Christ the Center of Scripture
Monday of Pentecost 15
22 September 2019
"Scripture interprets Scripture." I know you have heard someone say this at some time or other; in a Bible class, a sermon (well maybe!), in catechism instruction, or in a seminary class (I know I did). I once thought that it was a principle of Bible interpretation unique to the Lutheran tradition. I was certainly left with that impression when I was a seminary student, although it might have been my faulty hearing at work again. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This was Jesus' own interpretive method which He no doubt taught to His apostles, who searched the Scripture, and thus to find the events of His life, death, and resurrection clearly taught everywhere in the Old Testament. The Gospel of Matthew is the clearest example of this method of interpreting the Old Testament in view of the revelation of God in Christ. So, no, this method of interpreting the Bible is not a bad case of Lutheran chauvinism. It is the universal practice of the holy church.
One of the ways this principle of interpretation functions is that the clearer revelation tells us what the less clear means. It may well be that the ancient prophets, while speaking about the coming Christ were themselves not entirely sure of the full meaning and weight of their messianic prophecy (1Pt 1:10-12). They offered their preaching not for their benefit but for ours, when the true key of Scripture, Jesus Christ, had come. What was not clear to them became clear to us because the Key of David has come. Of course, many Bible interpreters look at the Old Testament as a book of obscure fables and garbled histories. They are acting like the true clarity of the Bible had not become flesh and dwelt for a while among us. Such interpreters draw conclusions that are far more obscure than the original authors of the Old Testament drew in their relative darkness. These oh-so-modern interpreters are just the blind leading the blind. They end up in a ditch devoid of Christ.
Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296-373 A.D.) certainly believed that the clearer and simpler passages teaching the divinity and humanity united in one Christ are the passages which gave shape to the interpretation of those more difficult passages, especially those in the Old Testament, from which he drew many Christological texts, especially the Psalms. Athanasius was making a Christological decision that begins in the person of Christ Himself as the key to the text of the Bible. It was not merely some literary principle pulled out of the thin air, but a principle of interpretation anchored in the fact of the incarnation. A few simple passages were sufficient to show that Christ incarnate of Mary was both God and man. This was what he called the scope and character of the inspired Scripture; a scope and character able to vanquish the craftiest arguments of the Arian heretics. Christ is the center and meaning of the entire Scripture.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Athanasius of Alexandria
"The scope and character of Holy Scripture contains a double account of the Savior; that He was ever God, and is the Son, being the Father's Word and Radiance and Wisdom; and that afterwards for us He took flesh of a Virgin, Mary, who is bearer of God, and was made man. And this scope is to be found throughout inspired Scripture, as the Lord Himself has said, 'Search the Scriptures, because they bear witness about me' (Jn 5:39). But lest I should write too much, by bringing together all the passages on the subject, let it suffice to mention as a specimen, first John saying, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made' (Jn 1:1-3); next, 'And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father' (Jn 1:14); and next Paul writing, 'Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross' (Phil 2:6-8). Anyone, beginning with these passages and going through the whole of the Scripture using the interpretation which they suggest, will perceive how in the beginning the Father said to Him, 'Let there be light,' and 'Let there be an expanse,' and 'Let us make man' (Gn 1:3, 6, 26); but in the fullness of the ages, He sent Him into the world, not that He might judge the world, but that the world by Him might be saved, and how it is written '"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us)' (Mt 1:23).
"The reader then of divine Scripture may acquaint himself with these passages from the ancient books; and from the Gospels on the other hand he will perceive that the Lord became man; for 'the Word,' he says, 'became flesh and dwelt among us' (Jn 1:14). He became man, and did not come into man. It is necessary to know this, lest these irreligious men fall into this notion also, and beguile any into thinking, that, as in former times the Word was used to come into each of the Saints, so now He sojourned in a man, hallowing him also, and manifesting Himself as in the others. For if it were so, and He only appeared in a man, it would be nothing unusual, nor would those who saw Him have been startled, saying, 'Where does He come from?' and 'How do You, being a man, make Yourself God?' For they were familiar with the idea, from the words, 'And the Word of the Lord came' to this or that of the Prophets (Jer 1:4). But now, since the Word of God, by whom all things came to be, endured to become also Son of man, and humbled Himself, taking a servant's form, and that therefore the cross of Christ is a stumbling block to the Jews, but to us Christ is 'God's power' and 'God's wisdom' (1Co 1:24); for 'the Word,' as John says, 'became flesh.' It was the custom of Scripture to call man by the name of 'flesh,' as it says in Joel the Prophet, 'I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh' (Joel 2:28). Joel calls mankind 'flesh.'"

Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians, 3.29-30
John 5:37-47

The Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" (ESV)
Lord Christ, You have manifested Your glory by showing Your strengthen in the weakness of the cross. Help us to confess You according to Your inspired Scripture as both God and man in one indivisible person. Open Scripture to us, that we might know You as You have revealed Yourself. Amen.
For Pastor Charles Wokoma, that the Lord Jesus would keep him safe in his travels as he raises money to fund the mission that the Lord has given him
For all who have suffered a difficult divorce, that the Lord would be to them a comfort to the brokenhearted
For Anita Markwardt, who is in the hospital, that she would be granted wholeness and healing
For all who think that children in the womb are able to be killed, that they would be called back from wickedness and death to repentance and life
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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