A theme regarding the interpretation of Scripture which I have frequently mentioned is that for Christians, Christ is the hermeneutic or interpretive key for understanding the Old Testament texts. Unlike what some modern Christians like to claim, that literalism is the principle by which we read the Old Testament, the New Testament itself gives us the clue for reading the Old Testament. We find this interpretive principle in John’s Gospel, Chapter 5. It is an idea I have presented in many blogs as the Orthodox principle for reading the Old Testament. (see for example my blogs: Jesus the Key to Understanding Torah, Christ is the Key to Reading Scripture, Christ is the Key to Open the Scriptural Treasury, Reading the Old Testament with Jesus, Reading the Old Testament to Reveal the Truth). Today, one of the scheduled Scripture Lessons is John 5:30-6:2. It is the very passage in which Jesus offers a hermeneutic for reading the Scriptures. Jesus is in a dialog or debate with His fellow Jews discussing the messiah, who Jesus is and the purpose of the Scriptures. Jesus says (the emphasis is mine and is not in the original text):
“And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness to me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen; and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom he has sent. You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men. But I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me; . . . Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses who accuses you, on whom you set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:37-47)
Jesus makes a very bold claim that Moses wrote about Him (Jesus). Moses is credited with having written Torah, the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Bible. Jesus says Moses was writing about Him (Jesus)! To read the Genesis text literally to discover history and science is to misread and misunderstand the text. We read Genesis and all of Torah and the entirety of the Old Testament in order to come to faith in Christ.
St. Luke in his Gospel offers a very similar lesson as Jesus explains to the two disciples walking to Emmaus the prophecy of and the purpose of His (the Messiah’s) own suffering, death and resurrection:
And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)
Jesus says according to St. John that the very way the texts of Moses are to be read is in and through Him. It is Moses, not Jesus, who will judge whether or not the Jews (and all of us) have been faithful in reading and obeying Scriptures. Jesus says if you really believe Moses, if you read his writings with faith and understanding, then you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah. If you read Moses incorrectly – without faith – you won’t understand what he was purposefully saying and so you won’t believe Jesus either.
The real debate according to Jesus is not whether the Genesis creation story is literally true or not. The real debate is whether you read Moses with faith and recognize that Moses was writing a prophecy about the Messiah. If we understand that even Genesis is about Jesus, we will rightly understand its importance in our lives. For Jesus believing Moses’ writings means recognizing that they are written about Jesus, the Messiah.
Jesus asks His fellow Jews, “if you do not believe Moses’ writings, how will you believe my words?” Jesus is saying there is a right way to read Moses and the Torah. That way requires the understanding that Moses wrote about Jesus the Messiah. This way of reading Torah is very much in line with the many competing views of the proper way to read Scripture that existed among Jews in Jesus’ day. Jesus offers a particular interpretation of Moses, a particular hermeneutic. If you believe what Moses wrote you will agree with what Jesus teaches. Only if you disbelieve Moses will you not believe in Jesus as Christ.