We all wish we could have been one of the two disciples who walked with the resurrected Christ on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. We know that beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself—but what exactly did he say to them? Thankfully, the New Testament authors, inspired by the Spirit of Christ, have not left us wondering as they interpret the Old Testament in light of the person and work of Christ. In continuity with the view of Jesus and the New Testament writers, then, the books listed below look to help you read the Old Testament so that you too discover Christ and have your heart burn within you as well.
Murray walks through the various parts and genres of the Old Testament, teaching us how to read them to discover Christ. I particularly found his discussion on seeing Christ in Proverbs helpful as that is often a seemingly difficult task and not something most other books address. He writes, “The Old Testament leaves us looking and longing for the Wise One who would fulfill the Law and Proverbs. No surprise then that Jesus Christ exactly fit that profile. Time and again, Jesus is not only portrayed as the wise man but also identified with the wisdom of God. Truly, a greater than Solomon is here” (184).
2. Dennis E. Johnson, Walking with Jesus through His Word: Discovering Christ in All the Scriptures
I found that Johnson’s book in many ways complements Murray’s in that it focuses more on particular themes instead of genres per say. He sees Christ at work within the covenantal framework of the Old Testament as the “strong and faithful Lord,” but also “the submissive, suffering Servant.” Furthermore, he sees Christ at work in the Old Testament in his threefold mediatorial office as the final Prophet, our great High Priest, and the King of kings. This is a finely written and engaging book with useful examples at the end of each chapter.
3. Edmund Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament
Clowney’s book is a classic on seeing Christ in the Old Testament. He takes us on a seven-mile journey through the Old Testament stopping at key redemptive-historical episodes, revealing Christ in these places that we may otherwise overlook. “The Bible is the greatest storybook,” writes Clowney, “not just because it is full of wonderful stories but because it tells one great story, the story of Jesus” (9).
4. Vern Poythress, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses
On the back cover of this book the question is asked: What does the Old Testament have to do with Jesus Christ? Answer: Everything. “Poythress explores Genesis through Deuteronomy, demonstrating how the sacrifices and traditions of the Hebrews graphically foreshadow Christ’s relationship with his people.”
5. David E. Holwerda, Jesus & Israel: One Covenant or Two?
When my Old Testament professor assigned this book for his Messianic Revelation in the Old Testament class, I (probably like you) had never heard of it before. But a few chapters in, I realized I had been missing out on a gem. Poythress endorsed the book as “a first-rate presentation of a Reformed, covenantal understanding of promise and fulfillment.” It focuses on major themes of the Old Testament that are picked up in the New Testament and ultimately fulfilled in Christ. These themes include Israel, temple, land and law.
6. S. G. De Graaf, Promise and Deliverance (4 vols.)
S. G. De Graaf (1889-1955), a minister in the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands, noticed a tendency in Sunday school lessons to present the characters of the Old Testament as mere moral examples to imitate: have a heart like David or dare to be a Daniel. This led him to write this 4-volume work as an aid for these teachers to show that the events in the Old Testament point ahead to the Christ, who was already moving among his people long before his incarnation, working in their hearts and showing them a better future.
PDFs of this work can be found online for free: v. 1: From Creation to the Conquest of Canaan; v. 2: The Failure of Israel’s Theocracy; v. 3: Christ’s Ministry and Death; v. 4: Christ and the Nations.
7. Gerard Van Groningen, Messianic Revelation in the Old Testament
Van Groningen (1921-2014) observed that “books by evangelical scholars on messianism in the Old Testament are either outdated, too brief, or lack balance.” He looked to correct these issues in his rather comprehensive work that traces the messianic expectation as it is progressively revealed throughout redemptive-history. According to Van Groningen, his study “reveals that the messianic concept refers to a royal-priestly-prophetic person … and his work.”
8. Christopher J. H. Wright, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament
Wright shows how Jesus himself and the New Testament authors understood and explained his identity, mission, and significance in the light of the whole of the Old Testament. His focus especially on the mission-mindedness of Christ was particularly illuminating. The book is also a smooth read with well-crafted sentences and containing not a single footnote—apparently a minor life’s ambition for Wright!
9. Graeme Goldsworthy, The Son of God and the New Creation
This book by Goldsworthy is more limited in its scope than the other books in this list as it is concerned only with the “Son of God” title in Scripture. However, while many may be quick to simply read this title as a divinity claim when applied to Jesus in the New Testament, Goldsworthy properly shows the Old Testament, messianic content that fills the title. He “traces the theme of divine sonship from Adam, through the nation of Israel and King David, and ultimately to Jesus Christ—the ‘Son of God’ par excellence.”
10. Jonathan Edwards, A History of the Work of Redemption
In 1739 Edwards sought to impress upon his New England congregants in a thirty-sermon series the truth that “everything in human history from start to finish is subservient to Christ’s work of redemption.” A History of the Work of Redemption is a compilation of those sermons since Edwards did not live to carry out his intention of writing a book that expounded the same theme. One of my favorite passages from the book is the opening words of Part 1: “As soon as ever man fell, Christ entered on his Mediatorial work. Then it was that Christ first took on him the work and office of a Mediator. … As soon as ever man fell, Christ the eternal Son of God clothed himself with the Mediatorial character, and therein presented himself before the Father” (21).
Bonus: Nancy Guthrie, Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series
What books have you found helpful on seeing Jesus in the Old Testament? Let us know in the comments below.