Friday, December 01, 2017

Helpful but with some dubious assertions

Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament by David Murray

This book is an accessible summary of the way the Old Testament points to Jesus. Murray notes that there are many connections to draw to Jesus, and attempts to provide a reasonably complete survey of these connections.

Murray is basically correct in his approach. He sees Jesus on every page, though not necessarily, it seems, in every verse. That is, every story can be connected to Jesus even if we have to be careful not to press the analogy in every detail. Murray makes a lot of 1 Peter 1:12 (" It was revealed to them [the prophets] that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been reported to you") in arguing that the Old Testament prophets knew about the New Testament era that was coming. The Old Testament "things" is the same as the New Testament "reports".

Murray is spot on at many points. For example, he correctly points out, on the basis of Acts 2:30-31, that in Psalm 16 David was a "believing Christian speaking of Christ as his only hope" (p. 194). I also appreciate Murray's alliteration in arranging his subpoints: his chapter on Jesus and Creation has the headings "The Arrangement of Redemption," "The Arena of Redemption," "The Aim of Redemption," "The Accessories of Redemption," "The Assistants of Redemption," "The Advance of Redemption," "The Analogy of Redemption," "The Advantages of Redemption," "The Apex of Redemption," "The Author of Redemption," and "The Application of Redemption".

There are, however, numerous points at which I disagree with Murray, either because he makes a dubious assertion or because he omits a critical point. I will restrict myself to three examples.

Firstly, Murray tends to see Jesus as doing everything in the Old Testament. For example, he argues that "the Son of God is the usual way God appears to humanity" (p. 76). Yet this has the effect of diminishing the work of the Holy Spirit. If we are going to apportion divine deeds among the different members of the Trinity (and that in itself is fraught with peril), then many Old Testament acts must be seen as the work of the Spirit (e.g. Nehemiah 9:20).

Secondly, in looking at Jesus in the prophetic books, Murray omits the idea that Jesus is the one on whom the judgement falls. He talks about Jesus being the judge of the nations (p. 128) but we can also look at judgement the other way: when Nahum 1:2 says "The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful", we have to remember that this wrath against sin fell on Jesus. This is a glaring omission in what attempts to be a complete catalogue of connections between the Old and New Testaments.

Thirdly, in talking about covenant signs, Murray claims that "the crown on David's head reminded him and all Israel of God's promise of an everlasting king and kingdom" (p. 167). There is, however, no reference to David being crowned until he obtains the crown of the King of Rabbah in 2 Samuel 12:30. David was anointed with oil (2 Samuel 2:4) but the crown is not itself a Davidic symbol. It is used in the Psalms (89:39 and 132:18) to refer to the later monarchy, and perhaps this is where Murray gets the idea.

Thus, Jesus on Every Page is a rather annoying book. It is helpful in many ways, but it could have been so much better. The numerous points of disagreement I had prevent me from recommending it wholeheartedly.