Late last year, Books and Culture interviewed Richard Hays about some of his story and common themes in his work. Stemming from Hays’s similarly titled book, one of the questions addressed is “How is reading backward in a figural sense different from reading prophecy forward?” In response, Hays comments, in part,
To be sure, in the Old Testament, there are a few passages that look forward in hope to a future king who will restore the kingdom, a lot of those particularly in the Psalms. There are also enigmatic passages, of course, in Isaiah that refer to a suffering figure, although that figure is never described there as a Messiah.
But the whole picture doesn’t really come together until you read the text, as I say, “backwards,” through the lens of cross and resurrection. Once you have the story of Jesus, you can go back to the older texts and have a kind of “Aha!” recognition that certain things are foreshadowed there, but there’s a big difference between foreshadowing and prophecy.
When you’re moving forward in a narrative, you can’t know what is foreshadowed until you see the full unfolding of the plot and see what actually happens in the end, and then you can do a second reading of the text in light of its ending. That second reading allows you to unravel clues that you never would’ve seen before.
For the balance of the interview, see the Books and Culture website.
HT: Nijay Gupta