Evangelical Hermeneutics and the New Testament Use of the Old Testament by Rynold D. Dean. Iron River, WI: Veritypath Publications, 2010. 251 pp. paper $24.99
Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser states, “The relationship between the OT and the NT stands as one of the foremost, if not the leading, problems in biblical research of this century” (p. 1). Rynold Dean tackles this thorny issue by first lamenting that there has been a recent shift within evangelicalism away from the past understanding of biblical interpretation controlled by context, meaning and inspiration (pp. 7, 12-13, 19). The author rejects postmodern hermeneutics that has infiltrated much of modern scholarship, both secular and biblical, and states his position that the intention of the authors (of Scripture) is what is found in the written text and each text has one definite meaning (pp. 43, 46, 50, 52).
With these presuppositions in mind Evangelical Hermeneutics goes on to explain and analyze six major views within conservative evangelicalism concerning the New Testament writers use of the Old Testament:
1. Contemporary Judaism/Second Temple Hermeneutics (represented by Richard Longenecker and Peter Ennis).
This position teaches that at times NT writers used special NT hermeneutics in order to arrive at the latent meaning of OT texts. The claim is that NT authors used the same exegetical procedures as do contemporary Judaism in order to find the true meaning of the OT text (p. 72). Some within this school of thought believe contemporary Christians can use this same exegesis today (p. 73).
Dean rejects this view (pp. 76-85).
2. Divine Intent – Human Words (represented by J. I. Packer, E. Elliot Johnson and Vern Poythress).
Prophetic passages draw on the human author’s words but the Old Testament writers did not always fully intend or comprehend the prophetic reference that they were making.
Dean believes this approach violates the fundamental concepts of context, meaning and inspiration (pp. 94-97).
3. Full Human Intent (represented by Walter Kaiser)
Kaiser explains, “To interpret we must in every case reproduce the sense the scriptural writer intended for his own words” (p. 108), therefore the OT and NT meaning is always the same.
While Dean appreciates facets of this approach he critiques, “I would contend, however, that imposing this type of restriction bears the marks of confusing the NT writer’s use of the OT passage with his GH (grammatical/historical) interpretation” (pp. 115-120).
4. Biblical Intertextuality (represented by Abner Chou)
The NT authors do not modify or change the original intent or the OT texts in any fashion, according to Chou (p. 133).
Dean agrees to a certain extent but says, “There is no exegetical evidence to support the position that the original OT writer foresaw or in any way conceived – to say nothing of ‘intended’ – the actual application that the NT writer makes of the OT passage” (p. 135).
5. Inspired Subjectivity (represented by John Walton).
Walton contends, “At certain times Jesus and the apostolic/prophetic witness of the NT, based on the authority of NT inspiration, engage Old Testament texts in order to express new revelation that, hitherto, was unknown to God’s people” (p. 141).
This is close to Dean’s position but Walton’s view is hard to follow and does damage to GH hermeneutics (pp. 160-167).
6. Inspired Sensus Plenior Application (ISPA) (represented by Robert Thomas).
Thomas writes, “At certain times Jesus and the apostolic/prophetic witnesses of the NT, based on the authority of NT inspiration, engage Old Testament texts – employing the words of that text – in order to express new revelation that hitherto was unknown to God’s people” (p. 159, cf.p. 172).
Dean is most comfortable with ISPA but believes the terminology needs work. By definition “inspired” because all Scripture is inspired by God, “sensus plenior” means the NT is giving additional or a fuller sense than the passage had in its OT setting. And “application” because it does not eradicate the literal meaning of the Old Testament passage but simply applies the Old Testament wording to a new setting (p. 152). Thomas’ view differs from Walton’s in that the NT citation is in no sense a fulfillment of the OT prophecy (pp. 152-154).
As stated above Dean is not happy with the ISPA title especially seeing the word application as a poor choice (pp. 173-181). He modifies Thomas a bit by saying – “All NT uses of the OT, in some fashion, reflect a correlation between GH understanding of the OT text and the NT circumstances” (pp. 208-209).
I found Evangelical Hermeneutics intellectually stimulating, easy to read considering the subject matter, and presenting a strong case for a modified ISPA position. It is well worth a read by serious students of Scripture.