Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New (part 2)
In a previous article this writer discussed four schools of approach within evangelicalism with regard to the use of the Old Testament by the New. In the interaction between these schools of thought four tension points will be raised in this article concerning dual authorship, language-referent, the progress of revelation, and the problem of the differing texts used in Old Testament citations by their New Testament fulfillment(s). In isolating these four areas of concern, it is important to recall that in any passage being discussed all these concerns interact with one another. That is why this area of hermeneutics is so difficult to discuss. Nevertheless by isolating the key issues, discussion of problem texts may become more manageable, since the area of concern can be more easily identified. In this article the state of the debate will be evaluated and a suggested approach will be offered.=
The question of dual authorship is the basic one to be considered. Can God intend more in a passage than the human author intended? For Kaiser and also, it seems, for Waltke the answer to this question is no. What the prophet intended, God intended; and He intended no more than what the prophet intended. God may have a greater understanding about the intention of the passage; but the prophet must understand what he was trying to say. The concept of “generic promise” is especially important to this view.
For those who make a distinction between the human author’s intention and God’s intention, a variety of approaches exist. Appeal is made to sensus plenior or references plenior. S. Lewis Johnson and Elliott E. Johnson try to establish a firm link between God’s intention and the human author’s intention so that the Old Testament prophet’s message remains demonstrably the basis for the divine New Testament fulfillment. This limitation prevents a charge of arbitrary fulfillment being raised against the New Testament. Their limitation is either “the implication of the words” in light of the progress of revelation (S. Lewis Johnson) or the “defining sense” of the human author’s words (Elliott E. Johnson).
Those who emphasize the historical perspective of the use of the Old Testament in the New (the third school of thought) generally do not discuss dual authorship in any detail. They simply regard this distinction as established. This omission is a major weakness of the historical school. Dunnett is an exception within this approach and attempts to suggest limitations under which a distinction of authorship can be maintained. He initially appeals to the vague category of “other criteria” as he discusses sensus plenior. Later he refers to the “other criteria.” These criteria seem similar to an appeal to the progress of revelation. He also insists on an “organic connection” between the two meanings. In describing texts like Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 53; and Hosea 11:1, Dunnett summarizes by saying:
These kinds of texts may illustrate for us a sensus plenior. Yet to maintain some control in exegesis one should begin with the literal sense of the text, observe the total context, realize that the divine purpose in history is certain of fulfillment (on God’s terms), and include both Old and New Testaments to have a measure for interpretation.
How is this question of dual authorship to be evaluated? A fair summary would be to say that God wrote to His people at a point in history and to His people throughout time, while the human author wrote to his people at a point in history and/or, as a prophet, wrote to his people with hope as he expressed God’s ultimate deliverance, either (a) in full human consciousness (direct prophecy, full human intent; Dan 7:9-14), (b) in the ideal language of the passage itself (many of the psalms such as 16 ; 22 ; 110 ; and Isa 53), (c) in language capable of expansion of reference into a new context through progressive revelation (Gen 2:7; 3:15 ; Pss. 2:1-2 ; 8 ; 16:10 ; Isa 61:1-2; Old Testament kingdom texts; texts about Yahweh in the Old Testament that refer to Christ in the New Testament), or (d) in language that involves a “pattern” of fulfillment but with less than full human authorial understanding of each referent in the pattern (typology that is typico-prophetic, Gen 2:7; Pss. 8 ; 95:7-11 ; Isa 7:14; 40 ; Hos 11:1).
The reason this writer rejects a “total” identification between the divine intent and the human author’s intent is that in certain psalms, as well as in other Old Testament passages, theological revelation had not yet developed to the point where the full thrust of God’s intention was capable of being understood by the human author. For example the divine nature of messianic kingship was nowhere so explicitly stated in the Old Testament that it became a basic tenet of ancient Jewish eschatological hope. Psalm 110 suggests it strongly, but it is not entirely clear that the Davidic Covenant by itself at the time it was given required a divine son for fulfillment. Apparently David thought Solomon could be that son. One must also reckon with the fact that Old Testament prophets sometimes admitted that they did not understand their utterances (Dan 12:6-8; John 11:44-52; and esp. 1 Peter 1:10-12). Kaiser has admirably tried to deal with these passages; but his explanations have failed to convince most scholars that he is correct in uniting the authorial intent of the human and divine authors. Kaiser’s concept of generic prophecy is a helpful one for this discussion; but what is unclear is whether the human author always intended all the sense that emerges from the promise in the New Testament and whether the human author always understood all the referents in the promise. The four qualifications stated in the preceding paragraph concerning the human author’s language are an attempt to describe the various ways human and divine intent can be joined without being a violation of the sense and promise of a passage.
So to try to limit the meaning to the human author’s intention seems to be too narrow a view. However, to say that there is a clear and definable connection between the expression of the human author and God’s intention seems necessary, or else the text can be made to say anything whatsoever in its fulfillment. Another important point is that the nature of the connection between the two passages can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including a human author’s full intent. To try to limit the nature of the connection to one specific type of relationship seems to place a limitation on the text that its phenomena may not sustain. Broadly speaking, such a view places this writer in agreement with those of the second school (the human words school) and with some of those of the third school (the progress of revelation or Jewish hermeneutics school), who affirm that God could intend more than the human author did but never at the expense of the thrust of his wording. The New Testament fulfillment will either agree with or expand by natural implication the human author’s wording. Whether it is better to call this relationship sensus plenior or references plenior or some other term, should still be discussed by evangelicals after a renewed study of several sample passages from different authors of the New Testament. The variety of relationships between the divine and human authors naturally leads to a discussion of meaning in these texts and the role of language, that is, it leads to semantic issues of language and referent.
This specific hermeneutical issue deals with the question, Where does meaning reside in a given utterance? Is it at the level of sense (the definitions of the words within a passage) or at the level of the referents? Is it at the level of the word or at the level of the word in its context? This question raises the complex area of semantics. Elliott E. Johnson grapples seriously with this area. The works of Moo and of this writer have also attempted to raise issues in this area. In general the other schools have not dealt with it in any detail. The area still needs much study, especially in light of the acknowledged fact that words gain their sense not in and of themselves but from their literary context, that is, from the sentence, paragraph, and larger setting in which they are contained. So the role of the context of a passage is crucial in determining the passage’s meaning.
An additional question is this: As the biblical theological context of a passage is deepened, how is the meaning of that passage affected? Much of the debate among evangelicals about eschatology falls in this semantic area. Does a “heavenly” referent for the New Testament fulfillment of passages like Psalms 2 and 110 nullify what appears to be an “earthly” reference in the original Old Testament contexts? Amillenarians will answer yes to this question, while dispensationalists answer no and covenant premillenarians vacillate. Are New Testament fulfillments final, initial, or decisive-but-not-final?
If the “seed” example from Genesis 3 cited in the previous article is any guide, then meaning deals primarily with the sense, not always with the referent, of a passage as that meaning is defined by its literary context. For Kaiser, the literary context is limited to antecedent revelation. For the other schools, the literary context of all of Scripture is to be used. But it is important to state that when appealing to the whole of Scripture an awareness of what is antecedent to the given passage and what is subsequent must be maintained.
Within the Scriptures the following sense-referent relationships can occur:
1. Referents of passages were made more specific, as in the “seed” example.
2. Motifs were reapplied. For example the Exodus imagery was reused and reapplied, sometimes with changes, by Isaiah and by some New Testament writers; also Adam is introduced as the “first Adam” by Paul, a change made in light of Jesus’ coming.
3. Language that was “earthly” in the Old Testament was expanded to include a “heavenly thrust.” For example, the king as “son” in a non-ontological sense in the Old Testament is “the Son” in an ontological sense in the New Testament (Heb 1); “kingdom” in some New Testament texts along with “Jesus as King” refer to something other than an earthly rule (Luke 17:20, 21; Acts 2:32-36). The eschatological debate turns on the question whether the Old Testament earthly sense is removed by the heavenly thrust of some New Testament texts. Premillennialists answer this question with a firm no.
4. Language that was figurative became literal. Examples are (a) the righteous sufferer in Psalm 22 is described with figurative language that Jesus, the righteous Sufferer par excellence, fulfills literally; (b) Psalm 69; and (c) “the right hand” of Psalm 110.
5. Language that is literal becomes figurative. For example literal lambs were sacrificed in the Old Testament but Christ was “the Passover lamb” in the New (1 Cor 5:7), and the literal first fruits in the Old Testament refer in 1 Corinthians 15:20 figuratively to resurrected saints.
Though a variety of relationships exist at the level of the referent, the basic sense of the passage is maintained. At what level is the basic sense of the original passage determined? Is it at the level of the word, the phrase, the sentence, or the paragraph? This question still needs to be dealt with in detail by evangelicals.
Meaning as it relates to the use of the Old Testament in the New and as it relates to the language of these passages is vitally concerned with issues of sense versus issues of referent, but the exact limits of any approach to this issue are still unclear. One area that obviously touches on this discussion is the progress of revelation, the next area of concern.
The Progress of Revelation
This issue deals with historical concerns. The question here is this: What effect did the history of Jesus’ life and ministry, especially His resurrection and ascension, have on the church’s understanding and the apostolic understanding of Scripture? The revelation of Jesus, the living Word of God, helps specify the referents in the Scriptures and the exact focus of their promises. John 2:22; 12:16; and 20:9 confirm this. The life of Christ did help the disciples understand what the Scriptures taught. What they did not realize about the Old Testament before, the life of Christ made clear to them.
As stated in the previous article in this series, knowing that there are two comings of Christ and seeing Jesus as Lord in Old Testament texts that referred to Yahweh are two examples of the effect of this factor. These show an interaction between the life of Christ and the Old Testament in which the revelation of the Person helped make clear the revelation of the Book, by showing how the promise came to fruition. It is here that the concept of pattern and generic promise are helpful, because with the coming of the pattern and the promise, many seemingly loose ends in the Scriptures were tied together in one Person, bringing a unity to the whole plan. Patterns were completed and promises were fulfilled in ways that reflected a connection to Old Testament persons or events, or in ways that heightened them. The “refraction” principle, which was mentioned earlier, rightfully belongs here.
Longenecker correctly takes the role of this historical factor seriously in explaining how the New Testament authors saw some of these texts as fulfillments. In short, they saw in the revelation of Jesus Christ a revelation on revelation. Two points can be made to those who object that such an approach seems to demean prophecy because the realization of a prophecy’s full presence is limited to the time of its fulfillment. First, a passage may not have been recognized as a prophecy until it was fulfilled. So one must distinguish, then, between what the passage initially declared and what one comes to realize later was ultimately meant by the passage. This distinction does not mean, however, that the passage did not originally suggest the prophetic meaning the reader now understands it to have. Through the progress of revelation, he can come to understand what he could not originally comprehend, because the Old Testament passage or larger Old Testament context only hinted at that meaning. This is much like a play in the second quarter of a football game that many come to realize in the fourth quarter was the turning point of the game.
Second, many of the Old Testament passages the New Testament appeals to were recognized as prophetic in Judaism, but the referent of those passages was disputed. The force of the passage was seen as prophetic, but who or what fulfilled it was an issue in the first century. In the context of the progress of revelation, the disciples could point to recent historical events in the life of Jesus that fulfilled these passages and completed the promises. This is something that even the Qumran writings could not do with most of their “pesher” fulfillments which still looked to future and thus unverifiable events. The clear strength of New Testament proclamation about fulfillment was its historical and textual base.
A more controversial aspect of the historical emphasis school is the role of non-canonical phenomena, specifically Jewish inter-testamental theology and Jewish hermeneutics. Evangelicals have often neglected the role of Jewish theology as the framework of theological discussion in the first century. On the other hand the New Testament use of terms from Jewish theology does not necessarily mean the terms were appropriated without any change in meaning in the New Testament. Careful historical-grammatical exegesis should trace both this background and any modification of it in the New Testament. As stated in the earlier article, certain developments in Jewish theology may well have reflected divine reality, not because Jewish theology as a whole was true and authoritative, but because on certain issues they accurately expressed or developed the teaching of Scripture. In a more extreme example Paul cited the Greek poet Aratus without endorsing his pagan world view (Acts 17:28). God is sovereign enough to prepare the world for Christ in the conceptual realm of first-century Jewish religious expression as well as in the social-political realm of the first century with its Pax Romana.
The techniques of Jewish hermeneutics do appear in the New Testament. The use of key words to link certain passages is clearly seen in 1 Peter 2:4-10 and in 2 Corinthians 3:1-18. These are two of many examples. Longenecker demonstrates the repeated use of these techniques in the New Testament. What is debated is (a) how much the perspective of this hermeneutic has influenced the interpretations of the New Testament and (b) how proper it is to refer to New Testament quotations in Jewish terms such as “pesher” or “midrash.” With regard to the first issue, it is fair to say that the key hermeneutical perspectives of New Testament interpretation (its Christological focus, corporate solidarity, and the presence of pattern) all emerge either from the events of Jesus’ life (Christology) or from perspectives already present in the Old Testament (corporate solidarity and the use of pattern). So the key elements in the New Testament approach to hermeneutics, according to Longenecker, are not found in Jewish hermeneutics but rather in the history and theology of the Old Testament and Jesus’ first advent.
Much confusion exists with regard to the use of the terms “pesher” and “midrash.” The definitions of these terms are not fixed even in the technical literature. Often when these terms are used, they are not clearly defined. Longenecker’s repeated use of the term “pesher exegesis” suffers from this problem. Is he referring to an “eschatologically fulfilled and presently fulfilled” text or to a “technical style” of exegesis? Also is he using “pesher” in a descriptive-analogical sense (in which the New Testament use is parallel to this Jewish technique but with important distinctions) or is he using “pesher” to refer to a New Testament technique in which the technique and the theological approach of the two systems are so identified that they are treated as virtually synonymous hermeneutical systems? Much of the reaction against this ancient hermeneutical terminology grows out of a sense of excessive identification between the Jewish and New Testament approaches in the writings of the progressive revelation school, without careful qualification or without a strong enough stress on the differences between the Jewish and Christian approaches to the Old Testament. More important than the choice of descriptive terms is what is meant by their use. If the terms are merely descriptive and analogical, then a problem does not seem to exist with their use; but if an identification of hermeneutical approach is asserted, then the distinctives of the New Testament perspective are minimized.
In summary the role of the progress of revelation in this discussion is a major one. Consequently a careful reader will seek to avoid being insensitive to the historical progress of God’s revelation. Wrong emphases exist on all sides of this issue, including the denial of the original Old Testament meaning, the denial of the influence of the events of Christ’s life on the New Testament authors’ reading of the Old Testament, and an excessive or unclear identification between the hermeneutics of early Christianity and first-century Judaism.
This issue is one about which the majority of evangelicals are most aware. The question is this: Do not certain New Testament uses of the Old Testament require an altering of the Hebrew text in such a way that fulfillments are possible only because the text has been altered? The alterations are often used by non-evangelicals to show the non-prophetic, haphazard, and non-authentic use of the Old Testament by the New, especially in passages attributed to Jesus and the earliest church.
Evangelicals have usually answered this charge in one of two ways. One reply is to assert that since first-century Palestine was multilingual, Jesus and the early church on occasion used the Greek text. This reply avoids the basic issue, which is this: If the inspired text is the original text (which is usually reflected in the Hebrew version), then how could the New Testament authors have cited a flawed translation? A second reply is to argue that whenever the Greek text is cited against the Hebrew text, then ipso facto the Greek text represents the original text or the Greek text represents what was an original but now lost Hebrew text.
Another approach is to wrestle with the change by working at the hermeneutical and semantic level. Alteration of wording can be seen in one of several ways. The first is to distinguish between the textual form of the citation (i.e., what Old Testament text was used) and the conceptual form of the citation (i.e., what point the text is making). In making this distinction, a basic question needs to be asked: Could the point of the passage be made from the Hebrew text, given the speaker’s understanding of Old Testament biblical theology and his understanding of the events of Jesus’ life up to the point in question? In all the passages treated in Luke-Acts, the answer to this question was that the theological point could have emerged from an understanding of the Hebrew wording, so the fact that Luke used a Greek Old Testament text is irrelevant as a charge against the historicity of the event.
Second, in other cases alteration of wording has clearly occurred and the above basic question about a Hebrew origin for the text can still be answered positively, and yet a question remains as to the legitimacy of the change (e.g., the use of Ps 68 in Eph 4, the dual use of kurios for two distinct Hebrew terms in Ps 110, or the change of meta tauta from Joel 2:28 to en tais eskatais hemerais in Acts 2:17). Acts 2:17 is a good example of an interpretive biblical theological change, in which the “after this” in Joel is interpreted correctly as “the last days.” No first-century Jew would deny that Joel 2 dealt with the eschaton. His question would have been, Is today that time? And that was the point Peter was trying to argue. So a change may be interpretively grounded in larger biblical theological concerns of history.
Third, sometimes the wording was changed because a larger literary context, either around the passage itself or around the theme of the passage, was being invoked without citing all the verses. So alterations could occur in New Testament texts for biblical theological grounds (whether this biblical theology emerges from historical events or other biblical texts or motifs) that were broader than the verses being cited. The area of differing texts is a complex one, but this need not raise charges of arbitrary hermeneutics or a lack of historicity in these citations.
Recent discussions on the use of the Old Testament in the New have resulted in four distinct evangelical approaches to this issue. Also the debate has isolated four areas of concern for evangelical hermeneutics: dual authorship, language-referent, the progress of revelation, and the problem of differing texts. Work still remains to be done, especially in the area of semantics, in historical issues related to the progress of revelation, and in handling in detail all the specific passages with these concerns in mind. But this outline of the discussion shows that the framework for an overall satisfactory approach to this issue does exist, even if some details still need working out.
The theses of this article are four: (1) A distinction between divine intention and the intent of the human author is to be made; but both intentions are related in their basic meaning and that relationship can be articulated. (2) Meaning involves the sense of a passage and not primarily the referents of a passage; but the language of an Old Testament passage and its New Testament fulfillment can be related in terms of referents in one of several ways. (3) The progress of revelation affects the detailed understanding of Old Testament passages in specifying details about the completion of the promise and the completion of salvific patterns in God’s revelation. But one should always be aware of (a) what was originally understood by the human author at the time of the original revelation and (b) what God disclosed about the details of that revelation through later revelation or through events in Jesus’ life. (4) New Testament alterations of Old Testament texts were neither arbitrary changes to create fulfillment in the New Testament nor reflections of later church theology placed back anachronistically into the lips of Jesus or the early church; rather they reflect accurate biblical theological considerations of the New Testament authors on the original Old Testament text.
Of course the test of such theses is whether they can be related to all the specific examples from the text. Several supporting examples have been supplied, usually in notes or parentheses, for consideration in evaluating this approach. It is hoped that this overview has helped (a) present fairly the different approaches to this area within evangelicalism, (b) distinguish clearly the key issues facing evangelicals in this area of hermeneutics, and (c) suggest avenues of solutions for these issues, while recognizing the recent valuable work and contributions of many evangelicals of different persuasions who have worked so diligently on these matters. The author also hopes that in being rather eclectic with the various approaches, the wheat has been successfully retained from each view while the chaff has been left behind.
Darrell L. Bock, “Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New, Part 1” Bibliotheca Sacra 142 (July-October 1985): 209-23. See Part 1
This hesitation with regard to Waltke’s position results from the fact that he claims to hold to the original author’s intent; and yet in his example from Psalm 2:6-7 he moves from an “earthly” to a “heavenly” reference between the old dispensation and the new. Such a shift in understanding seems to leave the Old Testament prophetic intention somewhat unclear. So this writer places Waltke here with a question mark as to whether this description of his view is really an accurate one (Bruce K. Waltke, “Is It Right to Read the New Testament into the Old?” Christianity Today, September 2, 1983, p. 77).
Walter M. Dunnett, The Interpretation of Holy Scripture (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984), p. 60.
Ibid., p. 62.
A full treatment of example texts is beyond the scope of this article. The description given of the relationship between the human and the divine author in these Old Testament-New Testament passages reflects studies by the present writer in Luke-Acts, his teaching of a doctoral seminar on the use of the Old Testament in the New, and teaching a course on the master’s level jointly with Donald R. Glenn, whose aid in articulating these issues has been indispensable. The views stated here are the author’s and not necessarily Glenn’s.
A sample listing of texts reflecting the author’s views might be as follows: (a) in full consciousness (i.e., directly prophetic): Psalm 110; (b) in ideal language: Psalm 16 (where the psalmist is confident of deliverance but the details of the “how” of the deliverance are not entirely clear in light of the language of the whole psalm) and Isaiah 52:13-53:12 ; (c) in language capable of an expansion of reference and context (i.e., in the progress of revelation): Hosea 11:1, with use of the concept of the corporate solidarity of the Son with the nation; and (d) in language that involves a pattern of fulfillment (i.e., typological prophetic): Isaiah 7:14; Psalm 2; Psalm 16 (possibly if the above categorization is not correct); Psalm 22; Psalm 69; Exodus fulfillment language in the New Testament; Isaiah 52:13-53:12 ; and Deuteronomy 18. Often the difference between “ideal language” and “language capable of expansion” is slight and debatable. Other passages make use of both “ideal language” and “pattern of fulfillment” (e.g., Isa 53 is classified as “ideal language” because by the point of Isa 53, the servant figure is described in highly individualized language). The author sees “language capable of expansion” as drawing heavily on theological concepts outside the passage in question (the theological presuppositions or hermeneutical axioms of the New Testament author) to complete its fulfillment, while “ideal language” makes decisive use of only material in the cited text. If one prefers to think of “ideal language” as a subcategory that can operate either in the progress of revelation category or in the pattern category, such an approach could be defended. The author prefers the term “pattern” to typology for reasons he has defended elsewhere (Darrell L. Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern [Sheffield: JSOT Press, forthcoming], chap. 1).
This area needs more study by evangelicals in light of recent discussions and in light of issues raised in Semantics and the history of hermeneutics.
Douglas Moo, The Old Testament in the Gospel Passion Narratives (Sheffield: Almond Press, 1983), pp. 75-78, 387-97. Moo probably belongs in the historical school, but he is certainly aware of the semantic issues.
J. P. Louw, Semantics of New Testament Greek (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), pp. 39-66. See Bock, “Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New, Part 1,” p. 222, n. 16.
The basic question is the one raised by Waltke’s article in Christianity Today, especially when he calls the New Testament fulfillment a “literal” fulfillment. Dispensationalists have the best way to unify the Testaments on this issue, by arguing for a “both/and” fulfillment rather than an “either/or” approach.
Dunnett is sensitive to this distinction in referring to the importance of starting with the original context, while Waltke’s approach seems less sensitive. Much teaching, exposition, and preaching can create a misimpression when it insensitively and without qualification reads back a teaching into an earlier text without making clear that that detailed teaching may not have been what the human author had in mind for his audience at the time. Rather it should be clear that this teaching is what God was ultimately pointing toward, as His whole revelation later clarified.
Some of these referential relationships do not deal directly with meaning but with significance, that is, they deal not with what the passage meant or declares (meaning) but why it is relevant to another situation (significance). Some of these relationships between sense and referent are unclear as to which side of the meaning/significance distinction they fall. More work by evangelicals is needed on this issue as well.
Bock, “Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New Part 1,” pp. 216-19.
It is remarkable how often in key fulfillment passages in Luke-Acts the Jewish interpretation also had an eschatological strain that elevated either wisdom, the Torah, the Messiah, or the end time in general as the final fulfillment (Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern, chaps. 2-5).
Bock, “Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New, Part I,” p. 223, n. 24.
Corporate solidarity is seen in “the one and the many” concepts of the Old Testament. An example is the servant figure of Isaiah, who is seen as the nation or as an individual. The use of pattern is shown in the reuse of Exodus or creation motifs in the Old Testament prophets. These hermeneutical perspectives are part of Old Testament theology.
A term like “midrash” is variously used in scholarly literature to refer to “Jewish exposition in general,” to “the application of the Scriptures to a new setting,” or to “a specific type of literary genre of Jewish literature.” A term like “pesher” can refer to “any eschatologically focused exegesis that declares that this passage is that event” or it can refer to “a specific type of exegesis” that has a specific form, where a direct reference to the mystery revealed by the pesher interpretation is required. On midrash see Gary Porton, “Defining Midrash,” in The Study of Ancient Judaism, ed. Jacob Neusner (New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1981), 1:55-92. On pesher see M. Horgan, Pesharim: Qumran Interpretations of Biblical Books (Washington: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1979).
By authenticity, reference is made to its technical meaning in New Testament studies, that is, that a passage is authentic if it comes out of the historical setting from which it claims to arise. Many critics argue that New Testament uses of the Old Testament that claim to emerge in a Semitic context from Jesus’ life or from the Jerusalem church in Acts, but that use a peculiarly Greek wording from the LXX to make their point, cannot be authentic historically, since Jesus would have used a Semitic text with its Semitic wording, as the Jerusalem church would have done. The argument ignores the fact that it is inherently likely that a Greek text or tradition would use the Greek Old Testament to render Old Testament passages for the sake of the audience rather than engaging in retranslation. This latter point, however, simply pushes back the question to the level of the historical background of the passage’s argument; it does not answer the charge. Jesus’ authentic use of Psalm 110 is often rejected by the use of this argument. But see Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern, on Luke 20:41-44; 22:69 ; and Acts 2:34-35.
The text-critical argument is complex because in the first century various versions of both the Greek and Hebrew Old Testament text were in existence. Therefore this argument is a possiblity that must be reckoned with. However, it is difficult to use this argument in instances where only the Greek Old Testament text has the adopted reading, while none of the extant Hebrew manuscripts do-which is often the case. For a recent work comparing texts and often using this argument, see Gleason L. Archer and G. C. Chirichigno, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament: A Complete Survey (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983).
Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern, especially the treatments of Psalm 110; Psalm 16; and Isaiah 55. Of course, these examples do not deal with the situations where the wording of the Greek text is used in a Greek setting to make a point. For all such situations see points 4-10 in note 21.
Some say that this is what is occurring with Psalm 68 in Ephesians 4. The line cited is not so much a verbatim quotation as a summary citation drawing on the rest of the context of Psalm 68, which suggests God blesses those who fought with Him. However, some do not think Psalm 68 is cited at all in this passage, since the introductory formula need not be invoking Scripture. W. Hall Harris III, a colleague of this writer, has made this suggestion to the present writer. C. H. Dodd has championed the view that often New Testament writers refer to the larger context in citing a passage (According to the Scriptures [London: Collins, 1952]).
Moisés Silva in his article “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament, in Scripture and Truth, ed. D. A. Carson and John Woodbridge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), pp. 150-57, lists eight possible approaches to dealing with an Old Testament citation in the New to describe what might be occurring. To his list, the writer after dividing one category (nos. 4 and 5 are combined by Silva) adds one more (no. 8).
1. Corruption in the transmission of the Hebrew text.
2. Corruption in the transmission of the LXX.
3. Corruption in the transmission of the New Testament text.
4. The Masoretic understanding and pointtng of the text are correct over that of the LXX.
5. The LXX understanding and syntactical arrangement of the text are correct. (This is less commonly the case.)
6. Both the Masoretic text and the LXX are correct, that is, legitimate harmony exists.
7. The New Testament quotation of the LXX has included an erroneous part of the LXX translation which the New Testament author is not affirming.
8. The New Testament quotation of the LXX contains a figure different from that in the Masoretic text, but the point made from the figure is exactly the same as in the Masoretic text (e.g., Ps 40 in Heb 10) or is close enough to the Masoretic text so as not to be a problem (perhaps Ps 8 in Heb 2 is an example).
9. The difference is trivial (and the biblical author affirms it). Silva rightly rejects this category.
10. The New Testament draws on an interpretive tradition about the passage from Judaism. This tradition draws on a context larger than the passage itself, including non-biblical sources, and represents an interpretation of the text that the New Testament author supports. (This last category is how Silva solves the Heb 11:21 problem he discusses, thus revealing his agreement with the Longenecker school.) This last category is much discussed, and more work needs to be done in evaluating its validity.
This article first appeared in Bib Sac 142( 1985) pp. 306 -19 and is used here with permission. No part of this article may be copied or transmitted in any form without the prior permission of Bib Sac.
- 1 Corinthians
- 1 John
- 1 Samuel
- 1 Timothy
- 2 John
- 2 Kings
- 2 Samuel
- 3 John
- Biblical Theology
- New Testament
- Old Testament
- Old Testament Theology
- Song of Songs
- Wisdom Literature