Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Using the Old Testamen in the New

Pastor Lawyer,

I have a question. You might have answered it in the past, but I don'trecall your answer. A friend and I have been discussing OT passages inthe NT that appear to be misquoted, paraphrased, and or taken out ofcontext. How do we interpret these passages? Possibly, you canrecommend a good book on the subject, an article, etc. What is the reformed position?
Many thanks!

Here are a few books on the subject:

Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period, by Richard Longenecker
Uses of the Old Testament in the New, by Walter Kaiser
Jesus and the Old Testament, by R.T. France

The first one is probably the best. I have it on good authority that the author does a good job of describing what the New Testament guys are doing, but then he flops and doesn't want us to do what they do.

I think we should strive to use the OT like the NT writers did. This means reading them in context and quoting them in context. None of the uses in the NT, that I know of, take the OT passages out of context. Usually, we just don’t understand the context ourselves (Perhaps you know of some and could pass them along to me.). When our pride surfaces and we get a little disgruntled at the NT authors’ use of the OT, we need to remember that they were writing God’s word. If our traditions do not coincide with their traditions we need to think carefully before we chuck theirs in favor of ours. Instead we need to try to figure out what they were doing and imitate it.

Often we aren’t aware of how they viewed things. We don’t know much about types and shadows, but they seemed to be steeped in them and saw them everywhere. We don’t live in a covenantal/Hebrew world, they lived it all the time. We think we’re so smart, and they were doing the writing and knew what they were doing.

One thing we can do to begin reading the NT authors use of the OT is to understand that the NT writers were often writing a sort of commentary on the OT. They were not quoting the OT like we tend to quote things. When they said, “that was pointing to this” we need to figure it out instead of automatically thinking they were a little bit nuts.

Also, we need to take into consideration that they didn’t think it was important to always get exact one to one references. So, there are quotes in the OT from all sorts of sources. Sometimes the sources aren’t even known to us. And sometimes the NT writers conflate several OT writers in one quote and appear to attribute the quote to one person.

It is interesting how seldom the OT commentators ignore the NT writer's take on the OT texts. Also the NT commentators miss the OT context for the quotes in the NT. I don't think I know of a quote in the NT where the author didn't expect his reader to know or at least look up the OT quote in the OT and see what it was talking about. They never want you to know just that one verse (or however many they were quoting).

I hope this helps.

No comments: