Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

Sidney Greidanus’ “Christocentric Method” for Preaching the OT

with 6 comments

I found this quote from the blog at Reformed Reader helpful in thinking about preaching Christ in all of Scripture. Many pastors, young and old, continue to do a disservice to the OT text by bludgeoning Christ upon every jot and tittle.To those who make it their practice to do so, I think these wise words from Sidney Greidanus are instructive:

The christocentric method complements the theocentric method of interpreting the Old Testament by seeking to do justice to the fact that God’s story of bringing his kingdom on earth is centered in Christ: Christ the center of redemptive history, Christ the center of the Scriptures.  In preaching any part of Scripture, one must understand its message in the light of that center, Jesus Christ.

It should be clear by now that our concern is not to preach Christ to the exclusion of the “whole counsel of God” but rather to view the whole counsel of God, with all its teachings, laws, prophecies, and visions, in the light of Jesus Christ.  At the same time, it should be evident that we must not read the incarnate Christ back into the Old Testament text, which would be eisegesis, but that we should look for legitimate ways of preaching Christ from the Old Testament in the context of the New.

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, pgs. 227-28.

A solid reminder that while we must not allegorize Christ all over the OT, as though we could make him explicitly mentioned in every verse, we must recognize that every verse providentially exists where it is as part of a canonical Bible that centers around God’s redeeming work in none other than Christ himself.  Thus to preach a given verse as though it had nothing to do with Christ and his finished work is to misunderstand the OT as Christian Scripture.


Written by Josh Philpot

April 5, 2009 at 11:27 am

6 Responses

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  1. Josh- thanks for that helpful quote- I’m feeding your blog and look forward to following your posts! Congrats on PhD studies!


    Paul Cable

    April 6, 2009 at 2:35 am

  2. Thanks Paul! Hope to see you sometime this week.

    Josh Philpot

    April 6, 2009 at 3:16 am

  3. Quick question (grammatical) – why do you not capatilize the word “Biblical” (or christocentric for that matter)? Just curious – old MCS habits never die, they just rear up when surfing the interwebs…

    Brother BILL

    April 8, 2009 at 1:58 am

  4. Hey brother! Glad you’ve noticed the site.

    Grammatically, the seminary requires that our papers capitalize “Bible” but not “biblical,” “Scripture” (when referring to the Bible), but not “scripture” (when referring to general religious writings). “Christocentric” is a made-up theological word for nerdy theological students. I have no idea if it is capitalized or not. Sidney Greidanas seems to think it shouldn’t, and he’s much smarter than I. This is all part of Turabian format, which is the designated format for the seminary here. In fact, when I came to seminary I had to buy a whole manual to tell me how write good (or is it, “well”?). I’ll show it to you sometime. It’s a writers manual that has apoplexy.

    Josh Philpot

    April 8, 2009 at 3:19 am

  5. Josh,

    There is a lot of discussion today that is centered on how to read the Old Testament in light of the New. Where have you seen a positive example of someone reading the Old Testament in light of Christ without making him the substance of the Old Testament? So, to put it another way, what book would be a good test case? Secondly, it would be nice to see you do a post or two on what elements you think are essential to consider in order to read the Old Testament correctly … but just a thought! Third, do you view the Old Testament (on a canonical level) as a Messianic document?


    April 9, 2009 at 10:05 pm

  6. Randall,

    To answer your first question I would turn to the “Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” edited by Carson and Beale. The introduction is helpful in providing a framework from which the authors of the commentary do their analysis, and it seems that they are endorsing the sort of reading you mention. Additionally, I think Peter Enns’ “I&I” is excellent for providing a “Christotelic” reading of the OT. I agree with Beale that this is much better than Christocentric, although Enns takes this too far.

    Second, I may write a post on what I think is essential to consider when reading the OT, but that would be time consuming. It would probably need to wait until the summer.

    Third, I view the OT as canonically shaped and eschatological, the contents of which are primarily fulfilled in the Messiah. However, I think it is problematic to call it a “Messianic document,” as Sailhamer and Hamilton have done. In 2001 Sailhamer wrote an article for JETS that basically said no texts of the OT were meant solely for Israel as a nation. Rather, all authors of the OT were writing and shaping their language with Messianic overtones for a Messianic purpose. At this point I don’t think I can agree. To call the OT a Messianic document means that everything in it speaks to the Messiah. This is easy to conclude when you prooftext your paper with Deuteronomy, the Prophets, and the Psalms, but difficult to conclude with other books (like Proverbs). If the OT is a Messianic document then the apostles would probably have written to show this purpose. But they wrote that Jesus was the true Israel who fulfills all the covenants and prophecies about him the OT, not that he fulfills every iota. This is clear with Jesus himself. Luke 24 does not say that Jesus held ALL the OT Scriptures to be about himself, but that “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures THE THINGS CONCERNING HIMSELF” (v. 27), and “that everything WRITTEN ABOUT ME in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (v. 44).

    While it is impossible to answer your question exhaustively, I do not think the OT is a Messianic document (in the Sailhamer sense), but that, along with the NT, it is first and foremost an eschatological document, about which Christ is the center.

    Josh Philpot

    April 10, 2009 at 1:24 am

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