I just started reading a volume of the new-ish Brazos Theological Commentary. This one is about the Book of Jonah, whose protagonist will be the subject of this Sunday’s sermon. The commentary’s author is Phillip Cary. Nearly every sentence of his Introduction pops—including these words from the second paragraph:
First of all, this is a Christian reading of the Scriptures of Israel, which Christians call the Old Testament because it contains the ancient covenant to be fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Like the whole Bible, the book of Jonah is about Christ and therefore about all those who find their life in him.
If, unlike me, you never attended a mainline Protestant seminary, you might miss how shocking these words are. “Like the whole Bible,” this Old Testament book is about Christ. Rest assured, I never heard this sentiment expressed at Emory’s Candler School of Theology. In fact, we mostly didn’t study something called the Old Testament; we studied the Hebrew Bible.
The premise behind calling the Old Testament “the Hebrew Bible” at a Christian seminary is that, while it happens to be included in our Christian Bibles, it doesn’t really belong to us Christians. At best, we are outsiders looking in. While my OT prof was a Christian (Southern Baptist, in fact), he never had us read the Old Testament with an eye toward the ways in which its overarching story is resolved in the New Testament. We read it as if it were its own, separate thing. Making the connections between the two parts of the Bible is something we do (and not very well) in Sunday school, not seminary.
What a refreshing jolt to be reminded, on the very first page of this (mainline) professor’s introduction to his commentary, that—oh, yeah—the Old Testament tells our story. Because that story is all about Jesus Christ.
Of course I wouldn’t expect our Jewish friends to agree. If they did, they would be Christians!
1. Phillip Cary, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Jonah (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008), 17.