Father John Behr continues his discussion of the relationship between Christ, the Gospel and the Scriptures in The Way to Nicaea by addressing the role of literature for both the ancient world and the Scriptures. Classical texts provided models for emulation and provided a symbolic world in terms of which one understood oneself and the events of one’s life. The writers of Israel “used images and figures of earlier events and figures to understand, explicate and describe the events and figures at hand.” (24) Thus they established typologies between, for example, Adam and Noah, and between Abraham and the post-exilic situation of Israel. In this typological parallelism, figures such as Abraham are described as foreshadowing the destiny of their descendents, something that, in Christian understanding, reaches its fulfilment in the New Testament.

This process, reemploying images to understand and explain the present in terms of the past, which is evident throughout the Scriptures, continues in the New Testament and its presentation of Christ “according to the Scriptures.” For instance, Christ’s Passion is described in terms of being the true and primary Pascha (now etymologized as “Passion”), of which the Exodus Pascha is but a type; Christ is the true Lamb of God. Or, according to another typology, in John 3:14: “Just as Moses raised the snake in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, so that those who believe in Him may have eternal lfie.” … Paul also appeals to this concatenation of images, when he points out to those in his Corinthian community who were seduced by wisdom, that the folly of God (Christ lifted on the Cross, as the bronze snake lifted on the pole) overcomes the wisdom of the world, and, as such, Christ is the true power and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:22-5). In another vein, but using the same scriptural, literary or intertextual technique, Matthew describes Christ as a new Moses, going up a mountain to deliver the law, while Paul describes Christ as the new Adam, correcting the mistakes of the first Adam, whom Paul explicitly describes as being “a type of the One to come” (Rom 5:14). (25)

While the relationship between Scripture, the Gospel and Christ will be more explicitly discussed by the writers of the second century, the apostle Paul points to the dynamics of this relationship in his reference to the veil that covers the words of Scripture in 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6.

In this very dense passage, Paul begins to address the interconnected relationships between Moses and Christ, the Scriptures and the Gospel. According to Paul, the “same veil” that Moses placed over his own head remains to this day upon those who read “Moses” – now a text. But this veil is removed for those who have turned to the Lord and can now understand Scripture aright. That the veil was removed by Christ means that it is only in Christ that the glory of God is revealed and that we can discern the true meaning of Scripture, and that these two aspects are inseparable. The identity between Moses the man and Moses the text, whose face and meaning were hidden by the same veil, is paralleled by the identity between Christ, in whose face is revealed the glory of God, and the Gospel which proclaims this. So, behind the veil is nothing other than “the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ,” himself the image of God, though this remains “veiled” to those who reject the Gospel. What this means, as Hays points out, is that , ultimately, “Scripture becomes – in Paul’s reading – a metaphor, a vast trope that signifies and illuminates the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (26-27)

This is not to say that the Gospel of the death and resurrection of Christ is straightforwardly derivable from Scripture, but rather that it acts as a catalyst.

Because God has acted in Christ in a definitive, and unexpected, manner, making everything new, Scripture itself must be read anew. The “word of the Cross,” the preaching of Christ crucified” may be a scandal for the Jews and folly for the Gentiles, but it alone is the “power of God” making known “the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:18-25). This preaching, the kerygma, provides what Hays describes as “the eschatological apokalypsis of the Cross,” a hermeneutical lens, through which Scripture can now be refracted with “a profound new symbolic coherence.” Read in the light of what God has wrought in Christ, the Scriptures provided the terms and images, the context, within which the apostles made sense of what happened, and with which they explained it and preached it, so justifying the claim that Christ died and rose “according to the Scripture.” It is important to note that it is Christ who is being explained through the medium of Scripture, not Scripture itself that is being exegeted; the object is not to understand the “original meaning” of an ancient text, as in modern historical-critical scholarship, but to understand Christ, who, by being explained “according to the Scriptures,” becomes the sole subject of Scripture throughout. (27-28)

To be continued

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