Three Views on the NT Use of the OT: Walter Kaiser


[In Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Peter Enns, Darrell Bock, and Walter Kaiser present three different approaches to biblical interpretation.  They address questions concerning sensius plenior, typology, Jewish methods of interpretation, matters of contextual interpretation, and whether or not we today can interpret the Bible like the New Testament authors.  Some of the discussion involves technical concepts and language, but anyone who reads the book will have a better understanding of matters to consider in reading the Bible in context.]

Walter Kaiser: Single Meaning, Unified Referrents

Kaiser, Old Testament scholar and former president of Gordon-Conwell, is a careful theologian and true biblical exegete.  Citing a host of OT-NT connections, Kaiser’s chapter simply unpacks Scripture to make his case.  The other scholars cite Scriptural examples, but appeal more often to hermeneutical philosophies (Bock) and second temple Judaism’s methods of interpretation (Enns).  In fact, both Bock and Enns chastise Kaiser for his simplistic reading of Scripture (92, 97). 

The great strength of Kaiser’s chapter is his demonstration of how to interpret the OT in its context and then to show that the NT authors read their OT correctly.  He argues for an antecedent theology that informs every OT passage.  As opposed to Enns, who must go to the NT to find ultimate, Christotelic meaning, Kaiser goes to Genesis 3:15ff to show the “Promise-Plan” of God provides ample Messianic witness in the OT itself.  This is a crucial distinction, and for me at least, a tremedously convincing argument for Kaiser and against Enns: the gospel is not just explained in the NT, it is to be found from the very beginning, pointing forward to the Promised Seed. 

To summarize, Kaiser argues for reading each passage in its historical context, he denies Sensius Plenior, he appeals to making analogy between OT and NT (in this way there is a sense of greater fulfillment, when NT patterns or echoes (R. Hays) are picked up), and he appeals to the unfolding plan of God within the OT to make sense of the OT context and that NT writers did that very thing.  The problems of reconciling OT with NT do not lie with the writers themselves; they lie in us and our inability to rightly divide the word, so that we can say that the OT writers did not write better then they knew (Sensius Plenior), rather they wrote better than we know.  As biblical interpreters, it is our prayerful responsibility to learn from them what they knew and what the Spirit was testifying to them and through them (cf. 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

May we, with Walter Kaiser, labor to understand the grammar and historical setting of the Bible, and may we go on to see how all Scripture is fulfilled in Christ (John 5:39).

Sola Deo Gloria, dss