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According to Wikipedia:

  • The Christo-Centric Principle: "The mind of deity is eternally centered in Christ. All angelic thought and ministry are centered in Christ. All Satanic hatred and subtlety are centered at Christ. All human hopes are, and human occupations should be, centered in Christ. The whole material universe in creation is centered in Christ. The entire written word is centered in Christ."

In the abstract, the idea makes a certain amount of sense to me. But when it comes to the practicalities of understanding the Bible, how does that work? Does every verse need to point to Jesus in some fashion?


As an aside, can anyone identify the source of the quoted material? Google turns up a couple thousand results, but most seem to be endlessly repeating the material from Wikipedia itself. (And soon enough, this will be yet another result to throw on the pile.)

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From what I understand, the Christocentric Principle does not mean that every detail or verse is about Jesus, but rather, that Christ is the "star of the show" in Scripture; every verse is a part of the story that finds its climax and fulfillment in Jesus. –  Jas 3.1 Jan 8 '13 at 3:59

5 Answers 5

If you're asking about "weaknesses" associated with this approach, then I'd say that there's a distinct selection bias with this approach. With selection bias you can end up with false positives and forced readings.

How does one find Jesus in the story of Laban, Rachel, Leah, and Jacob?

Additionally, I find weakness in the concept of all of deity being centrally focused on Christ. I'm not so sure that this is the best approach since it's overly humanistic in its approach and violates a good deal of what God reveals about God's nature by making the person and nature of Jesus, and the subsequent redemption of humanity, the primary purpose for God's existence.

A Christicentric hermeneutic is certainly valuable in moderation. To use it as the foundation of all exegesis is irresponsible.

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For a detailed explanation on Christo-centric preaching (and thereby indirectly the hermeutic), I highly, highly recommend Keller + Clowney's 16-part seminar they held on "Preaching Christ to a Postmodern world", available for free(!) on iTunes U. Here is the link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/preaching-christ-in-postmodern/id378879885

I'd agree with Jas - it's not that every verse is DIRECTLY about Christ, it's that Christ is the ultimate fulfillment (in a larger sense) of Scripture. So to take swasheck's example of Rachel + Leah - you see Leah seeking salvation in Jacob, trying to win his love by bearing children for him ("NOW my husband will love me"). The moment she finally turns from this to a grace-based attitude ("this time I will praise the LORD") is the moment she bears Judah - the messianic line.

In my opinion, the "weakness" of the Christo-centric approach is only found if we take it to an extreme, e.g. elevate Christ above the Father or the Spirit or fail to realize that Christ himself lives solely for the glory of the Father and submits to him in humble obedience by the power and motivation provided by the Spirit. It's a "dance" if you will.

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Thank you for the link to the seminar; it's now in line to be listened to... eventually. ;-) –  Jon Ericson Jan 8 '13 at 17:08
    
It completely changed how I approach preaching texts, and immeasurably deepened my understanding of Scripture. I can't recommend it enough (especially the talks by Keller since they are packed with case studies of different texts) –  Epaga Jan 9 '13 at 15:49
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I'd like to thank you for the link. I've listened to the first few sessions and it really is eye-opening. My pastor needs to listen to it! –  Jon Ericson Jan 30 '13 at 17:42

I think to break down how it works would be difficult to do in detail here. You would certainly not want to try to turn every verse into some sort of Christ reference or the like. What others have stated about ultimate fulfillment in Christ should help to lead you in the right direction.

Some things to look at concerning this sort of approach might be:

  • TYPOLOGY (NOT ALLEGORIZATION)
  • REDEMPTIVE-HISTORICAL HERMENEUTICS
  • THE USE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT IN THE NEW
  • BIBLICAL THEOLOGY
  • FULLER MEANING -SINGLE GOAL

I have found Graeme Goldsworthy to be a very helpful introduction to these concepts. G.K. Beale has some excellent material available -I am currently reading "Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation" by G. K. Beale, which is a more digestible version of his 1000+ page "New Testament Biblical Theology" book. Reading some of these books whether you agree with them or not will help shed light on this whole topic and take you deeper into concepts regarding a Christ-Centered Hermeneutic and Biblical Theology in general.

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Hi Jordan. Since you mentioned typology (and contrasted it with allegory), it sounds like you might be able to contribute to this question, so I thought I'd point it out to you. Thanks! –  Gone Quiet Apr 28 '13 at 15:08

In one sense there is no limit to a Christological hermeneutic as it is arguable ‘the’ New Testament hermeneutic of the scriptures. In some ways it is more of a Biblical attitude or higher framework directing other hermeneutics in how biblical truth theologically fits into an understanding of self, God and our relationship to him. It is not a precise guide for interpreting an individual historical literal meaning of a given verse of scripture which could be done without faith to a degree. It is more of a belief that if one correctly and honestly uses a historical grammatical exegesis, one will arrive at a Christological conclusion.

Here we see a Christological attitude and framework in the New Testament itself:

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.( The New International Version. 2011 (1 Co 2:2). )

Again here:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (The New International Version. 2011 (Ga 6:14))

Again here:

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.( The New International Version. 2011 (1 Co 1:22–24))

In many ways ‘this higher framework’ under the tradition of St. Augustine, was in many ways lost among medieval scholasticism. Then theology was basically a mixture of Aristotelian philosophy with Church Dogma. The result is that the main points of salvation topics were blurred taking the emphasis away from sin and salvation by faith in Christ. The 'Christological hermeneutic' resurfaced in Luther’s own lectures and can be seen very early in his theological career even before the Protestant reformation. This hermeneutic is still central to most protestant creeds of faith today. The basic idea is that as we are truly and seriously born in sin without human remedy. We are also without understanding and without ability to understand. As God seeks remedy for our depravity and ignorance, through the death of Christ, we can obtain knowledge, righteousness and life. This by simple faith in that work done on the cross. A 'Christological hermeneutic' is actually a Cross-ological hermeneutic for it is not just about philosophical topics about the incarnation but rather how having faith in the incarnation and penal crucifixion of Christ we can obtain personal crucifixion and resurrection of our own selves. Therefore, understanding scripture is part of understanding God and self, including an existential experience of its power, which can only be done by faith in Christ. This makes the scripture themselves Christological.

One can see for example this attitude in Luther’s first formal exposition of scripture in his lectures on the Pslams. This was the time when all his ideas were fermenting but not yet resolved around the doctrine of justification which wold emerge as his only passion.

THE FIRST PSALMS LECTURE (1513–1515) THE NEW HERMENEUTIC Compared with the marginal notes of 1509/1510, the first Psalms lecture reflects a totally different theological climate. The reason for this is first of all that we are dealing here with Luther’s first exegetical lecture, no longer with mere criticisms or comments on the texts of others. In addition, the first Psalms lecture makes clear that while his interpretation to a great extent leaned on earlier expositions, of which Augustine’s Ennarationes in Psalmos have the lion’s share, in a hermeneutical respect Luther was going his own way…The new hermeneutic appears in its essential features as early as in Luther’s preface. If earlier commentators had dealt with questions of introduction and hermeneutics in their forewords, Luther’s superscription reads: “Foreword of Jesus Christ.” A few quotations from Scripture intend to show that Christ is the sole key to understanding the Psalter. (Lohse, B. (1999). Martin Luther’s Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development (R. A. Harrisville, Trans.) (52–53). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.)

This hermeneutic gets at the meat of virtually all Protestant theology. It guides everything that is ‘theologically relevant’ to an understanding of God and our own self with a view of salvation or damnation. It is personally serious not academic. Many other branches of biblical study and theology virtually ignore this central Christological theme, which the Protestant reformation revolted from in the form of a renewed Christological Hermeneutic.

But to get back to the precise question: ‘But when it comes to the practicalities of understanding the Bible, how does that work?’ It has to do with the goal of understanding the Bible and the assumed purpose for the Bible. When we assume that we are lost and needing Salvation and that the Bible is provided as a guide for us to find out how to be saved, then Christ is put at the center of this view and all biblical interpretation flows into it. If we do not make these assumptions (i.e. belief in strict original sin, atonement for sin and imputation of an alien righteousness, through Christ’s death and resurrection) then the hermeneutic is entirely misleading and absolutely limited or false. On the other hand, if we do have these Protestant assumptions or adhere to the hermeneutic about Christ’s role in our salvation, then it has an impact on the accent and direction of virtually every Biblical narrative and intended final application of every biblical thought and verse.

I know allegories are not often that helpful but I think it might be here. Put it this way: If we dumped a big box of iron shavings on a wooden table they would all fall in random order. Each shaving could be analyzed and measured objectively. We could all agree that this shaving is 2 cm long, black, of a certain weight, etc. However, if we then installed a strong magnet below the table each strand and shaving would all change direction to the magnetic pole. If we consider only those shavings 'directly' over the magnet to 'directly' mention Christ, then all the other shavings do not seem to be practically affected by the hermeneutic. However, if we pay careful attention to the orientation or angular relationship to the other shavings and those liberally over the location of the magnet, we find almost everything is changed! Some shavings may have been accidentally aligned to the magnetic poles before the magnetic force was applied, but even these probably undergo some modification when looked at closer. Under this analogy, the word of God, is the logos, which is Christ. It's all related by something outside of history, grammar and even human understanding. Christ is where all truth, thought and scripture point because God communicates his mind to us in love for our salvation. Everything else is as Solomon would say, 'meaningless, meaningless'.

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While I agree that the Christological hermeneutic is the interpretation philosophy of the New Testament, I'm not convinced that the three quotations from Paul illustrate it. Certainly, he interpreted everything in light of the cross (and your allegory is a good one), but there are other places in Paul (and from Jesus himself) that show how Christians re-interpreted the Scriptures in light of the person of Jesus and saw the church as fulfilling the promises made to Abraham and Israel. But good stuff overall and +1. –  Jon Ericson Apr 29 '13 at 4:04
    
I agree the hermeneutic certainly applies in this broader sense. –  Mike Apr 29 '13 at 7:10

There are definitely limits as to how the approach should be used, and it is not an exegetical approach. Instead it is an approach which says that it is important that we see an overarching metanarrative through the whole Bible and that its focus is on Jesus. Graeme Goldsworthy says:

The immediate appeal of biblical theology to preachers, teachers and ordinary Christians is that it provides a 'big picture' that makes sense out of the bewildering bulk and variety of the biblical literature. It seeks to view the whole scene of God's revelation from the heights - to mount up with eagles' wings and allow God to show us his one mighty plan from creation to new creation. When the Bible ceases to be a mass of unconnected stories and other bits of writing, and begins to look like a unity that connects the narratives of Israel with those of the four Gospels, and shows up the progression from creation to the new creation, and that highlights the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the prime focus of the whole Bible, people usually sit up and take notice. (Christ-Centred Biblical Theology, pg19)

I don't think there's any straight forward rule about the granularity in which you should be looking for how a passage points to Jesus. In some places it will indeed be a single verse. In others it could be at the level of a whole book.

For example, if you try to make 1 Chronicles 3:2 point to Jesus in isolation, then either you won't be able to, or you'll have to completely twist the meaning of the verse. Does 1 Chronicles 3 point to Jesus? Maybe, but probably not. Does 1 Chronicles point to Jesus? Yes, by showing how the Israelite kings as a whole teach us what it means for Jesus to be king, while at the same time showing us the many failures of human leadership which makes us long for the perfect leadership of the son of God.

The source of the Wikipedia quote appears to be Wikipedia itself: it was in the page as originally created by user Szessi.

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Thanks for researching the quote's source and for the very useful example concerning granularity. –  Jon Ericson Oct 9 '13 at 0:08

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