Friday, August 17, 2018

Beginning at Moses: A Guide to Finding Christ in the Old Testament [Review]

by Hiram R. Diaz III

The body of Christ has always recognized typology as Scripturally sanctioned, even mandated, means of interpreting the Scripture. However, there have been times in her history when the church has not understood the proper use and limits of typological exegesis. In part, this has led some to argue that typological exegesis should be limited only to those types mentioned in Scripture explicitly (e.g. Adam as a type of Christ in Rom 5 and 1st Cor 15). Others have attempted to argue that typological exegesis adds meaning to the text that was not intended by the original authors. These arguments have been dealt with in other articles to some extent,1 but have not laid out specific rules of typological interpretation for readers to follow.

Thankfully, however, we can point readers to a great resource in this area of study that will serve as a great help to those understanding how it is they can see Christ in the Old Testament, without resorting to arbitrarily concocted rules. Michael P. V. Barrett’s Beginning at Moses: A Guide to Finding Christ in the Old Testament does just this, providing the reader with the necessary tools for reading Scripture’s types according to Scripture’s own given rules, in a way that does not compromise the Christian understanding that the meaning of Scripture is “not manifold, but one.”2 Barrett helpfully limits his study to the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith, thereby drawing the reader’s attention to the meaning of Scripture, specifically as articulated by the Reformed.

The book is divisible into two major parts: (1) Whom to Look For, and (2) Where to Look. In the first chapter of part 1, Barrett explains the Scriptural teaching regarding the nature of a messiah or anointed one. He then moves on to detail the person of Christ in chapter 2, as well as his work in chapter 3. This sets the foundation for part 2, in which Barrett shows how Christ is found in the covenants (ch. 4), persons (ch. 5), names (ch. 6), word prophecies (ch. 8), picture prophecies (ch. 9), and songs (ch. 10) of the Old Testament. Typology is not limited to the explicit statements that “x is a type of y,” but it is limited in two ways. Firstly, typology is limited to the Old Testament. Typology foreshadows the one who is to come; therefore, it is thereby limited to the content of the Old Testament. Secondly, typology pictures or images nothing distinct from the propositional meaning of Scripture. One’s reading of the Old Testament types cannot, therefore, result in doctrinal meanings that add to the propositional teaching of the Scriptures. Typology does not add to the teaching of Scripture.

Barrett’s work is not only rich with information, it also points the reader to Christ, to acknowledge the reality of Christ’s person and work. Barrett writes in an intimate and pastoral tone, making the work accessible, as well as edifying. While he does not directly address some of the prominent interpretive methodologies that undermine typology, he does so indirectly, providing brief rebuttals to their underlying assumptions. The reader unfamiliar with these interpretive methodologies, as well as the reader who is well acquainted with them, can benefit by learning how such methodologies stem from unbiblical presuppositions that contradict explicitly and implicitly stated Scripture guidelines for finding Christ in the Old Testament.

Barrett’s book shows that while liberal scholarship attempted to overturn typology by identifying it as a post-ascension desperate attempt to unite the otherwise unrelated Old and New Testaments, or by insinuating those who believe it are unenlightened Medieval fools, the Scriptural testimony is the same: The Scriptures testify of the person and work of Christ all throughout the Old Testament, foreshadowing in detail the Gospel. The messiah, his deity, his perfections, his sacrificial atonement, his priesthood, his intercession, his ascension, his coronation, his kingship, and his shepherding of his people are not imposed on the Old Testament, but directly derived from its propositional and typological prophecies concerning the divine Second Person of the Trinity.

This book will be a blessing to the Christian, of any position in the church, who longs to see Christ in the Scriptures and, thereby, fully comprehend the magnitude of God’s love for his people.

1 See Diaz, Hiram R. “The Apologetical Significance of Typology 
[Pt. 1],” Biblical Trinitarian,; “The Apologetical
Significance of Typology [Pt. 2],” Biblical Trinitarian,; and “A Reflection on Biblical 
Interpretation,” Biblical Trinitarian,
2 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Ch. I, Art. 9.