Book Review

Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation By G. K. Beale

Bryan D. Estelle
G. K. Beale
Friday, February 28th 2014
Mar/Apr 2014

Gregory Beale has written a gem of a handbook for pastors, scholars, and all those concerned with a serious engagement of the New Testament's reading and use of the Old Testament. Beale is known particularly for his work on quotes and allusions of the Old Testament (OT) that appear in the New Testament (NT). This book demonstrates how he goes about his craft.

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the various debates surrounding the NT's use of the OT. Beale correctly begins by noting that the most important controversy entails whether the NT use of the OT appreciates the original context of the OT text alluded to or cited. This necessarily introduces the subject of whether NT authors respect the literary and historical context of the OT passage evoked and elucidated, or whether they extend notions inchoate in those OT passages, or even whether the NT authors use the OT passages in some creative and new manner with little or no attention to the original context. He then highlights a number of areas where scholars have disagreed and debated this mega-issue. However, the most important subject he introduces here is the debate over typology, to which I will return below. The fundamental question is this: Can we reproduce the exegesis of the NT authors when we read the Bible? Most significantly, Beale answers in the affirmative

Quotations and citations are more easily identified in the NT than allusions. Allusions in the NT to an OT passage demand more explanation and justification, and chapter 2 is written to explain how allusions to the OT in the NT can be validated.

The heart of the book is found in chapter 3 where Beale provides a nine-step process for determining how various NT authors might be using a given OT text. Exegesis is as much an art as it is a science, says Beale. He recognizes this and also the potential liabilities of providing such a list. Nevertheless, he suggests that if this ninefold approach to interpreting the use of the OT in the NT is followed with discernment and care, then thicker, as opposed to thinner, understandings of the biblical text will result

Chapter 4 is a survey of how the NT writers use OT citations and allusions. Beale discusses twelve different ways. A major strength of this chapter is Beale's further discussion of typology and its various uses with examples. Again, Beale delineates the various criteria for the essential elements of a type: analogical correspondence, historicity, escalation, predictability or "pointing-forwardness," and a retrospective stance on the part of the NT author. In chapter 5, Beale draws the reader's attention to the presuppositions that NT writers hold. This is crucial to understanding how any given NT writer may be interpreting an OT passage or book.

Chapter 6 elaborates on chapter 3 by providing further details on one of the nine points for interpreting the NT's use of the OT: a survey of Judaism and its use of particular OT texts. Here Beale extends his discussion on that subject and has two purposes in mind. First, he provides an annotated bibliography of Jewish sources. This is an invaluable part of the book. A briefer section on early Christian literature is covered as well. Second, Beale uses an illustration to help the reader perceive how these resources (especially of early Jewish background) can have some value for helping an exegete see how NT authors may be using an OT text. For this he chooses the Sinai theophany to elucidate the "tongues of fire" phenomena at Pentecost in Acts 2. Chapter 7 provides a case study of how one should apply the principles in the book. For such an example, Beale chooses the use of Isaiah 22:22 in Revelation 3:7

This book is well organized and clearly written. The author and publisher are to be commended for an excellent volume that should provide a useful tool for many generations to come. This reviewer found no typographical, spelling, or enumeration mistakes in the book. Even so, there are two areas in which this book is open to criticism.

First, in biblical studies there is a tendency to appeal merely to other biblical scholars working recently in the area of citation and allusion. Beale's book is no exception. The fact of the matter is, however, that biblical scholars could greatly strengthen their theories on allusion by engagement with literary scholars who have worked in these areas. Second, it would have been helpful if Beale had given his readers some further orientation to German Old Testament scholar Gerhard von Rad's overall scheme of typology and theology, especially since Beale cites von Rad positively in his book. Von Rad heroically resisted the rise of National Socialism (Nazism) during his productive career, and he was comprehensive in his ambitious projects by trying to rescue the OT from the expunging tendencies of Hitler's theologians; von Rad even suggested his own form of typology. However, in the process he denied supernaturalism. Typology for von Rad became a mere human way of going about our cognitive tasks; that is, by trying to understand one's world on the basis of concrete analogies. Essentially, for von Rad, understanding the OT became an obsession with identifying putative traditions. In short, some treatment of how to use or appropriate von Rad for evangelical purposes would have been helpful. Nevertheless, these brief comments should not detract from the book's value as a whole.

Friday, February 28th 2014

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