It has been said that those who can’t, teach. I wonder if the opposite is true, even in a small way; that those who can, can’t teach (teach well?). I am a huge fan of G. K. Beale for 2 reasons: he is a biblical theologian par excellence & his understanding and exegesis of the NT use of the OT is second to none. However, in his recently published Handbook on the NT use of the OT, I felt that it was a bit wanting in this subject area. Don’t get me wrong, for what it is (a broad yet brief introduction to the subject), it is good. But I think Beale’s forte is more about doing than explaining his method for doing (the latter being the topic of this book).
My research inquiries of late have been on this subject (mainly how salt and light were OT symbols evoked by Jesus in Matt. 5:13-16 and the significance of the Shema in James 2:19; both need more work before I consider them “publishable”). So I had high hopes for this book. And that could be the cause for my less than positive review here.
The most beneficial part of this book is that it lays out Beale’s method to study the NT’s use of the OT. If there was a person’s exegetical methodology to emulate, it would be Beale’s. He raises questions that interpreters need to be asking themselves when dealing with this part of exegesis and theology. He unfolds a 9 step process for examination. But some of these steps were either very obvious (step #1 and identifying the quotation or allusion), or could have used more clarification (step #9 and the rhetorical use of the OT), or overlapped with other steps (Steps #5 & #6; comparing the texts in the LXX, DSS, MT, OG, and Jewish sources with analyzing the author’s textual use of the OT or Steps #6 & #7; comparing the author’s interpretive/hermeneutical use with his theological use).
2 very helpful areas of Beale’s Handbook are his emphasis on 2nd temple Literature (something I have been critical of in the past but now see the importance of such a study) wherein he devotes an entire chapter to this subject (though parts were extremely wearisome to read through since there was a lot of bibliographic info) and his list with examples of multiple ways the NT uses the OT. However this section was much too brief to really illustrate the various ways and give the reader a high level of clarity. And even then, there was overlap between categories (something Beale himself admitted) which proved to be somewhat unhelpful.
The intended audience is certainly for students being introduced to this important subject. As Beale stated in the preface, “The purpose of this book is to provide pastors, students, and other serious readers of Scripture with a how-to approach for interpreting the use of the OT in the NT.” So it is definitely a 101. However, it does cite bibliographic info that will help in the research process. Therefore, it does have some “replay” value in that regard.
Perhaps its biggest fault in my estimation is that it was not well written. I have to be careful here because I’m not Bill Shakespeare by any stretch. But as I said above, I believe Beale’s strong suite is to do rather than to teach method. There were times where the book felt tedious. Now I must be honest and say that the tedium of this book is that it may be a consequence that it was an intro level book. But there was something that left this realm of research something less to be desired. I expected in an intro level book from an author such as Beale to motivate those interested in this realm of study to see the tremendous pay out of a detailed study. The examples he gave hardly raise the excitement level, in my opinion.
When I compare the helpfulness of this book to, say, his and Carson’s Commentary on the NT Use of the OT (they edited the book and authored some of its chapters) or Beale’s magnum opus A New Testament Biblical Theology where we see his method in action (and the return it yields in theology), I feel that this addendum did not meet the expectations of the other 2 works. Thus I only give this book 1 thumb up. After all, it did give a thorough working model for one of the greatest biblical theologians and exegetes of OT in the NT of the 20th-21st century. It will be a necessary tool for the student engaging with this subject for the first time or a pastor refreshing his mind with the subject for preaching and teaching (and offering a good method to evaluate these instances of OT in the NT). And I think its strengths stop there in that it will not go beyond an introduction or helpful refresher. Even as a textbook to a class on the NT’s use of the OT, I feel it would have to be supplemented with other books where there is more of an emphasis on doing rather than explaining method (something such as Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament).