Whether a person consciously or unconsciously realizes, no one reads or studies the Bible without presuppositions. Presuppositions shape one’s overall understanding of the Bible.
For example, some believe that the Old Testament must be literally fulfilled (i.e., an exact correspondence between what is promised and what is fulfilled) in the New Testament. If this is the case, then one’s reading and study of the Bible leads to the conclusion that God’s promise to Abraham of many descendants along with the land of Canaan will ultimately be fulfilled by the return of Israel to palestine and a rebuilt temple in a restored Jerusalem with the reinstitution of animal sacrifices.
However, the problem with such a presupposition is that it fails to take into account Christ’s place in Scripture. As Grame Goldsworthy has pointed out, the problem with rigid literalism is that Christ is nowhere to be found in the promises. As a former Dispensationalist, this was certainly true in my understanding of the Bible.
Formerly, the starting point (i.e., presuppositions) for all of my Bible reading and study was not Christo-centric (i.e., Christ-centered). Thus, my understanding of the Bible was at best faulty (dare I say unChristian?).
So, the question of presuppositions in relation to one’s Bible reading and study is crucial. Grame Goldsworthy helped me tremendously by instilling into me a “gospel presupposition.”
According to Goldsworthy, the key presupposition that unlocks the message of the Bible is this:
Every word in Scripture points to Jesus and finds its meaning in him, (According to Plan, p. 60).
Like the two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Lk. 24), this presupposition opened my eyes to the reality of Christ in all of Scripture.
Goldsworthy goes on to say,
“The significance of this is worth repeating: Jesus Christ in his life, death and resurrection is the fixed point of reference for the understanding of the whole of reality. We must apply this fact to our doing of biblical theology. The gospel is the fixed point of reference for understanding the meaning of the whole range of biblical revelation. Thus, in order to do biblical theology we must start with a dogmatic basis, a presupposition or set of presuppositions that come to us from revelation,” (According to Plan, p. 60).
As Christians, our starting point for understanding the Bible (i.e., presupposition) is the gospel. The gospel takes precedence because it is through Christ that one comes to understand the overall message of the Bible (Lk. 24:25-27).
“…the key presupposition that unlocks the message of the Bible is this: Every word in Scripture points to Jesus and finds its meaning in him…”
Thus, the New Testament interprets the Old Testament. This doesn’t make the Old Testament worthless for the Christian. On the contrary, it enables the believer to have a proper framework in which to understand the progressive unveiling of the message of the Bible.
Thus, Goldsworthy writes,
“As Christians, we must return to the principles of Old Testament interpretation dictated by the New Testament. When Jesus says that he gives the Old Testament its meaning, he is also saying that we need the Old Testament to understand what he says about himself. Jesus drives us back to the Old Testament to examine it through Christian eyes, teaching that it leads us back to him. In doing biblical theology as Christians, we do not start at Genesis 1 and work our way forward until we discover where it is all leading. Rather we first come to Christ, and he directs us to study the Old Testament in the light of the gospel. The gospel will interpret the Old Testament by showing us its goal and meaning. The Old Testament will increase our understanding of the gospel by showing us what Christ fulfills,” (According to Plan, p. 55).