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Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament


                                                Part 1


                                             Darrell L. Bock



          For evangelicals, whose distinctive characteristic is their com-

mitment to a high view of Scripture, perhaps no hermeneutical

area engenders more discussion than the relationship between the

Testaments. Within this discussion, a particularly important issue

is the use made of the Old Testament by the New Testament. For

evangelicals this issue is of high importance since both

Christological claims and theories of biblical inspiration are tied to

the conclusions made about how the phenomena of these passages

are related to one another. The hermeneutics of the New Testa-

ment's use of the Old is a live topic for discussion within evan-

gelicalism. In fact one could characterize the discussion as one of

the major issues of debate in current evangelicalism. In short, the

subject of the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament is a

"hot" issue in evangelical circles, as many recent works in the area


          Despite all the discussion, no consensus has emerged. The

main reason for the absence of consensus is the complex nature of

the discussion both hermeneutically and historically. Major theo-

logical issues often involve multifaceted questions and this area is

no exception. The goal of this article is to discuss the hermeneutical

issues that are raised in the debate. The article seeks to       

describe four schools of approach that have emerged recently in

evangelicalism, letting each view define its perspective on these

complex issues. A second article will discuss four major her-

meneutical issues which each school is attempting to handle in




210       Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985        


dealing with the phenomena of certain passages. The merits and

weaknesses of each hermeneutical area will be evaluated briefly.

Also a framework for dealing with the Old Testament in the New will

be presented that reflects consideration of these key hermeneutical

issues and draws from the contributions of each of these schools.

Hopefully this two-part discussion will lead to a better understand-

ing of the debate in this complex area and will provide a basis for

better dialogue.2 It is also hoped that the proposed framework in

the second article can serve as a functional working model for a way

to approach the subject of the Old Testament in the New.


                    Four Schools within Evangelicalism


          The following outline of the four approaches to the use of the

Old Testament in the New is an attempt to group together the

various evangelical approaches to this area. None of these groups

has consciously attempted to form a "school"; but the term is used

simply for convenience. The titles given to each school represent an

attempt to summarize their distinctive qualities. All the

approaches have one thing in common: they all recognize that the

way to discuss the use of the Old Testament in the New is not on a

"pure prophetic" model, in which one takes the Old Testament

passage in its context and simply joins it directly to its New Testament

fulfillment without any consideration of the historical situation

of the Old Testament passage. In fact Kaiser explicitly makes

the point that the best term to summarize the prophetic connection

between the Old Testament and the New is not "prediction" but

"promise.” 3 This point is well taken.

          The relationship between certain Old Testament texts and

their New Testament fulfillments is often more than just a mere

linear relationship between the Old Testament text and New Testa-

ment fulfillment. As helpful as charts are which simply lay Old and

New Testament passages beside one another, the hermeneutics of

how the passages are tied together is often more complex than a

direct line-exclusive fulfillment. All the schools mentioned in this

article agree on that fundamental point. 4




          The basic premise of this school is that if hermeneutics is to

have validity then all that is asserted in the Old Testament passage

must have been a part of the human author's intended meaning.

Thus the Old Testament prophets are portrayed as having a fairly   

                        Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New    211


comprehensive understanding of what it is they are declaring

about the ultimate consummation of God's promise.5 So Kaiser

a rejects sensus plenior, dual sense, double fulfillment, or double

meaning. He rejects any bifurcation between the divine author's

intended meaning and the human author's intended meaning,

though he recognizes that God has a better recognition of the fuller

significance of a promise. He believes that to portray the

relationship between the human and divine author as in some way

divided is to create hidden secret meanings, something that is not

a disclosure, something that cannot be called a revelation. Kaiser

does have a place for typology, which he sees as having four

elements: historical correspondence, escalation, divine intent,

and prefigurement. Typology, however, is not prophetic nor

does it deal with issues of meaning; rather it is merely


          The key point of Kaiser's view is his appeal to "generic prom-

ise," drawn from Beecher's "generic prediction."6 Beecher defines it

this way:

          A generic prediction is one which regards an event as occurring in a

          series of parts, separated by intervals, and expresses itself in lan-

          guage that may apply indifferently to the nearest part, or to the

          remoter parts or to the whole--in other words, a prediction which,

          in applying to the whole of a complex event, also applies to some of its



Kaiser comments,

          The fundamental idea here is that many prophecies begin with a

          word that ushers in not just a climactic fulfillment, but a series of

          events, all of which participate in and lead up to that climactic or

          ultimate event in a protracted series that belong together as a unit

          because of their corporate or collective solidarity. In this way, the

          whole set of events makes up one collective totality and constitutes

          only one idea even though the events may be spread over a large

          segment of history by the deliberate plan of God.8


          Kaiser's key point is that in generic prediction only one mean-

ing is expressed and also that the human author is aware of all the

stages in the sequence from the first event to the last. The only

factor the prophet does not know is the time when those events will

occur, especially the time of the final fulfillment. Kaiser does

identify features by which one can spot a generic promise. These

textual features include: (1) collective singular nouns (e.g., "seed,"

"servant"); (2) shifts between singular and plural pronominal suf-

fixes in an Old Testament passage (e.g., Servant as Israel in Isa.



212       Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985        


44:1 and as an individual, the Messiah, in Isa. 52:13-53:12; refer-  

ence to the monarchy and to the Davidic ruler through a pronoun

shift in Amos 9:11-12); and (3) analogies that are expressed on the

basis of antecedent (italics his) theology (e.g., either a use of

technical terms already revealed like "kingdom," "seed," "rest," or a

quotation or allusion to an earlier Old Testament text, event, or

promise). Thus the human author can intend in one message to

address two or more audiences at once and have in view two or

more events at once. It is important to recognize that for Kaiser

generic promise does not equal typology, a distinction which others

might not make. Kaiser sees typology as a nonprophetic. analo-

gous phenomenon.


          His view may be diagramed as follows:


          Human Intent School


          Intention of

          prophet in

          God's revelation:


          One sense,

          many events.

                                                            final fulfillment

                                        (events) A B C  ----------->            Z



          1 sense, meaning (generic promise)


Again the point of Kaiser's model is that "the truth-intention of the

present was always singular and never double or multiple in

sense. "9 The key distinctive of this view is that the human author

had the whole picture in view as part of his own intention and

understanding, with the one exception of the time frame.





          The key emphasis of this school of thought is that prophetic

passages all draw on the human author's words but that the  

                        Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New    213


human author did not always fully intend or comprehend the

prophetic reference, while God did intend the full reference. 10 In a

real sense, according to this view, God speaks through the

prophet's words. The terminology used to describe how this dis-

tinction is made and maintained differs between the adherents in

the school even though they express basically the same view S.

Lewis Johnson and James I. Packer refer to sensus plenior, while

Elliott E. Johnson prefers the term references plenior. The mean-

ing of these terms is disputed and will be discussed later. In making

s the distinction between the human author's intention and God's

intention, all three proponents seek to maintain a connection

between the human author's words and meaning and God's inten-

tion and meaning in order to avoid the appearance of arbitrary

fulfillment. Thus the fulfillment does not give the Old Testament

text a meaning foreign to its wording and conceptual sense.11

          Both Johnsons allude to the work of E. D. Hirsch for sup-

port. 12 S. Lewis Johnson says directly that "we may agree with

Hirsch"--by which he means he can agree with Hirsch's thesis

that meaning is to be located in the author’s willed meaning--

provided "that it is understood that the ‘authorial will’ we are

seeking as interpreters is God's intended sense." He continues, "we

should not be surprised to find that the authorial will of God goes

beyond human authorial will, particularly in those sections of the

Word of God that belong to the earlier states in the historical

process of special revelation. "13 This introduces a key issue,

namely, how the progress of revelation affects the understanding of

these passages and their relationship to one another. (More will be

said about this factor later.)

          One objection that could be leveled against this school is the

charge of the arbitrariness of a fulfillment that distinguishes

between what God knows and what the human author does not

know. How does this school deal with this problem? S. Lewis

Johnson cites Packer as follows in defining their concept of sensus


          If, as in one sense is invariably the case, God's meaning and message

          through each passage, when set in its total biblical context, exceeds

          what the human author had in mind, that further meaning is only

          an extension and development of his [i.e., of the human author's

          meaning], a drawing out of implications and an establishing of

          relationships between his words and the other, perhaps later, biblical

          declarations in a way that the writer himself, in the nature of the case

          [i.e., because of the limits of the progress of revelation to that point]




214       Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985        


          could not do. Think, for example, how messianic prophecy is

          declared to have been fulfilled in the New Testament, or how the   

          sacrificial system of Leviticus is explained as typical in Hebrews. The

          point here is that the sensus plenior which texts acquire in their     

          wider biblical context remains an extrapolation on thegrammatico-

          historical plane, not a new projection onto the plane of allegory.

          And, though God may have more to say to us from each text than its

          human author had in mind, God's meaning is never less than his.

          What he means, God means.14    


Packer stresses the role of the progress of revelation and the con-

nection between the human author's meaning and God's meaning.  

          Elliott E. Johnson emphasizes some important semantic

issues in his article which among other things discusses his con-

cept of references plenior.15 In defining meaning he notes the

distinction between sense and reference.16 "Sense" refers to the

verbal meaning of language expressed in the text regardless of the

reference, that is, "sense" involves the definition of a term, not what

the term refers to. "Reference" indicates what specifically is referred

to through the sense meaning. There is a difference between what

is described and meant (sense) and to whom or what it refers

(reference). For example, the word "Paraclete" is defined as "com-

forter" (the sense), but in John 14-16 it refers to the Holy Spirit

(reference). The human and the divine authors share the sense of a

prophetic passage but God may have more referents in mind than  

the human author had. Thus Johnson's designation of references

plenior is to him a more accurate term than sensus plenior. For

Johnson, there is always a fundamental connection between the

sense the human author intends and what God intends. He writes,


          What we are therefore proposing is that the author's intention

          expresses a single, defining textual sense of the whole. This single

          sense is capable of implying a fullness of reference. This is not sensus

          plenior but sensus singular as expressed in the affirmation of the

          text. But it also recognizes the characteristic of references plenior. In

          Psalm 16 ... the words of verse 10 apply to both David and Christ in

          their proper sense, yet in a fuller sense to Christ who rose from the

          dead, while David's body knew corruption but will not be subject to

          eternal corruption.17


Johnson's illustration of Psalm 16 argues that the idea of the

passage, the "sense" of the author, is this: "Rejoicing in God, His

portion brings His Holy One hope for resurrection." The passage

applies both to David (at the final resurrection) and to Christ (at His

resurrection). Thus the term "Holy One" has two referents: David

and Christ. Though David spoke of his own hope, his language


                        Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New    215


prophetically pointed to Christ. This Psalm 16 passage illustrates

how this school sees these kinds of texts.18

          The point of the previous discussion is that within the divine

intent-human words school two sets of terms are used to protect

the connection between the human author's intention and Gods

intention. Appeal is made either to senses plenior (Packer and S.

L. Johnson) or to references plenior (E. Johnson). There is a small

but potentially significant difference in nuance between the two

terms. Packer's senses plenior sees the limitation that prevents an

arbitrary fulfillment as residing in "the implications of the words"

in the light of the progress of revelation. While Elliott Johnson's

limitation is found in the non-alteration of the "defining sense" of

the human author's words. Thus Packer's limitation is slightly

more open-ended than Johnson's. In other words Packer has more

room for the amount of extension of meaning between the Old and

New Testaments than does Elliott Johnson. This school, despite

this internal distinction, has many other nuances hermeneutically, but the preceding paragraphs have surfaced its basic


          The view of this school may be diagramed as follows:


                    Human Words School


                    Intention of

                    human author: A             (Possibly Z)


                    Intention of             \

                    Divine Author in      \

                    human author's          \

                    words:                        \   

                                                                      final fulfillment

                                                  (events) A B C→ Z



                    1 sense, multiple reference with extension


          For this school, typology is prophetic because the pattern of

God's activity is designed by God to be repetitive and the correspon-

dences are identifiable from details in the Old Testament text. In

216       Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985        


identifying typology as prophetic, this school differs from Kaiser's

view.  This represents a second divergence, the first being its refusal

to identify human intent with divine intent totally, as Kaiser does.

The key distinctive of this school is its defense of a distinction

between the human author's intent and God's intent, while trying

to maintain a connection between the meaning which both

express in the words of the text.  






          The main characteristic of this school of thought is its utiliza-

tion of historical factors in assessing the hermeneutics of the

relationship of the two Testaments. As the title of Longenecker's

work suggests, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period, this

school attempts to present the New Testament use of the Old as a

reflection of the progress of revelation in Jesus Christ ("the

Christological glasses" of the New Testament writers) and as

especially making use of methods of first-century Jewish inter-

pretation and exegesis (concepts such as midrash, pesher, and

Hillel's rules of interpretation). 19 Longenecker speaks of the

"Christocentric exegesis" that permeates the New Testament. He

argues that the "Jewish roots of Christianity make it a priori likely

that the exegetical procedures of the New Testament would resem-

ble to some extent those of then contemporary Judaism."20 He

argues that New Testament writers neither (a) mechanically "proof-

texted" the Old Testament nor (b) illegitimately twisted or distorted

the ancient text. The New Testament writers got their perspective

from Jewish exegetical techniques and from Jesus. Their exegesis

could be characterized as "charismatic" in the sense that they saw

events and declared them to fulfill the Old Testament in the "this is

that" language reminiscent of pesher exegesis at Qumran. Some of

these pesher treatments of the text may not conform to historical-

grammatical exegesis as it is practiced today; but it was the basic

way in which the Bible was read in the first century and therefore

was a legitimate way to read the Old Testament. Often an important        

element in the pesher handling of the text is the rewording of the

Old Testament passage so that it more nearly conforms to the New

Testament situation in light of larger biblical and theological

understanding. 21 One can readily see the historical stress in the

argument of this school. Also appeal is often made to sensus

plenior as a way to describe this phenomena. 22             

                        Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New    217


          This view also emphasizes that when the New Testament writ-

ers read the Old Testament, they did so out of a developed theologi-

cal picture both of messianic expectation and salvation history. 23

Thus the theology of the Old Testament and in some cases that

theology's development in intertestamental Judaism affect these

writers.24 Proponents of this view argue that one's understanding

of the New Testament writers' hermeneutic should be less con-

cerned with abstract issues of legitimacy and be more sensitive to

the historical factors that can explain this type of exegesis.

          A few citations from Longenecker serve to summarize the

approach of this school.

          It is hardly surprising to find that the exegesis of the New Testament

          is heavily dependent upon Jewish procedural precedents, for, the-

          oretically, one would expect a divine redemption that is worked out in

          the categories of a particular history ... [and] to express itself in

          terms of the concepts and methods of that particular people and day.

          And this is, as we have tried to show, what was in fact done--the

          appreciation of which throws a great deal of light upon the exegetical

          methodology of the New Testament. But the Jewish context in which

          the New Testament came to birth, significant though it was, is not

          what was distinctive or formative in the exegesis of the earliest

          believers. At the heart of their biblical interpretation is a Christology

          and a Christological perspective.25


Longenecker also writes:

          Thus it was that Jesus became the direct historical source for much

          of the early church's understanding of the Old Testament. But in

          addition, the early Christians continued to explicate Scripture along

          the lines laid out by Him and under the direction of the Spirit....

          But the Christocentric perspective of the earliest Christians not only

          caused them to take Jesus' own employment of Scripture as nor-

          mative and to look to Him for guidance in the ongoing exegetical

          tasks, it also gave them a new understanding of the course of

          redemptive history and of their own place in it.... From such a

          perspective, therefore, and employing concepts of corporate soli-

          darity and correspondences in history [i.e., typology], all the Old

          Testament became part-and-parcel of God's preparation for the



          While this view will be evaluated later, two potentially negative

responses to it are addressed now: (1) This view seems too open to

historical parallels from outside Christianity, and (2) this approach

 seems to lessen the concept of prophecy by setting its recognition

largely in the fulfillment period, rather than at the time of the

original revelation. The view, however, need not seem as unusual or

negative as it may appear at first. For example, any New Testament

218       Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985        


passage where Yahweh in the Old Testament becomes Christ in the

New Testament (e.g., Rom. 10:13 and its use of Joel 2:32) follows

this principle of reading the Old Testament in light of New Testa-

ment realizations about the nature of the Messiah (where Jesus as

Messiah is recognized as Lord and God Himself). Even Chris-

tianity's interpretation of a gap in Isaiah 61:1-2 - in which part of

the passage refers to Jesus' first coming (Luke 4:18) and the other

part refers to Jesus' return - is possible only because of the New

Testament teaching about Jesus' two comings. This "refractory"

and reflective use of the New Testament on the Old is a key factor

that must be evaluated in the use of the Old Testament by the New

As new revelation was given (in the life of Jesus and in the teaching

from Him), the Old Testament was elucidated with greater detail.27

          Again the distinctive of this school is its attempt to be histor-

ically sensitive to factors operating in the interpretation of Scrip-   

ture in the first century. It could be diagramed as follows:    


                    Jewish Hermeneutic School



passage                  O.T. ------->  Judaism                  Jesus            final

|            |                    |      hope                                     |               |  |       event

|            |                       |                                                       |                  |  |

|            |                       |                                                       |_________|  |

|            |                    |                                                        |            |

|            |                 progress of revelation --------------------------> Z    |

|       A  |                                                                                                    |

________________ refraction  <---------------------------------------------




          Obviously the diagram for this school is more complicated

than the other diagrams. Advocates of this view still see a "pro-

phetic" element in the fulfillment, even though it is realized mainly

with the event itself. Their appeal for a prophetic meaning is

grounded in (a) the sovereign design of God in which the patterns

of salvation history reoccur and aim for fulfillment and in (b) the

                        Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New    219


appeal to the wording of the text in conjunction with God's revela-

tion in Christ. However, it is also crucial to note that the event is the

key dynamic that leads to the realization of the prophetic meaning.

Most realization of fulfillment works toward and from the New

Testament event.





          The discussion of this fourth approach will be brief since the

writings propounding this point of view are not so numerous.28

Waltke defines his approach as follows:


          By the canonical process approach I mean the recognition that the

            text's intention became deeper and clearer as the parameters of the

            canon were expanded. Just as redemption itself has progressive    

            history, so also older texts in the canon underwent a correlative

            progressive perception of meaning as they became part of a growing

            canonical literature. 29


          While noting his indebtedness to Brevard Childs's work, Intro-

duction to the Old Testament as Scripture, Waltke distances him-

self from all the details of Childs's approach. Waltke also states that

his approach, though similar to sensus plenior, is distinct from it

in that he asserts the unity between the Old Testament writers'

ideal language and God's intention. This agreement of intention

is possible because the human authors spoke in ideal language.

For him, progressive revelation made more clear the exact shape of

the ideal, which was always pregnant in the vision. What is unclear

from Waltke's writing is what the human authors understood of

their intention. The lack of clarity on this point distinguishes his

view from Kaiser's view Waltke rejects a sensus plenior that "wins"

new meanings from the text and sees New Testament writers as

"supernaturally" discovering the fuller sense. Waltke and Kaiser are

close in their denial of sensus plenior. The difference between them

is how they handle later revelation in relationship to earlier revela-

tion.30 Waltke appeals to it openly, while Kaiser refuses to refer to

subsequent revelation as relevant to this discussion.  

          Waltke's appeal to the refractory role of the progress of revela-

tion sounds like Longenecker's view The difference is in the wide-

spread application of this method and the assertion of the unity of

authorial intent. For Waltke, all of the Psalter was ultimately the

prayerbook of Jesus Christ. All the Psalms can ultimately be

applied to Him.31 In addition, New Testament fulfillments of

earthly Old Testament promises have the effect of taking priority

220       Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985        


over the Old Testament promise and "unpacking" its literal mean-

ing. An illustration of this approach can be seen in the following


          If the Lord Jesus Christ and his church fulfill the promises of the Old

          Testament, as the New Testament affirms (see Acts 3:24-25), then

          those promises expressed in terms appropriate for the earthly form of

          God's kingdom in the old dispensation, find their literal fulfillment

          in the spiritual form of the kingdom in the New dispensation. Thus if

          Psalm 2:7 refers to Jesus Christ in his first coming, so also the

          reference to Psalm 2:6 and Mt. Zion does not refer to a location in

          Palestine; but rather refers to heavenly Mt. Zion and Christ's taking

          possession of the nations.32


          So Waltke's position is that the whole of the Old Testament is to

be reread ultimately in light of the New Testament; as a result the

original expression of meaning within the Old Testament passage

is overridden and redefined by the New Testament. Though Waltke

would probably not describe the result of his method in this man-

ner, such a conclusion seems fair. This description of Waltke's

method is argued for as a result of his shift from earthly to heavenly

referents in his understanding of Psalm 2. Such a wholesale shift

of referents to the exclusion of the original sense is actually a shift

of meaning. This writer is not able to supply a good functional      

diagram for this view.

          The key to this view is its desire ultimately to read the Old

Testament so thoroughly in light of the New.




          This survey of recent evangelical views on the Old Testament in

the New has demonstrated the variety of approaches which this

area of debate has produced among conservatives. Four distinct

schools exist. Some share overlapping concerns while they diverge  

from each other at other key points. What key hermeneutical

issues are isolated by this debate? The second and concluding

article in this series will state and evaluate four key issues involved

in the debate. That article will discuss the differences among the

schools and isolate the key points in the discussion, highlighting

the four key areas of debate. The writer will then seek to offer an

eclectic approach to the hermeneutical problems raised by suggest-

ing lines of approach for the evangelical handling of each of these

four areas. This eclectic approach will draw on the best points of

each of these schools of thought.

                        Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New    221




1. A survey of recent evangelical literature on this subject shows that at the

technical monograph level, the evangelical societal level, and the level of more

popular works, this issue is the subject of major concern. Article XIII of the Chicago

Statement on Biblical Inerrancy dealt in its denial section with an issue raised by

Old Testament in the New Testament phenomena. Also 2 of the 16 areas raised at

the ICBI 1983 Summit Conference on Hermeneutics dealt directly with this sub-

ject, namely, 'Author's Intention and Biblical Interpretation," and "Patrick Fair-

bairn and Biblical Hermeneutics as Related to Quotations of the Old Testament in

the New" These are chapters 7 and 14 of Hermeneutics, Inerrancy and the Bible,

ed. Earl D. Radmacher and Robert D. Preus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing

House, 1984). At this conference, Article XVIII of the Affirmations and Denials dealt specifically with this subject. Article XVIII is presented in the Radmacher and Preus volume, page 885, while Article XIII can be found in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979), p. 496. The last decade has produced a myriad of evangelical works in this area as this article will show.

2.The author hopes at a future date to write a follow-up work that sets forth a

detailed consideration of the author's position on specific texts in relationship to

 the four schools referred to in this article. However, in fairness it should be stated

that the author sees himself in most agreement with the second and third schools

of the upcoming discussion; but as to which side among these two views he falls,

even he cannot say at this time for reasons that this two-part series will show The

author's doctoral work at the University of Aberdeen was on this subject: see his

Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern: Lucan Old Testament Christology

(Sheffield: JSOT Press, forthcoming), which examines all the major Christological

Old Testament passages in Luke-Acts.

3. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Uses of the Old Testament in the New (Chicago: Moody Press, forthcoming). Kaiser has kindly allowed the author access to proofs of his important new work. The references to it will be to sections of the book since it is not yet published. These remarks are made in his introduction to Part II: "The Prophetic Use of the Old Testament in the New" The book will be an important catalyst for discussion on this topic.

4. See, for example, Kaiser's forthcoming work (see n. 3); Richard Longenecker,

Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Age (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publish-

ing Co., 1975): S. Lewis Johnson, The Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980): and Bruce K. Waltke, “A Canonical Process Approach to the Psalms,"

in Tradition and Testament, ed. John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981). However, these authors each represent a different approach to the issue.

5. Kaiser. The Uses of the Old Testament in the New, the chapter on the prophetic

use of the Old Testament; and Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., "Legitimate Hermeneutics," in

Inerrancy, esp. pp. 133-38.

6. Kaiser, "Legitimate Hermeneutics."p. 137, citing Willis J. Beecher. The Prophets

and the Promise (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1975), p. 130.

7. Beecher, The Prophets and the Promise, p. 130.

8. Kaiser, The Uses of the Old'. Testament in the New. in Part II on prophecy in the        

section on "Double or Generic Fulfillment" (italics his).

9. Ibid.. Part II, section on "B.C. or A.D. Fulfillment?"

10. S. Lewis Johnson cites J. I. Packer with approval (The Old Testament in the

New, p. 50):. Elliott E. Johnson, 'Author's Intention and Biblical Interpretation" in

Hermeneutics, Inerrancy and the Bible, pp. 409-29. One of the respondents to Elliott E. Johnson's paper was Kaiser (pp. 441-47).

11. More on this point will follow later in this section.


222       Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985        


12. E. D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,

1967). Kaiser also appeals to Hirsch for support, but in the matter of human

intention. The major difference between this school and Kaiser's view is on the

question of what the human author knew and the emphasis on full intention at

different places: human author (Kaiser) versus divine author (Johnsons).

13. S. L. Johnson. The Old Testament in the New, p. 50. 7f

14. Ibid.: and James I. Packer, "Biblical Authority, Hermeneutics. and Inerrancy."         

in Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussion on the Theology and Apologetics of

Cornelius Van Tit, ed. E. R. Geehan (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian Reformed Publishing of

House, 1971), pp. 147-48 (italics added, except for the words "sensus plenior").

15. E. E. Johnson. Author's Intention and Biblical Interpretation," p. 416.

16. Semanticists suggest many levels at which the meaning of "meaning may be

discussed! They are: (1) meaning R ( = referent or reference: identifies the specific

person[s], thing[s], or concept[s] named); (2) meaningS (= sense: describes the

qualities of person[s], thing[s]. event[s], or concept[s] named): (3) meaning

(=value, "this means more to me than to anyone else"): (4) meaningE ( = entailment

implication, "this discussion means we are discussing the area of ... or it

involves including the following details of. .." ): (5) meaningI (- intention, what a         

speaker wishes to declare by his use of language): (6) meaningEM (=emotive      

meaning, the emotion which a speaker intends to convey): and (7) meaningSig

(=significance, "this means that I must ... "). In discussions on what an author 

"means," it is helpful to know what level of meaning one has in mind. Also with the    

issue of significance it is important to distinguish between "what it was intended to      

mean" (author's meaning) and "what it means to me" (significance) (see G. B. Caird,

The Language and Imagery of the Bible [Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1980],

pp. 37-40: and J. P Louw, Semantics of New Testament Greek [Philadelphia:       

Fortress Press. 1982], pp. 147-66).

17. Elliott E. Johnson. “Author's Intention and Biblical Interpretation." p. 427  

(italics his).

18. An alternative way to view Psalm 16 in the same framework is to argue that

David spoke of his own deliverance with such confidence that he knew "nothing          

would separate him from God," that is, God would not abandon him either in an          

early death (so some interpreters) or ultimately (so others). The sense of the passage

is lound in this expression of confidence: but the "how" of the passage, an aspect of

the referent, depends on the subject fulfilling it. For David, the how of the referent is

never historically revealed: but for Christ. the "how" is in resurrection. Therefore

Peter, knowing that the fulfillment for David was never revealed and realizing that Christ did fulfill it, proclaimed Jesus as the Holy One who truly fulfills the Psalm 16      

text in Acts 2:25-32. For details of this approach to the passage and alternate views.

see Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern: Lucan Old Testament          

Christology, the section on Acts 2:25.

19. The originator of this approach as it is grounded in Jewish methodology is  

Otto Michel. Paulus and seine Bibel (Gutersloh, 1929; reprint, Darmstadt:         

Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1972). The fundamental monograph study on       

Pauline Old Testament hermeneutics also comes from this school: Earle E. Ellis,          

Paul's Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1957). For a

brief introduction to Jewish hermeneutics, see Longenecker. Biblical Exegesis in           

the Apostolic Period. pp. 19-50, and the extremely well done but technical work by       

D. J. Moo, The Old Testament in the Gospel Passion Narratives (Sheffield: Almond        

Press, 1983), pp. 5-78. This latter work is full of relevant historical data. Also see          

Earle E. Ellis, "How the New Testament Uses the Old," in New Testament Interpreta-

tion, ed. I. Howard Marshall (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing_ Co.,

1977), pp. 201-8.

20. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period, p. 205.

                        Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New    223


21. Ibid., pp. 205-14. Walter M. Dunnett recognizes the tension such an approach

creates and thus attempts to defend the concept of sensus plenior (The Interprets-

tion of Holy Scripture [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 19841, pp. 39-64, esp. pp. 57-64).

22 Dunnett, The Interpretation of Scripture. Another writer who defends sensus

plenior and represents this viewpoint is Donald Hagner, "The Old Testament in the

New Testament," in Interpreting the Word of God: Festschrift in Honor of Steven-

Barabas, ed. Samuel J. Schultz and Morris Inch (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), pp.


23. Ellis mentions their theological presuppositions, such as a salvation historical

perspective that involves a two-stage consummation in Jesus' two comings, the use

of typology, corporate solidarity, and the right to charismatic exegesis ("How the

New Testament Uses the Old," pp. 109-14).

24. The appeal to ideas of intertestamental Judaism need not be inherently a

problem. The use of the term "the Messiah" as a technical term for the Davidic

Descendant who will fulfill God's promise is an intertestamental term from the

Psalms of Solomon 17-18. To cite such points of theology is not to make these

works authoritative; rather it is to say that some developments in intertestamental

Judaism were accurate reflections of divine realities based on the Old Testament.

God is to be seen as working sovereignly in the conceptual world of the first century

as much as He is seen to be working sovereignly in the sociopolitical world of the

first century to prepare all the world for the message of Christ given in linguistic

and conceptual terms to which they could relate. For an overview of intertestamen-

tal Jewish theology as expressed in its apocalyptic literature, see D. R. Russell., The

Message and Methods of Jewish Apocalyptic (Philadelphia: Westminster Press,


25. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period, p. 207 (italics added).

26. Ibid., pp. 207-8 (italics added).

27.  The qualification "with greater detail" is important. The teaching of the Old

Testament is not changed or overridden; rather it is either deepened, made more

specific, or is given additional elements. For example, when God told the serpent

that "his seed would bruise Adam's seed on the heel," but that Adam's "seed" would

crush the head of the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15), what would Adam's or Moses

readers at this point in the narrative be able to understand about the promise? It

would be something like this: Adam's seed will eventually have victory over the

forces of evil as represented by the serpent. The statement is true enough but it

t lacks detail. What would New Testament readers or Christians today see in this

promise? Nothing other than that the victory of Jesus over Satan at the crucifixion

and resurrection with a view to His eventual total reign is what is in view It is called,

and rightly so, the protoevangelium. The progress of revelation has filled in the

details of the meaning of the saying (or to use the language of the previous section,

the "referents" of the passage). This process could be called the "principle of refrac-

tion" within revelation.

28 Bruce K. Waltke, “A Canonical Process Approach to the Psalms," in Tradition

and Testament, pp. 3-18, esp. pp. 6-10. Also see Waltke, "Is It Right to Read the New

Testament into the Old?" Christianity Today, September 2, 1983, p. 77. Waltke

answers the question of this article with a resounding yes.

29. Waltke, “A Canonical Process Approach to the Psalms," p. 7.          

30. Ibid., p. 8.

31. Ibid., p. 16.

32 .Waltke, "Is It Right to Read the New Testament into the Old?" p. 77 (italics

added except for the word "literal").


This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Dallas Theological Seminary

            3909 Swiss Ave.

            Dallas, TX   75204          


Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu

            Thanks for proofing this article to Anna Tschetter.

Part 2


                                      Darrell L. Bock




In a previous article1 this writer discussed four schools of

approach within evangelicalism with regard to the use of the Old

Testament by the New. In the interaction between these schools of

thought four tension points will be raised in this article concerning

dual authorship, language-referent, the progress of revelation, and

the problem of the differing texts used in Old Testament citations

by their New Testament fulfillment(s). In isolating these four areas

of concern, it is important to recall that in any passage being

discussed all these concerns interact with one another. That is why

this area of hermeneutics is so difficult to discuss. Nevertheless by

isolating the key issues, discussion of problem texts may become

more manageable, since the area of concern can be more easily

identified. In this article the state of the debate will be evaluated

and a suggested approach will be offered.


                                       Dual Authorship


The question of dual authorship is the basic one to be consid-

ered. Can God intend more in a passage than the human author

intended? For Kaiser and also, it seems, for Waltke the answer to

this question is no.2 What the prophet intended, God intended;

and He intended no more than what the prophet intended. God

may have a greater understanding about the intention of the

passage; but the prophet must understand what he was trying to



Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New                                 307


­say. The concept of “generic promise” is especially important to this


For those who make a distinction between the human author’s

intention and God’s intention, a variety of approaches exist. Appeal

is made to sensus plenior or references plenior. S. Lewis Johnson

and Elliott E. Johnson try to establish a firm link between God’s

intention and the human author's intention so that the Old Testa-

ment prophet’s message remains demonstrably the basis for the

divine New Testament fulfillment. This limitation prevents a

charge of arbitrary fulfillment being raised against the New Testa-

ment. Their limitation is either “the implication of the words” in

light of the progress of revelation (S. Lewis Johnson) or the “defi-

ning sense” of the human author’s words (Elliott E. Johnson).

Those who emphasize the historical perspective of the use of

the Old Testament in the New (the third school of thought) gener-

ally do not discuss dual authorship in any detail. They simply

regard this distinction as established. This omission is a major

weakness of the historical school. Dunnett is an exception within

this approach and attempts to suggest limitations under which a

distinction of authorship can be maintained. He initially appeals to

the vague category of “other criteria” as he discusses sensus plen-

ior. Later he refers to the “other criteria.”3 These criteria seem

similar to an appeal to the progress of revelation. He also insists on

an “organic connection” between the two meanings. In describing

texts like Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 53; and Hosea 11:1, Dunnett sum-

marizes by saying:


These kinds of texts may illustrate for us a sensus plenior. Yet to

maintain some control in exegesis one should begin with the literal

sense of the text, observe the total context, realize that the divine

purpose in history is certain of fulfillment (on God’s terms), and

include both Old and New Testaments to have a measure for inter-



How is this question of dual authorship to be evaluated? A fair

summary would be to say that God wrote to His people at a point in

history and to His people throughout time, while the human

author wrote to his people at a point in history and/or, as a prophet,

wrote to his people with hope as he expressed God’s ultimate

deliverance, either (a) in full human consciousness (direct proph-

ecy, full human intent; Dan. 7:9-14), (b) in the ideal language of the

passage itself (many of the psalms such as 16; 22; 110; and Isa. 53),

(c) in language capable of expansion of reference into a new context

through progressive revelation (Gen. 2:7; 3:15; Pss. 2:1-2; 8; 16:10;

308    Bibliotheca Sacra-October-December 1985


Isa. 61:1-2; Old Testament kingdom texts; texts about Yahweh in

the Old Testament that refer to Christ in the New Testament), or (d)

in language that involves a “pattern” of fulfillment but with less

than full human authorial understanding of each referent in the

pattern (typology that is typico-prophetic, Gen. 2:7; Pss. 8; 95:7-11;

Isa. 7:14; 40; Hos. 11:1).5 

The reason this writer rejects a “total” identification between         

the divine intent and the human author’s intent is that in certain     

psalms, as well as in other Old Testament passages, theological    

revelation had not yet developed to the point where the full thrust of        

God’s intention was capable of being understood by the human     

author. For example the divine nature of messianic kingship was   

nowhere so explicitly stated in the Old Testament that it became a 

basic tenet of ancient Jewish eschatological hope. Psalm 110 sug-

gests it strongly, but it is not entirely clear that the Davidic Cove-

nant by itself at the time it was given required a divine son for

fulfillment. Apparently David thought Solomon could be that son.

One must also reckon with the fact that Old Testament prophets

sometimes admitted that they did not understand their utterances

(Dan. 12:6-8; John 11:44-52; and esp. 1 Peter 1:10-12). Kaiser has

admirably tried to deal with these passages; but his explanations

have failed to convince most scholars that he is correct in uniting

the authorial intent of the human and divine authors. Kaiser’s

concept of generic prophecy is a helpful one for this discussion; but         

what is unclear is whether the human author always intended all

the sense that emerges from the promise in the New Testament and         

whether the human author always understood all the referents in

the promise. The four qualifications stated in the preceding para-

graph concerning the human author's language are an attempt to

describe the various ways human and divine intent can be joined

without being a violation of the sense and promise of a passage.

So to try to limit the meaning to the human author’s intention

seems to be too narrow a view. However, to say that there is a clear

and definable connection between the expression of the human

author and God’s intention seems necessary, or else the text can be

made to say anything whatsoever in its fulfillment. Another impor-

tant point is that the nature of the connection between the two

passages can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including a

human author’s full intent. To try to limit the nature of the connec-

tion to one specific type of relationship seems to place a limitation

on the text that its phenomena may not sustain. Broadly speaking,

such a view places this writer in agreement with those of the

Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New                            309


second school (the human words school) and with some of those of

the third school (the progress of revelation or Jewish hermeneutics

school), who affirm that God could intend more than the human

author did but never at the expense of the thrust of his wording.

The New Testament fulfillment will either agree with or expand by

natural implication the human author’s wording. Whether it is

better to call this relationship sensus plenior or references plenior

or some other term, should still be discussed by evangelicals after a

renewed study of several sample passages from different authors of

the New Testament.6 The variety of relationships between the

divine and human authors naturally leads to a discussion of mean-

ing in these texts and the role of language, that is, it leads to

semantic issues of language and referent.




This specific hermeneutical issue deals with the question,

Where does meaning reside in a given utterance? Is it at the level of

sense (the definitions of the words within a passage) or at the level

of the referents? Is it at the level of the word or at the level of the

word in its context? This question raises the complex area of

semantics. Elliott E. Johnson grapples seriously with this area.

The works of Moo and of this writer have also attempted to raise

issues in this area.­­­7 In general the other schools have not dealt

with it in any detail. The area still needs much study, especially in

light of the acknowledged fact that words gain their sense not in

and of themselves but from their literary context, that is, from the

sentence, paragraph, and larger setting in which they are con-

tained.8 So the role of the context of a passage is crucial in deter-

mining the passage’s meaning.

An additional question is this: As the biblical theological con-

text of a passage is deepened, how is the meaning of that passage

affected? Much of the debate among evangelicals about

eschatology falls in this semantic area. Does a “heavenly” referent

for the New Testament fulfillment of passages like Psalms 2 and 110

nullify what appears to be an “earthly” reference in the original Old

Testament contexts? Amillenarians will answer yes to this ques-

tion, while dispensationalists answer no and covenant pre-

millenarians vacillate.9 Are New Testament fulfillments final, ini-

tial, or decisive-but-not-final?

If the “seed” example from Genesis 3 cited in the previous

article is any guide, then meaning deals primarily with the sense,





310   Bibliotheca Sacra-October-December 1985


not always with the referent, of a passage as that meaning is

defined by its literary context. For Kaiser, the literary context is     

limited to antecedent revelation. For the other schools, the literary

context of all of Scripture is to be used. But it is important to state

that when appealing to the whole of Scripture an awareness of

what is antecedent to the given passage and what is subsequent

must be maintained. 10

Within the Scriptures the following sense-referent rela-

tionships can occur:

1. Referents of passages were made more specific, as in the

“seed” example.     

2. Motifs were reapplied. For example the Exodus imagery was

reused and reapplied, sometimes with changes, by Isaiah and by

some New Testament writers; also Adam is introduced as the “first

Adam” by Paul, a change made in light of Jesus’ coming.

3. Language that was “earthly” in the Old Testament was    

expanded to include a “heavenly thrust.” For example, the king as

“son” in a nonontological sense in the Old Testament is “the Son” in       

an ontological sense in the New Testament (Heb. 1); “kingdom” in

some New Testament texts along with “Jesus as King” refer to      

something other than an earthly rule (Luke 17:20,21: Acts   

2:32-36). The eschatological debate turns on the question whether 

the Old Testament earthly sense is removed by the heavenly thrust

of some New Testament texts. Premillennialists answer this ques-

tion with a firm no.

4. Language that was figurative became literal. Examples are

(a) the righteous sufferer in Psalm 22 is described with figurative

language that Jesus, the righteous Sufferer par excellence, fulfills

literally; (b) Psalm 69; and (c) “the right hand” of Psalm 110.        

5. Language that is literal becomes figurative. For example

literal lambs were sacrificed in the Old Testament but Christ was

“the Passover lamb” in the New (1 Cor. 5:7), and the literal first

fruits in the Old Testament refer in 1 Corinthians 15:20 figuratively         

to resurrected saints.

Though a variety of relationships exist at the level of the     

referent, the basic sense of the passage is maintained.11 At what    

level is the basic sense of the original passage determined? Is it at 

the level of the word, the phrase, the sentence, or the paragraph?

This question still needs to be dealt with in detail by evangelicals. 

Meaning as it relates to the use of the Old Testament in the New

and as it relates to the language of these passages is vitally con-

cerned with issues of sense versus issues of referent; but the exact

Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New                            311


limits of any approach to this issue are still unclear. One area that

obviously touches on this discussion is the progress of revelation,

the next area of concern.


                             The Progress of Revelation


This issue deals with historical concerns. The question here is

this: What effect did the history of Jesus’ life and ministry,

especially His resurrection and ascension, have on the church’s

understanding and the apostolic understanding of Scripture? The

revelation of Jesus, the living Word of God, helps specify the refer-

ents in the Scriptures and the exact focus of their promises. John

2:22; 12:16; and 20:9 confirm this. The life of Christ did help the

disciples understand what the Scriptures taught. What they did

not realize about the Old Testament before, the life of Christ made

clear to them.

As stated in the previous article in this series, knowing that

there are two comings of Christ and seeing Jesus as Lord in Old

Testament texts that referred to Yahweh are two examples of the

effect of this factor. These show an interaction between the life of

Christ and the Old Testament in which the revelation of the Person

helped make clear the revelation of the Book, by showing how the

promise came to fruition. It is here that the concept of pattern and

generic promise are helpful, because with the coming of the pat-

tern and the promise, many seemingly loose ends in the Scriptures

were tied together in one Person, bringing a unity to the whole

plan. Patterns were completed and promises were fulfilled in ways

that reflected a connection to Old Testament persons or events, or

in ways that heightened them. The “refraction” principle, which

was mentioned earlier, ­­­­12 rightfully belongs here.

Longenecker correctly takes the role of this historical factor

seriously in explaining how the New Testament authors saw some

of these texts as fulfillments. In short, they saw in the revelation of

Jesus Christ a revelation on revelation. Two points can be made to

those who object that such an approach seems to demean proph-

cy because the realization of a prophecy's full presence is limited to

the time of its fulfillment. First, a passage may not have been

recognized as a prophecy until it was fulfilled. So one must dis-

tinguish, then, between what the passage initially declared and

what one comes to realize later was ultimately meant by the pas-

sage. This distinction does not mean, however, that the passage

did not originally suggest the prophetic meaning the reader now


312    Bibliotheca Sacra-October-December 1985


understands it to have. Through the progress of revelation, he can  

come to understand what he could not originally comprehend,                 

because the Old Testament passage or larger Old Testament con-

text only hinted at that meaning. This is much like a play in the

second quarter of a football game that many come to realize in the

fourth quarter was the turning point of the game.       

Second, many of the Old Testament passages the New Testa-        

ment appeals to were recognized as prophetic in Judaism, but the  

referent of those passages was disputed. 13The force of the passage

was seen as prophetic, but who or what fulfilled it was an issue in 

the first century. In the context of the progress of revelation, the              

disciples could point to recent historical events in the life of Jesus 

that fulfilled these passages and completed the promises. This is    

something that even the Qumran writings could not do with most

of their “pesher” fulfillments which still looked to future and thus  

unverifiable events. The clear strength of New Testament proclama-        

tion about fulfillment was its historical and textual base.     

A more controversial aspect of the historical emphasis school

is the role of noncanonical phenomena. specifically Jewish inter-

testamental theology and Jewish hermeneutics. Evangelicals have

often neglected the role of Jewish theology as the framework of

theological discussion in the first century. On the other hand the

New Testament use of terms from Jewish theology does not neces-

sarily mean the terms were appropriated without any change in    

meaning in the New Testament. Careful historical-grammatical                

exegesis should trace both this background and any modification

of it in the New Testament. As stated in the earlier article, 14 certain        

developments in Jewish theology may well have reflected divine   

reality, not because Jewish theology as a whole was true and         

authoritative, but because on certain issues they accurately  

expressed or developed the teaching of Scripture. In a more 

extreme example Paul cited the Greek poet Aratus without endors-

ing his pagan world view (Acts 17:28). God is sovereign enough to         

prepare the world for Christ in the conceptual realm of first-century         

Jewish religious expression as well as in the social-political realm 

of the first century with its Pax Romana.

The techniques of Jewish hermeneutics do appear in the New

Testament. The use of key words to link certain passages is clearly

seen in 1 Peter 2:4-10 and in 2 Corinthians 3:1-18. These are two of        

many examples. Longenecker demonstrates the repeated use of

these techniques in the New Testament. What is debated is (a) how         







Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New                            313


much the perspective of this hermeneutic has influenced the

interpretations of the New Testament and (b) how proper it is to

refer to New Testament quotations in Jewish terms such as

“pesher” or “midrash.” With regard to the first issue, it is fair to say

that the key hermeneutical perspectives of New Testament inter-

pretation (its Christological focus, corporate solidarity and the

presence of pattern) all emerge either from the events of Jesus’ life

(Christology) or from perspectives already present in the Old Testa-

ment (corporate solidarity and the use of pattern).15 So the key

elements in the New Testament approach to hermeneutics, accord-

ing to Longenecker, are not found in Jewish hermeneutics but

rather in the history and theology of the Old Testament and Jesus’

first advent.

          Much confusion exists with regard to the use of the terms

“pesher” and “midrash.” The definitions of these terms are not

fixed even in the technical literature.16 Often when these terms are

used, they are not clearly defined. Longenecker’s repeated use of the

term “pesher exegesis” suffers from this problem. Is he referring to

an “eschatologically fulfilled and presently fulfilled” text or to a

“technical style” of exegesis? Also is he using “pesher” in a descrip-

tive-analogical sense (in which the New Testament use is parallel

to this Jewish technique but with important distinctions) or is he

using “pesher” to refer to a New Testament technique in which the

technique and the theological approach of the two systems are so

identified that they are treated as virtually synonymous her-

meneutical systems?

Much of the reaction against this ancient hermeneutical ter-

minology grows out of a sense of excessive identification between

the Jewish and New Testament approaches in the writings of the

progressive revelation school, without careful qualification or with-

out a strong enough stress on the differences between the Jewish

and Christian approaches to the Old Testament. More important

than the choice of descriptive terms is what is meant by their use. If

the terms are merely descriptive and analogical, then a problem

does not seem to exist with their use; but if an identification of

hermeneutical approach is asserted, then the distinctives of the

New Testament perspective are minimized.

In summary the role of the progress of revelation in this discus-

sion is a major one. Consequently a careful reader will seek to avoid

being insensitive to the historical progress of God’s revelation.

Wrong emphases exist on all sides of this issue, including the

denial of the original Old Testament meaning, the denial of the




314    Bibliotheca Sacra-October-December 1985


influence of the events of Christ’s life on the New Testament

authors’ reading of the Old Testament, and an excessive or unclear

identification between the hermeneutics of early Christianity and

first-century Judaism.       


                                           Differing Texts  


This issue is one about which the majority of evangelicals are       

most aware. The question is this: Do not certain New Testament    

uses of the Old Testament require an altering of the Hebrew text in

such a way that fulfillments are possible only because the text has

been altered? The alterations are often used by nonevangelicals to 

show the nonprophetic, haphazard, and nonauthentic use of the     

Old Testament by the New, especially in passages attributed to     

Jesus and the earliest church.

Evangelicals have usually answered this charge in one of two        

ways. One reply is to assert that since first-century Palestine was   

multilingual, Jesus and the early church on occasion used the        

Greek text. This reply avoids the basic issue, which is this: If the   

inspired text is the original text (which is usually reflected in the

Hebrew version), then how could the New Testament authors have

cited a flawed translation? A second reply is to argue that whenever

the Greek text is cited against the Hebrew text, then ipso facto the

Greek text represents the original text or the Greek text represents 

what was an original but now lost Hebrew text.18

Another approach is to wrestle with the change by working at        

the hermeneutical and semantic level. Alteration of wording can be

seen in one of several ways. The first is to distinguish between the

textual form of the citation (i.e., what Old Testament text was used)                  

and the conceptual form of the citation (i.e., what point the text is  

making). In making this distinction, a basic question needs to be   

asked: Could the point of the passage be made from the Hebrew    

text, given the speaker's understanding of Old Testament biblical   

theology and his understanding of the events of Jesus’ life up to the         

point in question? In all the passages treated in Luke-Acts, the      

answer to this question was that the theological point could have   

emerged from an understanding of the Hebrew wording, so the fact

that Luke used a Greek Old Testament text is irrelevant as a charge         

against the historicity of the event.         19

Second, in other cases alteration of wording has clearly

occurred and the above basic question about a Hebrew origin for

the text can still be answered positively, and yet a question remains

Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New                            315


as to the legitimacy of the change (e.g., the use of Ps. 68 in Eph. 4,

the dual use of ku<rioj for two distinct Hebrew terms in Ps. 110, or

the change of meta tau?ta from Joel 2:28 to e]n e]ska<taij h[me<raij

in Acts 2:17). Acts 2:17 is a good example of an interpretive biblical

theological change, in which the “after this” in Joel is interpreted

correctly as “the last days.” No first-century Jew would deny that

Joel 2 dealt with the eschaton. His question would have been, Is

today that time? And that was the point Peter was trying to argue.

So a change may be interpretively grounded in larger biblical

theological concerns of history.

Third, sometimes the wording was changed because a larger

literary context, either around the passage itself or around the

theme of the passage, was being invoked without citing all the

verrses.20 So alterations could occur in New Testament texts for

biblical theological grounds (whether this biblical theology emer-

ges from historical events or other biblical texts or motifs) that were

broader than the verses being cited. The area of differing texts is a

complex one, but this need not raise charges of arbitrary her-

meneutics or a lack of historicity in these citations. 21




Recent discussions on the use of the Old Testament in the New

have resulted in four distinct evangelical approaches to this issue.

Also the debate has isolated four areas of concern for evangelical

hermeneutics: dual authorship, language-referent, the progress of

revelation, and the problem of differing texts. Work still remains to

be done, especially in the area of semantics, in historical issues

related to the progress of revelation, and in handling in detail all the

specific passages with these concerns in mind. But this outline of

the discussion shows that the framework for an overall satisfactory

approach to this issue does exist, even if some details still need

working out.

The theses of this article are four: (1) A distinction between

divine intention and the intent of the human author is to be made;

but both intentions are related in their basic meaning and that

relationship can be articulated. (2) Meaning involves the sense of a

passage and not primarily the referents of a passage; but the

language of an Old Testament passage and its New Testament

fulfillment can be related in terms of referents in one of several

ways. (3) The progress of revelation affects the detailed understand-

ing of Old Testament passages in specifying details about the

316    Bibliotheca Sacra-October-December 1985


completion of the promise and the completion of salvific patterns in

God’s revelation. But one should always be aware of (a) what was

originally understood by the human author at the time of the

original revelation and (b) what God disclosed about the details of 

that revelation through later revelation or through events in Jesus’  

life. (4) New Testament alterations of Old Testament texts were    

neither arbitrary changes to create fulfillment in the New Testa-     

ment nor reflections of later church theology placed back anach-

ronistically into the lips of Jesus or the early church; rather they

reflect accurate biblical theological considerations of the New Testa-

ment authors on the original Old Testament text.       

Of course the test of such theses is whether they can be related      

to all the specific examples from the text. Several supporting exam-         

ples have been supplied, usually in notes or parentheses, for con-

sideration in evaluating this approach. It is hoped that this

overview has helped (a) present fairly the different approaches to   

this area within evangelicalism. (b) distinguish clearly the key       

issues facing evangelicals in this area of hermeneutics, and (c)      

suggest avenues of solutions for these issues, while recognizing    

the recent valuable work and contributions of many evangelicals of

different persuasions who have worked so diligently on these mat-

ters. The author also hopes that in being rather eclectic with the     

various approaches, the wheat has been successfully retained from

each view while the chaff has been left behind.




1   Darrell L. Bock, "Evangelicals and the use of the Old Testament in the New, Part

1” Bibliotheca Sacra 142 (July-October 1985):209-23.

2   This hesitation with regard to Waltke’s position results from the tact that he

claims to hold to the original author’s intent: and yet in his example from Psalm          

2:6-7 he moves from an “earthly” to a “heavenly” reference between the old dispen-

sation and the new.  Such a shift in understanding seems to leave the Old Testament

prophetic intention somewhat unclear. So this writer places Waltke here with a

question mark as to whether this description of his view is really an accurate one                      

(Bruce K. Waltke, “Is It Right to Read the New Testament into the Old?” Christianity  

Today, September 2, 1983, p. 77).         

3   Walter M. Dunnett. The Interpretation of Holy Scripture (Nashville: Thomas

Nelson Publishers. 1984), p. 60.

4   Ibid., p. 62. 

5   A full treatment of example texts is beyond the scope of this article. The     

description given of the relationship between the human and the divine author in         

these Old Testament-New Testament passages reflects studies by the present writer      

in Luke-Acts, his teaching of a doctoral seminar on the use of the Old Testament in     

the New, and teaching a course on the master’s level jointly with Donald R. Glenn.

whose aid in articulating these issues has been indispensable. The views stated

here are the authors and not necessarily Glenn’s.          



Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New                            317


A sample listing of texts reflecting the authors views might be as follows: (a) in

full consciousness (i.e., directly prophetic): Psalm 110; (b) in ideal language: Psalm

16 (where the psalmist is confident of deliverance but the details of the “how” of the

deliverance are not entirely clear in light of the language of the whole psalm) and

Isaiah 52:13-53:12; (c) in language capable of an expansion of reference and

context (i.e., in the progress of revelation): Hosea 11:1, with use of the concept of the

corporate solidarity of the Son with the nation; and (d) in language that involves a

pattern of fulfillment (i.e., topological prophetic); Isaiah 7:14: Psalm 2: Psalm 16

(possibly if the above categorization is not correct); Psalm 22; Psalm 69; Exodus

fulfillment language in the New Testament; Isaiah 52:13--53:12; and Deuteronomy

18. Often the difference between “ideal language” and “language capable of expan-

sion” is slight and debatable. Other passages make use of both “ideal language” and

pattern of fulfillment” (e.g., Isa.. 53 is classified as “ideal language” because by the

point of Isa. 53, the servant figure is described in highly individualized language).

The author sees “language capable of expansion” as drawing heavily on theological

concepts outside the passage in question (the theological presuppositions or her-

meneutical axioms of the New Testament author) to complete its fulfillment, while

“ideal language” makes decisive use of only material in the cited text. If one prefers

to think of “ideal language” as a subcategory that can operate either in the progress

of revelation category or in the pattern category such an approach could be

defended. The author prefers the term “pattern” to typology for reasons he has

defended elsewhere (Darrell L. Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern

[Sheffield: JSOT Press, forthcoming], chap. 1).

6   This area needs more study by evangelicals in light of recent discussions and in

light of issues raised in semantics and the history of hermeneutics.

7   Douglas Moo. The Old Testament in the Gospel Passion Narratives (Sheffield:

Almond Press. 1983), pp. 75-78, 387-97. Moo probably belongs in the historical

school, but lie is certainly aware of the semantic issues.

8   J. P Louw. Semantics of New Testament Greek (Philadelphia; Fortress Press,

1982), pp. 39-66. See Bock. “Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the

New. Part 1.” p. 222, n. 16.

9   The basic question is the one raised by Waltke’s article in Christianity Today,

especially when he calls the New Testament fulfillment a “literal” fulfillment. Dis-

pensationalists have the best way to unify the Testaments on this issue, by arguing

for a “both/and” fulfillment rather than an “either/or” approach.

10   Dunnett is sensitive to this distinction in referring to the importance of

starting with the original context, while Waltke’s approach seems less sensitive.

Much teaching, exposition, and preaching can create a misimpression when it

insensitively and without qualification reads back a teaching into an earlier text

without making clear that that detailed teaching may not have been what the

human author had in mind for his audience at the time. Rather it should be clear

that this teaching is what God Was ultimately pointing toward, as His whole

revelation later clarified.

11   Some of these referential relationships do not deal directly with meaning but

with significance, that is, they deal not with what the passage meant or declares

(meaning) but why it is relevant to another situation (significance). Some of these

relationships between sense and referent are unclear as to which side of the

meaning/significance distinction they fall. More work by evangelicals is needed on

this issue as well.

12   Bock, “Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New, Part l,” pp. 216-19.

13   It is remarkable how often in key fulfillment passages in Luke-Acts, the Jewish

interpretation also had an eschatological strain that elevated either wisdom, the

Torah, the Messiah, or the end time in general as the final fulfillment (Bock,

Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern. chaps. 2-5).

318    Bibliotheca Sacra-October-December 1985


14   Bock. “Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New, Part I,” p.          223, n. 24.           

15   Corporate solidarity is seen in “the one and the many” concepts of the Old

Testament. An example is the servant figure of Isaiah. who is seen as the nation or

as an individual. The use of pattern is shown in the reuse of Exodus or creation

motifs in the Old Testament prophets. These hermeneutical perspectives are part of

the Old Testament theology.    

16   A term like “midrash” is variously used in scholarly literature to refer to     

“Jewish exposition in general,” to “the application of the Scriptures to a new

Setting,” or to “a specific type of literary genre of Jewish literature.” A term like

“pesher” can refer to “any eschatologically focused exegesis that declares that this        

form, where a direct reference to the mystery revealed by the pesher interpretation

is required. On midrash see Gary Porton, “Defining Midrash,” in The Study of

Ancient Judaism, ed. Jacob Neusner (New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1981),

1:55-92. On pesher see M. Horgan. Pesharim: Qumran Interpretations of Biblical

Books (Washington: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1979).

17   By authenticity reference is made to its technical meaning in New Testament  

studies, that is, that a passage is authentic if it comes out of the historical setting         

from which it claims to arise. Many critics argue that New Testament uses of the Old   

Testament that claim to emerge in a Semitic context from Jesus’ life or from the

Jerusalem church in Acts, but that use a peculiarly Greek wording from the LXX to     

make their point, cannot be authentic historically, since Jesus would have used a          

Semitic text with its Semitic wording, as the Jerusalem church would have done.         

The argument ignores the fact that it is inherently likely that a Greek text or    

tradition would use the Greek Old Testament to render Old Testament passages for

the sake of the audience rather than engaging in retranslation. This latter point,

however, simply pushes back the question to the level of the historical background

of the passage's argument; it does not answer the charge. Jesus’ authentic use of

Psalm 110 is often rejected by the use of this argument. But see Bock, Proclamation

from Prophecy and Pattern, on Luke 20:41-44: 22:69: and Acts 2:34-35.

18   The text-critical argument is complex because in the first century various

versions of both the Greek and Hebrew Old Testament text were in existence.

Therefore this argument is a possibility that must be reckoned with. However, it is

difficult to use this argument in instances where only the Greek Old Testament text

has the adopted reading, while none of the extant Hebrew manuscripts do--which

is often the case. For a recent work comparing texts and often using this argument,

see Gleason L. Archer and G. C. Chirichigno, Old Testament Quotations in the New

Testament: A Complete Survey (Chicago; Moody Press, 1983).

19   Bock. Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern, especially the treatments of

Psalm 110: Psalm 16: and Isaiah 55. Of course, these examples do not deal with the

situations where the wording of the Greek text is used in a Greek setting to make a

point. For all such situations see points 4-10 in note 21.

20   Some say that this is what is occurring with Psalm 68 in Ephesians 4. The line       

cited is not so much a verbatim quotation as a summary citation drawing on the

rest of the context of Psalm 68, which suggests God blesses those who fought with

Him. However, some do not think Psalm 68 is cited at all in this passage, since the

introductory formula need not be invoking Scripture. W. Hall Harris III, a colleague

of this writer, has made this suggestion to the present writer. C. H. Dodd has

championed the view that often New Testament writers refer to the larger context in

citing a passage (According to the Scriptures (London; Collins. 1952)).

21   Moises Silva in his article “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament, in

Scripture and Truth, ed. D. A. Carson and John Woodbridge (Grand Rapids;

Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), pp. 150-57, lists eight possible approaches to

dealing with an Old Testament citation in the New to describe what might be

occurring. To his list, the writer after dividing one category (nos. 4 and 5 are

Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New                            319


combined by Silva) adds one more (no. 8).

1. Corruption in the transmission of the Hebrew text.

         2. Corruption in the transmission of the LXX.

         3. Corruption in the transmission of the New Testament text.

         4. The Masoretic understanding and pointing of the text are correct over that

of the LXX.

5. The LXX understanding and syntactical arrangement of the text are cor-

rect. (This is less commonly the case.)

6. Both the Masoretic text and the LXX are correct, that is, legitimate harmony


7. The New Testament quotation of the LXX has included an erroneous part of

the LXX translation which the New Testament author is not affirming.

8. The New Testament quotation of the LXX contains a figure different from

that in the Masoretic text, but the point made from the figure is exactly the same as

in the Masoretic text (e.g., Ps. 40 in Heb. 10) or is close enough to the Masoretic text

so as not to be a problem (perhaps Ps. 8 in Heb. 2 is an example).

9. The difference is trivial (and the biblical author affirms it). Silva rightly

rejects this category

10. The New Testament draws on an interpretive tradition about the passage

from Judaism. This tradition draws on a context larger than the passage itself.

including nonbiblical sources, and represents an interpretation of the text that the

New Testament author supports. (This last category is how Silva solves the Heb.

11:21 problem he discusses, thus revealing his agreement with the Longenecker

school.) This last category is much discussed, and more work needs to be done in

evaluating its validity.



This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Dallas Theological Seminary

            3909 Swiss Ave.

            Dallas, TX   75204


Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu

         Thanks to Linh Tran for help in proofing.


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