What is the Hermeneutic of New Covenant Theology?

What is the Hermeneutic of New Covenant Theology? New Covenant Theology,[1] emphasizes that a Christotelic[2] (or Christocentric) hermeneutic is an essential tool to correctly interpret Scripture. What is a Christotelic[3] hermeneutic? A Christotelic hermeneutic views the Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate goal or end of God’s Word and seeks to consistently interpret all Scripture in view of this great truth. This hermeneutic, as defined by Providence Theological Seminary, assumes outright that the Old and New Testaments together comprise the wholly inspired, wholly infallible, and wholly inerrant Word of God, which is the sole authority of faith and practice in the life of a believer. Furthermore, this particular method of interpretation emphasizes five principles: (1) the Lord Jesus Christ is the nexus of God’s plan in redemptive history, (2) all Scripture either refers to Christ directly (e.g. the Gospel narratives, messianic prophecies), 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 Abram), (3) the New Testament Scriptures must have interpretive priority over the Old Testament Scriptures due to the former being the final revelation of God, (4) an accurate analysis of a passage’s context is key: local, literary, historical, and canonical, and (5) the principle of historical-grammatical interpretation (guided by the first four principles). In subsequent posts on this topic, I will demonstrate why a Christotelic hermeneutic is an indispensable tool for the accurate interpretation of Scripture.


Notes:

[1]New Covenant Theology is generally defined as follows: “a theological system which emphasizes that Jesus Christ is the nexus & climax of God’s plan in redemptive history, that the New Testament Scriptures have interpretive priority over the Old Testament Scriptures due to the former being the final revelation of God, and that the new covenant truly is a new arrangement between God and man; this system also strives to maintain the biblical tension of continuity and discontinuity found in Scripture.” PTSJ 1.1 (Nov 2014): 3. The Providence Theological Seminary Journal (PTSJ) is a quarterly digital publication of Providence Theological Seminary which is available on the Providence Theological Seminary website: http://www.ptstn.org/Journal/PTSJ.htm.

[2]Peter Enns (formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia) is generally held to have coined the term Christotelic. See 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), 167-217. That being said, Enns’ view of the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture is problematic. Although Providence Theological Seminary views Christotelic as a biblical term in light of Romans 10:4, it seeks to distance itself from Enns’ understanding of the inspiration and fallibility of Scripture. Hence, the following sentence: “A Christotelic hermeneutic, as defined by Providence Theological Seminary, assumes outright that the Old and New Testaments comprise the wholly inspired, wholly infallible, and wholly inerrant Word of God, which is the sole authority of faith and practice in the life of a believer.”

[3]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.

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