New Covenant Theology affirms that a Christotelic hermeneutic is an essential tool to correctly interpret Scripture. Explanation of the biblical text which does not consistently employ the aforementioned hermeneutic will result in a less accurate interpretation of Gods Word. Before I establish why a Christotelic hermeneutic is an indispensable key to the accurate interpretation of Scripture, it is first necessary to explain what it is. A Christotelic hermeneutic views the Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate goal or end of Gods Word and seeks to consistently interpret all Scripture in view of this great truth. Furthermore, this particular method of interpretation emphasizes five principles: 1) the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is the nexus of Gods plan in redemptive history; 2) all Scripture either refers to Christ directly (e.g. the Gospel narratives, messianic prophecies), or refers to Christ typologically, or prepares the way for Christ by unfolding redemptive history which ultimately points to His person and work (e.g. the Flood, the calling of Abraham); 3) the New Testament Scriptures must have interpretive priority over the Old Testament (OT); 4) an accurate analysis of a passages context (i.e. local, literary, Scriptural, and historical) is key; and 5) the principle of historical-grammatical interpretation (guided by principles 1-4). Peter Enns writes:
A Christotelic approach is an attempt to look at the centrality of Christ for hermeneutics in a slightly different way. It asks not so much, How does this OT passage, episode, figure, etc., lead to Christ? To read the OT Christotelicly is to read it already knowing that Christ is somehow the end (telos) to which the OT story is heading; in other words, to read the OT in light of the exclamation point of the history of revelation, the death and resurrection of Christ.
Now, I will demonstrate why a Christotelic hermeneutic is a necessary tool for the accurate interpretation of Scripture.
Christ: The Preeminent Figure of Scripture
The fact that Christ understood the message of Scripture to be about Himself demonstrates the necessity of a Christotelic hermeneutic in biblical exegesis. For example, in an encounter with the Jews, Jesus boldly declared, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me (John 5:39). In the same exchange, Christ also testified, For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me (John 5:46). Moreover, in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ proclaimed, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matt 5:17). The Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of the Scriptures, for as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes (1 Cor 1:20). Additionally, after His resurrection, Christ encountered two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. After rebuking them for their unbelief, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets (Luke 24:27). Later that same day, Jesus told His disciples, Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44). Tom Wells appropriately states, The Lord Jesus treated the Old Testament as a sign that pointed to him. The Lord Jesus, then, looked on the Old Testament typologically, that is, he looked on its history, legislation, and even its poetic longings as precursors and models of his own history and teaching.
Furthermore, the fact that Apostles and writers of the New Testament interpreted the Old Testament in light of Christ, as He had taught them, demonstrates that a Christotelic hermeneutic is indispensable for the accurate interpretation of Scripture. In John 1:45, Philip exclaims to Nathanael, We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth of son of Joseph. When speaking to the Jews in Acts 3:18, 24, the Apostle Peter declares: But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled .24And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. Consider also 1 Peter 1:10-12, Acts 26:22-23, and Romans 10:4 where the Apostle Paul asserts that Christ (Χριστὸς Christos) is the end (τέλος telos) of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Also, Acts 28:23 informs us that while the Apostle Paul was under house arrest in Rome he persistently tried to persuade the Jews from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets that Jesus is the Christ.
It was for this reason the Old Testament became the Bible for the early Christians [including the Apostles and writers of the New Testament]; not because they assumed it could serve to supply some moral guidelines until the New Testament could be written. Rather, they were persuaded that the Old Testament scriptures pointed to Jesus Christ, to the days of fulfillment when all the pictures, shadows, types, and promises of redemption would be accomplished in Him.
The word Christotelic results from the combination of two Greek words: Χριστὸς (Christos Christ) and τέλος (telos end or goal). Thus, a Christotelic hermeneutic is an interpretive technique which views the Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate goal or end of all Scripture.
Now, this method of interpretation in no way promotes the idea that every verse of the Bible contains a direct or even indirect reference to Christ. However, as Peter Enns writes: NT authors were guided in their interpretive work by the eschatological reality of the coming of Christ. The term I prefer to use to describe this eschatological hermeneutic is Christotelic. Although I have no strong objection, I prefer this term over Christological or Christocentric, since these are susceptible to a point of view I am not advocating hereneeding to see Christ in every, or nearly every, OT passage. Such an approach would certainly become artificial if one were to conclude with Jesus, for example, in every proverb or each of the ten plagues (where is Jesus in the plague of frogs?). Peter Enns, Fuller Meaning, Single Goal: A Christotelic Approach to the New Testament Use of the Old in Its First-Century Interpretative Environment, in Three Views On The New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. Kenneth Berding, Stanley N. Gundry, and Jonathan Lunde (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 213-214.
Cf. Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 93-102.
Enns, Fuller Meaning, Single Goal, 214.
See John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, trans. William Pringle (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 224. Concerning John 5:46, Calvin writes, When Christ says, that Moses wrote concerning him, this needs no long proof with those who acknowledge that Christ is the end and soul of the Law.
Tom Wells, The Priority of Jesus Christ: Why Christians Turn to Jesus First A Study in New Covenant Theology (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2005), 61.
1 Peter 1:10-12 declares: As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaventhings into which angels long to look.
Paul testified the following before Agrippa in Acts 26:22-23: And so, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.
Arturo G. Azurdia III, Spirit Empowered Preaching: Involving the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1998; reprint 2003, 2006), 57.