A Short Exchange Debating Jesus and the Old Testament

Six years ago in a course on the Old Testament, the professor asked the class to discuss the following question:

Professor: “How do you read the Old Testament?”

One Student Answered: “I do not suggest to ignore the NT or Jesus, but only not starting there and moving backward. You do let them [the NT and Jesus] ultimately interpret and enlighten from a New Covenant perspective; I just don’t believe the Old Testament originally comes form that vantage-point.”

My Reply: “There is no Jesusless starting place. Jesus himself would not endorse another vantage starting point other than Jesus himself. No man comes to the Father except through the Son — not even if we do it as a thought experiment.”

The Student’s Reply: “On the contrary, Jesus stated in Mt. 5:17 that He came to fulfill the Law. Fulfillment is not the starting point, it is the finality.”

Me: “The verse you mention (Mat 5:17), proves my point.

“The fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law (Torah) is embedded in the start of the Law. The reason for the Law in the first place, was to this end. Jesus is the final cause. And so that means that the Law having a final cause is from its inception.

“The thought experiment (which would be invalid) would to be imagine what it is like to think about the Law without considering its final cause.It would be like thinking about chairs without reference to the reasons chairs exist.

“The motive of God (his reason for the Law) is not to be absented from the earliest discussion of the Law, but is first things. When a man plans to build a house, the final construction is in his mind (he imagines his building). Then he buys wood (the material cause).The Material cause is not independent of the final cause, but is understood by it.

“Jesus is the final cause. He is the Omega. And by pointing out that he is the Omega, we accentuate how this would be necessary at the Alpha.
For example, if you saw a birthday cake on your table tonight, you would ask, “WHO is this for?” You immediately go to the final cause.

“Now, when we start with Jesus (as Moses would have), he would not start with Jesus’ hair color. That is, many measurements about Jesus would be omitted. I talk about Jesus all the time, but I don’t know how tall he was (or is). So when I say that the final cause is already under discussion at the beginning of the matter, it is conceptually present.

“Jesus is the person (and hence the conceptual framework) that makes sense of why there was a Law. Without God coming in flesh (the teleological end for which there was a Law), there would be no need for the Law (like there would be no need for a chair if there was not “siting”). There would be no need for a birthday cake if there as not a person’s birthday.

“So it is the very fact that Jesus is the final cause of the Law that Moses would have it in mind (just like you would immediately have in mind a person behind the birthday cake on your table).

“Jesus is the starting point. And we see that the end comes before the beginning whenever someone creates a thing. That is, sitting(as an idea) is prior to chair making. The end for which the chair is made is in the mind of the maker prior to creating.

“The final cause is logically prior.

“The person who is having a birthday comes prior to birthday cakes.

“Jesus is the first thought when God made the world, for all things were made by him and for him (Col 1:15).

“The human mind (Abraham’s, Moses’, David’s Jeremiah’s, etc.) work such that we think this way. Our minds were made to reason from the final cause. Of David, Peter writes:

‘Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah…’,  Acts 2:31

“We can see the end in the beginning. And this is wisdom. Seeing Christ (which Abraham did, and Moses did, and David did) is logical.

“To have a thought experiment where we think about the reason for the OT or the Law without starting with the final cause would be like looking at the material, formal and efficient causes of a chair without the final cause. It can’t be done. It leads to emptiness.”

This article was published under Bible, is About Jesus, Old Testament.

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