TRV (Two Reading View or Christotelic) Explained

Here is Richard Gaffin (long time professor at Westminster Seminary Philadelphia) explaining TRV and why it is deficient. The entire article (response) appears here:

This happens through its “first read-second read” treatment of the Old Testament that it adopts. The first read seeks to establish the original historical meaning or original human author meaning of an Old Testament passage on its own terms without any reference to the New Testament. The second read of the passage then seeks to show how in the light of the New Testament it is about Christ, to disclose its Christotelic content.

This approach as a whole is ill-conceived and seriously flawed. Though it is motivated in part by the legitimate concern to avoid reading New Testament meanings back into Old Testament texts–no doubt a danger–there is a difference between reading the New Testament back into the Old and reading the Old Testament in light of the New. The former is wrong; the latter is not only legitimate but also requisite. As it is carried out, the first read tends towards highlighting the “messiness” of the Old Testament, as its proponents put it, towards finding unrelated or discordant trajectories of meaning in the Old Testament. It obscures both the organic connection between the meaning of the divine author and what the human authors wrote as well as the organic connection and unity between the Old Testament and New Testament.

Multivalent, even contradictory trajectories will appear to be the case when the Old Testament documents are read “on their own terms” in the sense of bracketing out their fulfillment in Christ and the interpretive bearing of the New Testament.

For new covenant readers submissive to both the Old and New Testaments as the word of God, such a disjunctive reading of the Old Testament is illegitimate, as well as redemptive-historically (and canonically) anachronistic. To seek to interpret the various Old Testament documents for themselves and apart from the vantage point of the New exposes one ultimately to misinterpreting them. The Old Testament is to be read in the light of the New not only because Jesus and the New Testament writers read it this way, but also because Jesus and the New Testament writers are clear about the continuity in intention and meaning that exists between themselves and the various Old Testament authors and what those authors wrote in their own time and place. Passages like Luke 24:44-45, John 5:39-47 and 1 Peter 1:10-12, not to mention numerous others, put this beyond question—unless we are to dismiss such passage, as advocates of Christotelic interpretation characteristically do, as reflecting a Second Temple Jewish hermeneutic that attributes meaning to Old Testament passages that is not their original human author meaning.

The Old Testament reveals a unidirectional path or a set of multiple paths that leads to Christ. Certainly at points that way is obscure and difficult to follow; that remains and will always be a challenge to sound interpretation of the Old Testament. Nor did the Old Testament authors grasp with any fullness the meaning of what they wrote. But, as Vos says elsewhere, that they “did not understand all this in detail is not relevant” (Reformed Dogmatics, volume 2, forthcoming, on the unity of the covenant of grace). At the same time, their understanding of what they wrote does not disclose discordant and inorganic discontinuity. As Vos immediately adds, “But without doubt, they would have grasped the heart of the matter.” To cite a few examples among many more: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him” (John 12:41). Not only did Isaiah speak (or write) but also, in speaking, he himself saw or understood. In fact, with an eye to the syntax of verse 41, he spoke “because he saw”; he said it because he saw it. Again, the intense interest of the Old Testament prophets as a whole was in what “the Spirit of Christ” at work in them was disclosing about his own eventual coming, his sufferings and consequent glory (1 Peter 1:10-11).

As Vos indicates in the first quote above, at stake here is what is essential for the Reformed faith (e.g., WCF, 7:5-6; 8:6; 11:6; WLC, 33-35), for true, Biblical religion since the fall: the unity of the religion of the Old and New Testaments focused on Christ. Central for the faith of the former is the future fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah to come, for the faith of the latter, the realized fulfillment of that promise.

Finally, it seems fair to observe that the term “Christotelic” has been coined in part to replace “Christocentric.” Advocates of Christotelic interpretation will speak of the Old Testament being “Christological” in a general sense, in view of the pervasive reference to Christ that the New Testament finds in the Old   Testament in all its parts. But they avoid applying “Christocentric” to the Old Testament because in their view, their “first read” approach shows that its original historical, human author meaning is, all told, not Christ-centered.

There can be no objection to “Christotelic” in itself. But Scripture is Christotelic just because it is Christocentric. It is Christotelic only as it is Christocentric, and as it is that in every part, the Old Testament included. Or, as we may, in fact must put the issue here in its most ultimate consideration, Christ is the mediatorial Lord and Savior of redemptive history not only at its end but also from beginning to end. He is not only its omega but also its alpha, and he is and can be its omega only as he is its alpha.

Author: Alex the Less

My education: BA (Bible), M.Div, BBA (HRM). Also, I have been a professional carpenter for about 25 years. Now retired, I have more time to study the bible and write about it.

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