Matthias Henze and David Lincicum, eds. Israel’s Scriptures in Early Christian Writings

Henze, Matthias and David Lincicum, eds. Israel’s Scriptures in Early Christian Writings: The Use of the Old Testament in the New. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2023. xxvi+1140 pp. Hb; $79.00.  Link to Eerdmans

Israel’s Scriptures in Early Christian Writings collects forty-two essays on topics related to how early Christian writers used the Jewish scripture they inherited. As Henze and Lincicum explain in their introduction, the Scriptures of Israel “forms the cultural encyclopedia necessary to understand what Jesus and his earliest followers did and thought” (1). Not only did the writers of the New Testament interact extensively with Israel Scriptures, they “inherited strategies of scriptural interpretation from their Jewish predecessors” (1). This volume, therefore, expresses the state of the question and presses the field forward into new avenues of scholarship. In doing so, they stand on the shoulders of Krister Stendahl (School of Matthew, 1968) and Richard Hays (Echoes of Scripture in Paul, 1989). However, even though the authors of the New Testament are either “Jews or Judaphiles,” not all New Testament scriptural interpretations are easily illustrated in Jewish literature, nor can all types of scriptural interpretation in contemporary Judaism be illustrated in the New Testament.Israel's Scriptures in Early Christian Writings

In the introduction, the editors clarify the terminology used in the volume. A “marked citation” is an explicit quotation with an introductory formula (1 Cor 15:27, for example). An “unmarked citation” has a verbatim agreement with scripture but does not have an introductory formula (1 Cor 5:13, for example). A “verbal allusion” refers to a word or string of words from an earlier text without an explicit marker. In John 1:1, the author alludes to Genesis 1:1, even though there is an explicit indication that the author has that text in mind. What is missing here is any criteria for “hearing an echo,” ala Richard Hays. A “conceptual allusion” is a theme or a topic that refers to a scriptural precedent without an allusion to specific verses. In Romans 9:4-5, Paul obviously alludes to Israel’s Scripture but does not refer to specific verses. As with all studies on “the use of the Old Testament in the New,” the boundaries of these categories are fuzzy. Since this is an essay collection, each author approaches their section with their own understanding of the terms. However, this does not lead to inconsistencies in the book.

The first part of the collection collects seven essays setting the context. First, Edmon L. Gallagher defines what “Scriptures” were in the time of Jesus. He begins by observing that in his scribal debates with various teachers, “at no point does the conversation turn toward the identity of the scriptures of Israel” (23). Jesus never quoted a scripture the Pharisees would consider not scripture. All Jews accepted Torah as Scripture. Virtually all accepted the Prophets and most accepted what were later called the Writings. However, for some (Barclay, Sundberg), Torah was Scripture, and “prophets” referred to all other writings that were “not Torah.” Josephus is the first clear statement of “what counts” as Jewish Scripture (Against Apion, 1.37-43). Gallagher concludes that most Jews had a good idea what books were scripture and that most agreed with Josephus (42). There was room for doubt on a few canonical books (Esther or Ecclesiastes) and a few outside the traditional canon (Tobit, Sirach, or Wisdom). And most agreed that some books were clearly “not scripture.”

Second, Marc Zvi Brettler deals with how Jewish writers used Scripture in the Hebrew Bible. He collects examples of each kind of citation and Moses-typology in the Hebrew Bible. This kind of typology does not neatly fit into the usual categories outlined in the introduction. Third, Martin Karrer defines Israel’s Greek Scriptures as it is known in the Septuagint. The term Septuagint refers to Israel’s Greek Scripture received by early Christians, even though the borders of that collection were not fixed. Rabbinic Judaism focused on Hebrew Scriptures. Greek-speaking followers of Jesus “preferred the greater radius of the Greek Scripture.

Fourth. Grant Macaskill examines Israel’s Scriptures in the wider scope of Early Jewish Literature. He begins by observing that the largest proportion of what we call early Jewish literature was preserved in Christian circles (111; before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, this literature was almost entirely preserved by Christians). This leads to a potential problem, Christian interpolations. Did non-biblical early Jewish writing influence New Testament writers? The obvious example is the book of Jude, which directly cites one Enoch. But there are other examples, such as Matthew 25: 31-46 and the parables of Enoch. Many scholars point out parallels between the Wisdom of Solomon in the book of Romans. For Macaskill, Early Jewish Literature bears witness to “a Judaism marked by a complex attitude to the Hellenistic world (he prefers “ambient cultural influence” (131). In addition, this literature challenges biblical theology strategies, which usually skip the Early Jewish Literature in favor of the Christian Old and New Testaments Canon.

Fifth, Susan Docherty defines “scriptures” in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is a difficult issue that touches on both canon and authority. If extant copies of a book imply authority, then some non-canonical books are “more authoritative” than many canonical ones. But how often a book is quoted is also an indication of authority. She concludes the Dead Sea Scrolls prefer the Pentateuch, prophetic literature, and the Psalms because of the specific concerns of their community (141-42). But all the manuscripts preserved at Qumran are related to the “still-fluid but unquestionably authoritative collection of Israel’s Scriptures” (156). Sixth, Michael B. Cover examines Philo and interpretative strategies in the Alexandrian Jewish Tradition. After a brief summary, Cover compares Philo’s strategies to Paul (Gal 4:21-31), John, and Hebrews. He suggests these examples “only scratch the surface of the Alexandrian ‘s enormous potential to assist the contemporary New Testament exegete” (184).

The last essay in this section, Michael Avioz summarizes Josephus’s strategies for using Israel’s Scriptures in Antiquities. Josephus was free to omit some things elements of Israel’s Scripture, potentially embarrassing things (the golden calf incident), complex textual issues (David and Goliath), and repetitive or irrelevant to Josephus (long lists of names). He occasionally adds things to the stories which may reflect early rabbinic discussions (193).

In part two, Israel’s Scriptures in the New Testament, scholars examine how individual writers used the Jewish Scripture. These sixteen essays cover the New Testament, with Paul’s letters receiving seven chapters (see the appendix to this review for the authors of each chapter). John’s Gospel is treated separately from John’s letters. Each chapter in this section includes a list of citations and allusions (based on the definitions in the introduction), usually in tabular form with some discussion of the details. Texts from the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament are printed in parallel when authors discuss potential allusions. One example: Paul Foster’s chapter on Ephesians and Colossians lists twenty-five suggested intertexts (comparing commentaries by Fee, Beale, and Beetham) and then concludes, “the use of Jewish Scripture on Colossians is minimal” (414).

Part three covers eight themes and topics from Israel’s Scriptures in the New Testament: God, Messiah, Holy Spirit, Covenant, Law, Wisdom, Liturgy and Prayer, and Eschatology. Garrick V. Allen’s essay on eschatology points out the indebtedness of New Testament eschatology to the Jewish Scripture (744). The essay focuses on Isaiah 40, Daniel 7, and Zechariah, arguing that Matthew stands on Israel’s Scripture for the Baptist’s preaching and the Son of Man sayings. He follows a “winding path” from the prophets through Early Jewish Literature to the sayings of Jesus.

Part four examines how books from Israel’s Scriptures are used in the New Testament. These Four chapters discuss individual books (Deuteronomy, Isaiah, The Psalms, and Daniel), and a fifth chapter looks at figures from Israel’s history in the New Testament. Gert J. Steyn’s article on the use of Deuteronomy in the New Testament might surprise some readers who do not expect a Jewish law code to be so important for Christian Scripture.

Finally, part five goes beyond the New Testament to how early Christian writing used Israel’s Scriptures. The section includes apocryphal gospels and apocalypses. The adversus Judaeos tradition covers Barnabas, Justin Martyr, the Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus, and early Latin writers. Of interest in this section is Deiter Roth’s reconstruction of the views of three heretics: Marcion and his disciple Apelles, and Ptolemy’s Letter to Flora (preserved in Epiphanius). Following Judith Leiu, Roth points out that Marcion did not simply edit Israel’s Scripture, but he read and interpreted it (1014).

Each essay ends with a bibliography pointing interested readers to more detailed studies. Because of this book’s international team of scholars, these bibliographies often include many resources outside of the usual texts in English-speaking scholarship.

Conclusion. The second section of the collection of essays competes with Beale and Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Baker Academic 2007). Although that commentary is more detailed in some ways, the additional essays in this volume go beyond the scope of that work by examining themes and focusing on particular books from the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament (parts 3-4). The first section is almost a book on the canon of Israel’s Scripture alone! Israel’s Scriptures in Early Christian Writings is a major contribution to the study of how the New Testament read and interpreted the Scripture they inherited from Judaism.




NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.


Part I: Contexts
1. What Were the “Scriptures” in the Time of Jesus?, by Edmon L. Gallagher
2. Israel’s Scriptures in the Hebrew Bible, by Marc Zvi Brettler
3. Israel’s Greek Scriptures and Their Collection in the Septuagint, by Martin Karrer
4. Israel’s Scriptures in Early Jewish Literature, by Grant Macaskill
5. Israel’s Scriptures in the Dead Sea Scrolls, by Susan Docherty
6. Israel’s Scriptures in Philo and the Alexandrian Jewish Tradition, by Michael B. Cover
7. Israel’s Scriptures in Josephus, by Michael Avioz
Part II: Israel’s Scriptures in the New Testament
A. The Gospels and Acts
8. Israel’s Scriptures in Matthew, by Matthias Konradt
9. Israel’s Scriptures in Mark, by Elizabeth Evans Shively
10.           Israel’s Scriptures in Luke, by Martin Bauspiess
11.           Israel’s Scriptures in John, by Jaime Clark-Soles
12.           Israel’s Scriptures in Acts, by Dietrich Rusam
B. The Apostle Paul
13.           Israel’s Scriptures in Romans, by Jens Schröter
14.           Israel’s Scriptures in 1 and 2 Corinthians, by Katja Kujanpää
15.           Israel’s Scriptures in Galatians, by A. Andrew Das
16.           Israel’s Scriptures in Ephesians and Colossians, by Paul Foster
17.           Israel’s Scriptures in Philippians and Philemon, by Angela Standhartinger
18.           Israel’s Scriptures in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, by Todd D. Still
19.           Israel’s Scriptures in the Pastoral Epistles, by Gerd Häfner
C. Hebrews and the Catholic Letters
20.           Israel’s Scriptures in Hebrews, by Gabriella Gelardini
21.           Israel’s Scriptures in James, by Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr
22.           Israel’s Scriptures in 1 Peter, Jude, and 2 Peter, by Jörg Frey
23.           Israel’s Scriptures in the Johannine Letters, by George Parsenios
D. The Book of Revelation
24.           Israel’s Scriptures in the Revelation of John, by Ian K. Boxall
Part III: Themes and Topics from Israel’s Scriptures in the New Testament
25.           God, by Archie T. Wright
26.           Messiah, by J. Thomas Hewitt
27.           Holy Spirit, by John R. Levison
28.           Covenant, by Richard J. Bautch
29.           Law, by Claudia Setzer
30.           Wisdom, by Benjamin Wold
31.           Liturgy and Prayer, by Rodney A. Werline
32.           Eschatology, by Garrick V. Allen
Part IV: Tracing Israel’s Scriptures
33.           Deuteronomy in the New Testament, by Gert J. Steyn
34.           Isaiah in the New Testament, by Benjamin E. Reynolds
35.           The Psalms in the New Testament, by Matthias Henze
36.           Daniel in the New Testament, by Alexandria Frisch and Jennie Grillo
37.           Figures of Ancient Israel in the New Testament, by Valérie Nicolet
Part V: Israel’s Scriptures in Early Christianity Outside the New Testament
38.           Israel’s Scriptures in the Apocryphal Gospels, by Tobias Nicklas
39.           Israel’s Scriptures in the Apocryphal Apocalypses, by Michael Karl-Heinz Sommer
40.           Israel’s Scriptures in the Adversus Judaeos Literature, by David Lincicum
41.           Israel’s Scriptures in Marcion and the Critical Tradition, by Dieter T. Roth
42.           Israel’s Scriptures in Early Christian Pictorial Art, by Robin M. Jensen


John Walton, Wisdom for Faithful Reading Principles and Practices for Old Testament Interpretation

Walton, John. Wisdom for Faithful Reading: Principles and Practices for Old Testament Interpretation. IVP Academic, 2023. xv+226 pp. Pb. $24.00   Link to IVP Academic  

John Walton has written extensively on the Old Testament, including the popular textbooks A Survey of the Old Testament (with Andrew Hill, Zondervan 1991) and Old Testament Today (Zondervan 2004), commentaries in Genesis and Job NIVAC series, and several books in his The Lost World series (IVP Academic).

Old Testament Interpretation

The introduction is divided into five brief parts. First, Walton states his quest: faithful interpretation. Second, he states two caveats. Our goal is faithful interpretation, not right interpretation. This humbly recognizes that you may be wrong and need more evidence. Since interpretation happens in a community, Walton has three essential commitments: accountability, consistency, and control.

In the fourth part of the introduction, Walton offers four fundamental concepts for interpretation. First, context is everything. This includes linguistic, literary, cultural, and theological. He illustrates these points with a particular text drawn from the Old Testament. Second, interpretation matters. Meaning can only be determined by interpretation. Third, he suggests we mind the gaps. Interpretation requires readers to fill in gaps since authors just don’t tell us everything. “Filling in the gaps” can lead readers astray. Fourth, interpretation is complicated. Faithful interpretation is hard work because we are reading ancient documents, and this is rarely a straightforward process. He illustrates this with the mysterious Nephilim (Genesis 6:4).

Finally, in the fifth part of the introduction, Walton gives five principles for faithful interpretation. First, an author’s message carries the authority of scripture. Second, an author’s message is couched in his own language and culture. Third, our accountability in interpretation is to track with the author in the text he produced. Fourth, our interpretation should be supported with evidence identifying the author’s intention. Fifth, our task is to find our place in God’s story (17).

After this introduction, Walton gives twelve general principles for faithful interpretation. Some of these will not be controversial, such as “All translation is interpretation.” However, some readers may wonder about principles like “the Bible is written for us but not to us” or “the Old Testament is not about Jesus, but it drives us to Jesus.” He illustrates each principle with examples from the Old Testament and offers ample footnotes to more technical discussions in academic literature.

The second major part of the book offers genre-specific guidelines. This builds on Chapter 11, “A genre discussion must precede an authority conversation.” Often, faithful interpretation requires us to know something about the genre of the literature we are reading. The genre of modern books illustrates this principle. One does not read Harry Potter the same way one reads a biography of Abraham Lincoln, nor does one read an op-ed column the same way one reads a baseball box score. Each genre requires different mental tools. Walton, therefore, has five chapters on the Pentateuch, four on Narrative, three on Wisdom and Psalms, and five on prophecy and apocalyptic.

To illustrate this section of the book, I will focus only on his comments on prophecy and apocalyptic. First, like most Old Testament scholars, Walton observes He also observed that fulfillment of prophecy is distinct from the message. Prophecy has far more to do with revealing God’s plan than revealing the future. Second, it is crucial to understand that prophecy is not always a prediction. Although sometimes there is prediction, this accounts for a very small percentage of the prophetic books. Third, some readers may be surprised by his observation that apocalyptic is not prophecy. This is important since apocalyptic literature often describes the world the writer lives in through the apocalyptic genre. However, I suggest that there are occasional prophecies in an apocalyptic book.

The last section includes three chapters on application. If readers attempt to read scripture well (by which Walton means faithfully), how should they live?  First, Walton encourages readers to avoid using the Old Testament for proof texts. Typically, people only turn to Leviticus to search for verses forbidding certain sins (and ignoring the rest). Second, he suggests readers avoid searching the Old Testament for inspirational nuggets (these are things your grandmother forwards you on Facebook). Third, he also warns against searching for Jesus or the gospel in the Old Testament. He illustrates this point with several examples of bad allegorical interpretations of the Song of Solomon or the Tabernacle. Last, he points out the danger of mixing up promises made specifically for Israel and turning them into personal promises. Applying Jeremiah 29:11 is the classic example of this error since people tend to think this is about their personal relationship with Jesus rather than explicitly addressing Israel in exile.

Conclusion. Wisdom for Faithful Reading is something like a primer for Old Testament Interpretation. The book targets the “academically minded people in the church who want to improve their reading of the Old Testament” (xv). Even though Walton states in his preface that the book was not intended to be a textbook, it would be an excellent addition to an “Introduction to the Bible” or “Old Testament Survey” university or seminary class. Since the style is accessible for the layperson, the book would fit well in a church Bible study or Sunday School class.

NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

“What Does a Stellar Exegesis Look Like?”

A student asked me, “What does a stellar exegesis look like?” He is in the final stages of writing his first exegetical project for my Greek class and reading some very good commentaries on Ephesians.  Here is my response:

“To misquote Berkley Mickelson, exegesis is both an Art and a Science.  Like music or painting, I can teach you the methods and show you the tools, but you have to make the art with them. So too with biblical exegesis.  I can show you how to use Bauer and TDNT, the Bible Dictionaries, etc.  But you are going to use them in a way that is unique to your personality, and you will do this art in ways that I cannot imagine at this moment.  Just like with music or painting, you have to get some of the basics down, then dive in and be creative.”