Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Interpretation Of OT
In reviewing the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the study of the Old Testament
seems to be almost non-existent. It is not until his time in Tegel Prison,
nearly one year prior to his execution, that he fully commits himself to serious
thought on the subject "My thoughts and feelings seem to be getting more and
more like those of the Old Testament, and in recent months I have been reading
the Old Testament much more than the New (Bonhoeffer, Letters, 156)." Though
his Old Testament study was fairly dicey and incomplete, the contributions of
his interpretation have been tremendous. Bonhoeffer's distinct Christological
approach to the Old Testament may not have pleased an orthodox readership, but
the "kerygma" and additional impact of it was in one word, masterful,
especially in view of the theological and historical context of his day. Due to
his tumultuous academic life resultant of the German crisis (Bethge 1025), his
cohesion of the Old and New Testaments centered in Christ was not systematically
expressed and was primarily encountered in his exegetical studies, sermons, and
letters and miscellaneous papers (Harrelson 115). As with all biblical
interpretation, careful evaluation is required. View of the Bible Bonhoeffer
views the Bible as the place where God reveals himself to the individual in the
context of the church (Ballard 116). The Bible is not merely an instruction book
or a magical book of answers to confirm or order human thinking about God and
the world. It is not something to be manipulated, rather it to be come to humbly
and in expectation of God's revelation of himself in relation to humanity
(Harrelson 116). It is where "God speaks" to humanity and it listens (Kuske

20). To do otherwise is "to make man the measure of the Gospel rather than to
learn from the Gospel the true norm for human existence (Harrelson 116)." This

God who reveals himself and his plan in the Scriptures is, according to

Bonhoeffer, the God of the Old and New Testaments. Because God the Father of

Jesus Christ in the New Testament is the God of Abraham, Moses, and David in the

Old Testament, he is the one God of the one Bible (Kuske 23). The synthesis of
the Old and New presents one complete history on a continuum. This claim was
highly significant in the historical and theological context of Bonhoeffer's
day and will be expounded upon later. To discard the Old Testament is to negate
the recognition of God's creation, his intimate involvement with fallen
humanity and a chosen people, and the preparation of the incarnation, death, and
resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ who is the center of the Church.

Bonhoeffer will take this a step further and claim that the incarnation and
crucifixion are found in the Old Testament, further driving the need for the Old

Testament(Harrelson 117). This also will be discussed in more detail later. This
united corpus of Scripture is considered the book of the Church. Bonhoeffer
portrays an almost symbiotic relationship between Jesus and the Church. As Jesus
witnesses to the church in the New Testament and provides life to it, so the
church looks to Christ via his biblical witness as its foundation. The Bible is
where God speaks to the church, revealing himself and his plan. This God is not
the only the God of the Gospels and the book of Acts, but he also is the God of
the Law, Prophets, and the Writings, the one God of the one Bible. Given this
framework, Bonhoeffer's view of the relationship between the Testaments and

Christ can be examined more closely. Because the New Testament is seen as the
book of Christ, Christ must be seen in the Old for the two to be seen as one. To
overcome this difficulty, he sees the entire Bible in relation to Jesus Christ
(Harrelson 117). By placing Christ at the center of Scripture, Bonhoeffer points
to the necessity of seeing the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ in the Old

Testament (Kuske 47), as Jesus is the word who became flesh (Harrelson 119).

According to Bonhoeffer, the only access to the Old Testament is through Christ.

Because we can only know God and his revelation through Christ, the only way we
can read the Old Testament is through Christ (Kuske 47). Speaking from a more
historical standpoint, since Christ has been an active part of the Trinity since
the beginning of time, he cannot be exempt from the reading of Old Testament

Scripture. What then should be done with this Christological view of the Old

Testament? Bonhoeffer writes,