Saturday, January 12, 2008

Commentary on the NT Use of the OT: Outstanding Resource or Overrated Retread?

As soon as I heard that Don Carson and Greg Beale were releasing a commentary on the use of the OT in the NT, I knew this was an absolute must-add to my library. If there's anything else like it in existence, I've never heard of it, and neither have a lot of other people.

That fact seems really surprising since the use of the OT in the NT presents such thorny questions to theologians. Why do OT texts often seem on the surface to make a completely different from the point that Jesus or the Apostles use them to make in the NT? Why do NT authors quote from the Septuagint—or even textual variants in the Septuagint—to make arguments that are indisputably different from the authorial intent of the traditional Hebrew text?

These questions have profound implications for our understanding of the relationship between the testaments, especially the relationship of the church to the covenants of the OT, the presence and nature of the Messianic Kingdom, and eschatology.

Carson and Beale have assembled a widely respected team of scholars to contribute to this volume, and I can think of a number of ways I hope to use it in future ministry, even though I'm sure (and have already experienced) that some entries will be more helpful than others. So in the event you haven't heard of this tool, check out the description and poke around for some reviews on the web.

Now, I'd be naïve if I implied this book would answer all your questions, so I'll just pass along one review you won't read on the web. Darrell Post, a friend from my days at Maranatha and the person with a more encyclopedic knowledge of biblical commentaries than anyone else I know, shared this critique in an e-mail I'm posting with permission:
[This book pulls together] the scholars who already published major commentaries on each book. So the comments here in this new book already existed (often more expansively) in these commentaries. So then I thought, well at least maybe it will be a good "entry point" book that will expose the reader to excellent bibliographies for further research. Nope. So if, for instance, you really wanted to dig into Matthew's use of Isaiah 7:14, you will not get any help at all from this new book. All you will get is what Craig Blomberg thinks about it, which he has already articulated in his NAC commentary on Matthew. . . . It is also inappropriate to call it a "Commentary" on the OT use of the NT, The term "Dictionary" would be better, but even that would be generous. Save your money, give this one a pass.
Even if Post is right, I still think this commentary is useful in that it compiles an array the works of selected scholars into one volume that can be used to augment other resources in your library. But at the very least, perhaps this critique should help you think through the the pros and cons of the commentary before you make the investment.

17 comments:

Fr. Bill said...

I was disappointged to see S. Lewis Johnson missing from the contributors. He died in 2004, but still ... perhaps something of his work could have found its way into a volume with this subject. The use of the OT in the NT was one of his greatest loves as a scholar, and my syllabus and notes from that course when he taught it at DTS back in the 70s are among my most highly prized possessions.

At this URL there is a reference to Johnson's published work in this area, but I do not find it available at Amazon. A very great pity, that.

Andy Efting said...

Ben,

I recently purchased this resource and one thing that becomes immediately evident is the overwhelming amount of OT material referenced in the NT. There is no way a single volume can cover every OT reference in substantive detail. Nevertheless, it does appear that the contributors have done a decent job (some better than others) dealing with the material.

In regard to Darrell’s comments, I would tend to disagree. My spot checks, while hardly exhaustive, often showed new and/or expanded material that did not appear in the contributor’s commentary. Even with Blomberg in Matt 1:23, where he does repeat his position, there is more discussion and pointers to other resources than what appears in his commentary. Of course, I completely disagree with Blomberg’s conclusions, but that is another matter.

Craig Blomberg said...

Ben (above) is correct. Darrell must not have actually read anything I wrote in any detail. The scope of my NAC commentary on Matthew allowed for at best one paragraph on any OT quote in the NT and usually less than that. The Beale and Carson volume can have several pages in two columns of text on the more important quotations. Plus my bibliography is extensive and I have tried to highlight in particular works that have appeared since my commentary came out in 1992.

I am puzzled, though, by Ben's comment that he completely disagrees with my comments. Maybe that is an in-house remark that will have meaning to someone, but i can't imagine many people stumbling across your blog finding any value in such a comment, since it does not (a) tell anyone what I think; (b) tell anyone why Ben disagrees with me; or (c) tell anyone what alternate interpretation he defends and why he finds it more credible. As a result, it borders on libel--not legally, just morally, in that people who know nothing about me but for whatever reason like or trust Ben are inherently indisposed toward me for no reason! An apology would be appreciated. . .

Andy Efting said...

Craig,

You are right that my final comment regarding my disagreement with your conclusions was not very helpful. My disagreement concerns the idea that Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz could have been a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14. I basically agree with Motyer and Reymond, the two “very conservative scholars” you mentioned in your discussion of the passage. So, my comment should only be taken in regard to that very limited aspect of your work. I actually have found your Matthew commentary to be very helpful and would recommend it to others. I am sorry for my unguarded and inappropriate comment.

Andy (not Ben, although I can see how you may have gotten the names wrong)

tenjuices said...

Hey Ben,
I appreciate Dr. Blomberg's comments and I think there may have been some other time constraints with the publication as to not allow other info into the book. Was an article in WTJ published in 2001 available on Matt 2:15 to Blomberg? All this aside, this is a thorny issue which is difficult to understand. Both Kaiser and Sailhamer have written some on this topic and can be tough to get a grip on for the reasons you listed. It would have been interesting for the book to have some OT scholars for some of these OT uses in the NT. Matthew's use of Hosea is particularly tough and I do appreciate Blomberg's work.

For my two cents, I try read the MT of a NT citation of the OT and look at the LXX and other variants. Also, a certain unnamed balding Hebrew prof said to keep in mind that Paul or Luke may well have had the Hebrew text (Vorlage) that underlied the LXX. That would help to understand Hab 2 and Hebrews.
Ed Payne

tenjuices said...

as an aside to Dr Blomberg,
would it be possible to read your blog? I heard you speak at GGBTS in Oct. or Nov. and liked it. I was studying with Sailhamer there and met you briefly
edwardppayne@hotmail.com
Ed

Craig Blomberg said...

Alas, I do not have a blog myself. But Darrell Bock from Dallas is organizing a historical Jesus blogsite that a dozen of us in the field will take turns contributing to. I know he hopes to have it up and running earlier rather than later this year.

Ben said...

Ed,

Isn't that getting mighty dangerously close to blogging about a certain unnamed Hebrew professor? Don't we know what follows that?

Ben said...

Well, it seems that the lesson of this thread is to read carefully before you critique what someone has said lest you say something untrue about what someone has said or done.

So thanks to Andy and Dr. Blomberg for correcting the analysis I quoted. And special thanks to Andy for accepting the heat that was mistakenly directed at me. (And by the way, Andy, you're welcome to your opinion about Dr. Blomberg's conclusions. Simply stating disagreement is certainly not libel.)

And of course, thanks to Dr. Blomberg for his contribution to this useful tool.

Ed,

Good point about including OT guys. And special thanks to you for reminding me of all the things I've forgotten all too soon.

Glorygazer said...

I just ordered my copy the other week, so I hope it is worth it! I was going on comments from Jim Hamilton (SWBTS) and Bob McCabe (DBTS). If it distills the essence of stellar commentaries, all the better, as I can't afford to buy an expensive modern scholarly commentary on every book of the NT right now.

Jason Button has linked to two reviews (Andy Eftings, and Jim Hamilton's) of this resource here.

Doug Smith

tenjuices said...

That was still one of the funniest times in class when Sailhamer got upset about someone blogging regarding his class. Priceless.

but in that same line of thought... it seems the NT writers have a different textual basis than the MT. It would seem the MT follows Rabbinic Judaism whereas the Hebrew text or LXX that the NT writers use is more Messianic in nature. But I don't think that is so much as to where this commentary is going. On the whole I have heard good things about it from friends at Golden Gate and is used in one of the PhD seminars.
Ed Payne

Darrell said...

Let me interject a response here regarding my evaluation of the Commentary of the NT Use of the OT. Probably some context would help. I picked up the book right at the end of finishing a 30 page research paper on Matthew's use of Isaiah 7:14. I had been told wonderful things about the book so my expectations were artificially high. I had already read through or perused over 50 books, journal articles, dissertations or papers on this topic. Some were very specialized and detailed. So as I came to this new book I was hoping to find something fresh, and found what I had already gleaned from Blomberg's Matthew commentary. I must have missed his bibliography, or at least was unimpressed with it based on what I had already read. As I scanned the contributor list, it seemed that many if not most of the writers were the same scholars who had commentaries on the same books, and these were already on my shelf. So it seemed silly to purchase yet another volume. I certainly have no bone to pick with Dr. Blomberg, who I met in Chicago in 1994 at ETS. I also disagree with his conclusion that the "near" fulfilment of Isaiah 7:14 is Isaiah's son born in chapter 8. I also found his labeling of those who argue for the strictly Messianic approach as "very conservative" somewhat disappointing as it seems to cast them in a negative light, as though their conservatism prevents them from seeing the passage accurately. In fact, it is not just conservatives who hold to the strictly Messianic approach. Otto Kaiser for instance, hardly a conservative, held to this approach, though he does so by eliminating the tension of Isaiah 7:15-16 by declaring them a later insertion. I also found a Catholic scholar (Porubcan) and scholars other than Motyer who hold to the strictly Messianic approach. Also D.A. Carson at the time he wrote his Matthew commentary follows Motyer in the Messianic approach. I am not sure if he still holds that today or not. As a whole, the depature from the Messianic approach has not led to any kind of consensus on the issue, but only multiplied the difficulty and disagreement. All the difficulties with a near/far approach when weighed agaist the apparent difficulty of Isaiah 7:15-16 for the Messianic approach seems to me to leave the Messianic approach with much less difficultly and certainly in better sync with the larger literary context. Having said that, I must stress that those departing from the Messianic approach have done so with a desire to be faithful to sound exegesis, so I do not wish them any ill will. I just find that in this instance, the literary context in combination with the exegesis of chapter seven actually argues for a strictly messianic approach.

Best wishes,

Darrell

Darrell said...

I should have also praised Dr. Blomberg's Matthew commentary. I have it listed in the top three in the Commentary Guide I publish. He is a great writer and sound exegete.

Jason Button said...

Darrell,
Where can I find a copy of your Commentary Guide?

Darrell said...

Jason,

My commentary guide is self-published twice a year and is designed to be up to date with recent releases. The format is tabular making it easy to find both a book of the Bible and commentary series. I would be willing to send it to you if you want one. If you wish to have it for free I would be willing to e-mail you the data file with instructions on how to print it out on your own printer. It is 29 pages in length (8 x 5.5 in size). Just let me know your e-mail address and will be happy to send you a copy.

Jason Button said...

Darrell,
I'd be glad for and electronic copy. Please send to jlbutton at gmail dot com.

I'd like to compare your list with mine. Thanks.

S. Lloyd Norris said...

Darrell-

I also, if you don't mind, would like to receive a copy of your list. Hope I'm not too forward in asking. I'm doing work on a combined philosophy and theology program at Lincoln Christian College and Seminary in IL, and a guide to different commentaries would be great- I do a lot more work with philosophy right now and haven't had time to find my bearings in the wide world of commentaries yet. My email is Sethomas@stumail.lccs.edu

Thanks so much,

Seth Thomas