3 Views on NT Use of OT

December 3, 2008

Zondervan released this fall a new book titled “Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament” with major chapters by Walter Kaiser, Darrell Bock, and Peter Enns, along with an intro by Lunde and wrap-up by Berding. (I noted this in an earlier post.)

At the annual ETS meeting there was a lengthy panel discussion of the book by all five contributors. I was not able to stay for the Q&A session at the end, but the presentations were helpful. I’ve not yet had time to read more than the first chapter, but thought I’d post a note regarding the presentations at ETS. I’ve ordered the audio so that i can use sections of it for class purposes in the future.

Lunde basically read a good chunk of his chapter from the book—a waste of time for those of us who had already read it, but the chapter (and his oral presentation) are a good intro to the subject.

Kaiser was a riot–in “classic Kaiseran form” with his hilarious understated puns, delightful irony, etc., especially when he added a second “punch line” after the laughter had died down from the first—and sometimes his second line reversed the first! His age may have deflected a bit of his vocal power, but it has not dulled his wit one bit. Would that all ETS “readers of papers” could produce a few laughs, but too often the response is a yawn. (I sat through one painful example of that earlier that day; the content was OK—it was a draft chapter from a dissertation in progress, and the “survey of lit” one at that!—but the presentation was very poor.) I’ll not summarize his authorial intent-based, single meaning view here since I think it is probably better known than the others (or at least should be!). Hopefully that’s not a mistaken assumption. 🙂

Bock was OK and an effective speaker in terms of style (erudite and impressive), but I thought somewhat opaque in terms of explaining his system (though one of my colleagues who studied under Bock thought he was more clear than usual!). It will probably help to read his chapter. He essentially says that in the NT we are not dealing with exegesis of the OT, but a multi-faceted, canonical perspective on the OT which had been shaped by centuries of tradition. This is probably why Bock places so much emphasis on second temple literature (STL) as essential to interpreting the NT. We must know how the STL community has developed the continuing OT tradition and in so doing has extended the meaning of the OT. The NT writers assumed/used this developed meaning in their use of the OT. E.g., Jesus’ reference to Moses on the Emmaus Road is not to Moses as understood on the basis of historical, grammatical interpretation (HGI) in the Pentateuch only, but Moses as he has come to be understood in light of all the OT and STL’s understanding of Moses and the rest of the OT.

Enns was interesting to hear in person (which I had not before). His most memorable comment was: “I think Bock and I are a lot closer
than I thought. If that causes him any problems with job security,
it’s not my fault”! That’s a close paraphrase, I didn’t get it down in
stenographic form. (Mark Bailey, pres. of DTS, was sitting in the audience.) He explained that he works on this question with three assuptions.

  1. Biblical interpretation is an historical exercise: how did the text function in its original setting? HGI is not an anchor, but a challenge to how we understand Scripture. The NT writers were not doing HGI.
  2. Truth trumps identity. I care about truth not about preserving identity. My critics have not been exegetical, but theological as an exercise in preserving identity (i.e., “reformed evangelicals believe this and you don’t match, so you’re wrong”).
  3. The kinds of issues/models we use to explain the NT use of the OT are adjudicated on the basis of NT behavior. How does the NT “behave”? How do NT writers actually use the OT? We can’t establish our principles in the abstract from a few key texts.