A provocative (yet common sense) hypothesis from the eminent British NT scholar C. H. Dodd:
“[There is] good reason to infer that the first step, at least, had been taken by the Church at a very early stage indeed, often demonstrably earlier than the epistles of Paul. At the earliest period of Church history to which we can gain access, we find in being the rudiments of an original, coherent and flexible method of biblical exegesis which was already beginning to yield results.
If we ask further questions about the actual beginning of the process, we are on much more uncertain ground, but some degree of controlled conjecture may be allowed. It must be conceded that we have before us a considerable intellectual feat. The various scriptures are acutely interpreted along lines already discernible within the Old Testament canon itself or in pre-Christian Judaism–in many cases, I believe, lines which start from their first, historical, intention–and these lines are carried forward to fresh results. Very diverse scriptures are brought togethre so that they interpret one another in hitherto unsuspected ways. To have brought together, for example, the Son of Man who is the people of the saints of the Most High, the Man of God’s right hand, who is also the vine of Israel, the Son of Man who after humiliation is crowned with glory and honor, and the victorious priest-king at the right hand of God, is an achievement of interpretative imagination which results in the creation of an entirely new figure. It involves an original, and far-reaching, resolution of the tension between the individual and the collective aspects of several of these figures, which in turn makes it possible to bring into a single focuse the ‘plot’ of the Servant poems of II Isaiah, of the psalms of the righteous sufferer, and of the prophecies of the fall and recovery (death and resurrection) of the people of God, and finally offers a fresh understanding of the mysterious imagery of apocalyptic eschatology.
This is a piece of genuinely creative thinking. Who was responsible for it? The early Church, we are accustomed to say, and perhaps we can saftely say no more. But creative thinking is rarely done by committees, useful as they may be for systematizing the fresh ideas of individual thinkers, and for stimulating them to further thought. It is individual minds that originate. Whose was the originating mind here?
Among Christian thinkers of the first age known to us there are three of genuinely creative power: Paul, the author to the Hebrews, and the Fourth Evangelist. We are precluded from proposing any one of them for the honor of having originated the process, since even Paul, greatly as he contributed to its development, demonstrably did not originate it. What forgotten geniuses may lurk in the shadows of those first twenty years of Church history about which we are so scantily informed, it is impossible to say. But the New Testament itself avers that it was Jesus Christ Himself who first directed the minds of his followers to certain parts of the scriptures as those in which they might find illumination upon the meaning of His mission and destiny…I can see no reasonable ground for rejecting the statements of the Gospels that (for example) He pointed to Psalm 110 as a better guide to the truth about His mission and destiny than the popular beliefs about the Son of David, or that He made that connection of the ‘Lord’ at God’s right hand with the Son of Man in Daniel which proved so momentous for Christian thought; or that He associated with the Son of Man language which had been used for the Servant of the Lord, and employed it to hint at the meaning, and the issue, of his own approaching death. To account for the beginning of this most original and fruitful process of rethinking the Old Testament we found need to postulate a creative mind. The Gospels offer us one. Are we compelled to reject the offer?” (C. H. Dodd, According to the Scriptures: The Sub-structure of New Testament Theology, pp. 108-110)