G. K. Beale Baker Academic 2012-09-01

Understanding the many ways the authors of the New Testament appro-priated Old Testament writings is one of the most difficult issues faced by interpreters. G. K. Beale, professor of New Testament and biblical theolo-gy at Westminster Theological Seminary, sets forth a method for tackling these difficulties. According to Beale, his approach “reveals the depth, beauty, interpretative richness, and unity of Scripture” (p. 27). Intending to fill a perceived methodological void in the discussion (p. ix), Beale’s work is designed for “pastors, students, and other serious readers of Scrip-ture,” with the hope that scholars will also benefit from the work (p. ix–x). Instead of focusing on details concerning debates over the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, Beale concentrates on “methodological approaches and sources to aid in the task of understanding how the New Testament writers refer to the Old Testament” (p. xvii). He also notes that the method described in the Handbook stands behind his earlier work, co-edited with D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007).
The Handbook begins by briefly describing current debates surround-ing how the New Testament authors used the Old Testament. For exam-ple, Beale addresses issues regarding the New Testament authors’ aware-ness of the Old Testament context when quoting or alluding to it. He con-cludes that “to varying degrees, the context of the Old Testament is im-portant for understanding its use in the New Testament” (p. 13). He moves to a discussion of typology that provides key descriptors of typology and thereby a means to recognize when and where it might be in play in the New Testament. He contends that New Testament typology is more than mere allegory; the New Testament author is generally aware of the origi-nal Old Testament author’s intention (p. 23). Beale also argues for the va-lidity of the New Testament authors’ exegetical approach for modern in-terpreters. He concludes that “the burden of proof rests on those who are trying to deny its normativity” (p. 26). Not all will agree with his confident support for the normativity of the New Testament authors’ exegetical ap-proach, however. He does not address the fact that they read the Old Tes-tament with a different purpose than modern interpreters do. In a sepa-rate chapter, Beale provides definitions and criteria for identifying quota-tions and allusions. He supplies bibliographic information for several re-sources that help exegetes discern quotations and allusions in the New Testament (p. 37).
Beale’s chapter on interpretive method constitutes the core of his work (p. 41). In it, he proposes a nine-step approach for interpreting New Testament passages that refer to the Old Testament. Beale’s method clear-ly lays out instructions for its pursuit and directs readers to resources that can assist in the interpretive task. The method requires careful attention to the textual and syntactical nuances of the texts under investigation, which may be prohibitive for some of Beale’s target audience. Although the method is by no means novel, Beale has provided an excellent foundation for continued discussion and methodological refinement. It is time consum-ing, but those who follow it closely will not be led astray.
The latter half of the work provides a reservoir of suggestions con-cerning typical ways that the New Testament uses the Old Testament, from which the reader is encouraged to draw (pp. 55–93). This concise dis-cussion (including clear illustrations from the New Testament itself) is one of the greatest resources provided by the book. Beale’s work concludes with a discussion of the relevance of Jewish sources for interpreting Old-Testament-in-New-Testament passages and an investigation concerning hermeneutical and theological presuppositions held by New Testament authors as they employed the Old Testament in their works.
Beale’s final chapter shows the nine-step method in action, using Revelation 3:7 and its reference to the keys representing Davidic authority in Isaiah 22:22 as a case study (pp. 133–48). He begins by validating the connection between the two passages, concluding that Revelation 3:7 con-tains an “informal citation” of Isaiah (p. 134). He then investigates the literary and background contexts of Revelation 3:7 and Isaiah 22:22 to understand each passage in its own right. He notes that the Isaiah pas-sage is not prominent in intertestamental and early Judaism outside of the Septuagint and the targums. He determines that the citation is likely based on the Masoretic text, and not the Septuagint. Based on his exegesis of the passages, Beale concludes that the relationship between the two verses is typological: “what was described of Eliakim is now by analogy described of Christ,” who “as Eliakim, is to have absolute control and pow-er over the Davidic throne as king,” since the history narrated by Isaiah “points beyond Eliakim to another who will come to do what Eliakim fails to do” (p. 140). He completes his analysis by providing several theological and pastoral implications of this typological relationship.
The strength of Beale’s work is his focus on methodology, while inter-acting with the sea of literature already written about the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. This provides great impetus for discus-sion concerning methodology, since it is rare that those interpreting such passages expose their method. He has provided the biblical studies com-munity with a standard approach about which many will agree. When this work was used in an eight-week-long course for laypeople, many found it helpful but intimidating without guidance. Unfortunately, many of those targeted by the work (specifically pastors and “serious readers of Scripture”) may not possess the level of skill in the original languages assumed by Beale. A more popular-level book on this topic is still needed. Beale’s work is ideal for a seminary course or as a helpful guide for scholars and academically-minded teachers of the Scriptures.

About the Contributors

Joseph D. Fantin

Dr. Fantin believes an accurate understanding of God’s Word will enable the believer to grow in his or her relationship with Christ, to love God and others, to bring Christ’s love to a lost world, to build up the church, and most importantly, to glorify God. He is committed to teaching exegetical method in order to help students understand, apply, and teach the Bible in order to achieve these goals. Dr. Fantin’s research interests include the first-century world, Greek language and linguistics, exegetical method, and exegesis of the Gospel of John and Hebrews. He and his wife, Robin, have two children: Jillian and David.