To get to the NT we must go through the OT. This often means if we are to understand where we are in the NT, we have to retrace our steps from the Old to properly understand how we got to the New. The “progress” in progressive revelation actual matters so we cannot miss steps or take shortcuts on the journey to meaning since we are heading forwards in a very specific direction to a very specific destination.
NT scholar Richard Hays describes a particular manner in which the NT appropriates some OT texts. He calls this interpretive approach figural reading or reading backwards. He argues the past meaning of a text matters to the new meaning of the text, so it is only by going back to the past meaning that we can truly appreciate how the writer is adapting it to fit a new context. I think this is a general principle that we should broadly apply to how we view the relationship between the OT and the NT. To read forwards, we need to read backwards first. Once we recognize the particular meanings things from the OT had, there is a new depth of meaning we gain since we now know what is being appropriated for a new setting.
The above is an excerpt from a piece I wrote on the pitfalls of describing things in the OT as only symbols of the NT. To read the full article click here.
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