Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament
NT/OT — quote, unquote
COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT USE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Eds. Greg Beale and Don Carson
Apollos (IVP). 1,152 pages. £29.99
Like a certain well-known brand of varnish, this weighty, scholarly volume does exactly ‘what it says on the tin’.
It provides a detailed analysis and commentary, not only of every quotation of an Old Testament text by a New Testament writer, but also of practically every allusion such a writer makes to an Old Testament incident, image or teaching. In so doing it provides a rich supply of information and insight, not only for those preaching on either Testament (as it has a wonderfully full textual index), but also for serious Bible students who simply want to understand God’s word more clearly and accurately.
The contributors to this very substantial volume are all evangelical scholars of renown. All of them are, or have been, professors of theological institutions, mostly in the USA, and all of them have doctorates. I mention this to alert you to the fact that this book has a very ‘academic’ feel to it, and is not always easy to understand. Mind, a large part of the difficulty stems from the fact that it is often far from easy to grasp exactly how an OT text fits into the NT writer’s argument, and this reviewer was very grateful for how much effort the contributors have clearly made to communicate with those, like the reviewer, whose educational attainments are far less exalted than their own.
Each book of the New Testament is dealt with in turn and, as the text of this volume is well laid out, it is easy to locate any passage of the NT book that you are looking for. The contributors are clearly men who have immersed themselves for years in the study of their assigned book(s). Indeed, many of the contributors have written full commentaries on the book(s) they cover. This gives depth to their comments, although it does also mean that their insights on particular OT quotes have often been published before, and sometimes at greater length than here. Nevertheless, many readers will not have those books, and anyway there is much to be said for having a crystallised exegesis of the NT use of the OT all together in one volume.
Each OT quote is considered in both its OT and NT contexts, as well as how it was used by pre-Christian Jewish sources. Comment is also made upon whether the text is quoted from the Hebrew text of the OT, or the Greek Septuagint version, or whether the writer has made his own distinctive translation. Finally, assessment is given as to how the NT author is appealing the OT text, (what he is seeking to gain from it), and to what theological use he is putting it.
Unsurprisingly, as I am a working pastor-preacher, I have not managed to read the whole volume through before submitting this review. I have read a number of contributions in their entirety, including the very lengthy ones on Matthew and Revelation. I have also used the book with profit as an aid in preaching, particularly on the latter chapters of Zechariah, where I was very conscious of needing all the help I could get!
All in all I have found this volume to be a tremendous aid in seeking to gain a deeper understanding of God’s word. Studying the book has brought home to me more clearly than ever just how much the NT is bound up with the Old, and just how pervasive are the NT allusions to the former revelation. Again and again as I have read this book I have found myself scurrying to OT contexts, only to see more of Christ in the OT and to be more convinced than ever of the unity of both Testaments. Being shown more of the OT background of the NT writings has been a very rewarding and stimulating experience.
Variety of usages
Some will criticise the book for its lack of a unified approach to the question of the NT use of the OT, and blame the editors for its lack of any significant discussion of the various theories currently in vogue on this issue. However, what the church really needs is what we have here, an attempt to unearth the rationale for each NT writer’s quotation of the OT, without feeling the necessity to fit that in to some preconceived idea or straightjacket. Indeed, one of the chief values of the book is that it demonstrates, practically and almost incidentally, the huge variety of ways that the NT writers use the OT. That is a lesson many of us who are preachers need to relearn.
Needless to say, this volume does not answer every question we may have about the way the NT uses the Old. Nor is every contribution quite as good as the best. Yet most of what I have read so far has been thought provoking and insightful. Indeed, much of it has been a real pleasure to read, and I am sure that this volume will remain beside me as a much used reference work in years to come. I heartily commend it to ministers and avid Bible readers as an excellent investment, and good value at £30.