.
If he is the “hermeneutical key” to the Bible it must be in some other sense than every Old Testament passage speaking about him. When we call him “Christ” we get the clue we need, I think. Christ, of course, is the Greek term for Messiah. Messiah is the figure many Jews expected God to send to redeem all his promises to Israel and rule the world. Messiah is, in short, the lynchpin to God’s plan for creation.
The Old Testament tells the story of the unfolding of this divine plan from creation to Jesus Christ (Messiah). The New Testament, from Jesus to Consummation. If Christ/Messiah is the center of scripture he is so as the center of the story of God achieving his eternal purpose. As the climax and culmination of this story/plan the OT does indeed speak of Jesus and the NT reflect on what Jesus accomplished.
To refine this analysis moves us to theological reflection on God’s plan and on the chief dynamic(s) that drive that plan and God’s action in the Bible. I can’t undertake that here, however. The main point of this piece is to make a brief case for Christ as the center of scripture as the center of the story of God’s achieving his eternal purpose through and in him. I offered a response to the first two questions but not the third about passages which seem to contradict what we know of God through Christ. That awaits a fuller development in a future post.