A Christ Centric Approach to the Old Testament Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Greidanus' Preaching Christ from the Old Testament and Merrill's Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament may be compared and contrasted on the grounds that both approach the Old Testament Scriptures, though each does it a different and unique way. Greidanus' method of examining the Old Testament is to approach it from the perspective of the New Testament -- namely, to show how Christ is evident all throughout the Old Testament Scriptures and why and how the latter link directly to the coming of the former. Specifically, Greidanus' objective in his book is to show that Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Merrill, on the other hand, takes a much more immersive approach to Old Testament and examines it thoroughly and in great detail, looking at everything from the creation of man to the fall to the prophets, the kings, the covenants and the commandments. It is, in other words, an essential overview of the Old Testament, what it means and how it can be interpreted. So while the two books are similar in some ways, they are also dissimilar in others. Thus, this paper will compare and contrast the two works.

Greidanus begins his work by showing what it means to "preach Christ" and how this has been a confusing topic for some people. The trouble comes from the concrete and abstract ways in which Christ can be thought about -- for example, as the Logos, "who is present from the beginning" or as Christ crucified or as a Teacher or as a Savior or as a Sufferer, etc.[footnoteRef:1] Greidanus sets out to clarify this point by showing how the Apostles preached Christ by preaching the life of Christ, which included His birth, works, and death and resurrection. Thus, all things would be incorporated, including the Logos. It may seem like a lot to preach, but of course there is no need to attempt to do it all at once. How the Old Testament comes into play in the preaching of Christ, therefore, is that it sets the stage and shows why Christ came, what for, how the prophecies foretold His coming and what the history of the Jews, for example, the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb adds to the narrative. This is the manner in which Greidanus begins his work and examination of the Old Testament -- from the perspective of preaching Christ. [1: Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 3.]

Merrill, on the other hand, begins his work from a theological perspective, and sets about examining the Old Testament as it were the Autobiography of God, which it is, since it is an inspired text that is taken literally as the Word of God. Thus, Merrill asserts that by knowing the Old Testament we can know more fully the mind of God and Who and What He is. He also examines some confusion regarding the meaning of specific terms and their usage, such as "biblical" and "biblical theology" -- and he clarifies the subject by asserting that "Old Testament theology is the study of biblical theology that employs the methods of that discipline to the Old Testament alone while being aware of the limitations inherent in not addressing the New Testament witness in any comprehensive way."[footnoteRef:2] Merrill states that the Old Testament contains a message "that is legitimate and authoritative in every sense of the term" but that it lacks the completeness of God's Word, when approached from a Christian perspective. Nonetheless, an examination solely of the Old Testament as a message that is being delivered by God to men before the fulfillment of Christ can be helpful in understanding that completeness and fullness of the Christian message later when it is studied. Thus, Merrill's work begins by focusing solely on the Old Testament and its message without reference to the New Testament -- not because it is more helpful to ignore the New Testament when examining the Old Testament, but because by examining the Old Testament on its own merits, a good sense of the direction in which it is leading can be had, which can allow for the Christian revelation to be all the more powerful later on.[footnoteRef:3] [2: Eugene Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004), 4.] [3: Eugene Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004), 5.]

This, therefore, is the main difference between the two works: Greidanus takes a Christ-centric view of the Old Testament and Merrill does not. Neither, however, is wrong in their approaches, because both have good reasons for them. Greidanus takes his approach because it follows from Christ's own words: "What God has joined together, let no one separate" and his point is that the Old and the New Testaments are forever joined together and should not, thus, be separated solely for the purpose of education, as the one informs the other.[footnoteRef:4] This too is essentially the view of Merrill, but Merrill's purpose in viewing the Old Testament is merely to understand it as it is and what its message in and of itself concerns. Obviously, the Old Testament points to the coming of Christ, but from Merrill's objective standpoint the Old Testament is forward looking whereas the New Testament is backward looking. Greidanus thus moves back from the New Testament and Merrill moves forward from the Old towards the New. [4: Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 39.]

Indeed, the two works embrace the same objective though their approaches are different, and this is evident when Greidanus asserts that the best way to view the Old Testament's relation to Christian preaching is "to start one's sermon with an Old Testament text and then move to the New Testament to preach Jesus Christ."[footnoteRef:5] This is also the essence of what Merrill is doing, since he is beginning with the Old Testament text with, of course, the objective being that it can illuminate our later understanding and assessment of the New Testament and the life of Christ. After all, it is Merrill who states that the "Judeo-Christian tradition holds tenaciously to the idea that God has revealed himself to mankind in a variety of ways but most especially in communication preserved in sacred texts authoritative and thus canonical."[footnoteRef:6] So the two works are similar in their agreement that using the texts to know God is the ultimate aim. [5: Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 54.] [6: Eugene Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004), 75.]

Nonetheless, Merrill's examination of terms is more rigorous and exacting as his approach calls for a more academic methodology. Thus, when looking at the Old Testament, he describes how the "second word of the Hebrew Bible" is "a verb almost universally translated" as "created."[footnoteRef:7] He then notes that in the limited number of ways in which the verb is used, it is always done in connection with God, showing that He is the Creator. Thus, Merrill takes a linguistic and a contextual analysis to show significance and to allow the reader a better understanding of the God Who is described in the Old Testament as the giver of life. This is but one example of the way that Merrill approaches the text. But it is helpful to see how it contrasts with Greidanus' approach: Merrill then proceeds from this one terminological understanding of a word to assess chapters of Genesis and Isaiah as well as some of the Psalms, connecting the idea of God as creator and founder to the ideas presented in these texts. Thus, what Merrill does is he starts with a small definition and expands it over several different books and themes, connecting them all under this one umbrella idea regarding the quality and character of God. By doing so, he establishes a field in which God is better known (and this is what biblical theology does) so that when the New Testament message arrives, the reader is better prepared and equipped to handle it. It is essentially the same system that some of the Apostles used when preaching the Gospel to the Jews. They made sure that the audience was mindful of the Old Testament knowledge that could better help to illuminate the significance of the life of Christ. [7: Eugene Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004), 101.]

As the books continue on their ways towards examining the Old Testament, they veer off in profoundly different directions. Because Greidanus takes a specifically Christ-centric approach, his concern is not only on the Old Testament text itself but also on the entire subject of using the text for the preaching of Christ. Thus, he examines how other preachers have…

Sources Used in Documents:


Greidanus, Sidney. Preaching Christ from the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI:

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999.

Merrill, Eugene. Everlasting Dominion. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman

Publishers, 2004.

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