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Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

By G. K. Beale
September 2008 | Review by Gareth Williams

Synopsis

Readers of the New Testament often encounter quotes or allusions to Old Testament stories and prophecies that are unfamiliar or obscure. In order to fully understand the teachings of Jesus and his followers, it is important to understand the large body of Scripture that preceded and informed their thinking.

  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • ISBN: 978-0801026935
  • Pages: 1280
  • Price: £29.02
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Book Review

Greg Beale and Don Carson, together with their sixteen-strong team of contributors, have produced a very substantial tome, fit to take its place on any bookshelf (although it will need to be a sturdy one!). The fruit of ten-years’ labour has been realised in this rich and exhaustive reference work.

While all of the OT citations in the NT have been categorised elsewhere, the editors claim that no single work has previously set out to provide a reliable commentary on them, or on the significant allusions the NT makes to the OT.

It is not an easy read, but is well written and the contributors (all ‘experts’ in their field) take Scripture seriously. They work on the premise that the NT writers did not ‘play around’ with the OT texts, even if at times they seem to have altered the meaning of those texts.

Each contributor is sensitive to six aspects of a given OT text. These include the text’s NT context; its OT context; its use in (other) Jewish literature; the form of the text the NT is quoting; key interpretive issues attaching to the NT’s use of the text; and, of most consequence, the theological use to which the NT writer puts the text or allusion.

The editors gave contributors freedom to present these six aspects as they saw fit. This has led to some inconsistency in presentation, reducing the practical functionality of the work. Writers who have kept the categories separate, rather than merged them into one, tend to be clearer.

The volume serves to underline the unity of the Old and New Testaments and stimulates reflection on how all Scripture should be read. Emphasis upon the strongly Hebraic roots of the NT gives those in the church who interpret the Scriptures greater assurance concerning the original writers’ intended meaning.

So, for example, why is Psalm 2:7 quoted in the NT in a variety of contexts? What does Hebrews 1:5 mean in both OT and NT contexts? Why is Isaiah prominent in Romans? Why did Peter quote Joel at Pentecost? What was the sign of the prophet Jonah that would be given to that wicked generation? These, and many such questions, are addressed in this book – and thoroughly so.

Most NT books are given an extensive (excessive?) bibliography. The ‘Scripture and Other Writings’ index is exhaustive and the ‘Abbreviations’ comprehensive. For the persevering reader, preacher, Bible Study leader and lecturer, this is a super resource. But extra time will be needed (perhaps with extra caffeine) when it is read alongside the usual and still needful commentaries!

Given the large size of its 1200 plus pages, the price represents very good value.

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