David Murray, Jesus on Every Page: Ten Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013). 246pp., including study questions, end notes, and Scripture and subject indices. Review by Doug Smith.
The author, Dr. David Murray, is professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For me, reading Jesus on Every Page: Ten Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament is like looking at a piece of antique furniture covered with multiple layers of veneer. As I read through the book, layer after layer of veneer was stripped off until a beautiful original masterpiece sparkled in dazzling glory. At least four layers come to mind as modern obstacles to reading the Old Testament as a work about Jesus.
Peeling Back Layer 1: We Can See an Approach That Is Biblical
The book shows an approach that is modeled in the Bible itself, although this method of interpretation is often hidden by layers of academic “scholarship” that sometimes asserts as truisms rules such as “one cannot use the New Testament to interpret the Old Testament.” Dr. Murray shows, from the Scriptures, that Jesus and the apostles had other ideas, as they believed that the Old Testament spoke of Him (John 5:46; Luke 24:27, 44), and Old Testament authors such as David knew it (Acts 2:25-31; cf. Psalm 16:8-11). Whether law, prophecy, poetry, promises, or wisdom literature, Jesus is shown to be the focus of the whole Old Testament.
Peeling Back Layer 2: We Can See an Approach That Is Balanced
We must not avoid the ditch of denying that the Old Testament is about Jesus, when the New Testament clearly demonstrates that it is, but must also avoid the ditch of seeing Jesus in ways that abuse the true intention of the text. Some have failed to see the richness of the Old Testament’s witness to Jesus because fanciful allegorizations that toss away the historical significance of the text have deterred them.
Chapter Thirteen, “Christ’s Pictures,” is especially helpful in its treatment of typology, which some view with suspicion due to some flagrant abuses in interpretation. The author warns of getting to Jesus “through various unpredictable leaps of logic and irrationality” (137) and offers a constructive definition of typology: “a type is a real person, place, object, or event that God ordained to act as a predictive pattern or resemblance of Jesus’ person and work, or of opposition to both” (138). Types must also have a fulfillment that is enlarged, clarified, and heightened in Christ (148).
The careful definition and explanation of the typology in the BIble helps guard against abuse, but should also give us confidence that there are types beyond the ones explicitly identified as such, so that we should not be ashamed to see people like Joseph as real historical figures who prefigured Christ’s work of redemption: “Limiting ourselves only to explicit types would mean that while minor characters such as Melchizedek and JOnah are types because they are identified as such in the New Testament, major biblical personalities such as Joseph and Joshua are not” (140).
Peeling Back Layer 3: We Can See an Approach That Is Accessible
For some, seeing Christ in the Old Testament is obscured a thick overcoat of seemingly cold, complicated jargon. This book’s personal, simple approach makes it easily accessible. Dr. Murray begins the book with his personal journey on the “Emmaus Road,” which would lead him to wonderful vistas of seeing Christ in the Old Testament. It is encouraging to hear that, just as this doesn’t come easily to many of us, that the author is a fellow traveler who has been changed on the journey and is passionate to share that experience.
Furthermore, the book uses a simple, popular style to treat a subject that has been handled academically. While there is a place for technical, exhaustive treatments, the Lord has richly blessed us with a resource that covers the main topics, gives practical suggestions and examples, is relatively brief (just over 200 pages of generously sized and spaced font) and is not hard to digest.
Make no mistake – the burden of this book is to radical alter conventional thinking about the Old Testament, but it is possibly to be helpful and persuasive without limiting oneself to an audience of specialists.
By “putting the cookies on the bottom shelf,” as some have described similar approaches, the author has produced a work that is useful for the average individual as well as the pastor or the scholar with more training in academic literature.
Peeling Back Layer 4: We Can See an Approach That Is Full of Faith
For some, the main obstacle to seeing Jesus in the Old Testament is a veneer over their own hearts; a veil that separates them from seeing clearly because of their unbelief. This book demonstrates faith in God, in the words of Jesus, in the words of the Holy Spirit communicated through the prophets and apostles – a faith that turns on the lights, and without which we can only see shadows in the Old Testament.
This is a veneer that only the Holy Spirit can pull back (2 Corinthians 3), and I pray God will place this book in the hands of some that will read these Scriptures with a new understanding for the first time, and put their faith in Christ.
In addition, this book has some other uses I can commend. For students taking a Bible class in college, particularly an Old Testament one, it could be a great tool for a potential scenario where the professor (even if conservative) may advocate a method of Old Testament interpretation that downplays the New Testament. The man or woman in the pew would be edified by reading this work, and could get more out of their Old Testament Bible reading as a result. This would also be a great textbook – I hope to use it in my teaching of Bible study methods to adults (definitely the next time I teach a CAPS hermeneutics class!), as well as a high school Old Testament survey class. Bible professors and pastors should eagerly ingest this book. As I am preparing to go share God’s Word as a guest speaker this weekend, I have more passion and clarity in my mind about this topic as a result of reading this book, and a desire to continue learning and seeing Jesus in His Word — all of it, New Testament and Old. I highly commend this book, and if you order before today is over, you get a generous helping of resources to help in your study ($100 value for free, including Dr. Murray’s Old Testament lecture notes, video series on Christ as the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament, and more).
Thanks, Dr. Murray, for your part in helping to strip off the veneer to display the beauty of the Old Testament.
I received a digital review copy of this book from the author, with the freedom to give it an honest review, which I have done.