Monday, November 2, 2009

Book review

Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

Editors: Kenneth Berding, Jonathan Lunde
Contributors: Walter Kaiser Jr., Darrell Bock, Peter Enns
Publisher: Zondervan
Paperback: 256 pps.
WTS Books

Much appreciation to Jessie Hillman and Zondervan for sending me this review copy! I'm pretty swamped with school and my laptop just got infected with a virus this past Friday so it's been a pretty hectic weekend all around, so I didn't have time to read/review this sooner. Anyway, most of my major research papers this semester involves this idea, so this book is a welcome addition to my library/head to help me better understand this broad topic. The book is divided into five major sections, an intro by one of the editors (Lunde), with the next three sections led by each of the contributors with a response from the other two, and finally a conclusion by the other editor (Berding). I'm not really going to talk about what the editors say since it's just a brief intro/conclusion, so the review will be focused primarily on what the contributors think.

Walter Kaiser Jr. (Singled Meaning, Unified Referents)
Kaiser's view seems to be the most 'rigid' out of the three views espoused in this book. He criticizes those who hold to the theory of sensus plenior and poses two question regarding this view: '(1) Were not the original audiences, to whom the OT writers addressed these words, left out of these, indeed, of any deeper meanings? And (2), if there is no signal from the original writers that more was stored in the words that appeared..., would this not be an example of what we call eisegesis?'
He looks at three texts that scholars often appeal to confirm the 'ignorance' of OT authors of the real meaning and references in their words: 1 Peter 1:10-12, 2 Peter 1:19-21, and John 11:49-52, finding the supposed 'deeper meaning' unconvincing. However, as Bock and Enns show in their responses, Kaiser draws the line in a black or white, right or wrong, old or new fashion, that misses the subtle changes that might be occurring through the text (Bock) and his neglect of Second Temple evidence. There's so much more to say, but basically, Kaiser views all OT references in the NT as being very consistent with their original OT context.

Darrell Bock (Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents)
Bock takes a different approach to see that while the context of the original OT passage must be an important factor to determine the allowable parameters within which the NT writers function, he asserts that this is not the only factor. However, he is also careful to say that the NT use of the OT is not so random to the degree that we can only appeal to inspiration. Instead, he sees importance in both words and 'revelatory events' that shed light on a given passage in the NT. Bock understands the NT writers utilizing many elements of Jewish interpretive techniques of their time, but with theological presuppositions that result in very different interpretations from those of Judaism. He also looks at three texts, Acts 4:25-26, Rom. 10:6-8, and 2 Cor. 6:16-18 to see that the meaning can remain stable even when new referents are introduced in the new NT contexts.
Kaiser's response to Bock was very minimal and he actually agrees with him on many points! It was more of a concession that "maybe" he is right and ends by stating, "But whether there are 'fresh meanings' that can be refracted back onto older texts is still an area needing more work..." Enns is more critical in his response, viewing Bock's defense as showing "marks of an inconsistent analysis and even an unwitting practice of midrashic techniques to demonstrate his point."
Bock's view is that the stability of the OT text can be maintained even when the NT authors change some aspects (especially the referents) in their appropriation of the Jewish Scriptures.

Peter Enns (Fuller Meaning, Single Goal)
Enns is big on the importance of Second Temple literature to help us understand what the NT authors were doing in their writings. He asserts that Scripture has been given through time and space and therefore we cannot engage in anachronism by forcing the NT writers to follow 'proper' interpretive practices as we understand them today. Rather, he sees great value in understanding Second Temple hermeneutical practices in order to see its application in the NT. I think he makes a good point regarding the nature of the NT: "Though the NT itself is a collection of texts, unified in its Christ-centered focus, it also evinces its own degree of hermeneutical variety. It is not helpful, therefore, to think of Second Temple literature and the NT as monolithic entities that stand on opposite sides of a fence." Enns' main perspective is that the writers' main agenda was not how they can engage in 'good' exegetical techniques in their appropriation of the Jewish Scriptures, but rather how they can best bear witness to the crucified and risen Savior.
Kaiser is very critical of Enns, seeing his view as creating a huge disconnect between the NT and OT that seems to point to gross 'prooftexting' by the NT authors. For Kaiser, Enns' view will engender a dismissive attitude to the OT despite Enns' own claim that it would not be so. While Bock agrees with Enns' focus on historical sensitivity, but finds Enns' 'christological' principle adopted by NT writers to be unsatisfactory in explaining their use of the OT.
Enns' view is that basically the NT authors engage in Christotelic reading of the OT texts, as they see the full completion of the OT to be in Christ.

I think there is still much room for research in this field of the NT use of the OT, and it's clear this is true when reading through this book. The authors all make pretty good points, but it was difficult to compare each of their exegetical principles played out since each author chose different texts to work with in their essay. However, it was still a great introductory book on this topic that will probably remain disputed (I think) for a long long time. Recommended!


aaronchoi said...

question: how do you get review (i.e., free) books? haha, i want in.

aaronchoi said...

btw...good review. i'm beginning to appreciate the complexities surrounding ot us in the nt much more these days. still confused though, haha...

Mike S. said...

Aaron: Yeah, this whole NT use of the OT is spinning my brains...! Anyway, ask the publishers! That's how I got mine