Three Views on the NT Use of the OT

I’m planning to write my second dissertation on the use of the OT in a passage in Romans, so I am particularly grateful that Zondervan is publishing this volume:

Kenneth Berding and Jonathan Lunde, eds. Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Counterpoints. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008. 256 pp.


(The table of contents and an excerpt from chapter 1 is available as a 10-page PDF here.)

  • [Introduction] Jonathan Lunde: An Introduction to Central Questions in the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
  • View 1. Walter C. Kaiser Jr.: “Single Meaning, Unified Referents: Accurate and Authoritative Citations of the Old Testament by the New Testament”
    • Darrell L. Bock: Response to Kaiser
    • Peter Enns: Response to Kaiser
  • View 2. Darrell L. Bock: “Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents: The New Testament’s Legitimate, Accurate, and Multifaceted Use of the Old”
    • Walter C. Kaiser Jr.: Response to Bock
    • Peter Enns: Response to Bock
  • View 3. Peter Enns: “Fuller Meaning, Single Goal: A Christotelic Approach to the New Testament Use of the Old in Its First-Century Interpretive Environment”
    • Walter C. Kaiser Jr.: Response to Enns
    • Darrell L. Bock: Response to Enns
  • [Conclusion] Kenneth Berding: “An Analysis of Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament”


Lunde frames the discussion by explaining “the gravitational center and five orbiting questions” (pp. 10-35).

NT writers frequently use the OT in ways that at least appear to imply meanings that eclipse or diverge in some way from those of the original authors. How is the relationship between these intended meanings to be understood? This is the gravitational center for the discussion contained in this book (p. 11).

Five questions orbit around this center (p. 12):

  1. Is sensus plenior an appropriate way of explaining the NT use of the OT?
  2. How is typology best understood?
  3. Do the NT writers take into account the context of the passages they cite?
  4. Does the NT writers’ use of Jewish exegetical methods explain the NT use of the OT?
  5. Are we able to replicate the exegetical and hermeneutical approaches to the OT that we find in the writings of the NT?

Berding provides a useful table to summarize how the three views respond to these five questions (p. 240):




Sensus plenior?

No, the prophets knew where their prophecies were heading.

Yes, but only in the limited sense of acknowledging that the OT writers could not always see fulfillments that emerge later.

Yes, because Christ-as-telos holds it all together. This, however, is not the way to resolve the “hermeneutical tension.”


Yes, but it must be seen ahead of time and possess “divine indication” that it is a type.

Yes, and fundamental for resolving difficult cases; can be either prospective or retrospective.

Yes, but again not the way to resolve the hermeneutical tension.


Yes, both the immediate literary context and the antecedent “promise-plan” context are important.

Yes, the immediate “exegetical context” is drawn upon but the “canonical context” is the key.

Sometimes yes and sometimes no.

Use of Second Temple exegetical methods?

No, such comparisons are misguided.

Sometimes yes, but constrained by the NT authors’ commitment to canonical reading.

Yes, and this is the central issue in the discussion.


Yes, because the NT authors are careful interpreters just as we should be. Yes, but particularly in terms of their overall appeal to canonical themes. Yes, but less in terms of their exegetical methods and more in terms of their “Christotelic” goal.

This book is a fine introduction to a complex topic. I find Bock’s view to be the most persuasive of the three, but as the editors acknowledge, views on the NT use of the OT are not limited to just these three.


  1. Don Carson reviews this book.
  2. Beale and Carson’s Commentary on the NT’s Use of the OT


  1. Tom Keiser says


    One thing consistently missing, or at best, minimalized, is the question of the proper exegesis of the OT texts. Kaiser seems to best deal with this idea, although not always directly. The tendency is to see OT exegesis as primarily historical. Little consideration seems to be given to the possibility that OT writers were speaking primarily theologically, and applying theological principles to historical situations. If that is the case, then proper exegesis should be focusing on the theological ideas presented rather than simply their historical application. This perspective has profound implications when trying to ascertain the NT writers’ understanding of the OT. If they understood the OT texts as presenting primarily theological principles, then many of their applications to Christ would no longer be problematic, but rather reflect accurate “historical-grammatical” exegesis. Of course, this consideration does not resolve all issues, but does alleviate many tensions.

  2. says

    I had Kaiser at TEDS on the subject as well as the late S. Lewis Johnson Jr. and Moises Silva at WTS. The gap, correctly identified by Enns on use of ST exegetical methods, shows how Enns’ method as well as his doctrine of Scripture marks a significant departure from traditional Reformed orthodoxy.

  3. Kyle Fox says

    Thanks for the summary. I am a student of both Berding and Lunde here at Biola and just took Lunde’s course on the NT use of OT. It was a great class and he is a good teacher and Berding is as well. This is going to be a good book and very helpful to both scholars AND pastors. I wish they would highlight some of the other views, from Scholars such as John Sailhamer in a chapter, but that will have to be a another book.


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