(This post is a contiunation of “Christotelic Hermeneutics” – Part 1.)
The New Testament: A Higher Revelation of Christ
The fact that the New Testament revelation is a higher revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ than that in the Old Testament Scriptures (Matt 5:17) further demonstrates the necessity of a Christotelic hermeneutic in biblical exegesis. This hermeneutical approach does not devalue the Old Testament in any way for the Old Testament still is the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17). However, the New Testament must have interpretive priority over the Old. Understood in this light, this section will briefly examine the New Testament as a higher revelation of Christ in two particular passages: Hebrews 1:1-2 and Luke 9:28-36.
Hebrews 1:1-2. The first passage, Hebrews 1:1-2, declares the following: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. As Fred G. Zaspel notes, God has spoken climactically and most fully in his Son. We have in Jesus Christ Gods fullest indeed, his final revelation. Since the Lord Jesus Christ truly is Gods fullest indeed, his final revelation, His words, His interpretation, and His revelation (i.e. the New Testament) have interpretive priority and must have the final say. Similarly, Wells states, New Testament revelation, due to its finality, must be allowed to speak first on every issue that it addresses. As a result, Christians must read the Old in the light of the New, so that the Lord Jesus has the first and the last word.
Luke 9:28-36. The second passage, Luke 9:28-36, constitutes Lukes account of Christs Transfiguration, a pivotal event which clearly reveals not only that Jesus is superior to Moses and Elijah but also that His revelation, the New Testament, is superior to the Old Testament in bringing it to full realization. Some eight days after Christ disclosed to His disciples His imminent death and resurrection, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up to the mountain to pray (Luke 9:28). Suddenly, the Lord Jesus was transfigured before the three disciples, where His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light (Matt 17:2). As the disciples looked, they beheld Moses and Elijah, speaking with the Lord Jesus of His departure [i.e. His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension] which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31).
This particular scene from the Transfiguration is replete with symbolic biblical meaning. Why? Moses, the Old Covenant lawgiver, symbolizes the Old Testament Law or Torah (cf. Luke 24:27, 44), whereas Elijah, the fiery prophet, symbolizes the Old Testament prophets. Furthermore, the fact that Moses and Elijah were discoursing with Christ about His departure is highly significant, since the Law and the Prophets both testify to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39-46; Acts 3:18-24, 26:22-23, 28:23). Overwhelmed by the moment, Peter recommended that three tabernacles be built: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah (Luke 9:32-33).
However, in doing so, Peter had placed Moses and Elijah on the same level of importance as the Lord Jesus Himself! While Peter was still speaking those words, he was interrupted by God the Father, who declared, This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him! (Luke 9:34-35). The Fathers interruption of Peters statement reveals an essential truth: the Lord Jesus Christ is far superior to both Moses and Elijah. Wells notes:
The Lords superiority is spelled out in the words, This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased [Matt 17:5]. Here, Yahweh denies the implied equality in Peters offer to build three shelters. Jesus is unique. Nothing here denigrates Moses and Elijah, but everything sets the Lord Jesus irrevocably above them. This reminds us of the contrast in Hebrews 3:5-6: they are servants; he is Son!
By extension, any revelation the Church has received from Christ and His apostles, who spoke for Him after His ascension, is preeminent over any revelation given to the Old Testament prophets. This profound truth is evinced from two specific details of the Transfiguration account. First, God the Father specifically commanded the three disciples to listen to Christ alone. Secondly, Moses and Elijah suddenly disappeared after the Father spoke (Luke 9:36). These two details evince not only that Christ is superior to both Moses and Elijah but also that the New Testament has interpretive priority over the Old.
Luke 9:28-36 is the Lucan account of the Transfiguration; its parallel synoptic passages are Matthew 17:1-13 and Mark 9:1-13.
- Tom Wells and Fred G. Zaspel, New Covenant Theology: Description, Definition, Defense (Frederick: New Covenant Media, 2002), 35.
- Ibid., 7.
- Wells, The Priority of Jesus Christ, 70.
- Ibid., 30-1.
- This is not to say that the Old Testament has been devalued for the Old Testament still is the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17). However, the New Testament must have interpretive priority over the Old.