Review of the Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament by G.K. Beale
January 19, 2013 Leave a comment
I just finished reading the Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament and it was worth the read. I don’t review every book I read but I try to make sure I review the ones worth reading. There are a few things about Beale’s perspective that I found helpful. First, he has done his homework. He has studied this topic for several decades and over the last few years has put out several resources to help people understand how the New Testament writers understood and used the Old Testament through their direct quotations and allusions to various OT texts. Second, he respects scripture as the inspired Word of God and views God as the ultimate author of scripture. That has implications in his approach that impacts the book in a major way and I found it very helpful (more on that in a minute). Third, at least in this book, he is thorough but concise…a quality few seem to possess.
This handbook is basically a “how to” on his approach in an effort to inform you how to work through this subject on your own with actual texts. Another resource he published recently is his New Testament Biblical Theology is a theology of the NT based through the lens of the OT. I purchased this as well and haven’t read it but it is HUGE and looks exceptionally good (it is expensive). Third is a commentary he wrote with D.A. Carson called Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. This book is more of a verse by verse commentary (where appropriate) of how the NT writers used and interpretaed various OT texts and appropriated them into the NT in various ways and for various purposes. I haven’t seen this book yet but I can only imagine it would be well worth purchasing.
The Handbook begins with a discussion of challenges that have to be addressed in understanding the issues involved in understanding how the NT writers used the OT. Those challenges range from whether or not the NT writers really cared about the context of the OT scriptures they cited down to the very definition of typology. Beale believes that virtually all OT allusions and quotations were used by the NT writers in view of their context. What is more, since God is the ultimate author of scripture (p.24) and had a hand in guiding the process of the production of scripture from start to finish, all scripture is used contextually among authors because underlying it all is God as the ultimate author of Scripture and God certainly understands what He has said in earlier writings contextually (both historical context and literary context).
Beale spends a lot of time on typology and the debate that has surrounded how typology is to be defined. Does typology require the original passage to have understood itself to be a forward looking prophesy in order for it to be understood that way in the NT (authorial intent of a scripture being prophetic)? For instance, Deuteronomy 18 talks about a prophet like Moses who was to come. That passage is a type for Jesus. The text itself is forward looking and looking for future fulfillment.
In chapter 2, Beale writes about direct quotations in the NT of OT passages and allusions (probably the trickiest) in the NT to the OT. Quotations are pretty easy to find. There is usually an introductory formula (as it is written, etc) that identifies the NT writer is purposefully making use of the OT. Allusions are a bit trickier. Beale defines an allusion as, “a brief expression consciously intended by an author to be dependent on an OT passage.” (p.31). How tightly connected to the OT does something have to be for us to understand the NT writer had in mind that they were making an allusion to something in the OT? They can allude to a specific verse, a word, a theme, etc.
One of the best assets in this book are the resources and bibliographies that Beale (and his grad assistants!) have compiled. He frequently makes suggestions of further resources to help you in your study. He recommends NA27’s list of OT allusions in the NT (Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece 27th edition) as well as C.A. Evan’s book Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature as he goes not only into the NT’s OT allusions but also OT allusions in the NT from the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Qumran, targums, and so much more! Another interesting book he cites is H. Gough’s The NT Quotations Collated with the Scriptures of the OT (online at google books) that actually works the other way around by working organizing the NT citations but in the order of the OT. So it would start with Genesis and list any NT citations/allusions.
After the first two introductory chapters just described, Beale lays out his methodology in chapter 3 and spends the rest of the book working through parts of his methodol0gy. Here is how he works through these passages (p.42-43):
- Identify the OT reference
- Analyze the broad NT context where the OT reference occurs
- Analyze the OT context
- Survey the use of the OT text in early Judaism
- Compare the texts: NT, LXX, targums, MT, etc
- Analyze the NT’s author’s textual use of the OT passage (what version is he citing or did he do his own translation?)
- Analyze the NT writer’s interpretive use of the OT
- Analyze their theological use of the OT
- Analyze their rhetorical use of the OT
He spends the rest of chapter three giving more explanation of each of these steps and then spends the remainder of the book giving even more specifics.
Chapter 4 – Works through Step 7
Chapter 5 – Works through Step 8
Chapter 6 – Works through Step 4 (He has a lengthy bibliography in this section that is nearly worth the price of the book)
Chapter 7 is a case study that puts all the steps into action.