Book Review : New Testament Use of the Old Testament
This book addresses similar issues to the Peter Enns’ book, Inspiration and Incarnation that I reviewed here last week.
New Testament Use of the Old Testament is a complex book. To be honest I felt like I only understood every third sentence! The concluding editor wrote, “one of the goals of this book has been to take a topic that is usually discussed among biblical scholars and make it accessible to a broader audience.” I fear he failed to reach his goal! Consequently, I write this report as more of an overview than a proper book review.
My interest in this subject began when I became a Christian as a young teenager. I began reading the Bible and conscientiously read all the footnotes. Often these footnotes were for Old Testament verses referred to in New Testament passages. I found that either the OT verse didn’t sound like the verse in the NT or the connection to the verse wasn’t at all clear. I thought this was just my lack of Bible knowledge since I didn’t grow up in a churched home.
Years later I discovered that I was right! The NT writers were quoting the Septuagint (the Greek version of the OT) and I was reading a Hebrew translation. This was why the OT verses didn’t sound the same when the NT writers quoted them. Second, the connections that the NT writers were making with the OT aren’t obvious connections to a Western mind. I felt vindicated. However, my interest in the subject remained.
In New Testament use of the Old Testament, three well-qualified professors share their views on the subject: Walter Kaiser, Darrell Bock and Peter Enns. The professors were given five questions to address. Their arguments were clearer when they used examples. Each presenter also had the opportunity to respond to the other two authors’ material. The compiling editors have written opening and closing remarks. The format worked well. Though all the professors commented about the lack of space to do the subject justice.
While all three professors made some good points, I resonated with Enns more than the others. I have read other books by Enns and appreciated his views while disagreeing with him on some issues. I like Enns’ view that the “relentless focus [of the NT authors was] on bearing witness to the crucified and risen Christ” and their “conviction that Jesus is the climax of God’s covenant with Israel.” The early church used the Old Testament writings as evidence for Jesus being the Messiah, following Jesus’ example (Luke 24:27). The ways they did this were in line with their Jewish background and hermeneutical methods which aren’t always clear to us.
A simple way to approach the Old Testament is to keep the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection in mind, following the example of the NT authors.
Overall, a highly academic look at a complex issue.