Friday, June 3, 2011

"NT Use of OT" Course Wrapup

Recently I finished leading a class of 5 students in a class called, “NT Use of the OT.” We read the works of Darrell Bock, Walter Kaiser, Peter Enns, Greg K. Beale, Robert Thomas, John Walton, Rynold Dean, Douglas Moo, and Charles Dyer.  Over a period of 14 days we met to discuss the writings of these men. We learned a lot from these men and appreciate their hard work on this issue. Below are some conclusions that our class agreed upon:

1.       Since the NT quotes the OT around 300 times, pastors and Christians must do serious thinking on this issue. How the NT writers use the OT is a topic that cannot be ignored and must be addressed in a serious manner. How can a pastor teach his people the Word of God if he has not thought through this issue?

2.        Scholars, including Evangelical scholars, have offered varied and often confusing answers to the topic. There is a great need for accurate and clear explanations of this issue. At times, scholars are using the same terms with different meanings (i.e. sensus plenior, meaning, application, etc.). This leads to confusion

3.       It is concerning how many Evangelical scholars are willing to concede that the NT writers often used the OT non-contextually. We appreciated Greg Beale’s assertion that the vast majority of NT uses of the OT are clearly contextual and that good answers have been offered for the few cases where non-contextual uses are allegedly taking place.

4.        It is often assumed that the NT uses the OT non-contextually but this is not proven very well.  Many of the examples given are weak or non-conclusive. Time and time again we found scholars offering examples of alleged non-contextual uses but upon review we found the NT writers to be using the OT contextually.

5.       Understanding the concept of antecedent theology is crucial for understanding the NT use of the OT issue. Later writers of Scripture often wrote in light of theological truths found in earlier portions of Scripture (Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, seed concept, etc.).  Later writers of Scripture are not writing in a vacuum but are often building upon and relying upon earlier parts of Scripture. We concluded that lack of understanding of antecedent theology is probably the main reason why so many scholars think the NT writers are using the OT non-contextually.

6.       Scholars often give up too early on a contextual link with the OT passages.

7.       Assumptions and presuppositions greatly affect how one views NT uses of the OT.

8.       We appreciated most of the writers we read and their commitment to a high view of Scripture. But we found ourselves in strong agreement with Walter Kaiser’s approach that the NT writers quote the OT contextually and do not resort to sensus plenior. We also affirmed his understanding of antecedent theology which we believe is the key concept for understanding how the NT writers use the OT. 

9.       We do not believe that Kaiser always writes and defends his view as clearly as he could but we found ourselves in essential agreement with his position. We would like to see a Kaiser-like approach that is refined and promoted in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

10.   We also found that Kaiser is often misrepresented by others who critique his view. This has contributed to why many dismiss his view as insufficient. There is a myth being promoted that Kaiser teaches that the writers of the OT actually saw all the stages of fulfillment of what they spoke about.

11.   We agreed that types exist in the Bible but that types are primarily prospective (forward looking) and not retrospective. When NT writers make typological connections they are not abandoning historical-grammatical hermeneutics.

12.   We concluded that it is important to understand the difference between “meaning” and “significance” or “application.” If a NT writer applies a meaning from the OT( i.e. a moral principle) this application is not “new meaning” but an application of what the original author meant.

13.   Discussion of this issue means addressing the question, “What is the nature of language?” We believe that authorial intent and historical-grammatical hermeneutics is embedded in the image of God and how we use language.   

14.   We are concerned that some scholars are using “inspiration” as a trump card for whenever they believe the NT writers are using the OT non-contextually.  The impression at times is given that, “The NT writers use the OT completely out of context, but that’s okay because they were ‘inspired.’” We don’t believe inspiration works this way. Inspiration is not primarily divine dictation We believe that God guided the writers of Scripture but they also used good hermeneutics as part of their process of understanding.


  1. Wow, (2), (11) and (14) I found quite significant! One of these days I'll have to jump in that class!

  2. Dr. Vlach,

    I'm wondering if you could give an example of how a lack of understanding of antecedent theology (#5) leads one to conclude that an NT writer is using an OT passage non-contextually.