In an effort to avoid the wild excesses of allegory, many modern interpreters have rightly placed the emphasis on understanding an Old Testament passage in the light of its original context.  They encourage people to discern the message of the text within the broader concerns of the book in order to search out the intent of the original author in writing it.  Having discerned this original idea, the next step is often seen as discerning the “timeless truth” that stands behind this particular historical writing.  What life principles does it teach us that are universal and unchanging?  How can we, then, take those same universal principles and apply them skillfully to our own daily lives?

There is much that is right and laudable with this approach, yet I have labeled it “moralism” because of its inevitable tendency to place the reader in the center of the interpretive process and make the Old Testament fundamentally a story about us.  In looking for universal principles of behavior that I can apply, this approach generally ends up urging me to “dare to be a Daniel” or “just say no to being a Jephthah.”  It flattens out the contours of the Old Testament history of redemption and treats Old Testament characters, such as Abraham and David, as if their primary function were to model a life for me to live by.

From: Is Jesus in the Old Testament? by Iain M. Duguid (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2013), p. 17.

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