G. K. Beale “Handbook on the NT Use of the OT” Book Review
In a title by G. K. Beale, Baker Academic’s “Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament” sets out to give hermeneutical guidance for a consistent interpretation of New Testament citations and interpretations of Old Testament passages. This review is based on the e-book, released 1 SEP 2012, ISBN: 9780801038969.
G. K. Beale’s task seems incredibly ambitious. The publisher’s summary, at first glance, gives the impression that Beale has developed a checklist for the interpretive method, somehow managing to create a unifying theory of interpreting the diverse uses of the Old Testament in the New. However, this is not exactly what Dr. Beale proposes. He promises to present an approach offering cumulatively better insight into the meaning of God in Scripture. Although not likely to find a warm welcome among traditional dispensationalists, it should be of great appeal to those in the Reformed camp.
He does not seem to defend “original intent” so much from what the authors intended, but more so of a broader and fuller examination of how God used the OT setting to enhance or emphasize a point made in the New Testament through the human author. In this way, Beale is not advocating a new, revised, updated approach, solely devoted to literal, historical or grammatical methods, but expert guidance on how to read those Old Testament references to glean as much insight, with as much integrity to the text as possible.
After establishing his theological presuppositions and thorough presentation of the idea of typology, the author proposes a “nine-fold approach” in practicing careful analysis of the text in question. He presents his interpretive approach in a thorough and thoughtful manner. He elaborates the nine suggestions systematically and in-depth.
As an example of this advice, the author suggests seriously engaging one’s own perspective on the intent of the NT authors. Beale demonstrates a real concern with the error of presentism (reading modern concerns into earlier writer’s purposes).
However, one confusing piece of advice is where the author suggests that when “key redemptive-historical events are not repeated” in the New Testament, the passage from the OT could still be a candidate for a “type,” but only if the original OT passage’s “central theological method” is redemptive-historical. This seems counter-intuitive. It’s as if the author is arguing that if a NT reference of the Old is not primarily about redemption, then the OT passage must be primarily about redemptive motifs.
Additionally, I was disappointed several times when the author would propose a concept begging further commentary, but would end the thought abruptly with the admonition “there is not space enough” here or “this requires more elaboration.” I understand the importance of staying on task, but the issues were put forward so well, that I would have been perfectly pleased to keep going along with the thought.
Overall, I felt this was a comprehensive treatment of practical hermeneutical advice from an influential and well-reasoned theologian in the contemporary field. I believe this would make a terrific text for an intermediate level hermeneutics class in post-secondary environment or as an important guide for any pastor. The guidance offered is clear, leaving me wanting to read more.
Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation