There was an error in this gadget

Monday, February 28, 2011

NT Use of OT Part 6: Literal Prophetic Fulfillment

On many occasions the NT writers used the OT to indicate a literal fulfillment of something explicitly promised or predicted in the OT in verbal form. Thus, what was explicitly promised in the OT is now said to be fulfilled in the NT. We can call this category of OT usage "Literal Prophetic Fulfillment." This category is usually accepted by most Evangelicals and is one of the least controversial of the categories. Since the examples of Literal Prophetic Fulfillment are numerous we will have to document these cases in multiple blog entries. Below are nine such cases:

Matt 2:4-6 / Micah 5:2  
"Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
   ‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
         ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
         FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER
         WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL."


This is a straightforward literal fulfillment of an OT passage. Micah 5:2 predicts that the ruler of Israel would come from Bethlehem and this is fulfilled with Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem just as Micah predicted. The chief priests and scribes understood Micah 5:2 literally which is why they could declare to Herod that the Ruler would come from Bethlehem.

Matt 3:3 / Isa 40:3 
"For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said,
         ‘THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS,
         ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD,
         MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!’"


This is a literal fulfillment of Isa 40:3. Isaiah 40 predicts future blessings for Israel including "her warfare has ended" and "her iniquity has been removed" (40:2). It is also tied to the "glory of the LORD" being "revealed (40:5). John the Baptist literally fulfills the prophecy that there would be a "voice" who would be "crying in the wilderness" preparing the way for the Lord.

Mark 1:2-3 /Mal 3:1 and Isa 40:3 
"As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
         ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU,
         WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY;
     THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS,
         'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD,
         MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.’"


Mark combines quotations from Malachi 3:1 and Isa 40:3 to indicate that John the Baptist is the direct prophetic fulfillment of OT prophecy in which a "messenger" and a "voice" would come to "make ready the way of the Lord."

John 1:23 
"He [John the Baptist] said, ‘I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said."

Here the priests and Levites came to John the Baptist asking him who he was. John the Baptist quotes Isa 40:3 to indicate that he is not the Christ but the one who prepared the way for the Christ.

Matt 4:13-16 / Isa 9:1-2 
"and leaving Nazareth, He [Jesus] came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.
 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
    ‘THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI,
         BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES--‘THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED.’"


Matthew is highlighting Jesus’ ministry to Gentile regions, which is quite striking since the Messiah is from Israel. But Messiah’s ministry of going to Gentiles was predicted in the OT. Jesus quotes Isa 9:1-2 to discuss this mission to the Gentiles. Isaiah 9 is a messianic chapter, especially verses 6-7 which speak of a future child that will be born who will rule over Israel. He is the "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:1-2 predicted blessings to Zebulun and Naphtali. With Jesus’ coming and ministry to Gentiles, Isaiah’s prophecy has been literally fulfilled. Again, we have Literal Prophetic Fulfillment.

Matt 8:16-17 / Isa 53:4 
"When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.’"

This is a literal fulfillment of Isa 53:4 in which it was predicted that the suffering Servant would bear the sicknesses and carry the pains of His people. Jesus brought spiritual salvation and physical healing with His kingdom ministry and both are part of His ministry.

Matt 11:2-5 / Isa 35:5 and Isa 61:1 
"Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.’"

John the Baptist, startled and perhaps discouraged with his imprisonment, wants verification that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus responds in the affirmative by appealing to the OT’s teaching that the messianic era is associated with miracles and proclamation to the poor. Isa 35:5 may be the context for the blind receiving sight reference. Isa 61:1 also may be the context for the poor having the gospel preached to them. The context of Isa 35 is heavily messianic and eschatological as it describes Israel’s future blessings. The coming of Messiah means recovery of sight to the blind as well as other physical blessings. Isa 61:1 is also heavily eschatological. This verse is a literal fulfillment of these messianic texts and others which speak of the Messiah’s ministry of physical and spiritual deliverance.

Matt 11:10 / Mal 3:1 
"This is the one about whom it is written,
         ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU,
         WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’"


The reference here is to Mal 3:1 which is an eschatological passage. John the Baptist literally fulfills Mal 3:1.

Matt 12:15-21 / Isa 42:1-4 
"But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was.
 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
    ‘BEHOLD, MY SERVANT WHOM I HAVE CHOSEN;
         MY BELOVED IN WHOM MY SOUL is WELL-PLEASED;
         I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT UPON HIM,
         AND HE SHALL PROCLAIM JUSTICE TO THE GENTILES.
    ‘HE WILL NOT QUARREL, NOR CRY OUT;
         NOR WILL ANYONE HEAR HIS VOICE IN THE STREETS.
    ‘A BATTERED REED HE WILL NOT BREAK OFF,
         AND A SMOLDERING WICK HE WILL NOT PUT OUT,
         UNTIL HE LEADS JUSTICE TO VICTORY.
    ‘AND IN HIS NAME THE GENTILES WILL HOPE.’"


Matthew’s citation of Isa 42:1-4 is the longest OT passage cited in Matthew. Matthew declares that Jesus fulfills Isa 42:1-4 which is a passage about who the Servant of the Lord is and what He will do. First, this "Servant" is God’s "Beloved" who will have God’s Spirit placed upon Him. Second, He will do his ministry in gentleness which is in contrast to the hostile intentions of the Jewish religious leaders who in 12:14 were said to be conspiring against Him to destroy Him. Third, His ministry will bring hope to the Gentiles, thus recognizing a positive response of Gentiles to His ministry. All of these predictions were fulfilled with Jesus.

In a future blog entry I will document other cased of Literal Prophetic Fulfillment.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

NT Use of OT Part 5: Categories of NT Usage of the OT

I now want to focus on the various ways that the NT uses the OT. Before offering my own categories I would like to mention Roy B. Zuck’s “10 ways the New Testament quotes the Old” from his helpful book, Basic Bible Interpretation.[1]

ZUCK’S TEN WAYS
1.      To Point Up the Accomplishment or Realization of an Old Testament Prediction
2.      To Confirm that a New Testament Incident Is in Agreement with an Old Testament Principle
3.      To Explain a Point Given in the Old Testament
4.      To Support a Point Being Made in the New Testament
5.      To Illustrate a New Testament Truth
6.      To Apply the Old Testament to a New Testament Incident or Truth
7.      To Summarize an Old Testament Concept
8.      To Use Old Testament Terminology
9.      To Draw a Parallel with an Old Testament Incident
10.  To Relate an Old Testament Situation to Christ

You can reference Zuck’s book to see which passages he ties to each category. I have found Zuck’s “10 ways” to be helpful, yet as I have done my own study of the various uses of the OT in the NT, I have composed my own “ways” or “categories.” I will unveil these now. But in doing so I want to admit that my categories are not etched in stone in my mind and thus they may be revised. In fact, part of my motivation to mention these categories here is to receive feedback that affirms or challenges my views for the purpose of being more accurate. Here are my categories, which in later blogs will be fleshed out with scriptural examples:

VLACH’S NINE CATEGORIES (as of now)
1.      Literal Prophetic Fulfillment
2.      Restatement of an Old Testament Passage
3.      Correspondence between Israel and Jesus
4.      Correspondence between David and Jesus
5.      Application of a Timeless Moral Principle
6.      Summation of an Old Testament Principle
7.      Affirmation of an OT Prophetic Text Whose Fulfillment is Still Future
8.      Application of OT Language to a Current Situation
9.      Generational Fulfillment

I actually have another category or two that I’m mulling over right now, so be aware that the above list may undergo some changes. In my next blog I will discuss my first category—Literal Prophetic Fulfillment.


[1] Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, (Victor Books, 1991), 260–70.

Friday, February 25, 2011

NT use of OT Part 4: Contextual Use of the OT by the NT Writers

Before we discuss specific passages in regard to NT use of the OT, I think there are some basic principles that can help navigate us through the hundreds of uses of the OT in the NT. For this entry I want to focus on one principle:

The majority of NT uses of the OT reveal a common sense literal and contextual understanding of the OT texts by the NT writers.

Or in other words, when the NT writers quote the OT they usually do so in a way consistent with the historical contexts of the OT passages. While I often disagree with Greg K. Beale on eschatological issues,[1] I affirm the following statement in which he affirms a mostly contextual use of the OT by the NT writers:  

It is often claimed that an inductive study of the New Testament reveals a predominately non-contextual exegetical method. But, in fact, of all the many Old Testament citations and allusions found in the New Testament, only a very few plausible examples of non-contextual usage have been noted by critics.”[2]

Beale lists examples where some claim non-contextual usage takes place but then notes, “It is by no means certain that even these examples are actually non-contextual. A number of scholars have offered viable and even persuasive explanations of how they could well be cases of contextual exegesis.”[3] He also points out that even if it can be established that there are examples of non-contextual hermeneutics, “it does not necessarily follow that they are truly representative of a wider hermeneutical pattern in the New Testament. They may be exceptional rather than typical.”[4] In fact, to claim that the NT writers used the OT in mostly non-contextual ways is “a substantial overstatement.”[5]

I have found Beale’s observations to be on target and helpful as we study NT uses of the OT. I can say this because I have literally (no pun intended) looked at every NT quotation of the OT and have been convinced that most quotations of the OT are consistent with the OT context.

Yes there are difficult passages such as Matt 2:15/Hos 11:1; Matt 2:17-18/Jer 31:15; Acts 15:13-18/Amos 9:11-12 and others that test the limits of contextual understanding or historical-grammatical hermeneutics. These examples need serious examination and it is these examples and others that will lead some to believe that the concepts of sensus plenior, second temple hermeneutics, or NT reinterpretation of the OT are necessary. It is not my intent to address those concepts right now but in my own study of NT uses of the OT, I am struck with how the NT writers use the OT contextually. There are many examples of direct prophetic fulfillment (Matt 2:6/Micah 5:2; John 12:15/Zech 9:9); literal restatements of OT passages (Matt 5:21/Exod 20:13); literal applications of a timeless moral principle (Luke 4:8/Deut 6:13); affirmations of OT prophetic texts that are still future (Matt 24:15/Dan 9:27); and others. The contextual uses of the OT far outnumber the cases where there may be non-contextual understandings.

I note this point because studies of NT uses of the OT often start with the difficult examples such as Matt 2:15/Hos 11:1, etc. But in doing so an impression can be given that most examples of NT use of the OT are non-contextual, when this simply is not the case. I am concerned when some believe they have documented non-contextual uses of the OT and then declare that non-contextual understandings are the norm. I am also alarmed when some claim they have found the “Apostles' Hermeneutic” which for them is a formula for understanding the OT non-contextually.

At this point, I have not argued or proven that there are not non-contextual understandings of the OT by the NT writers. I’ll discuss this at a later date. But I am affirming that the vast majority of references to the OT in the NT are consistent with contextual understandings. Thus, one principle I abide by is that “the majority of NT uses of the OT reveal a common sense literal and contextual understanding of the OT texts by the NT writers.”


[1] Beale is an Amillennialist. To clarify, I am not claiming that Beale would affirm my understandings of NT use of the OT or that he would affirm the theological conclusions I will come to.  I do find agreement with him, though, that most NT uses of the OT are consistent with a contextual understanding of the OT.
[2] G. K. Beale, “Did Jesus and His Followers Preach the Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? An Examination of the Presuppositions of Jesus’ and The Apostles’ Exegetical Method,” in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?: Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New, ed. G. K. Beale (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 388–89.
[3] Ibid., 389.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., 398.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NT Use of OT Part 3: Resources for Studying NT Use of the OT

I want to recommend several books, articles, and chapters that you may find helpful when studying how the NT authors used the OT. I am not saying I agree with every resource below or that I identity with every author mentioned, but these are works that the serious student of NT use of the OT should consider studying:

BOOKS

A.    Beale, G. K. and D. A. Carson, eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007.   This book is a massive and impressive effort comprised of many different scholars. It does not lay out a specific theory or approach for understanding how the NT uses the OT but the information in it is very helpful.

B.     Berding, Kenneth and Jonathan Lunde, eds. Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.   This book contains entries from Walter Kaiser, Darrell Bock and Peter Enns. They also interact with each other’s chapters. I highly recommend this book.

C.     Dean, Rynold D. Evangelical Hermeneutics and the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Iron River, WI: Veritypath Publications, 2009.  A good survey of the major views of NT use of the OT. Much attention is given to Robert Thomas’s Inspired Sensus Plenior Application approach.

ARTICLES / CHAPTERS

A.    Bock, Darrell L. “Part 1: Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New.” Bibliotheca Sacra 142/567 (July 1985): 209–220.  Parts 1 and 2 lay out four major approaches to NT use of the OT. Bock was one of the first to lay out the different major approaches and how they differ with each other. This work is 25 years old now but a must read for serious students of this issue.

B.      Bock, Darrell L. “Part 2: Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New.” Bibliotheca Sacra 142/567 (October 1985): 306–16.  See comments above.

C.     Dyer, Charles H. “Biblical Meaning of Fulfillment,” in Issues in Dispensationalism, eds. Wesley R. Willis and John R. Master. Chicago: Moody Press, 1994, 51–72.  This is a very helpful discussion of what Matthew means by the term “fulfill” (pleroo).

D.    Moo, Douglas. “The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” in Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon. Eds. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986, 179–211.   Helpful discussion of key historical and hermeneutical issues.

E.     Nicole, Roger. “New Testament Use of the Old Testament.” http://www.bible-researcher.com/nicole.html    This article helps with understanding the various ways the NT writers used the OT.

F.      Thomas, Robert L. “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” in Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2002.  Thomas argues for Inspired Sensus Plenior Application.

G.    Walton, John H. “Inspired Subjectivity and Hermeneutical Objectivity,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 13/1 (Spring 2002): 65–78.  Walton argues that the inspired NT authors sometimes used the OT subjectively while he still affirms the objective meaning of OT texts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

NT Use of OT Part 2: Seven Approaches to How the NT Uses the OT

With this blog entry I want to survey what I believe are seven different approaches used by scholars to understand how the NT uses the OT. This is not a defense or refutation of any of these approaches, but an explanation of the main positions. Note that these are brief and broad descriptions and do not indicate nuances and subdivisions that could exist within each camp. But I do think the list below gives a basic understanding of the main camps or approaches that exist in regard to how the NT authors used the OT. I will comment on each of these camps at a later date:

1.      NT Adherence to OT Meaning Approach (or Single Meaning Approach). While applications of the OT passages may be varied, the NT always adheres to the human authorial intent (which is also God’s inspired intent) of the OT passages. The NT writers do not add new or different meanings to OT passages or alter/transcend the original OT meanings as determined by historical-grammatical hermeneutics. The NT authors may apply the OT passages in a variety of ways, and concepts such as corporate solidarity, typology, and antecedent theology must be taken into account, but the NT authors never quote the OT out of context or in ways inconsistent with the original meaning. This view also rejects the concept of sensus plenior in which there is added meaning beyond the meaning offered by the OT human author (key representative: Walter Kaiser)

2.      Sensus Plenior (Fuller/Deeper Meaning) Approach. There are additional fuller/deeper meanings in OT passages intended by God but not intended by the OT human authors. Thus, the human OT author did not always fully comprehend the meaning of what he wrote, although God did. God, at times, intended more meaning than what the human author knew. Further NT revelation reveals these added or deeper meanings that go beyond what the OT authors understood. This approach does not deny the importance of historical-grammatical interpretation of OT passages and actually acknowledges its importance, but argues that this alone does not uncover the full meaning of what God intended. (key representatives: S. Lewis Johnson; J. I. Packer)

J. I. Packer: “The point here is that the sensus plenior which texts acquire in their wider biblical context remains an extrapolation on the grammatico-historical plane, not a new projection on to the plane of allegory. And, though God may have more to say to us from each text than its human writer had in mind, God’s meaning is never less than his. What he means, God means.” (J. I. Packer, “Biblical Authority, Hermeneutics, and Inerrancy,” in Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussions on the Philosophy and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, ed. E. R. Geehan (Nutley, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1977), 147–48.)

3.      The Contemporary Judaism/Second Temple Judaism Approach. The NT authors often relied upon interpretive principles of the period of Second Temple Judaism including midrash, pesher which often apply OT passages in ways not in accordance with the historical-grammatical contexts of the OT passages. The Bible student must keep in mind that the writers of the NT were not bound by modern conceptions of how the OT should be used. Instead they used the OT to support their understanding that Jesus was the Messiah and the fulfillment of the OT. Thus, the NT writers were not bound by historical-grammatical hermeneutics to show the connection between the OT and the NT. (key representative: Peter Enns; Richard Longenecker)

4.      NT Reinterpretation of OT Approach. The Christ-event now means that OT passages and themes about physical and national matters have been reinterpreted to refer to greater spiritual realities and truths now being revealed in the NT. Thus, the NT is viewed as the divine interpreter and reinterpreter of the OT and the lens through which the OT must be viewed. One should not start with the OT to understand the OT; one must start with the NT to understand the OT. (key representative: George Ladd). Although we are not saying that the authors below consciously adopt the title, “NT Reinterpretation of the OT,” below are statements in line with this idea that the NT “reinterprets” the OT:

George Ladd:   “The Old Testament must be interpreted by the New Testament. In principle it is quite possible that the prophecies addressed originally to literal Israel describing physical blessings have their fulfillment exclusively in the spiritual blessings enjoyed by the church. It is also possible that the Old Testament expectation of a kingdom on earth could be reinterpreted by the New Testament altogether of blessings in the spiritual realm.”(George E. Ladd, “Revelation 20 and the Millennium,” Review and Expositor 57 (1960): 167. Emphasis mine.)

Kim Riddlebarger: “But eschatological themes are reinterpreted in the New Testament, where we are told these Old Testament images are types and shadows of the glorious realities that are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. (Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 37. Emphasis mine.)

Kim Riddlebarger: “This [literal interpretation of the Bible] leaves dispensationalists frequently stuck in the awkward position of insisting on an Old Testament interpretation of a prophetic theme that has been reinterpreted in the New Testament in the light of the messianic age which dawned in Jesus Christ.”(Ibid., 38. Emphasis mine)

Stephen Sizer: “Jesus and the apostles reinterpreted the Old Testament.” (Stephen Sizer, Zion’s Christian Soldiers: The Bible, Israel and the Church (Nottingham, England: InterVarsity, 2008), 36. Emphasis mine.)

Gary Burge: “For as we shall see (and as commentators regularly show) while the land itself had a concrete application for most in Judaism, Jesus and his followers reinterpreted the promises that came to those in his kingdom.” (Gary M. Burge, Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010), 35. Emphasis mine.)

5.      Canonical Approach. The canonical approach asserts that the OT text’s intention became deeper and clearer as the parameters of the canon were expanded. Older texts in the Bible underwent a progressive perception of meaning as they became part of a growing canonical literature. Thus, the NT has priority in unpacking the meaning of the OT. (key representative: Bruce Waltke)

Bruce Waltke: “The Christian doctrine of the plenary inspiration of Scripture demands that we allow the Author to tell us at a later time more precisely what he meant in his earlier statements.” (Bruce K. Waltke, “Is it Right to Read the New Testament into the Old?” Christianity Today (September 2, 1983): 77.)

Bruce Waltke: “This approach is similar to sensus plenior in that both methods depend on further revelation to find the full meaning of an earlier text. But the distinction from it lies in this: whereas the supposed sensus plenior depends exclusively on further revelation and may allow a reinterpretation of the prophecy, the canonical process approach combines further revelation with the sharpening focus of history itself and disallows the possibility of reinterpretation.” (Bruce K. Waltke, “Kingdom Promises as Spiritual,” in Continuity and Discontinuity, ed. John S. Feinberg (Crossway, 1988), 284.)

6.      Inspired Subjectivity Approach (or Inspired Sensus Plenior Application). This approach asserts that OT passages have only one meaning as discovered by historical-grammatical hermeneutics but the inspired NT authors sometimes applied OT passages to present events and circumstances in ways not consistent with original meaning of the OT passages. Thus, the NT writers subjectively applied OT passages in non-literal ways to convey new revelation that went beyond what the OT authors intended or knew. This inspired subjectivity method, however, was limited to the NT writers because they operated under inspiration and is not allowable for Christians since they are not operating under inspiration. (key representatives: Robert Thomas; John Walton)

Robert L. Thomas: “In such cases, New Testament writers applied Old Testament texts to situations entirely different from what was envisioned in the corresponding Old Testament contexts. The New Testament writers disregarded the main thrust of grammatical-historical meaning of the Old Testament passages and applied those passages in different ways to suit different points they were making. They usually maintained some connecting link in thought to the Old Testament passages, but the literal Old Testament meanings are absent from the quotation.” (Robert L. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics: the New Versus the Old (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2002), 247.

Robert L. Thomas: “Clearly the New Testament sometimes applies Old Testament passages in a way that gives an additional dimension beyond their grammatical-historical meaning. This does not cancel the grammatical-historical meaning of the Old Testament; it is simply an application of the Old Testament passages beyond its original meaning, the authority for which application is the New Testament passage.” (Ibid., 251).

7.      Eclectic Approach. This approach takes a some-of-the-above approach and believes that several methods are needed to address the complexity of the NT use of the OT issue. (key representatives: Darrell Bock; Douglas Moo)

“The author [Bock] also hopes that in being rather eclectic with the various approaches, the wheat has been successfully retained from each view while the chaff has been left behind.” (Darrell L. Bock, “Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New, Part 2” Bibliotheca Sacra 142 (Oct. 1985): 302-19)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

NT Use of OT Part 1: Introduction to the Issue

The first topic I want to address on this blog is New Testament use of the OT. Now that I have finished my book, Has the Church Replaced Israel? A Theological Evaluation, I have spent most of my research time looking into how the NT authors use the OT. The more I dig into this issue the more fascinated I am by it. Here are some stats that highlight the importance of this topic:

--There are 224 direct citations introduced by a definite formula indicating that the NT writer purposed to quote the OT.

--The references to the OT in the NT occupy 352 verses of the NT. This is 4.4 percent of the NT.

--One verse in 22.5 of the NT is a quotation of the OT.

--When allusions are taken into consideration it can be said that more than ten percent of the NT is made up of citations or direct allusions to the OT (figures are from Roger Nicole, “New Testament Use of the Old Testament”).

NT use of the OT is one of the most important topics in biblical interpretation. As Walter Kaiser stated, “The relationship between the OT and the NT stands as one of the foremost, if not the leading, problems in biblical research of this century.”

I also believe that this issue is one of the most neglected topics in hermeneutics. If you read textbooks on hermeneutics often there is little specific discussion and instruction on how to understand how the NT authors use the OT. I have taken several hermeneutics courses in my academic career but I don’t think I ever received detailed instruction on this issue. In the past I have also taught several classes on Bible interpretation in churches, but to be honest I do not think I have offered much help on this topic. Ask yourself, when is the last time you heard a serious discussion in your church about how the NT writers used the OT? Perhaps there are some who can think of a time, but I would guess that most cannot.

So why is NT use of the OT an oft-neglected topic? Here are some possible reasons:

First, I don’t think Christians are aware of how often the NT uses the OT. It is often not on their radar. Nor are they aware that how the NT uses the OT has a great bearing on how one understands the kingdom of God, the people of God, the law of God, and the covenants of Scripture.

Second, there are major areas of disagreement on this issue from Christian leaders and scholars. This can lead us to throw our hands up in the air in frustration. Major differences exist between Covenant theologians and Dispensationalists. And not only that, differences within these camps exist.
    
Third, the articles and books that address this issue are often technical, sometimes confusing, and generally difficult to understand. Even those who are making good points often state their points in ways that are difficult to grasp and apply.

Fourth, this is a complicated issue with no silver bullet solution or formula that answers all our questions.

For the student of Scripture, understanding how the NT uses the OT is an important and worthwhile task, but one that will take much study and skill.

My Venture into Blogging

Welcome to Mike Vlach's blog site! For the last ten years I have managed a website called TheologicalStudies.org. This website will continue in earnest, but I believe the time has come for me to venture into a slightly more informal and interactive evironment. So here I am. If you are reading this blog because of TheologicalStudies.org please know that I will continue posting articles and information on that website along with this blog.

Just in case you don't know who I am, my name is Mike Vlach. I live in Castaic, California, which is in Los Angeles County near Santa Clarita. I am blessed to have Holly Vlach as my beautiful wife and I have four great kids.

In addition to running TheologicalStudies.org, I am Associate Professor of Theology at The Master's Seminary in Sun Valley, CA. Every year, I teach two required theology courses, an apologetics course, and various electives in the areas of church history, eschatology, and Dispensationalism. My favorite areas of theology to study are kingdom, hermeneutics, people of God, law of God, NT use of the OT, and other topics that touch on areas of continuity and discontinuity in the testaments. I align myself closely with many areas of Reformed Theology and consider myself a dispensationalist.

I hope to be blogging on various issues including promoting the Christian worldview and key areas of Christian theology. I also love politics, current events and college football (especially the Nebraska Cornhuskers). If you have anything to add, I'd be glad to hear from you.