Interview with Beale and Carson on Commentary on the NT Use of the OT

Christianity Today publishes an interview with Beale and Carson about the Commentary of NT use of the Old.

(Scott Shannon just brought me a copy back from the states a few weeks ago, and I’m grateful to have it as a resource.) The whole interview is worth reading, but here are some of my initial reactions.

It’s important to watch how the debate is being framed so that people can be pigeon holed as either for or against. I find the presuppositional need to rescue NT writers from “wild and crazy” Jewish exegetical methods fascinating. To caricature this issue in the simplest terms, it seems to be to be a matter of working hard to make sure that the apostles have the same hermeneutical methods we value. But for the apostles, the heart of the matter is a radical worldview changing encounter with Jesus Christ (thank you Peter Enns, Westminster et al). These events (and the influence and encounter of the Holy Spirit, e.g. Acts 2 and 15) forced the apostles to fundamentally rework their interpretations of the OT. Did the apostles really have more “viable” (read acceptably modern) methods of interpretation while the rest of Judean interpretations were “wild and crazy?” Weren’t they trying (with Divine inspiration of course) to make their interpretation of recent events viable to an audience that needed evidence from their own scriptures to support these interpretations of recent events? (See Carson’s related statement at the end of the interview posted below.)

Another Westminster alum puts it this way. (Daniel Kirk on Shibboleth)

The quick and dirty: the NT writers give new, different, revisionist readings of OT texts to show how Jesus is the fulfillment of the narratives, prophecies, covenants, and promises of the scriptures of Israel . . .

(1) the NT writers read the OT the way that they did because of their overriding conviction that Jesus was the embodiment and culmination of the promises of the God of Israel; and (2) the character and identity of God, as well as the integrity of the overarching biblical narrative, is at stake in affirming the NT’s hermeneutical move.

His whole post on “Apostolic Hermeneutics” is worth a read.

Some other highlights of the interview for me: [Keeping in mind that interviews are a writer’s shortened interpretation of the conversation with their own spin.]

Debate with Enns: He references the debate with my Westminster professor Peter Enns, then says.

I think a number of the contributors would say the more Hebrew exegesis you do in the Old Testament, the clearer the use is in the New Testament. The problem is, some New Testament scholars don’t have much background in the Hebrew Old Testament. That’s immediately a problem. There’s such specialization in all fields today.

(While I mostly agree with this statement, I find it somewhat ironic in light of Beale’s debate with Enns, an OT professor.)

Read the much more detailed discussion of the the Beale and Carson interview on Conn-versations which points out how Beale is caricaturing Enns.

Fulfillment:

Sometimes the notion of the “fulfillment” of an Old Testament passage is not cast as an event that “fulfills” a verbal prediction, but as an event or person that “fulfills” a trajectory of earlier, similar events or persons — this is one form of what is today called “typology.” (Carson)

I have always liked the idea of the “trajectory” of fulfillment, but I think “typology” limits the idea. I prefer to think of trajectory as the overall direction of the narrative and core values of the Hebrew Bible. I think this is the very point Jesus is making on the road to Emmaus.

— that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures
(Luke 24:44,45 NRSV).

(Kirk’s post gets at this.)

More good quotes:

One of the most complex hermeneutical issues is the way that the gospel itself, or some part of it, is, on the one hand, sometimes said to fulfill that which has been prophesied, and, on the other, said to disclose that which has been hidden. Glory resides in these complexities, of course, but it sometimes takes a bit of unpacking to begin to see them as something rich and wonderful, and not simply as a “problem.” One could easily add other challenges. (Carson).

You and Dr. Beale write, “This tension between what [the New Testament writers] insist is actually there in the Scriptures and what they are forced to admit they did not see until fairly late in their experience forces them to think about the concept of ‘mystery’ — revelation that is in some sense ‘there’ in the Scriptures but hidden until the time of God-appointed disclosure.” How are Christian readers apt to misunderstand this notion of progressive revelation?

Carson: Sometimes Christians understand progressive revelation in a fairly mechanistic or linear fashion: More truth simply gets added to the pile, to make a bigger pile of truth. But this “mystery/revelation” tension shows that often something is actually there in the Old Testament text (according to Jesus and his apostles) that was not seen until the coming of Jesus made it clear. The most obvious example is the fact that interpreters of Scripture before the coming of Jesus did not happily put together the Old Testament promises of a Davidic king with Old Testament suffering-servant passages to anticipate a king who suffers, a king who would reign from a cross.

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