Book Review: Jesus on Every Page by David Murray

A few weeks ago Ed Stetzer began a series of blogs written by professors and pastors called Preaching Jesus from the Old Testament. The purpose of the series was to get people who have the responsibility of bringing the word week in and week out to their congregations to engage with these blog posts and to engage with different views on preaching Christ from the Old Testament. The second guest blogger was Dr. David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Professor David Murray was in the process of publishing a book called Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament. I was fortunate enough to have been sent an advance reader’s copy of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and would definitely recommend it as a good starting point for lay people and up and coming preachers who want to begin wrestling with the issue of preaching Christ from the OT.

Today I would like to review Professor Murray’s book. I will summarize its key points, provide what I take to be the best insights in this book, and finally I will present a short critique of Murray’s hermeneutical presuppositions. Having said this, keep in mind the fact that I am reviewing an “uncorrected advance reader’s copy,” so the things reviewed might actually end up changing a bit in the published version.

Summary

The book is divided into two parts – Part 1:My Road to Emmaus and Part 2: Spiritual Heartburn. Part 1 reflects Murray’s journey towards finding Christ in the OT. Here is what Murray says:

In the first part of the book, I tell the story of my own Emmaus road – how the Lord gradually taught me to see more and more of Jesus in the Old Testament. (2)

His journey reflects the journey of many who are convinced that we must preach Christ from the OT. He reflects upon reasons why the OT is ignored among scholars and Christians. He also reflects upon the results of ignoring the OT. In the next few chapters he makes a case for finding and seeking Christ in the Old Testament. We should note that Murray is hesitant about saying “finding Christ in the OT,” he prefers to use the phrase “finding Jesus in the OT.” This is a bit puzzling because the incarnate second person of the trinity, Jesus Christ, is not actually in the OT. Jesus of Nazareth was not born yet. Nevertheless he makes a case for finding Christ in the OT by examining the words of Jesus, the teachings of Peter in 1 Peter 10:12, Paul’s position in Galatians 3-4 and 2 Corinthians 3, and concludes this part of the book by examining the apostle John’s theology of Christ in the OT.

Having established that we can find Christ in the OT, part two focuses on ten simple ways to seek and find Jesus in the OT. He shows how Jesus is revealed in Creation, in the lives of OT Characters, in Christ’s theophanies. Then Murray shows how Christ is found in different genres and sections of scripture. In chapter 10 he shows how Jesus is found in the OT Law, in chapter 11 he shows how Jesus is found in the OT historical books, in chapter 12 he shows how to find Jesus in the prophetic literature. Then Murray has an insightful chapter in discovering Jesus through OT types. This chapter that seems a bit out of place, in terms of the order and structure of the book. Personally I would have chosen to place it near the chapter on discovering Jesus in OT Characters, instead of placing it between chapter 12 which is examines prophetic literature and chapter 14 that examines Christ in the OT covenants. He concludes the book with two chapters on finding Christ in wisdom literature, he shows us how to find Christ in Proverbs and how to find Christ in OT poetry.

Positive Aspects of the Book

There are many things in this book for which Professor Murray should be commended:

  1. The Inclusion of Discussion Questions. The fact that he included discussion questions will help people who have no familiarity with finding Christ in the OT to engage with this new concept. The questions are a good resource to make sure that people will engage with the material in a meaningful way as opposed to simply breezing through the book. These questions also make sure that the reader engages with Scripture itself rather than simply taking Murray’s words as authoritative. I could easily see myself using these questions as I process the concept of preaching Christ in the OT with some of the upcoming preachers in my ministry.
  2. The Inclusion of His Own “Emmaus” Journey. I think that many who read this book will have a story similar to Murray’s (other than being asked to teach OT at a seminary… this sort of reflects my own journey though. The first time I taught at Eternity Bible College I was asked to teach the OT even though I had told Preston Sprinkle that I have focused my study on the Gospels). It helps that Murray included his own personal journey and his own personal objections to this method, because many will have similar objections when approaching this subject.
  3. The Case for Preaching Christ from the OT. I honestly believe that he presents a clear and simple case for preaching Christ from the OT. Its based upon Scripture, and he doesn’t resort to proof-texting, which is something that many who want to preach Christ from the OT have resorted to doing in their own arguments.
  4. His understanding of OT Literary Nuances. I especially appreciated his discussion of the ordering of the OT books in the Septuagint and the ordering of the OT books in the Masoretic text. How we order the books of the OT gives us a framework for understanding the OT itself. Murray shows that both ways of ordering the OT books actually points to Christ. The Septuagint leaves us hoping for the restoration of God’s people, which is found in Jesus alone. The Masoretic Text ends with Chronicles, basically showing that Israel is not as it should be, it awaits the day when God’s people will actually live and act as God’s people were intended to be.
  5. His Chapter on Typology. Typology is dangerous. Murray teaches us how to use typology wisely without falling into the many traps that are associated with the use of typology. He wisely roots typology in the fact that the types are historical realities as opposed to simply spiritual realities (the trap of allegory). I really believe that this is the best short introduction to typology I have read. It is extremely helpful that he walks us through the process of using types to find Christ.

A Couple of Critiques

Let me lay out a couple of critiques that I had regarding Murray’s hermeneutical presuppositions.

Murray believes that Jesus used New Testament light to interpret the Old Testament Scriptures. In order to illustrate this belief he approvingly quotes Graeme Goldsworthy (15):

We do not start at Genesis 1 and work our way forward until we discover where it is all leading. Rather we first come to Christ, and he directs us to study the Old Testament in light of the gospel. The gospel will interpret the Old Testament by showing us its goal and meaning.

I’m am not to sure about using this method for interpreting Scripture, it seems to elevate one part of scripture as more authoritative over another. All of scripture is God-breathed, all of scripture is God’s revelation, all of Scripture reveals Christ. However, I really believe that we cannot know and understand Christ without the Old Testament. The Old Testament, without knowledge of the NT, gives us a worldview and the language that will be used in the NT. Without understanding what sacrifices mean in and of themselves in the OT, we don’t get what Jesus’ sacrifice is about. Without the OT understanding of priesthood taken on its own, we get a deficient view of how Jesus is the ultimate priest. Basically what I’m saying is that we shouldn’t privilege the NT over the OT, we need to be engaged in a dialectic between the NT and OT, with Christ being the center of interpretation.

My major critique of this book lies in Murray’s understanding of OT believer’s faith. In essence I think that Murray’s understanding of OT faith has OT believers believing way too much.

In his chapter on Christ in Poetry he lays out three thesis about OT faith (190):

  1. No Old Testament believer enjoyed the extraordinary light that NT believers have since Jesus died and was resurrected, and the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost.

  2. Every Old Testament believer had sufficient light to trust in a future Messiah who would suffer, die, and be glorified.

  3. Every Old Testament writer knew that his messages of salvation by grace through faith in the Messiah would be much clearer to future generations.

I can agree with thesis one and two, but I am not too sure about the third thesis. Its just not clear to me that justification by faith alone was being preached in the OT. It doesn’t even seem like an overwhelming concern to the NT writers either. Yes the doctrine is there, but the NT writers (as well as the OT writers) seem to be focused upon the fact that YHWH through the Messiah is a deliverer, that he is a sacrifice for sin, and that he will reign everywhere and forever.  Much of what passes for preaching Christ out of the OT boils down to preaching a gospel of justification by faith alone from the OT instead of preaching a full orbed gospel of the messiah as the fulfillment of God’s OT promises. I believe that if we make belief in justification by faith alone a requirement for OT faith then we run into some trouble because the truth is that we are saved by faith in the messiah alone, not by “faith alone in the doctrine of faith in the messiah alone.”

Conclusion

There are a few presuppositions that Murray holds that I disagree with, but its nothing that would prevent me from recommending this book to others. Part One and the chapter on typology make this book worth purchasing. So as soon as this book is released on August 20th, go out and buy this book. I know I will buy a few copies of this book to give away to a few people whom I know are interested in this subject.

By the way thanks to LifeWay and Ed Stetzer for sending this book to me and thanks to Professor David Murray for being willing to give out advance reader’s copies of this book!

Jesus on Every Page

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