Jesus on Every Page – An Interview with David Murray
Is Christ in the Old Testament? If so, where? And how does the Old Testament prepare the way for the advent of Christ in the New Testament? These questions and many others are ones that Christians struggle to answer, especially if they have never studied the Old Testament. Thankfully we have pastors and scholars like David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, who has spent considerable time studying the Old Testament and thinking through how the Old Testament points us to Christ. Murray’s new book examines this very subject and does so at a level that every Christian can understand. His new book is called, Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament. Timothy Raymond had the pleasure of asking Murray a number of questions about his new book.
Speaking personally, how has learning to read the Old Testament with an eye to Jesus impacted your piety and pastoral ministry?
I now read the Old Testament much more than I did. I could never quite grasp the point of the Old Testament when I was a young Christian. Apart from the Psalms and the Proverbs I just ignored it mostly. Now, however, I love seeing the way the two testaments complement each other. It’s also helped me understand the New Testament better.
As for preaching, I never felt that my Old Testament sermons were well received. No wonder, they were largely moralistic. But when I started preaching Christ from the Old Testament, I actually got a better response than even New Testament sermons! Christians love to see the unity of Scripture and of God’s plan.
Why should the average Christian layman (i.e., someone not regularly preaching or teaching the Bible) learn how to read the Old Testament looking for Jesus?
Jesus encouraged his disciples to read the Old Testament with a view to seeing him, and when they found him there, they experienced blessed spiritual heartburn. On numerous occasions Jesus and the Apostles pointed people back to the Old Testament, and in many cases, we can’t really understand the New Testament without a knowledge of the Old. To try to do so would be like coming into a play at the half-time interval and expecting to understand all that’s going on.
For those wanting to start looking for Jesus as they read the Old Testament, I would suggest reading the Bible using the study notes in the ESV Study Bible or the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. Both of these study Bibles have extensive focus on the Christ-centered nature of the Old Testament. The ESV Study Bible has a large section in it devoted to the history of salvation in the Old Testament (p. 2635ff).
What authors and books (historic or modern) have most helped you in learning how to read the Old Testament Christologically?
Some of my favorites are:
The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses by Vern Poythress
Preaching Christ from the Old Testament by Sidney Greidanus
Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament by Christopher Wright
A History of the Work of Redemption by Jonathan Edwards
The Christ of the Covenants by O. Palmer Robertson
Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy
Typology of Scripture by Patrick Fairbairn
Christology of the Old Testament by Ernst Hengstenberg
You can see a longer list here.
Tell us about your new book Jesus on Every Page. Why did you write it, for whom is it written, and is there anything unique about it which sets it apart from other contemporary books about Jesus in the Old Testament?
The book actually began as a series of lectures for a class at Puritan Reformed Seminary. When I was planning to put these lectures into book form, Nancy Guthrie encouraged me to make them more accessible – not just for pastors but for every Christian. So, I hope it’s more readable than similar books. It also includes my own story, my journey from Old Testament neglect to being passionate about Christ-centered Old Testament preaching.
Maybe another difference is that it covers many different kinds of Old Testament Scripture – prophecy, poets, types, Chrisophanies, etc., whereas many books just focus on one area.
Is the title of your book a bit hyperbolic? Should we really look for Jesus on every page?
Depends how big your pages are! Yes, it probably is a bit hyperbolic. But it catches the core idea of the book which is that Christ is not just an occasional footnote in the Old Testament, but is there throughout. Maybe I could say it this way, Christ is on every page, but he’s not on every page in the same way. That’s the challenge, to find the right way to Christ in each part of the Bible.
How intimately connected is your approach to finding Jesus in the Old Testament to Covenant Theology? Say someone was persuaded of New Covenant Theology, Progressive Covenantalism, Historic Premillennialism, or some variety of Dispensationalism; would he still find your book helpful? Why?
I’ve been surprised at how many people from various theological backgrounds have found the book helpful. They wouldn’t endorse everything of course, but I think they appreciate how, apart from one chapter, I did try to keep covenant theology more in the background.
It goes back to the book’s aim of finding many different routes to Christ. If covenant theology is our only route, then, of course, those who don’t embrace that won’t embrace the book. However, I hope everyone can find a number of chapters that will help them to enjoy more of Christ in the Old Testament.
How would your approach to finding Jesus in the Old Testament compare with that of Sidney Greidanus (i.e., Preaching Christ from the Old Testament )? Graeme Goldsworthy? Walt Kaiser?
I have relied heavily on all three men’s thinking and writing on this subject. They have each been a huge influence upon me. However, I do differ slightly in a couple of areas. In the case of Goldsworthy and Greidanus, I probably see more of Christ in the Old Testament, not just as the end and destination of it. The Old Testament doesn’t just prepare the way for Christ or point forward to Christ, but actually reveals him. He’s not just at the end of the journey but he’s in every stepping stone along the way.
Greidanus tends to see typology as only something that we see looking back with hindsight rather than something the Israelites used to look forward in faith to the Messiah. As for Walt Kaiser, I think he thinks we disagree (!), but I can’t find much space between our approaches to the Old Testament. At times he would probably be satisfied with a God-centered Old Testament sermon, whereas I’d want to almost always push on to a more Christ-centered sermon.
Is it legitimate to find Jesus in an Old Testament account when it would appear that the human author was not thinking of Jesus? For example, would it be legitimate to find Jesus in the book of Esther, when the human author of Esther seems to be simply recording a historical event? Why or why not?
Yes, we must be careful not to read Jesus into Scripture where the Scriptures do not warrant that. However, every book of Scripture should be read in the context of the whole of Scripture, and the whole plan of redemption. People often forget that the Israelites reading Esther had the benefit of lots of previous revelation, including wonderful prophecies of how Christ would defeat all his and their enemies.
Also, we must remember that there is also the divine author’s intent in addition to the human author’s intent. The prophets wrote more than they understood, realizing that later generations would understand more (1 Peter 1:11-13).
Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation.