Review: G. K. Beale, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012.
Gregory Beale, currently Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, has been studying and teaching the use of the OT in the NT for about thirty years.Out of that have come two major resources: Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (which he edited Don Carson) and his own A New Testament Biblical Theology. In this handbook, Beale seeks to demonstrate the interpretive value of a nine-fold process (followed in these previous works) for studying NT texts that appear to use the OT in some way. The book is aimed at “serious-minded Christians, students, and pastors” (xvii) to help them understand better the larger question of how the OT is related to the NT. Churches worldwide can (and do) go off the rails in any number of ways when they misunderstand how the OT is to be read and followed (if at all!). Beale has the credentials to be a helpful guide in sorting out this issue for pastors in their work of teaching people what to do with the OT.
The opening chapter gives a brief overview of two current debates about OT use by the NT. The first issue is the degree to which the NT interprets the OT according to its original meaning. Beale’s position is that the NT writers had OT literary and historical contexts in view when they used OT texts. The second debate area is typology. After presenting alternative views, Beale sets forth his position that the apostolic use of typology is a model for us to use today.
After a brief chapter on how to recognize OT quotes and allusions in the NT, Beale comes to the heart of his book: a nine-fold approach for interpreting an OT use by a NT text. This includes identifying the quote or allusion, analyzing both the NT and OT contexts, surveying the use of the OT text in early and later Judaism, comparing the actual texts word for word in Hebrew and Greek., and analyzing the NT author’s use of the OT text. In relation to this last item, chapter four elaborates on twelve different ways an OT text might be used by a NT author. Being alert to these ways can help the reader understand what the NT author is doing with a particular OT text. As well, chapter five sets forth five theological presuppositions held by the NT authors and rooted in the OT. These are given to help the reader understand how the author is interpreting the OT material.
Chapter six is an annotated bibliography of Jewish background sources, set within a three step search strategy. Beale’s last chapter is a case study of the use of Isaiah 22:22 in Revelation 3:7. The handbook ends with a 14-page select bibliography on the NT use of the OT.
Beale has succeeded in giving a workable process for understanding how the NT uses the OT. Most pastors will not have the time (nor the resources) to follow every lead that Beale gives. In fact, the Commentary noted above has given the results of the process for one cadre of commentators. But there’s lots of clarity here and tolerance for different viewpoints. This is a book to work through slowly over time, sharpening our awareness about what’s going on in that passage that we couldn’t see before. As well, the twelve uses of the OT in chapter four can be taught to people over time as they listen to sermons. People want to know how to better understand their Bibles, and pastors are in a position to teach this in the very process of preaching from a passage. And out of this might come better equipped teachers of Scripture to all ages groups in the church.
This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Academic in exchange for an honest review.