Jumping Over Jesus

Do you see any conflict with Yahweh as portrayed in the Old Testament with the God revealed in Jesus?

I recently shared what I believe to be a Christocentric hermeneutic that not only places Jesus at the center of the salvific story told in the Bible, but that also requires all Hebrew perceptions of God in the OT to be understood in light of Christ, the final self-revelation of God.

It’s a radical hermeneutic that the Anabaptists used, which I also believe was being used by the NT writers themselves in the first century.

Whatever happened in the OT, and however you interpret the seemingly darker sides of God at work within the history of Israel, the buck now stops with Jesus. Plain and simple. While that may not solve those areas of character conflict between Yahweh and Yeshua at this point, it does settle the matter for the sake of discipleship and obedience to Christ’s commands.

Therefore, accepting that Christ is what God is like and has always been like demands a fresh reading of Scripture.

Before folks think this is “cherry picking” to suit our fancy, it ought to be recognized that Jesus did this with much of the Hebrew Scriptures. He reinterpreted the Law and the Prophets in a way that set himself up as the promised “non-violent” and peace-making Messiah—not the Messiah they expected by any stretch of the imagination.

Jesus’ interpretations bewildered and even ticked people off, especially the gatekeepers of Judaism. We need to remember that.

Those who subscribe to my blog may remember that I did a Q&A with Greg Boyd last year. Greg is currently in the process of leading his church through a sermon series on why their church is most closely aligned with the Anabaptist tradition. (Read the Anabaptist Core Convictions.)

Woodland Hills has plans to soon affiliate with an Anabaptist denomination. Greg has been sharing this radical Christocentric hermeneutic with his fellowship. This past Sunday he continued with “The Twist.”

In the following sermon clip, Greg talks about how many believers “jump over Jesus” to support their “biblical” agenda. He says they’ve not embraced Jesus as the full manifestation of God’s good will for their lives.

What do you think about what Greg has said? Do you agree or disagree?
Do you agree that we’re often guilty of mushing the Testaments together?

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

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About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David was in student ministry for 7 years, taught Biblical Studies & Latin at The Woodlands Christian Academy for 5 years, and now pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Virginia. View all posts by David D. Flowers

12 responses to “Jumping Over Jesus

  • John Ayala (@johneayala)

    David, thank you for this post. I completely agree.
    It is interesting to note that you mentioned “Yeshua” which was the “second temple period” version of the name “Joshua” from the OT. I was thinking about this connection of Jesus and Joshua yesterday after listening to the podcast of Greg’s sermon “The Twist.” This seems like a significant nuance that I have never noticed before with regard to Jesus’ non-violent ways. In a way showing us that the true Joshua (Jesus), to lead us into the true promised land (Kingdom of God), uses physical non-violent ways to spiritually fight against the real enemies (powers and principalities) as opposed to physical enemies. Just a thought.

  • Jake Turner

    Thank you for the post I actively listen to Greg. I think he has hit the nail right on the head so to speak. Jesus does change the whole bible in a way that re-frames everything you think about the God of the Old testament. His sermon on the shadow activity of God in the OT is great.

  • pat

    Great Post David. I do agree with Greg. I am reading his book, The Myth of a Christian Nation. What an eye opener!

  • Sean Durity

    I just watched the video. To me this is a strawman argument. In all my experience at seminary and teaching the Scriptures (over 20 years), I haven’t met anyone who seriously prescribes reading the Scriptures as a cookbook. Hard work has to go into understanding the text (and genre) of each book and how it applied to the people of its time. Then you have to do the hard work of applying that truth to the issues of today. That is not jumping over Jesus. It is rightly dividing the word of truth.

    There are a couple huge problems with this “just Jesus” approach to the Bible. It negates the practice of the apostles and early church, who taught extensively from the Old Testament. It was Jesus’ approach, too, on the road to Emmaus. It also invites a new discussion of what is the true canon. I witnessed this on a forum dedicated to this “Christocentric hermeneutic.” Their discussion was, “which books do we want to keep or discard.” James was the first one out the door with 2 Peter right behind. This is insanity! To me, this is a simplistic, people-pleasing hermeneutic that will not wrestle with the difficult parts of Scripture. It simply dismisses them as not related to the Jesus they want to portray.

    God is the same in the Old and New Testaments. There is no contradiction.The God of the OT was a God of grace and holiness. Jesus was the exact embodiment of that (“full of grace and truth”). Yes, we needed the new covenant. The old one proved the necessity of the new. The prophets of old saw all this, though not as clearly as we who have their testimony and the gospels and the epistles. Read Galatians 3. Paul clearly describes how Abraham and the OT Scriptures preached the gospel beforehand. We are Abraham’s descendants by faith. It was always about faith from OT through NT.

    First I have ever seen/heard this Greg Boyd. Not impressed.

    • David D. Flowers

      Sean, with all due respect, it doesn’t appear you entirely understand our position.

      By “cookbook”… Greg means that people ignore the unfolding story of God’s revelation, now fully displayed in Christ, in order to grab onto certain passages to claim, “Look, this is God! And it’s ‘biblical’ to believe or do this or that.” If you agree that the Bible is an unfolding story (ancient text & genres) of God’s revelation down to Jesus, then you should accept Jesus as the full and final revelation of what God is truly like and what he wants for human beings.

      It seems straightforward to me. The problem is that’s not the way popular tradition has handled the text. And Greg calls this method of jumping over Jesus a “cookbook” approach.

      Your second paragraph indicates you’re missing the point. Of course the apostles (even Jesus) taught from the OT Scriptures, BUT their teaching was to bring the OT into a fresh new understanding as a result of the incarnation of God. Please don’t assume that what we’re talking about is the sort of thing you witnessed in a forum somewhere else. We’re not talking about discarding books here. If that’s what you think, you either misunderstand our perspective or you’re purposely misrepresenting it. I’m of the opinion that you don’t understand.

      No, God is not the same in the OT as the NT—not according to the portrayals and perspectives of the writers. In fact, the apostles realized on many levels that they were wrong about who God is and what he desires for mankind. That isn’t to say that the OT doesn’t teach us truths about God.

      We’re saying that those places in the OT where we see the God who looks like Jesus… is where they got it right. Those negative contrasts (e.g. Canaanite genocide) within the OT, in retrospect, are there as a reminder of what God is not like. It merely shows that God put up with their sin and disbelief, allowing himself to be misunderstood for a time, until the stage was set for Christ.

      Greg has talked about this in his sermon: God’s Shadow Activity

      There are no contradictions when you see the biblical narrative as an unfolding revelation of God in Christ. On the other hand, there are contradictions when you flatten the Bible out and mesh the testaments together.

      The primary purpose of the incarnation was because God had not been fully revealed. And the cross was the ultimate expression of his character. We miss this when we reduce the cross down to forgiveness of sins alone. God had previously made concessions and accommodations with Israel in order to teach them through their history down to Christ. Since Christ is the full and final revelation of God, we should grow up into him.

      I’m confident that your knowledge of the NT has many verses of Scripture coming to your mind to affirm what I’ve said about Christ.

      • Sean Durity

        I understand what you are saying. I just can’t agree. You make the same mistakes that many systematic theologians make. You take one idea or paradigm and make everything in the Scriptures try to fit that mold.

        The cross reveals the God of the OT – a God of holiness and love. That the disciples didn’t understand this is not an indictment of the OT. It was an indictment of the Judaism of Jesus’ day.

        • David D. Flowers

          Thanks, Sean. It is certainly fine for us to disagree. I just want to make sure we’re understanding each other’s position. While some systematic theologians may do that with issues, embracing Christ as the exact representation of God (Heb 1:3) and understanding the Scriptures in light of that truth, is not a problem, but a paradigm shift—which is what I think it was for those hearing Jesus and coming to accept him as Messiah.

  • tafeela

    This is absolutely fantastic. :) Thank you for being a voice for this. As a fellow blogger and as a pastor I think there is a great need for more people to share this position.

  • Joe (J.R.) Miller  (@jrmiller777)

    Hi David, I thought I had been keeping up with your writing, but it looks like I fell behind. Glad to read the changes and growth in you brother. Blessings!

  • AO Green

    I am sorry but Greg Boyd has got this issue all wrong, John Yoder figured it out years ago. If you want a position that upholds the truthfulness if the Bible see “The Politics of Yahweh: John Howard Yoder, the Old Testament, and the People of God” by John C. Nugent.

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