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NT use of OT

Justin Taylor points us to a very helpful book review by Andy Naselli, whose blog looks great!  What follows is taken straight from Andy's blog - do check it out for yourself.

Three views on the New Testament use of the Old Testament outlines the following three positions:

Walter Kaiser Jr: “Single Meaning, Unified Referents: Accurate and Authoritative Citations of the Old Testament by the New Testament”

Darrell L Bock: “Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents: The New Testament’s Legitimate, Accurate, and Multifaceted Use of the Old”  

Peter Enns: “Fuller Meaning, Single Goal: A Christotelic Approach to the New Testament Use of the Old in Its First-Century Interpretive Environment”  


The book orbits around five key questions:

  1. Is sensus plenior an appropriate way of explaining the NT use of the OT?
  2. How is typology best understood?
  3. Do the NT writers take into account the context of the passages they cite?
  4. Does the NT writers’ use of Jewish exegetical methods explain the NT use of the OT?
  5. Are we able to replicate the exegetical and hermeneutical approaches to the OT that we find in the writings of the NT?

And the general editor, Kenneth Berding, helpfully tabulates a summary of their answers:






Sensus plenior?


No, the prophets knew where their prophecies were heading.


Yes, but only in the limited sense of acknowledging that the OT writers could not always see fulfillments that emerge later.


Yes, because Christ-as-telos holds it all together. This, however, is not the way to resolve the “hermeneutical tension.”



Yes, but it must be seen ahead of time and possess “divine indication” that it is a type.


Yes, and fundamental for resolving difficult cases; can be either prospective or retrospective.


Yes, but again not the way to resolve the hermeneutical tension.



Yes, both the immediately literary context and the antecedent “promise-plan” context are important.


Yes, the immediate “exegetical context” is drawn upon but the “canonical context” is the key.


Sometimes yes and sometimes no.

Use of Second Temple exegetical methods?


No, such comparisons are misguided.


Sometimes yes, but constrained by the NT authors’ commitment to canonical reading.


Yes, and this is the central issue in the discussion.


Yes, because the NT authors are careful interpreters just as we should be. Yes, but particularly in terms of their overall appeal to canonical themes. Yes, but less in terms of their exegetical methods and more in terms of their “Christotelic” goal.


Though I've not read the book, the first comment on Andy's blog puts well my gut reactions to this issue:


From Tom Keiser:

One thing consistently missing, or at best, minimalized, is the question of the proper exegesis of the OT texts. Kaiser seems to best deal with this idea, although not always directly. The tendency is to see OT exegesis as primarily historical. Little consideration seems to be given to the possibility that OT writers were speaking primarily theologically, and applying theological principles to historical situations. If that is the case, than proper exegesis should be focusing on the theological ideas presented rather than simply their historical application. This perspective has profound implications when trying to ascertain the NT writers’ understanding of the OT. If they understood the OT texts as presenting primarily theological principles, then many of their applications to Christ would no longer be problematic, but rather reflect accurate “historical-grammatical” exegesis. Of course, this consideration does not resolve all issues, but does alleviate many tensions.


0 thoughts on “NT use of OT

  1. glenscriv

    Hi Richard,
    Welcome to the blog - I've many times enjoyed yours. I see you recently posted a Leithart outline for a Psalm 110 sermon. That seems pretty close to my position - A distinct Person was known in the OT (the Angel of the LORD) and understood as Lord - the One to be Messiah. Of the three positions above I think that places me closest to the Kaiser camp, and I wonder if Leithart would be there or thereabouts?? Just a guess.

    Thanks for commenting.

  2. Richard


    Thanks for the encouraging words.

    In terms of understanding how the NT makes use of the OT the way my mind functions can best be illustrated by how the Psalms are used in the NT.

    Take Psalm 22 as a case in point, the cultic origin of this psalm stems from the feast of Tabernacles where the king was ritually humiliated as part of the enthronement of Yahweh ceremony (cf. John Eaton's Kingship and the Psalms). This Royal Psalm did not prophesy a future messiah but it was used by the NT writers as a suitable psalm to describe the experience of Jesus.

    That, in short, is my methological approach.

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