Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lessons: OT in the NT

Tonight in a seminary Biblical Interpretation class I teach in Indianapolis one of the topics is the New Testament use of the OT and biblical theology in general. I'll have them look at examples like:

1. Paul's use of Genesis 3; 12:7; and Deuteronomy 25:4
2. Matthew's use of Micah 5:2; Hosea 11:1; Isaiah 7:14; and Isaiah 11:1
3. Matthew and Luke's use of Joel 2
4. Hebrews' use of Jeremiah 31 and Psalm 40

These uses show a spectrum of continuity and discontinuity with the original meaning. But the take away from this exercise, as far as I can see, is nothing short of massive. From a Christian perspective, the key take-away is this:

For the New Testament, inspiration is not in any way connected to the literal meaning of Old Testament passages. It is pneumatic, and in fact the same OT passage can have multiply valid interpretations.

Just some quick but massive implications:
1. The inspired meaning of Scripture cannot be deduced from the historical-cultural method.

2. Any understanding of inerrancy that is tied to historicity or scientific correlation is foreign to the biblical texts themselves.

3. Twentieth century evangelicalism was well-intentioned but misguided in limiting the meaning of biblical texts to a single meaning.

I can't see any way around any of these conclusions, can you?


John C. Poirier said...

I see a way around them: question the assumption of "inerrancy" (or even of "inspiration" [there is a real question as to whether *theopneustos* really means "inspired"]).

Derek said...

I agree with you, Ken, and don't see a way around your conclusions. As I always say to my students, we at theological institutions demand that our students use the grammatical-historical or historical-critical method, even though the NT authors did not use such a method! Great irony.

Marc said...

For many Christians contemporary inspiration is not in any way connected to the meaning of Old Testament passages even when they are interpreted by NT authors.

A good example contemporary use of Isaiah 53 as THE key passage for Carson's and other's "proof" of Substitutionary Atonement. But when Matthew interprets it (Mt 8) relating to the healing of the sick it comes out quite differently.

It seems clear to me that, even though the OT says "carried" or "took upon" and we many today to take it literally, NT authors can think of "carried away". Ben Witherington speaks to this a bit here.

Ken, do you know of any good studies which reveal in what other senses Jesus' death was "for us" or "for our sins"? Studies which avoid the horror of substitutionary punishment?

Ken Schenck said...

Have you seen Joel Green's Rediscovering the Scandal of the Cross, Marc?

Marc said...

Thanks Ken, I'm gonna order that.

I just don't get how the death of Jesus benefits us today (if that is what "for us" means and if "us" includes non-Jews). If I accept normal modern vicarious senses it leads me to universalism. If I accept Hebrews it's limited to those under Torah.