Tag Archives: NT Use of the OT

Review: God’s Faithful Character (Lectures)

The use of the OT in the NT is a huge topic today in biblical studies. With books like 3 Views[], The Commentary on the NT Use of the OT[], Hay’s Echoes in the Letters of Paul[] (and now the Gospels[]), studies on intertextuality, (Jguo) intertextuality. There are positions on whether the authors are properly using the OT contextually, out of the original context, and now the position that the authors were recreating Israel’s story. Why should we consider what Watts’ has to say? As you may know, I’m taking my M.Div. at SBTS, and I enjoy reading works like these (in my small spare time) so that I can expand my knowledge of the Bible’s depths.

Rikk Watts, who used to teach at Regent College (lectures here), contends that the connection between the OT and the NT is God’s faithful character. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Why is such a dense subject so important?

As you’ll see in the outline below, Watts spends the first two and a half lectures going through the history of interpretation, looking at the views of writings and interpretations from before the time of Jesus and afterwards. While the task may seem arduous, Watts immerses the class through these writings and interpretations so that they may know where we have been and where we are going. Watts affirms that the NT was not written in a bubble, and neither are the ways scholars interpret the Bible today completed in a bubble. There is a history to both, but he is able to draw out how the NT authors use the OT while differing from the other Jewish and Greek writings that encompassed them.

In the rest of the lectures, Watts spends his time showing just how the NT authors showed how God’s character from the OT was the same in the NT. They did more than just interpret the OT in context. They believed that Jesus fulfilled the OT. Just as God worked in the OT, so he will work in the NT. The biblical authors recognized the patterns, and seeing Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s plan, they showed the unity of God’s word through the way they interpreted the text.

Table of Contents

  • Issues, History, and Current Research (Part I)
  • Issues, History, and Current Research (Part II)
  • Issues, History, and Current Research (Part III)
  • First Century Interpretation
  • When Jerusalem Becomes Like the Nations
  • Conjoining Texts
  • Some Striking Divergences
  • God’s Exodus Plan Completed
  • Purpose of the Parables
  • The Law and Faith (Part I)
  • The Law and Faith (Part II)

Watts’ handout is brimming with incredible (and technical) information. The above outline is only the bare-est of bones of the whole class. Each section is filled with information. You can see a brief example in these two posts.

Watts is an incredible, engaging teacher. His application is always spot on and penetrating. He truly cares about Christ and his bride. He is not some ivory tower academic, but he draws his applications to the real world. He desires to show the world a church that loves and follows after Christ as seen through their actions. The handout that comes with the lectures is particularly detailed and wonderfully helpful.

Yet as a course for doctoral students, Watts often travels down a number of rabbit trails. There were many times I didn’t know where we were because the path went on for some time. On occasion, moments after getting back to the text, there was yet another diversion. Sometimes Watts would say, “If only we had time, we could go into this subject,” yet if it weren’t for the tangents he would have had at least some extra time.

In Mark 1:1-3, while talking about Mark’s allusion to Isaiah 40, Exodus 23, and Malachi 3, Watts brings his listeners to John 14 where the disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father. Knowing Jesus means to know the Father, but, though interesting and not entirely irrelevant, in discussing it in the middle of Mark’s content, it was difficult to follow the train of thought.

As a doctoral seminar, I thought there would have been a bigger focus on technical issues and how the NT uses the OT. Application is important, and it must derive from a proper interpretation of God’s word. However, these lectures were difficult to follow.

Recommended?

Teachers especially would benefit from the content found in the first three lectures, and the notes that go with the rest of his lectures would be well served. But the tangents may dissuade many from listening through all of the lectures. I wouldn’t recommend this as someone’s primary resource on understanding the NT’s use of the OT. Watts has written a chapter on Mark’s Gospel in the Commentary on the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament, and he’s written Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark. These are dense works, and one should be well read in this type of study.

When it comes down to his premise that God’s faithful character is what toes the NT’s use of the OT together, I don’t agree that it is the main idea, but I do think it is one of them. Watts shows how our God is faithful and committed, and it is seen throughout all of the Bible. Our God can and should be trusted to fulfill his promises to those who are in his Son Jesus Christ. Watts guides the student into seeing how in all our ways we should acknowledge God (Prov 3.6a). We are to put our whole weight onto him, for he is faithful to his people. 

Lagniappe

  • Teacher: Rikk Watts
  • School: Regent College
  • Time: 20hr, 47 min

Buy God’s Faithful Character by Rikk Watts

Previous Posts

Disclosure: I received these lectures free from Regent College. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Review

When Jerusalem Becomes Like the Nations, Part 2

1

“The Day of the Lord” by George Martin

I’ve been listening to more of Rikk Watts’ lectures, this time on the NT use of the OT. Here he argues that the main connection between the two testaments (or “covenants”) is God’s faithful character. Before I put out my review, I wanted to write up a summary of one of the texts he looks at in his lectures. This is on the use of Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew 24:29. I will be splitting this into two parts, with Isaiah 34.4 being examined next time.

The Use of Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew 24:29

Isaiah 13:10

For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.

Isaiah 34:4

All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree.

Matthew 24:29

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Outline

Part 1

  • NT Context
  • Isaiah 13:10 in Context
  • Isaiah 13:10 in Judaism

Part 2

  • Isaiah 34:4 in Context
  • Isaiah 34:4 in Judaism
  • Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew 24:29
  • Theological Use

It should be noted that I have summarized Watts’ words and have at points touched up the grammar (since these are notes were for class use). Rather than giving endless quotation marks, just know that this is all from Watts, and if something doesn’t make sense, that blame rests on me.

Having looked at the use of Isaiah 13:10 in Matthew 24:29 in my last post, now we’ll look at what Dr. Watts has to say about Jesus’ use of Isaiah 34:4 in the same verse.

Isaiah 34:4 in Context

Isaiah 34:4 belongs to the larger section of Isaiah 28–35. In Isa 28–33, woes are brought against Assyria for their earlier attack on Jerusalem. Isa 34–35 forms a bridge between the divine judgment on the nations’ arrogance in Isa 13-23 and the new exodus return from exile which dominates the second half of the book.

Isaiah 34:1–4 summons the nations to God’s court to hear the sentence of their coming dreadful slaughter (epitomized in Edom’s fate). Verse 4 portrays the cosmic scale of that destruction through the description of heavenly disintegration as the stars rot away and the skies roll up like shrunken parchment.

The carnage moves to earth where the remainder of the oracle presents the disturbing image of Yahweh’s blood-soaked sword slaughtering Edom’s leaders and people in an unparalleled glut of sacrifice (vv. 5–7), rendering it like Sodom (vv. 9–10), an eternal pre-creation chaos (vv. 10–11, 17), depopulated and inherited only by wild animals.

As in Isaiah 13–14, this leads to a vision of Israel’s salvation where Yahweh leads his once blind, deaf, mute, and lame, but now healed people in glorious procession through a new creational blossoming desert to Zion (Isa 35).

Isaiah 34:4 in Judaism

Isa 34:4 is applied to several significant events: the replacement of the old creation with the new, the resurrection citing Hos 6:2, and the eschatological judgment of the wicked. Edom, blamed in 1 Esdras 4:45 for the burning of the Temple during the Babylonian invasion, later becomes a standard reference to Rome in some of the rabbinical literature.

Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew

The prophetic symbolism indicates the significance of the event. The cosmic language is consistent with the widely held Jewish belief that the Temple stood at the centre of creation. As early as Amos, cosmic chaos was seen to be the consequence of Israel’s not keeping Torah.

Jesus’ sharply criticized Israel’s leadership for failing to keep God’s instructions. Consistent with Jewish tradition of Isaiah 13, Jesus’ allusion would suggest that this event is of the same order as the Fall, the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, the interference with the Temple’s rebuilding, and the end of days. The world as it was is coming to an end.

What’s more shocking is that these images were normally applied to two of Israel’s enemies, Edom and Babylon, nations which epitomized idolatrous and arrogant hostility toward God. But for Jesus, Israel’s “Antiochan” (Dan 12) leadership hijacked God’s vineyard and perverted Jerusalem’s role (e.g. Isa 2:2-5; Ezek 5:5). They transformed it into an Edom-like traitor and a Babylon-like world-city which sought to challenge God’s sovereignty. Both of these nations participated in the Temple’s previous destruction, and Israel had become just like them. And so, Jerusalem itself comes under a similar judgment.

However, in both instances God’s judgment was closely connected with Israel’s new exodus redemption. Isaiah 13–14 anticipates the inclusion of aliens (14:1; cf. Isa 56:7 in Matt 21:13). Isa 34–35’s combination of vineyard imagery and the return in Yahweh’s train of the newly healed blind one’s to Zion is echoed in Jesus’ vineyard parable (Matt 21:33-46) and the healing of the blind (20:29–34; 21:14).

Theological Use

By seeking to resist God’s work in Jesus and by betraying him to the Romans, the hostile Jerusalem has joined the arrogant and idolatrous cities of the world.

Since God’s character is unchanging, Jerusalem’s fate will be no different from all other idolatrous, tyrannical cities. Its demise marks God’s eschatological cosmic intervention against “the earth” and the beginning of the new creation with a newly restored temple-people with whom he will dwell constituting its new center.


Clearly there’s a lot going on here, but as we can see, Jesus knew his Bible, and while Israel had the Old Testament, many of them clearly did not know it well enough to be changed by it. Because of their desire for their own righteousness apart from Christ’s, and because of their desire to put to death God’s own Son, which they succeeded in, Jesus declares that they will be left desolate. And they were. Rome came in and sacked them. These were real people, with real families, real schools, and real economies. And they lost it all because they rejected the Christ, the Son of God.

Rikk Watts’ lectured at Regent College. You can check out his lectures here!

1 Comment

Filed under Biblical Theology

When Jerusalem Becomes Like the Nations, Part 1

“The Day of the Lord” by George Martin

I’ve been listening to more of Rikk Watts’ lectures, this time on the NT use of the OT. Here he argues that the main connection between the two testaments (or “covenants”) is God’s faithful character. Before I put out my review, I wanted to write up a summary of one of the texts he looks at in his lectures. This is on the use of Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew 24:29. I will be splitting this into two parts, with Isaiah 34.4 being examined next time.

The Use of Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew 24:29

Isaiah 13:10

For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.

Isaiah 34:4

All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree.

Matthew 24:29

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Outline

Part 1

  • NT Context
  • Isaiah 13:10 in Context
  • Isaiah 13:10 in Judaism

Part 2

  • Isaiah 34:4 in Context
  • Isaiah 34:4 in Judaism
  • Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew 24:29
  • Theological Use

It should be noted that I have summarized Watts’ words and have at points touched up the grammar (since these are notes were for class use). Rather than giving endless quotation marks, just know that this is all from Watts, and if something doesn’t make sense, that blame rests on me.

NT Context: Matthew’s Structure

According to Watts, Matthew is a combination of elements of Mark’s telling of Isaiah’s new exodus in Christ (mighty deeds, opposition, journey, Jerusalem) and additions which Matthew uses to tell his own (equally true) story.

  • Opening Genealogy and “Birth” Narrative (ch. 1–2)
  • Sermon of the Mount: Blessings (chs. 5–7)
    • Mission (ch. 10)
      • Parables and Division (ch. 13) 
    • The Congregation (ch. 18)
  • Teaching in the Temple and Beyond : Curses (chs. 23–25)
    ww[see my post on chiasms]

Matthew 24:29 lies within a final block of curses and warnings At the end of the curses in Matthew 23, Jesus declares:

  • Behold, your house is left to you desolate” (v. 38).
  • “You will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’” (v. 39; cf. 21:9, 14–17).

In Matthew 24 Jesus gives the “Olivet discourse” and tells about Jerusalem’s destruction. After the disciples ask Jesus a question about the temple and about his return, Jesus responds by warning against deceivers and false signs (vv. 4–8) and exhorting them to stand firm in proclaiming the gospel (vv. 9–14) and to watch for the sign of the abomination of desolation (vv. 15–28). Jesus proclaims Jerusalem’s destruction and the coming of the Son of Man (vv. 29–31), gives a lesson for “this generation” from the fig tree (vv. 32–35), and exhorts the disciples to be watchful because the exact time of his return is unknown (vv. 36–44).

When Jesus comes to the destruction of the Temple, he weaves multiple allusions from Israel’s Scriptures (e.g. Ezek 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15; Amos 8:9). The critical allusions are from Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 (in the LXX).

Isaiah 13:10 in Context

Oracles Concerning the Nations

Isaiah 13:10 belongs to collection of “oracles concerning the nations.” These oracles “are meant to explain to Israel the meaning of various events as evidence of Yahweh’s sovereign control over world affairs and . . . human pretensions.” Isaiah 13:1–14:32 provides the lens for the remaining oracles and is made up of two large units:

  1. the destruction of Babylon presented as the pretentious world city (13:2–22)
  2. a dirge sung over Babylon’s king (14:4b–21).

Isaiah 13

In Isaiah 13:2–5, Yahweh, the Divine Warrior, summons his terrifying war host whom he “consecrated” to execute his anger and to devastate all the earth. “In a following lament, Isaiah describes the eschatological “day of the Lord” as God comes to desolate the earth and destroy sinners from it (v. 9b). The prideful will be laid low, and the judgment will be so severe that humanity will barely survive (v. 12).

The theological significance is expressed through the metaphors of cosmic disorder: Earthquakes, shaken heavens (v. 13), and, in a reversal of Genesis 1:14–18, the sun, moon, and stars, which normally mark the seasons, will be dimmed. This disorder testifies to the extent of Babylon’s wickedness and the depth of Yahweh’s indignation.

As a result of the destruction of Babylon and its king, Israel will be restored from exile and foreigners will be included among its people (14:1; cf. Isa 56–66).

Isaiah 13:10 in Judaism

Isaiah 13:10 is applied to several significant events. The exodus and the drowning of Pharaoh’s army, the Fall and Adam’s loss of status, the day the rebuilding of the temple was hindered, and end of the age.

The principle is that because God’s word underlies the good order of creation and its times and seasons (Gen 1; Jer 33:25–26) the withdrawal of that order, expressed in part through the cessation of the heavenly lights, is God’s judgment on idolatrous nations (Isa 24:23; Ezek 30:3–4, 18; Joel 3:15) and Israel (Isa 5:25, 30; Jer 4.23–28; Joel 2:10) . . . often in contexts where God uses one nation to carry out his judgment on another (Isa 13.10–13; 34:4; Hab 3:6–11).”

This means that, according to Judaism, the sun and moon fail as a result of God’s judgment of humanity. Torah was God’s agent at creation and sustains it, and creation was made for Israel. Israel’s failure to keep Torah results in the failure of the lights of heaven, and, to them, eclipses were bad omens which prefigured suffering. Israel holds a unique status, and her destruction by the nations would lead to the dissolution of the heavens and earth.

Conclusion

If Israel’s destruction “by the nations would lead to the dissolution of the heavens and earth” back then, then her destruction by Rome will “lead to the dissolution of the heavens and earth” in the future, only now, like Babylon, Jerusalem has become “the pretentious world city” (13:2–22).

1 Comment

Filed under Biblical Theology