Book Review: Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament

Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament edited by Stanley Porter

This book contains essays from James W. Aageson, Craig A. Evans, Sylvia C. Keesmaat, Michael P. Knowles, Andreas J. Koestenberger, R. Timothy McLay, Paul Miller, Stanley E. Porter, Kurt Anders Richardson, and Dennis L. Stamps. These essays were initially delivered at a conference on the topic, then gathered for editing and inclusion in this book.

At nearly three-hundred pages this book is chock full of references and ideas. It systematically goes through the four gospels, acts, most epistles, and revelation to see what selections from the OT each of the authors use, and of course how they use these references. Not everything written I would endorse, but a good amount is good and proper scholarship.

Some of the best ideas are:

First, the Jewish context of early Christianity is without question even if the nature and degree of that context is debatable.

In all three cases [Philo, rabbinic, and Dead Sea Scrolls], the OT is used partially to persuade – the interpretation of the OT is used to validate among the members of their community the truthfulness of their community ethos and to convince others of the truth they espouse and proclaim.

The text may be inspired, and the interpreter rhetorically (or even theologically) imposing, but it is the respondent who must read and understand. Again, Jesus’ approach to the text, as Matthew presents it, represents an implicit challenge even for subsequent recipients of the text.

The third [variant of Acts 2.28] introduces the idea of eternal life, since that is what the phrase “way of life” means in the Septuagint. Significant is the fact that the Septuagint translator also apparently found this reference to bodily resurrection – or at least understood it in this way – in the Masoretic text, since he chose to translate the Hebrew in such a way to emphasize this potential dimension in his Greek rendering. Not only is an eschatological dimension further encouraged by such changes, therefore, but, as Bock points out, there is now a clear reference to bodily resurrection in the text

This message of the coming of the Holy Spirit is one of salvation for all people who call upon the name of the Lord. Salvation language has long been noticed as a distinctive element of Luke-Acts, and for Acts it is established early on in Peter’s quotation of Joel, and then continued on throughout the book.

The early church adopted Jewish approaches, especially the method broadly referred to as midrash which refers to the practice of commenting on Scripture in order to bring out meanings latent within the text.

Scripture does not only point to Jesus but is fulfilled in two senses: first, its meaning is fully disclosed in Christ; and secondly, it is completed, superceded and even replaced by the living words of Jesus.

The Johannine Jesus teaches that these blind can be deeply pious because they rely on the words of Scripture (John 5.39); but they are nonetheless blind because they refuse to see the true meaning of that for which they so diligently search.

John [the Baptist] is both “the quintessential witness to the Logos” and and a transitional figure between the old and new eras of salvation history. He is “the representative of believing Israel all throughout the ages, the last of the prophets who sums up in himself the message of the prophets.

Scripture is more that a static source of authority to be mined at will. It is a well-spring of interpretation and life-giving nourishment. Hence, interpretation for Paul is more than discerning a meaning of a literary text but rather of discovering and indeed generating a sense of God’s purpose for the world and its redemption.

Throughout these four verses, the symbolic and pareanetic linkage between ancient Israel and the church is firmly established. All were baptized and partook of spiritual nourishment, but some desired evil (illustrated by their idolatry, immorality, testing the Lord, and grumbling). This is the conceptual configuration, established in [1 Cor] 10.1-10, which Paul in turn applies to the issue of idolatry in Corinth (10.14-22).

As such, patience becomes the proof of faith, since it cannot be practiced without faith and, indeed, is the means by which faith is strengthened. The ground for this blessing is that the suffering is part of God’s purpose for the believer.

Indeed, Job appears to have served God in his debilitation with the one instrument he had left: his voice (recalling the Lord’s one condition as Satan smites Job; 2.6). The role of speech is important in Job as well as in James. James extols the one who is able to control the tounge, for he considers such control the link to all impulses of the body and indeed a sign of that believer’s perfection (3.2)

In all that I left out one big chunk concerning the way in which Paul places the story of Jesus and Israel against the then-current Roman empire. But you’ll have to check out Kingdomready blog tomorrow morning for that one!

All-in-all another high recommendation!

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