Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review of Moyise, Later NT Writings and Scripture

Steve Moyise. The Later New Testament Writings and Scripture: The Old Testament in Acts, Hebrews, the Catholic Epistles and Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012. x + 182 pages.

First, I want to thank Trinity Graeser and Baker Academic for a review copy of this book.

This book is the third installment of a series on the use of the OT in the NT.  The first two books dealt with the Gospels and the Pauline letters respectively.  The book is written in a popular, readable style accessible for non-scholars (which is not to say that the book is not scholarly).  Hence, one should not expect an exhaustive treatment of the use of the OT in these NT books.  As is common with many popular-level books, notes are relegated to the back of the book and it contains a highly selective bibliography mostly of very recent books.

The first chapter deals with the book of Acts.  According to Moyise, there are forty explicit quotations of the OT in Acts, most of which are contained in the speeches.  Hence, Moyise gives some consideration to the relationship between the speeches and the narratives in Acts.  The first part of the chapter traces how Luke utilizes OT quotations to support a number of themes:
1) Salvation for Jews and Gentiles: Luke uses Scripture to reveal that God has always intended to save Gentiles as well as Jews (12).
2) Christ’s death, resurrection, and exaltation: Luke claims that Jesus’ death occurred according to the Scriptures, but he does not employ specific texts to elaborate on its meaning (15).  David prophetically spoke about Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation (17, 19)
3) Christological titles and functions: Luke uses Scripture to identify Jesus as Lord and Messiah, Servant, Son of God, a prophet like Moses, and Cornerstone (19–25).
4) Judgment: Luke utilizes a number of Scriptures to demonstrate that judgment will come upon those who have rejected Christ (25).
5) Historical summary: Historical summaries may serve the purpose of showing fulfillment of OT Scripture (30) or to demonstrate that the Israelites had a history of resisting God’s plan (31–32).
The latter half of the chapter surveys two major theories of the relationship of Acts to OT Scripture.  One view states that Luke’s Christology is modeled on David and the Psalms.  The other view believes that Isaiah is the predominant influence on Luke’s Christology.  Moyise concludes that the Psalms were more important than Isaiah for Luke, but that both were important influences (40–41).

Moyise next turns to the usage of Scripture in 1 Peter.  He divides his analysis according to scriptural texts.  First Peter quotes the Psalms only twice, but uses them differently from Acts; they are not used to explicate the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ (44).  Isaiah is by far the most influential text for 1 Peter with six explicit quotations and several allusions (45).  Isaiah 53 is the most important text for understanding Christ.  The gospel message is described as the imperishable word of God according to a passage from Isaiah 40, and the author frequently applies scriptural passages that originally referred to Israel as now applying to the Church (52).  The author also makes use of Proverbs and Leviticus.  Moyise gives particular attention to 1 Peter 1:10–12 which speaks about the inspiration of prophecy.  He believes that the references to “suffering and glory” can refer to Christ’s death and resurrection/exaltation, but that the glory to follow may also refer to the birth of the Church and the reality of salvation (58).  Moyise states that Peter’s use of Scripture is “unreflective”; he assumes that OT Scripture passages speak about Christ or the Church (60).  While for Acts, the Psalms were more important than Isaiah, it is the reverse for 1 Peter.  While analyzing the author’s use of particular Scripture texts may be illuminating, I wonder whether this is an artificial distinction.  Both the Psalms and Isaiah may be of equal importance to the author of 1 Peter, but it just so happens that Isaiah texts were more suitable for his purposes in this particular letter than Psalm texts.  It is hard to be dogmatic about such issues for such a short letter as 1 Peter.

Chapter 3 looks at the use of Scripture in Jude, 2 Peter, and James.  Jude and 2 Peter are unique among the writings of the NT in that they not only draw upon OT writings, but also extensively upon extra-canonical writings such as 1 Enoch and the Assumption of Moses (63).  Second Peter seems to be largely dependent on Jude as indicated by the fact that most of the OT material it draws upon is also found in Jude (67).  Moyise examines James’ view of justification by works.  James uses the same OT text, Genesis 15:6, as Paul to argue for justification by works.  There have been three approaches to the relationship of James with Paul: 1) James contradicts Paul; 2) James can be harmonized with Paul; 3) James should be interpreted in light of his own contexts and traditions (76–77), which seems to be Moyise’s approach.  For James, works “are not simply the product of faith but a necessary constituent in order to bring faith to completion” (78).  James is also heavily dependent on the Jewish wisdom tradition (Proverbs, Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon).  Much of this wisdom tradition is accessed through Jesus’ own teachings.  Moyise concludes that James does not offer a Christological interpretation of Scripture, but it is a “Jesus-centered” one (80).

Chapter 4 focuses on the use of Scripture in Hebrews.  Moyise identifies 37 explicit quotations: 16 from the Psalms, 13 from the Pentateuch, 6 from the prophets, and 1 each from 2 Samuel and Proverbs (81).  Moyise works his way sequentially through the book of Hebrews, commenting on the OT quotations and allusions that appear in each section.  The opening prologue affirms both the continuity of revelation but also a contrast between the revelation spoken in the past and the revelation in the Son (81–82).  The revelation in the Son is superior to prior revelation because “it comes from a more intimate source” (82).  In chapter 1 several quotations are used elsewhere in the NT, but some are unique to Hebrews.  The author perhaps is drawing upon earlier traditions but also building upon them with his own insights into Scripture (82–83).  The prominent use of the Psalms in Hebrews suggests that the author was drawn to the first-person speech so frequently found in the Psalms and that the author likely viewed them as “divine speech between Father and Son” (86).  Hebrews 2:6–8 quotes Ps 8:4–6 but differs from it in a couple of ways.  First, humanity was made lower “for a little while,” rather than “a little lower.”  Second, humanity is made lower than angels, rather than God (87).  Moyise presents both the anthropological and christological interpretations of this passage, showing both their strengths and weaknesses (88–89).  Moyise believes that these interpretations are not mutually exclusive as suggested by the Scripture quotations in 2:12–13 which emphasizes Christ’s solidarity with humanity (89).  This contrast between Moses and Jesus at the beginning of chapter 3 is facilitated by an allusion to Num 12:6–8, which describes Moses as a servant, while Jesus is the Son (90–91).  In the quotation of Ps 95:7–11 that immediately follows, the author of Hebrews interprets the “today” of the Psalm as now and the “rest” as the eschatological Sabbath rest that is available to his readers, rather than the rest of the promised land (91).  Moyise next discusses Hebrews’ exposition of Gen 14 in chapter 7 and concludes that it differs “from Paul’s Adam typology, since the author’s main point is not that Christ supersedes or undoes the work of Melchizedek but that he belongs to the same order” (93).  In his discussion of the use of Ps 110 in Hebrews, Moyise critiques Buchanan’s view that Hebrews is a midrash on Ps 110 since the author shows interest only in verses 1 and 4 and no other verses of the psalm (94).  The author quotes at length from Jer 31:31–34 in Heb 8–10 to argue that the implementation of the new covenant implies that the old covenant is obsolete.  The forgiveness of sins promised in Jeremiah is accomplished through the sacrificial death of Christ (96).  The author also reinforces the transitory nature of the old covenant with a quotation of Ps 40:6–8 in Heb 10:5–7, which serves as a proof-text for the incarnation and demonstrates the futility of sacrifices to take away sins (97–98).  Moyise then elaborates upon various allusions and quotations from Isaiah, Deuteronomy, and Habakkuk in Heb 10:19–39 (99–102).  Hebrews 11 draws up various OT stories, but gives greatest attention to Abraham and Moses, whose stories are embellished by the author of Hebrews (104–105).  Moyise opines that he “virtually turns Abraham and Moses into Christians before Christ” (106).  Finally, Moyise deals with miscellaneous OT quotations in the final two chapters of Hebrews (106–109).  Moyise concludes with three observations.  First, Hebrews shows both continuity and difference with the OT revelation (109).  Second, while the author of Hebrews draws upon Christian tradition by quoting many of the same OT passages, he also goes beyond it, “both extending the tradition and discovering texts of his own” (110).  Third, the author quotes chiefly from the LXX, but sometimes he adapts the quotations.  The author often interpreted the ambiguity of first-person pronouns in OT quotations as “words spoken by God or addressed to God as a divine exchange between God and Jesus” (110).

Chapter 5 deals with the use of Scripture in Revelation.  Revelation does not quote the OT but it makes numerous allusions, which have been estimated in the range of 250 to over 1,000 (111).  While on some occasions certain Scriptures stand out, in other instances the author weaves together allusions from various OT passages (112).  Moyise traces Revelation’s use of the OT under five topical headings: God, Jesus and the Spirit; dragon, beast and false prophet; judgments and disasters; witness and struggle; and final salvation.  Moyise frequently demonstrates how John weaves together OT allusions throughout his revelation.  For example, in the opening Trinitarian greeting, the description of God reflects Exod 3:14, the description of the Spirit alludes to Zech 4, while the description of Christ draws upon Ps 89:27, 37 (112–114).  Revelation 1:7 splices together allusions to Dan 7:13 and Zech 12:10 (115).  The inaugural vision of Christ in Rev 1:12–18 pulls together various allusions from Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah (116–118).  The vision of the heavenly throne in Rev 4–5 is heavily indebted to Ezek 1 and Isa 6, but also incorporates various other allusions (118–121).  John frequently juxtaposes what he sees with what he hears.  Moyise remarks, “John clearly intends what he sees and what he hears to mutually interpret one another” (122).  The judgments and disasters that pervade Revelation are likely inspired by the ten plagues of Egypt in Exod 7–12, as well as assorted passages from Isaiah and Joel, while the four horsemen evokes Zech 1:7–11 and 6:1–8 (128–131).  The eschatological visions of salvation that conclude the book, not only draw upon much biblical imagery, but also upon extra-biblical traditions (134).  John’s vision of the heavenly Jerusalem is heavily dependent upon Ezekiel (137–139).  In the conclusion, Moyise highlights two features of John’s use of the OT.  First, “John’s visions are either modeled on sections of Scripture . . . or are composed in scriptural language” (139–140).  Second, John is selective in his use of the OT and is not constrained either by its original wording or meaning (140).  Moyise explores three different theories of composition: the rhetorical model, the scribal/exegetical model, and the mystical model (140–142).  He concludes with an excursus on the letters of John and Scripture.  The letters have no explicit quotations, but do contain some echoes of OT passages (142–144).

In the conclusion (chapter 6), Moyise concludes that the NT writers evince both tradition and innovation.  Certain texts of the OT (such as Gen 15–22; Pss 2, 110, 118; Isa 6–8, 40–55) are used by various authors in the NT.  Innovation is accomplished by drawing on traditional texts but using a different part of them, by drawing on texts that share a common theme or wording with a traditional text, or by drawing upon extra-biblical traditions to supply what is missing in OT stories (145–149).

In conclusion, while I cannot assert authoritatively the contribution that Moyise makes with all of the books he discusses, I can say that he does not seem to advance the discussion on Hebrews’ use of the OT very far.  There are numerous articles and monographs which explore Hebrews’ use of the OT in much greater depth.  What Moyise’s book accomplishes, then, is to provide an overview to the use of the OT in Acts and the latter books of the NT for non-specialists.  The book may serve as introduction for specialists, but they will certainly want to turn to other works for more in-depth treatment.


  1. Thank you for your informative book review Brian. The aim of more popular books like this is both to inform and whet the appetite for reading the more detailed works (which are usually full of Greek and Hebrew). So I happily agree with your comments.

  2. I am glad we are in agreement ;-)