At the outset, I want to say that while this blog is primarily concerned about the book of Hebrews, this collection of essays contains only one essay related to Hebrews. Nevertheless, the use of the OT in the NT is a particular interest of mine and so I will be reviewing the whole book on this blog. My thanks to Matthew Malcolm for sending me a review copy of the book.
As the subtitle to this volume suggests, this book is a collection of twelve essays dealing with the intersection of two important topics in NT studies: the emergence of Christianity and the use of the OT in the NT. In the brief introduction, the editor Matthew Malcolm declares that the overall perspective of the volume is that “the New Testament writers follow the lead of Jesus himself, in creatively rereading their Scriptures in the light of the Christ event” (xv). The volume is divided into several sections. The first two chapters comprise the first section which deals with the overall topic of the “Appropriation and Interpretation” of the OT Scriptures in the emergence of early Christianity. Chapters 3–5 deal with the “Gospels and Acts,” chapters 6–9 with the “Pauline Letters,” and chapters 10–11 with the “Non-Pauline Letters.” Chapter 12 deals with the “Appropriation [of Scripture] Today.” The conclusion sums up the results of each chapter and suggests contributions that the volume makes.
In chapter 1, “Two Case Studies in Earliest Christological Readings of Biblical Texts,” Larry Hurtado examines how two OT texts (Psalm 110 and Isaiah 45:22–25) were reinterpreted in new and surprising ways in the earliest Christian church. Psalm 110 originally celebrated the Judean king, who was viewed as God’s vicegerent upon the earth. There is scant evidence that Psalm 110 was viewed messianically within second temple Judaism. Yet, the psalm was frequently appropriated in early Christian texts to refer to the enthronement of Christ in heaven. Similarly, Isaiah 45:22–25, which originally affirmed the absolute uniqueness of YHWH, was appropriated in early Christian texts to declare the universal lordship of Christ. Hurtado plausibly proposes that the creative exegesis of OT texts arose from the early Christians’ powerful religious experiences which convinced them that God raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him to heavenly glory. These experiences prompted them to come to the OT with new understandings of how God was working in the world. Hurtado makes a couple of intriguing suggestions that I found interesting. First, in Romans 8:34 Paul mentions Christ’s intercessory role at the right hand of God. Hebrews would develop the idea of Christ’s priestly/intercessory role by appropriating Psalm 110:4. Hurtado proposes that this creative reading of Psalm 110:4 may have had its roots years before even Paul in the conviction of the early Christian community. Second, Hurtado notes that the LXX reading of Psalm 110:1 reads ἐκ δεξιῶν, which is followed in some places in the NT. However, in other places ἐν δεξιᾶ is used. Hurtado proposes that this latter prepositional phrase expresses a closer relationship between Jesus and the Father.
In chapter 2, subtitled “Linguistic Perspectives on the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament,” Ian Malcolm and Matthew Malcolm apply the insights of cognitive and cultural linguistics to the NT’s use of the OT, with Luke 18–24 as a test case. They begin by highlighting a number of interpretive problems regarding messianic expectation, the NT’s fulfillment of Scripture, and the use of second-temple interpretive techniques. Next they outline three key principles of cognitive linguistics: (1) language, culture and the human mind need to be understood together; (2) language and the mind are an expression of world-view; and (3) language and conceptualizations are subject to ongoing change, in response to experience. Then, after a general discussion of the application of cognitive and cultural linguistics, particularly with respect to biblical texts, the authors apply their insights to Luke 18–24 with the aid of charts. Luke shows that Jesus’ ‘coming’ is the triggering event which results in a reinterpretation of scriptural data. This ‘coming’ interpretation often conflicts with the disciple’s traditional interpretation, resulting in mystification and misunderstanding. It is only after the resurrection that the disciples are enabled to reschematize their interpretation of the scriptural data in light of their new experience. The authors then briefly highlight a few ways in which the “linguistic account of the disciples’ reinterpretation of the Scriptures” can benefit the study of the NT’s use of the OT. The authors note that a Christocentric interpretation of the OT “is a defiantly alternative construal of Scripture, in accordance with an alternative schema” (p. 34). Moreover, the fulfillment of OT Scripture is facilitated by the triggering event of Jesus’ own coming. This brief essay thus offers a programmatic attempt to a way forward in our understanding of the NT use of the OT.
In chapter 3, “Jesus and Scripture: Scripture and the Self-Understanding of Jesus,” Roland Deines examines Jesus’ use of Scripture, its influence on early Christian use of Scripture, and the possible sources for Jesus’ scriptural knowledge. In the introduction Deines notes that the Jewish people were thoroughly shaped by their own Scriptures. It was a “scripturally created and inspired culture” (p. 42) that Jesus and the apostles were a part of. Deines then presents a lengthy chart delineating the use of Scripture by Jesus and others (including the evangelist) in the Gospel of Matthew. In an overwhelming number of instances Jesus is the one who is utilizing Scripture. Deines highlights three ways in which Jesus uses Scripture. First, Jesus is a teacher who confidently and proficiently quotes Scripture in answering questions and offering a defense. Second, Jesus evinces great familiarity with biblical narratives. Third, Jesus claims to understand the overarching story and major themes of Scripture, that is, its salvation history. Deines uses Matt 11:7–15 as a case study illustrating how Jesus employs all three approaches. The payoff of the chapter begins when Deines addresses the question, “who is actually responsible for providing the quotes from Scripture? That is, who is the expert in Scripture – Jesus, or the evangelist, or the tradition-maker between the two?” (p. 55; italics his). Deines concludes that the early church’s method of handling Scripture must find its origin in Jesus’ own use of Scripture. It is likely that Jesus himself is the source of the early church’s comprehensive interpretive approach to Scripture. And yet there has been very little done in historical Jesus studies in investigating Jesus’ use of Scripture. Deines identifies two ways in which Jesus makes summarizing comments about the meaning of Scripture: (1) matter-of-fact-sayings; and (2) self-referential sayings. The first suggests that Jesus has a true grasp on the meaning of Scripture, but the second type is more intriguing since it implies that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Scriptures. He is the Lord over Scripture who teaches from a divine perspective. In the final section of his essay, Deines engages in a bit of speculation (though he would like his proposals to be taken seriously). Whence is the source of Jesus’ scriptural knowledge? First, Deines thinks that it is likely that Jesus came from a highly religious family, who had an above-average educational background and interpreted the Jewish Scriptures messianically. Second, Jesus was likely influenced by John the Baptist. Third, Jesus’ preexistence as the Son of God must certainly be a source for Jesus’ scriptural authority.
In chapter 4, “Acts 4:23–31 and Biblical Theology of Prayer,” Donald West uses the prayer in Acts 4:23–31, which quotes from Psalm 2, as one example of how the NT writers appropriate key OT prayer texts as part of a larger program of developing a practical theology of prayer based on Scripture. West first examines the form and function of Acts 4:23–31 concluding that it best resembles the form of a thanksgiving prayer, which contains three basic elements: (1) confession or praise of God; (2) a narrative of salvation; and (3) the public singing of the thanksgiving song. West believes that Psalm 2 was chosen not only for its prophetic-apologetic value (Scripture is fulfilled in Jesus Christ), but also because its form and theological significance was fitting for the situation described in Acts 4. While the prayer only quotes part of the psalm, the whole context of the psalm is in view. While Psalm 2 is a royal psalm that relates a story or narrative, it can best be described as a thanksgiving psalm. Hence, its form was naturally appropriated by the apostles upon their release. Psalm 2 describes the victory of God’s anointed one over the nations who oppose him. The apostles take up this psalm because its fulfillment is found in Christ. The message about prayer found in Acts 4:23–31 is that prayer “integrally related to God’s saving purposes which climax in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” (p. 79). God’s people must acquaint themselves with God’s salvation plan and see themselves as participants in that plan. West concludes with a call to “reconsider how NT prayer material appropriates OT texts, themes and forms” (p. 79).
In chapter 5, “Becoming Prophets: Acts 10:34–35 [Sic: it is supposed to be 10:34–43] and Peter’s Appropriation of Prophesies About Jesus,” Benjamin Sutton applies memory theory to Peter’s speech to the Gentiles in Acts 10. He begins by delineating three levels of memory: (1) Cultural memory refers to traditions that can span hundreds of generations and extends into the ancient past of a group or society; (2) communicative memory is the memory shared among members of a group or society in the present. It spans no more than three or four generations and extends no more than 100 years; (3) individual memory refers to the experience of an individual (or group) who experiences any given event. Social memory deals with the dynamic relationship between these three types of memories. All cultures try to appropriate the past in light of the present. All memory is selective and interpreted; this is known as refraction (or distortion). One type of refraction is narrativization, which is a “process of remembering a past event by telling one’s own story through an existing story” (p. 83). When individuals experience significant events, those experiences are measured against their society’s cultural memory. Sutton then describes the complex process of refraction, which takes place in a mnemonic cycle, in which the interpretation of individual experiences is shaped by both the cultural and communicative memories. The individual experiences in turn can become actualized within the communicative and cultural memories. Memory also contributes to identity formation. While it is individuals who remember, this remembering takes place within a social setting. These memories can help to shape the values of a community. The traditions (or cultural memory) of a community are actualized through performance, which helps to interpret and apply the tradition to the present. Having laid the theoretical groundwork, Sutton proceeds to analyze the speech in Acts 10:34–43 at two levels: from Peter’s perspective, as presented by Luke, and from Luke’s perspective as a historian. Sutton detects three mnemonic cycles from Peter’s perspective. In the first cycle, Peter begins with his past framework of a Jewish/Gentile distinction: Jews are to be separate from Gentiles who are unclean. Peter’s vision reorients him to a new understanding that Gentiles are not unclean. In the second cycle Peter’s new orientation is clarified by his present memories of the teachings of Jesus, which includes an “appropriation of the prophets to explain the inauguration of Israel’s restoration” (p. 91). In the third cycle, Peter moves into his new prophetic role for the future, “where he continues the restoration of Israel through proclaiming Jesus’ gospel to all people” (p. 91). From Luke’s perspective, Luke is now incorporating Peter’s memory into the cultural memory by recording his experiences in writing.
In chapter 6, Mark Seifrid discusses “Scripture and Identity in Galatians.” Seifrid examines how Scripture shaped the identities of Christians in the letters of Paul, focusing particularly upon Galatians 3–4. Scripture remade Paul’s identity and he in turn seeks to shape the identity of his audience. Jews and Gentiles are made into one new people in Christ, but simultaneously they retain their separate ethnic identities. According to Seifrid, ethnic identity was not determined solely by birth and origin but also by conduct and culture. Gentiles could be considered Jews if they participated in the Jewish practice of circumcision (the most significant of Jewish boundary markers) as well as other Jewish customs. Judaizers believed that Gentiles must practice the Jewish boundary markers—the works of the law—in order to become Christians. Paul counters this notion by arguing that Christian identity is not based on the maintenance of Jewish boundary markers but is established by faith in Christ. Paul appeals to the story of Abraham whose identity was established by faith (Gen 15:6) and not by circumcision. In Christ, the blessing of Abraham is extended to the Gentiles. Those who find their identity in the works of the law fall under a curse (Deut 27:26). However, Christ takes upon himself the curse of the law by taking our place upon the cross. Jews stand alongside Gentiles as redeemed sinners and hence in Christ their ethnic differences have been transcended. The influence of the New Perspective on Paul is very evident in this essay.
In chapter 7, Lionel Windsor examines “the ‘Seed’, the ‘Many’ and the ‘One’ in Galatians 3:16: Paul’s Reading of Genesis 17 and its Significance for Gentiles.” Windsor notes that Galatians 3:16 has puzzled scholars for quite some time. The verse raises a number of questions which he seeks to answer in this essay. The majority interpretation holds the view that Paul is contrasting the Israelites versus Christ. The word ‘seed’ in Gen17:8 is singular and hence refers to an individual whom Paul identifies as Christ. The minority interpretation holds that Paul is contrasting a plurality of families versus a united family. This view takes the position that Paul is consistently using ‘seed’ as a collective noun. Windsor finds problems in both of these views. He offers an alternative view. He argues that the “contrast is between the ‘many nations’ of whom Abraham is father in Genesis 17:1–6, and the more specific ‘seed’ of Abraham in Genesis 17:7ff., which is one particular nation: Israel, ultimately fulfilled in Christ” (p. 120). In Gen 17:1–6 Abraham is promised that he will be the father of ‘many nations,’ but the obligation of circumcision is only required of his ‘seed’ (Gen 17:7–8)—singular—referring to his household and later to the nation of Israel, thus demarcating them from the rest of the nations. Christ fulfills the covenantal obligations of Israel. Paul views Christ from two related perspectives: first, “Christ is individual who acts exclusively, by his death, to redeem other by taking on their sin and curse; and consequently, Christ is the representative of a new people, standing in corporate solidarity with those whom he has redeemed” (pp. 123–24). The purpose of Gal 3:16 is to get his audience to see their rightful place within the story of Abraham and his seed, that is, they are part of the ‘many nations’ and not the ‘seed’ who alone were obligated to keep the rite of circumcision. I find Windsor’s interpretation to be persuasive.
In chapter 8, “Taking with One Hand, and Giving with the Other? The Use of Psalm 68:18 in Ephesians 4:8,” Martin Foord attempts to find a solution to a difficult crux interpretum. When Paul cites Psa 68:18 he appears to change the wording from “you received gifts among people” to “he gave gifts to people”; in other words, Paul appears to be ignoring the original context and giving the verse the opposite meaning of its original intent. Foord begins by briefly surveying five solutions to the problematic verse. He finds each one of them lacking. In working towards a solution, Foord claims that when Paul uses the word “mystery” in Ephesians, it refers to a new revelation about God’s purposes that cannot be found literally in the OT itself. God has revealed the mystery to Paul. Hence, Paul does not derive his teaching about Christ’s ascension and spiritual gifts from Psa 68, but begins with the revealed mystery and interprets Psa 68 in light of them. Psalm 68 is essentially about the establishment of God’s rule which includes the defeat of his enemies and the blessing of God’s people. An important image in the psalm is the ark of the covenant and its placement on Mount Zion. Verses 15–18 in particular seem to refer to the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem. According to Foord, in verse 18 “the arrival of the ark in Jerusalem is interpreted as God ascending to his mountain sanctuary in triumph over his enemies” (p. 134). God’s enemies have been unable to prevent the ark from coming to Jerusalem. The gifts most likely represent the tribute that is brought to acknowledge YHWH’s kingship. The gifts were used for the building and maintenance of the temple. In Eph 4:8 Paul connects Christ’s ascension to YHWH’s ascending Mount Zion where he establishes his rule over all things. Paul changes “received” to “gave” in order to emphasize that Christ’s ascension is superior to the arrival of the ark on Mount Zion. Christ received tribute gifts but he distributes them to his people in order that they may build God’s temple, the church.
In chapter 9, Mark Keown examines “The Use of the Old Testament in Philippians.” Keown notes that while there are no direct quotations of the OT in Philippians, there appears to be numerous allusions and echoes. He finds one echo at the beginning of 1:19 where Paul says, “for I know that . . .”. This phrase is found four times in the LXX, including three in Job. According to Keown, each instance references death as the content of the knowledge, although in varying ways. Personally, I did not find this persuasive since the phrase “for I know that” uses common words and the echo would be overly subtle. Keown is on more solid ground when he finds a further allusion in 1:19 (“this will turn out for my deliverance”) to Job 13:16. Paul may be identifying with the suffering of Job. In 4:5 the phrase “the Lord is near” finds echoes in the LXX of Psa 33:19 and/or 144:18. Hence, in Philippians the phrase more likely suggests that God is near to respond to people in prayer, rather than as a reference to the parousia of Christ. Keown proceeds to note in quick succession many other possible allusions or echoes to the OT. While there is very little in the way of direct quotations in Philippians Paul draws heavily on the OT and Jewish tradition. Would Paul’s audience have picked up on these various allusions and echoes? Keown indicates that Paul reads the OT through new eyes. He reads the OT through a christological lens. This in turn affects his soteriology and ecclesiology. Gentiles do not have to Judaize, but to have faith in Christ, in order to be saved. Turning to examine the audience of Philippians, Keown finds clues in Acts and in the letter itself that the audience was almost exclusively Gentile. He surmises that it would be highly unlikely that the audience would have picked up on the OT allusions upon first hearing. However, he concludes that the audience would eventually pick up on the allusions based on a number of factors: (1) the audience may have had access to a copy of the LXX and studied it; (2) those who attempted to Judaize them may have engaged them with the OT; (3) Epaphroditus, the likely deliverer of the letter, may have provided an explanation of the letter to the audience; (4) Timothy, and later Paul, would come to Philippi and likely instruct the Philippians.
In chapter 10, Allan Chapple explores “The Appropriation of Scripture in 1 Peter.” In this essay Chapple seeks to answer three questions: (1) Which parts of the OT does Peter use?; (2) How does he use them?; and (3) Why does he use them as he does? He answers the third question first, finding the key in 1 Peter 1:10–12. The OT Scripture anticipated Jesus Christ and the salvation he brings to humanity. The Scripture “is the Spirit’s advance testimony . . . to Christ and the gospel” (p. 157). Peter believes that the story of Israel culminates in Jesus. Peter quotes widely from the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy), the Prophets (Isaiah, Hosea, Ezekiel, Malachi), and the Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job). Chapple then explores Peter’s allusions to the OT. Scholars have proposed five primary sources: (1) Psa 33 LXX; (2) Zech 9–14; (3) Malachi; (4) Isaiah, and particularly Deutero-Isaiah; and (5) the foundational stories of Israel’s history (exodus, wilderness wanderings, and entry into the Promised Land). Chapple surveys and critiques each one of these proposals. He demonstrates, in particular, that Peter makes heavy use of Isaiah, and the exodus theme. Summing up, Chapple avers that for Peter the gospel is the key for interpreting the OT. We must read the OT through the lens of the gospel. Chapple draws four implications from this conviction: (1) we must read the OT as “christotelic” – Its narrative culminates in the person and work of Christ; (2) we must read the OT as “laocentric” – it focuses on the people of God and the salvation that Christ brings them; (3) we read it eschatologically – since God’s work culminates in Christ, we are living in the last days, the eschatological now. Scripture has found its fulfillment in the present age; (4) we read the OT typologically – there is a connection between the church and the people of Israel who were established as the covenant people at Mount Sinai.
In chapter 11, “God Has Spoken: The Renegotiation of Scripture in Hebrews,” Matthew Malcolm discusses whether Scripture has been ‘renegotiated’ as a result of the Christ event. Sometimes terms or concepts take on an entirely new meaning as a result of a crisis event. For example, before World War II holocaust referred to a whole burnt offering; after the war the term took on a new meaning and it is hard not to think about this new meaning when encountering the term. In a similar way, the meaning of many OT Scripture passages has been renegotiated as a result of the Christ event, which includes his life, teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension. Malcolm focuses on how this scriptural renegotiation works in Hebrews. Before the Christ event ‘God’ was viewed as “the divine initiator and appointer of Israel’s identity, including Israel’s ideal leadership” (p. 174); the ‘Son’ in Psalm 2 could refer to “the Davidic king or his messianic heir or communal eschatological heirs” (p. 176); and the Spirit referred to the “agent or enabler of divine communication” (p. 176). The crisis event was triggered by the baptism of Jesus, in which Jesus is identified as God’s Son and the Spirit becomes the witness to this event. After the Christ event, ‘God’ specifically becomes the one who appointed Jesus as His Son. Jesus is depicted as the ‘Son’ who obeys God’s will, and the ‘Spirit’ is the one who bears witness to Jesus. Malcolm notes the common perceived tripartite division of Hebrews: 1:1–4:16; 4:14–10:25; 10:19–13:25. In the first two divisions, Malcolm observes a threefold pattern of the Scripture quotations which are placed in the mouths of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. In the first division, God speaks to Jesus appointing him as Son (1:5), Jesus speaks to the Father responding in obedience (2:13), and the Spirit speaks to the people of God applying the Scripture to them (3:8). A similar pattern emerges in the second division: God appoints the Son (5:5–6), Jesus responds in obedience (10:5–9), and the Spirit applies the words of Scripture to us (10:16). I find this to be a fascinating insight into the Scripture quotations in Hebrews.
In chapter 12, “Reading the New Testament from the Outside,” Rory Shiner gives an historical overview of the biblical theology of Donald W. B. Robinson and its implications for the study of the use of the OT in the NT. Robinson was an Australian NT biblical scholar who had a distinctive approach to biblical theology, which was influential for a generation of scholars who followed him. Robinson wanted his students to feel the strangeness and alienness of the biblical texts. At the end of the day, we might find ourselves at best reading the biblical text only as outsiders. Robinson studied at Queen’s College, Cambridge and was particularly influenced by C. H. Dodd, C. F. D. Moule, and Gabriel Hebert. Robinson developed the Moore College Special Doctrine course, which focused on the people of God, the OT covenants, and the theme of promise and fulfillment. Robinson believed in a three-stage promise and fulfillment schema. The promises made to Abraham, Moses, and David find their fulfillment in the reign of Solomon, when the promised kingdom of God had come. The NT was also an account of fulfilment, but “it is more specifically fulfilling those promises made in the devastation of exile. These promises are grounded in, but expanding on the promises that sustained the biblical narrative up to the point of Solomon’s reign” (p. 189). Robinson furthermore maintained that the promises made to Israel are fulfilled in the NT for Jewish believers only. Gentiles also received the fulfillment of promises, but these were the promises made to the nations. Robinson would later critique his own framework, finding some unresolved tensions. First, his proposal fails to explain some parts of the OT, such as wisdom and apocalyptic literature. Second, there remain unanswered questions about how modern Christians can read the NT as their own. First, since it is primarily addressed to Jewish concerns, how much of it can be applied to the situation of the Gentiles? There is no evidence in the biblical text that Gentiles would replace Israel. Second, the NT writers anticipated an imminent eschaton; they expected an outcome that did not materialize. Contemporary readers appear to be outsiders to the imminent expectations of the NT writers. A way forward may be found in the work of N. T. Wright. First, the end-time expectations of the NT pointed towards the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, and not towards future events yet unfulfilled in our lifetimes. Second, “Wright’s analogy of contemporary Christians as participating in the fifth act of an as yet incomplete drama similarly holds promise of a resolution to Robinson’s unresolved tension” (p. 195).
In a concluding chapter Matthew Malcolm ends with summary and evaluation of this collection of essays. End matter consists of end notes for all of the essays.
What can we say about these essays? First, the collection represents a wide diversity of approaches to the use of the OT in the NT. A couple of the essays focus narrowly on interpreting specific passages of the NT (Windsor; Foord). These two essays were particularly compelling for me. Years ago I took a course at Princeton Seminary on the use of the OT in the NT, hoping that it would answer questions for me. Instead, at the end of the semester I remember telling the professor that the course “muddied the waters for me”—it seemed like there was no rhyme or reason for how and why NT writers used OT Scripture the way they did. These two essays at least attempt to show that Paul did not use his source material in a haphazard way. They take pains to show that Paul respected the original context of his source material and did a careful reading of these texts, while also appropriating these texts for a new context. I think the proposals of these two essays should be taken seriously. Other essays focus on specific texts as a test case for a larger program. Hurtado looks at the NT appropriation of two OT passages as a means of demonstrating how the early Christians’ powerful religious experiences compelled them to reinterpret Scripture. West focuses on Acts 4:23–31 in order to develop a biblical theology of prayer. Deines examines one specific passage in Matthew (11:7–15) to illustrate how Jesus utilized Scripture. I think Deines’ essay raises some important questions about how the historical Jesus used Scripture and whether Jesus’ use of Scripture was influential on how the early Christians interpreted Scripture. Sutton focuses on Acts 10:34–43 in order to illustrate how memory theory works in practice on a specific passage. Other essays are concerned with the use of OT Scripture in one whole book of the Bible (Seifrid; Keown; Chapple; Malcolm), while other essays are concerned with examining wider issues in the interpretation of the NT’s use of the OT (Malcolm & Malcolm; Shiner). Some of the essays seem to be applying new methodologies to the study of the OT in the NT. Malcolm & Malcolm apply the insights of cognitive and cultural linguistics, while Sutton applies the theory of memory theory to the study of the NT’s use of the OT. Many of the essays seem to be raising new questions of the texts and offer new insights. Overall, anyone interested in the use of the OT in the NT will find much that is worthwhile in this collection of essays.
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