Hebrew Bible

A few days ago I quoted a great summary passage from Irenaeus, and it’s sad that we are still struggling with the same problems. Of course, few in churches would explicitly affirm two Gods in the Bible, but the way they describe God’s action in the OT and in the NT only focuses on discontinuity. That is, they are functional Marcionites: the God of the OT is mean and angry, but the God of the NT is loving and forgiving. Of course, there is some discontinuity in the vision of God in the OT and the NT. How can there not be when the greatest revelation of God had not become manifest until the NT era? However, Irenaeus rightly responds to an overemphasis on the discontinuity by pointing out the greater continuity: the Creator of the World is also its Savior. He’s worth quoting again:

If He (the Creator) made all things freely, and by His own power, and arranged and finished them, and His will is the substance of all things, then He is discovered to be the one only God who created all things, who alone is Omnipotent, and who is the only Father rounding and forming all things, visible and invisible, such as may be perceived by our senses and such as cannot, heavenly and earthly, “by the word of His power;” and He has fitted and arranged all things by His wisdom, while He contains all things, but He Himself can be contained by no one: He is the Former, He the Builder, He the Discoverer, He the Creator, He the Lord of all; and there is no one besides Him, or above Him.

But there is one only God, the Creator–He who is above every Principality, and Power, and Dominion, and Virtue: He is Father, He is God, He the Founder, He the Maker, He the Creator, who made those things by Himself, that is, through His Word and His Wisdom–heaven and earth, and the seas, and all things that are in them: He is just; He is good; He it is who formed man, who planted paradise, who made the world, who gave rise to the flood, who saved Noah; He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of the living: He it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ reveals, whom the apostles make known s to us, and in whom the Church believes. Against Heresies 2.30.9 (ANF)

Thus, Christ’s work of salvation is a fulfillment of the original intention of creation and in God’s covenanting work with the Jews. The same God is working it all out–not merely judgment and then love, or a mistake and then its solution. We see both love and judgment in both the OT and NT.

I’m always looking for interesting videos for lectures. This definitely makes the list.

Passover Rhapsody – A Jewish Rock Opera

If you’ve got other must-show videos, give me the link.

Baker Academic Blog has posted some videos by Greg Beale describing his Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. The videos are good summaries of the book and how Beale thinks it can be used. For my review of the book see here.

Baker Academic kindly provided me with a copy of Greg Beale’s recent Handbook of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation. Beale is well-known for his studies of how the OT is used in the NT. This book provides the method behind the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament which he edited with D.A. Carson (see also his A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New). Consistent with the title, the book functions more as a primer to the issues than a technical assessment.

Chapter 1 addresses several current debates about the use of the OT in the NT. Beale does not present full argumentation for his views, but rather introduces a topic and then states his position. He is particularly concerned to demonstrate that the NT authors read the OT within its context (which eventually is clarified to be the literary context). He also spends some time discussing ‘typology’.

Chapter 2 deals with how to identify quotations and allusions. Beale notes briefly Richard Hay’s method of identifying allusions and the critiques offered by Stanley Porter. In the second half of the chapter Beale highlights key sources to help with identifying allusions (e.g., NA27, commentaries).

Chapter 3 ‘is the core of the book’ (p.41). Beale presents nine steps for assessing how the OT is used in the NT (pp.42–43) which are then explained in the chapter:

  1. Identify the OT reference. Is it a quotation or allusion? If it is an allusion, then there must be validation that it is an allusion, judging by the criteria discussed in the preceding chapter.
  2. Analyze the broad NT context where the OT reference occurs.
  3. Analyse the OT context both broadly and immediately, especially thoroughly interpreting the paragraph in which the quotation or allusion occurs.
  4. Survey the use of the OT text in early and late Judaism that might be of relevance to the NT appropriation of the OT text.
  5. Compare the texts (including their textual variants): NT, LXX, MT, and targums, early Jewish citations (DSS, the Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Phiilo). Underline or color-code the various differences.
  6. Analyze the author’s textual use of the OT. (Which texts does the author rely on, or is the author making his own rendering, and how does this bear on the interpretation of the OT text?)
  7. Analyze the author’s interpretative (hermeneutical) use of the OT.
  8. Analyze the author’s theological use of the OT.
  9. Analyze the author’s rhetorical use of the OT.

Although considered the core of the book, I’m somewhat disappointed with this chapter. First, I’m struggling to see what is different or profound about this approach than just teaching someone to be a good reader. Second, I’m wary of ‘step’ approaches. They give the impression that if someone simply does each step then he will arrive at the right interpretation. I realise that Beale will be aware of this, but students often think that if they simply follow the steps they will get things right and thus get a good grade. They are shocked when I say back, ‘Well yes you followed the steps, but you didn’t realise that there is more to it than just plugging in the right material’. Anyway, I think the approach offered by Beale is good, but it could use some slight refinement.

Chapters 4–6 take up specific steps from Beale’s nine-step method. Chapter 4 develops step 7 by categorising the primary ways that the NT uses the OT. Although Beale views chapter 3 as the core, primarily because it outlines a method, I found this chapter to be more interesting and potentially useful. Beale provides some 12 main ways in which the NT author’s interpret the OT, such as ‘direct fulfillment’; ‘indirect fulfillment of OT typological prophecy’; ‘symbolic’; ‘ironic’. He is careful not to make every use of the OT fit into one of the categories as he acknowledges both that he is offering only key categories and that there is overlap. Although I doubt that any nomenclature will ever be universally adopted, his attempt here at least provides a focal point around which scholars could work even if someone opts for a different label.

Chapter 5 develops briefly step 8. Beale identifies five basic presuppositions at work for the NT authors (pp.96–97):

  1. There is the apparent assumption of corporate solidarity or representation.
  2. In the light of corporate solidarity or representation, Christ as the Messiah is viewed as representing the true Israel of the OT and the true Israel—Church—in the NT.
  3. History is unified by a wise and sovereign plan so that the earlier parts are designed to correspond and point to the later parts.
  4. The age of eschatological fulfillment has come in Christ.
  5. As a consequence of the preceding presuppositions, it follows that the later parts of biblical history function as the broader context for interpreting earlier parts because they all have the same, ultimate divine author who inspires the various human authors. One deduction form this premise is that Christ is the goal toward which the OT pointed and is the end-time center of redemptive history, which is the key for interpreting the earlier portions of the OT and its promises.

Chapter 6, which has the title ‘Relevance of the Jewish Backgrounds for the Study of the Old Testament in the New: A Survey of the Sources’, expands on step 4. This chapter doesn’t actually describe the relevance of the contemporary sources. Rather, it is an (annotated) bibliography of works about the primary sources: translations, introductions, etc. He gives three points of guidance for locating Jewish texts that refer to Old Testament texts quoted in the New (pp.104-08):

  1. Consult background commentaries on key NT passages
  2. Consult major New Testament commentaries
  3. Consult primary sources in Jewish literature by utilizing topical and especially Scripture indexes of these sources in English translation

Chapter 7 is a case study of the use of Isaiah 22.22 in Revelation 3.7.

The volume ends with a ‘Select Bibliography on the New Testament Use of the Old’. The bibliography is somewhat dated and lacks direction at a number of points (e.g. General Epistles).

In general, I think this book can be helpful for students, but a few cautions would be in order. In addition to what I said about chapter 3, I would also add two other points. First, I was disappointed in the way that Beale handled the Jewish literature. Although Chapter 6 has the title ‘Relevance of the Jewish Backgrounds …’ Beale seems to keep the Jewish literature at some distance. He doesn’t actually show a student why this literature matters. I think that more careful attention to how the contemporary Jewish authors read the OT will help us better understand the NT authors as engaging in interpretative debates about the text. At times we will see that their readings match one segment of Judaism and disagree with other segments. Also, more careful attention to the Jewish literature will help us see where the presuppositions of the NT authors (particularly with regard to their understanding of Jesus as the Christ) have reshaped the way they read a text.

Second, I would have liked to see Beale address in more depth some of the problem texts like Rom 10.6–8 or Christ as the rock in 1 Cor 10.4. Hebrews is also poorly represented in the book which is surprising given the way in which scripture drives the argument. I realise that the volume is a handbook and cannot address every appearance of the OT in the NT, but problem passages of these kind are the ones that students do ask about.

Emanuel Tov is hanging out in Houston this autumn, and he’s offered to give a lecture at Houston Baptist University on ‘The Biblical Manuscripts among the Dead Sea Scrolls’.  It’s on October 22, 2012 at 7 pm in Belin Chapel.  Come join us.

Also, if you don’t have anything better to do, he’s running a Hebrew reading group on Friday afternoons at the Lanier Theological Library.


A gem that I learned about when moving to Houston is the Lanier Theological Library.  Mark Lanier is graciously building a great academic resource for Houston by establishing a Tyndale House-style library by slowly purchasing the libraries of scholars when they retire/die.  In addition to the library, Lanier also sponsors speakers and conferences.  I had the pleasure of attending a recent conference (March 16-17) focused on the Philistines as part of the wider movement of the Sea Peoples: “Recent Research on the Sea Peoples and Philistines”.  On Friday afternoon, there were several presenters that presented historical and archaeological research on the Sea Peoples movements (mostly around 1200-800 BC), and then on Saturday evening Sy Gitin focused specifically on work at Ekron (around 700-500 BC).  Most lectures are open to the public, but the Friday conference was specifically limited to local scholars, which were drawn from a variety of faculty of graduate and undergraduate programs around Houston.  Though the topic wasn’t a particular interest of mine, I learned a lot relish opportunity to participate in other quality events in the future.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we’re looking at moving to a one-volume Bible introduction textbook to use for our sections of OT and NT, respectively.  For freshman most OT and NT textbooks are too long and distract from students just reading the text.  I’m a NT person, so I may be biased, but it does seem that (like Ed said in the comments to the previous post) there are more options for NT than for OT, and that has been born out by our discussions of textbooks at HBU.

As far as criteria, we’re a broadly evangelical institution so we want a textbook that engages critical issues but that is not overly critical (that’s surely a sliding scale so there’s flexibility).  In addition, we would like a textbook that introduces students to the material culture, i.e., has pictures.  Price is not a determining factor, but we also want to be conscious that a sizable portion of our students are confessionally non-christian and that we don’t want to over burden them with books that won’t keep.

I poked around on CBD and Amazon to see what one-volume options were out there.  They mostly seem to be focused on religious studies markets (and thus more critical than our context), and I couldn’t find many (recent ones) that were focused on more broadly evangelical concerns.

Here are some of the more popular (but more critical) introductions around:
Introduction to the Bible: Revised Edition, Fant and Musser
Introduction to the Bible (8th Edition), Hauer and Young
An Introduction to the Bible, Kugler and Hartin
Exploring the Bible, Steven Harris (recommended by commenters)

Here are a couple of evangelical ones I found:
The Lion Guide to the Bible, Walker (good price, lots of pics. I think this will be our top choice.  It is a little less critical than our target, but still a good volume.  Btw, it’s distributed by Kregel in the US.)
The IVP Introduction to the Bible, Johnston (a little short and no apparent pictures)

There are a couple of handbook-type introductions that were out there that are organized canonically (though surely many others are around):

The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook, Hays and Duvall (lots of pictures, good price, but LONG at 1100 pages–but this includes side articles and other material)
The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible, Fee and Hubbard (few pictures and often black-and-white, good price, 834 pages).

Another option is Fee and Stuart—just the first or a combination of the two (good price and a little shorter, but no pictures):
How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour, Fee and Stuart (strictly books)
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Fee and Stuart (basic hermeneutics and introductions to different genre)

As another option, we’re considering going with a study Bible and letting lectures serve to supplement missing issues.  A possible option here might be an electronic study Bible like one Logos mentioned they are developing.  I’ll be interested to see how it turns out since it can be more indepth than a paper study Bible which is limited by space.

In the end, I’m not sure if we’ll stay with the separate introductions, a single volume, a study Bible or something else.  Further thoughts and suggestions you have would be most welcome.

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