Christ is the Key to Reading Scriptures

This is the 2nd blog in this series which began with Reading the Bible: Hermeneutics & Typology.

Jesus Christ is not only the One about whom the Scriptures speak, prophesy, point out, or reveal, but He also is the One who reveals the meaning of all Scriptures  This is clear in the Gospels.

On four different occasions Jesus asks his opponents (Pharisees and Sadducees), “have you not read…?” (Matthew 12:3, 12:5, 19:4, 22:31; Mark 12:10, 12:26; Luke 6:3)   The answer is of course they had read those passages, but they had perhaps never read them with the particular understanding that Jesus was offering.   Jesus reveals the meaning and purpose of Scripture through His teachings.  Without Christ, meanings would be derived from the Scriptures, but it is Jesus who clarifies what their meaning is.

 Then in Luke 24:13-35, we see the risen Jesus interpreting to the two disciples “in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (vs .27).  The two disciples acknowledge that their hearts were burning when He opened to them the scriptures (vs. 32).   Here we see the Scriptures pointing to (revealing) the Christ, and the Christ revealing the Scriptures!

Fr. Paul Tarazi notes,

“… the Pauline conception of scripture—its meaning can be revealed only by Christ (only the Lamb can open it,  Rev 5: 6-10).   {Footnote: Numerous Pauline texts make it clear that the Old Testament is only understood correctly when it is interpreted as prophesying the gospel of the crucified Christ; see especially Rom 1:1-5 and 2 Cor 3:12-17; also Eph 3:1-12).}”  (Paul Tarazi, THE NEW TESTAMENT INTRODUCTION: THE JOHANNINE WRITINGS, p 60)

Dr. Peter Bouteneff writes:

“Christ—the crucified Christ, as Irenaeus is keen to specify—is the one by whom we rightly read the Scriptures, and when we read the Scriptures through him, we understand both them and him correctly.  Irenaeus describes a double dissemination: Christ is sown in the Scriptures, and the Scriptures in their turn announce, or ‘disseminate,’ the coming of the Son of God (AHY 4.23.1) …  In a celebrated passage in Against Heresies, he speaks of this unity and of how Christ is present both in the sowing (OT) and the reaping (NT)—a presence that should guide our reading of Scripture:

‘If any one therefore reads the Scriptures in this manner, he will find in them the Word concerning Christ, and a prefiguration of the new calling.  For Christ is the treasure that was hidden in the field (Matt 13:44), that is, in this world—for ‘the field is the world’ (Matt 13:38).  [Christ is] a treasure hidden in the scriptures, since he was signified by means of types and parables that, humanly speaking, could not be understood before the fulfillment of the things that were prophesied – in other words, before the coming of Christ…

For any prophecy, before it is fulfilled, is nothing but enigmas and ambiguities.  But from the moment that the prediction is fulfilled, it finds its proper interpretation.

And so it is that in our own day when the law is read by the Jews, it is [to them] like a fable [mythos], for they do not possess the exegesis of all things in order  to know the human coming of the Son of God.  When read, on the other hand, by Christians, [the law] is indeed a treasure hidden in a field, revealed and interpreted by the cross of Christ.’”   (Peter Bouteneff, BEGINNINGS: ANCIENT CHRISTIAN READINGS OF THE BIBLICAL NARRATIVES, pp 74-75)

Christ is not only the Word of God, but the one in Whom God’s word is made known to us.   Thus for Christians, the Word of God is not so much a book, as it is the revelation of God.  The words of the Bible are our means to enter into this revelation; they are our means to live in Christ.  Our goal in reading the Bible is to move beyond the literal words on the page into a relationship with the Word of God made flesh, and thus with the Holy Trinity.  The text of the Bible is the means of God’s revealing His Word, but the text is not identical with God’s Word, nor is the Word of God – the 2nd Person of the Trinity – limited by or coterminous with the biblical text.  This is indeed part of the mystery of God’s revelation and how that revelation is not limited by our understanding of it.

Next:  Methodology: How we read the Bible

Spiritual Gifts Distributed to the Community

Our parish has its Spiritual Gifts Workshop this weekend – The Called and Gifted Workshop led by Fr. Michael Butler.

St. John Cassian describes how such gifts are distributed among the members of a community, so that when the members assemble together and work together, Christ in present fully not in any one member but in the collective membership through the distributed gifts given variously to different members.

“For there is one who is adorned with the flowers of knowledge, another who is more strongly fortified by the practice of discretion, another who is solidly founded in patience, one who excels in the virtue of humility and another in that of abstinence, while still another is decked with grace of simplicity, this one surpasses the others by his zeal for magnanimity, that one by mercy, another one by vigils, yet another by silence, and still another by toil.  …  In as much, therefore, as there is wisdom in one, righteousness in another, holiness in another, meekness in another, chastity in another, and humility in another, Christ is now divided among each of the holy ones, member by member.  But when all are assembled together in the unity of faith and virtue, he appears as ‘the perfect man,’ completing the fullness of his body in the joining together and in the characteristics of the individual members.  Until the time comes, then, when God will be all in all, God can be such presently in the fashion that we have spoken of- that is, by virtues partly in all, although he is not yet all in all with respect to the fullness of them.”  (St. John Cassian, THE INSTITUTES, p 119)

Eventually Christ will be all in all, but until the fulfillment of that day, Christ is present to varying degrees through the various gifts distributed throughout the local Christian community.