Fall 2010

The Hermeneutic of Jesus

Mary Healy

“A closer attention to the hermeneutic of Jesus can help provide a deeper theological grounding for the spiritual sense and thus be an impetus for a renewal of biblical preaching, teaching, and prayer in the ancient tradition of spiritual understanding.”

1. Introduction


For two millennia the Church’s lectionary cycle has been based on the conviction that all Scripture finds its ultimate meaning and fulfillment in Christ. On Sundays, feast days, and most weekdays in the special seasons, the Old Testament reading is selected to coordinate with the Gospel in such a manner as to display prophecy and fulfillment, a type and its antitype, or a theme amplified and brought to completion in Christ.1 The lectionary thus both presup- poses and teaches a christological reading of the Old Testa- ment—what ancient tradition calls the “spiritual sense”—which is itself rooted in a christocentric vision of the whole economy of salvation. For most of Christian history, understanding the two testaments as a single unified witness to Christ was regarded not as an optional devotional flourish but as foundational to the faith. Yet oddly enough, such a christological reading of the Old Testament is rarely taught today in Catholic institutions of higher education, or even in seminaries preparing priests to preach on these very readings. The result is a disjuncture between the Church’s traditional manner of interpreting the word and contemporary preaching and teaching. Homilists, catechists, and theologians today are unprepared to expound with confidence and clarity on Old Testament events and persons as figures of Christ. The principle that “All sacred Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ, ‘because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ,’”2 is affirmed in theory but largely ignored in practice.


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1. This coordination was also evident in the Roman Missal prior to Vatican II, although far fewer Old Testament readings were included.