Defining the Big Picture (Part 1)

Biblical Theology
and the Big Picture

Reading the Old Testament as Christian Scripture requires a biblical-theological approach to the Old Testament, and a Christian approach needs Jesus Christ as that focal point, not just as one more character in its story line. So Jesus taught his disciples to find him “in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). That means it just won’t do to think we’ll meet him for the first time in the New Testament.

Christological Unity


Jesus taught his disciples they would find him “in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27), so it just won’t do to think we’ll meet him for the first time in the New Testament.

Many refer to Christocentric interpretation, but I prefer the concept of Christo-telic interpretation. It’s not that Jesus is the actual topical center of any and every text in the Old Testament; rather, everything in the Old Testament leads to him by one means or another. But perhaps it’s best to settle for “Christological” rather than coin another bit of theological jargon, so will stick with that. Following a Christological line of thinking, Tim Keller says we’re looking for Christ…

  • in every major Old Testament theme
  • from every major Old Testament promise
  • from every major Old Testament image
  • from every major Old Testament figure
  • in every command
  • from God’s appearances
  • from God’s attributes
  • from godly attributes or human sin
  • from human longings
  • from every deliverance story line
  • in his reflections—negative and positive.1

Nancy Guthrie supplies concrete guidance: We should always be on the lookout for things like these:

  1. A problem that only Christ can solve (the curse, our inability to keep the law, our alienation from God)
  2. A promise that only Christ can fulfill (blessing, presence of God with us)
  3. A need that only Christ can meet (salvation from judgment, life beyond death)
  4. A pattern or theme that only comes to resolution in Christ (kingdom, rest)
  5. A story that only comes to its conclusion through Christ (the people of God, creation/fall/redemption/consummation)
  6. A person who prefigures an aspect of who Christ will be or what he will do by analogy and/or contrast (Joseph, Moses, David)
  7. An event or symbol that pictures an aspect of who Christ will be or what he will do (ark, exodus, sacrifices)
  8. A revelation of the pre-incarnate Christ (wrestling with Jacob, commander of the Lord’s army)2