Thesis 3: The key to the identity of the Bible’s God is the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead by the God of Israel. All readings must therefore be Christologically oriented.
While various New Testament authors employ vastly different Christologies, for the Christian Church, they converge on the raising of Jesus from the dead by Israel’s God as the decisive moment of salvation history.(7) In Christ, a new creation has begun (2. Cor.5.16f), bestowing on the Church the ministry of reconciliation. According to Colossians, as the “image of the invisible God,” all things “hold together” in him, and “through him, God was pleased to reconcile all things” to Christ (Col.1.15, 19). As such, all attempts to read and understand the diversity of Scripture’s witness must use the ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ as their hermeneutical key. This means that the four canonical Gospels, which were almost universally accepted throughout the canonical-formation process as authoritative, hold a special place of privilege at the center of Christian Scripture as narratives about Jesus.(8) However, various non-narrative genres, such as the Old Testament psalms or dietary regulations, as well as New Testament epistles, can and must be read Christologically, as either prefiguring, unfolding, or wrestling with the decisive act of salvation and new creation by God for God’s people. In the event of irresolvable conflicts or impenetrable opacity, particularly in cases where certain passages seem incommensurable with the Gospels, Augustine’s recommendation of looking to the two-fold love commandment (Matt.22.34-40) is to be followed, for here, Christ Himself claims, is the summation of all Scripture.(9) By seeking to love God and love our neighbor – by no means simple or self-evident tasks – readings of Scripture will seek to participate in the ministry of reconciliation that is constitutive of the new creation revealed in the resurrection of Christ.
(Caveat Lector: The Christological focus should not be taken as an invitation to supercessionism. Nor does it exclude the importance of understanding the Old Testament as Hebrew Scripture. However, as these theses relate to reading scripture within the Church proper, it is equally vital that Christians not shy away from the centrality of Christ, which both influences the very naming of the Old Testament as such, as well as creates significant differences with Judaism. As in Thesis 2, these differences and tensions, canonized in scripture in places like Romans 9-11, are invitations and opportunities for dialogue and encounter with Jewish brothers and sisters for whom Jesus is not Messiah. Such disagreements must be acknowledged - but in love, can be an opportunity for mutual and even collaborative scriptural reasonings. I know of very few Jews who would appreciate sentiments such as "we basically believe the same things at the root-" my Jewish friends have no problem pointing out their strong divergence from my own faith claims, and such truthfulness is yet another lesson the Church must continue to learn through its dependence on the descendants of Israel.)
(7) Brian Peterson, lecture 9.29.10. All references to Peterson’s lectures refer to those given as part of his course BI451 New Testament Theology, given in the Fall Semester 2010 at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
(8) While various collections of NT texts such as the Pauline epistles varied in their inclusion in various canonical lists throughout the first centuries of the Church, the four Gospels are the sole constant. In claiming the Gospels as canonically privileged, I look not only to their exalted place in the worshipping life of the Church, but also to the Scripture Project’s claim that “the Gospels, read within the matrix of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, convey the truth about the identity of Jesus more faithfully than speculative reconstructions provide by modernist historical methods” (Art of Interpreting Scripture 3).
(9) See Augustine’s On Christian Teaching (trans. R.P.H. Green. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).