The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses (Book Review)

The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses

After the book Five Views on Law and Gospel, I decided to read one more “preparatory” book before starting formal research.  Since my integrative paper topic is the Mosaic covenant according to Meredith G. Kline and Geerhardus Vos, it seems appropriate to read a current Reformed theologian who is influenced by Vos and Kline.  Vern Poythress’s The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses is a book that is a bit easier to read than anything by Vos and Kline.  It is frequently required reading for seminary Pentateuch classes, but it doesn’t read like a dry textbook.  The writing style is almost conversational, but not too wordy.

Poythress’s Shadow of Christ is first of all a Christological interpretation of the Mosaic Law, and secondarily a response to Greg Bahnsen’s teachings of theonomy.  Although the controversy over theonomy (also called dominion theology and reconstruction theology) has died down over the last 20 years, the material in Shadow of Christ that interacts with theonomy remains fresh and applicable to new questions.

The book is divided into 2 parts and includes 3 articles in the appendix that deal with more technical matters.  Part 1 of the book is a general introduction to the Christ-centered way to understand the different aspects of the Law.  The chapter titles in this section, which provide a glimpse into the author’s interpretive principles, include:

  1. The Challenge of the Law of Moses: Interpreting Moses in the Light of Christ
  2. The Tabernacle of Moses: Prefiguring God’s Presence Through Christ
  3. The Sacrifices: Prefiguring the Final Sacrifice of Christ
  4. The Priests and the People: Prefiguring Christ’s Relation to His People
  5. General Principles for God’s Dwelling With Human Beings: Prefiguring Union with Christ
  6. The Land of Palestine, the Promised Land: Prefiguring Christ’s Renewal of and Dominion Over the Earth
  7. The Law and Its Order: Prefiguring the Righteousness of Christ
  8. The Purposes of the Tabernacle, the Law, and the Promised Land: Pointing Forward to Christ
  9. The Punishments and Penalties of the Law: Prefiguring the Destruction of Sin and Guilt Through Christ

In Part 2, Poythress attempts to discern principles in the Law that may be applicable today in the Church and State.  Most interesting in this section is when he compares modern day laws and penalties to the principles in the Law, showing how the word of God is righteous, just, and true.  Perhaps the most penetrating analysis is his critique of modern-day prisons as our society’s de facto punishment for many criminals who probably deserve a lesser (and more just) punishment.

After reading Shadow of Christ, it becomes clear that Jesus has a lot to do with the Mosaic covenant, and that Poythress’s Christian reading of the Law is very different than the theonomic, dispensational, and traditional Jewish readings.  If Jesus was correct when he expounded the Law of Moses to his disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, teaching them that the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms all point to and are fulfilled in him, then Poythress’s Christ-centered reading of the Law is a faithful attempt to read the Law according to Christ’s leading.

Note: this entire book is available online here.

This entry was posted in Book Review, Genesis-Joshua, Law and Gospel, Senior Thesis and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses (Book Review)

  1. live7n says:

    Great book indeed. Every part is highlighted in you review – a must read you love science as a law of nature

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