G. K. Beale. Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker. 173 pages. $17.99.

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As a co-editor of the massive (+1200 pages) Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, G.K. Beale has much to offer in explaining how to approach the issue of the NT’s use of the OT.  His most recent work, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, reads like an exegetical manual, and provides students with the tools necessary for tackling the complicated issue of understanding how the NT uses the OT.

AUDIENCE:  Written for laymen through scholars. The book is not overly technical, but is dense at points, and allowances are made for those unfamiliar with Greek and Hebrew.

PURPOSE: In Beale’s own words, “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” (ix-x).

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Beale’s opening chapter sets the stage and introduces the reader to the broad issues regarding the NT’s use of the OT (1-25).  He begins with the question, ‘Did NT writers interpret OT texts with regard to their original context?’  After showing the weaknesses in the four most common noncontextual approaches (midrashic exegesis, testimony book, christological lens, or rhetorical strategy), Beale answers a resounding yes: “the NT uses the OT in line with its original contextual meaning” (13).  The initial discussion gives way to Beale’s case for typology (13-25). Beale—in contrast to many interpreters today—has a positive view of typology when used cautiously (18). He defines typology as: “the study of analogical correspondences among revealed truths about persons, events, institutions, and other things within the historical framework of God’s special revelation, which, from a retrospective view, are of a prophetic nature and are escalated in their meaning” (emphasis his, 14).  Beale provides five characteristics for a type: “(1.) analogical correspondence; (2.) historicity; (3.) a pointing-forwardness (i.e., an aspect of foreshadowing or presignification); (4.) escalation; (5.) retrospection;” (14).  Beale believes that the writers of the NT provide a “prescriptive” method meant to be followed by Christians today (23). In other words, they did not “preach the right doctrine from the wrong texts” (22).  He describes his approach as “canonical contextual exegesis” (25) and argues that we must not only be concerned with the original authorial intent, but should also take into consideration divine intent (24).

In the second chapter, Beale defines several keys terms (quotations, allusions, and echoes) and provides the most important resources for discovering the OT in the NT (29-40).  A “quotation” is defined as “a direct citation of an OT passage that is easily recognizable by its clear and unique verbal parallelism” (29), and an “allusion” as “a brief expression consciously intended by an author to be dependent on an OT passage” (31). Allusions are indirect; the “telltale key to discerning an allusion is that of recognizing an incomparable or unique parallel in wording, syntax, or concept, or cluster of motifs in the same order or structure” (31). Beale does not make much of distinction between an allusion and an echo (32).  In discovering allusions, Beale following Richard Hays’ criteria for validating allusions: availability, volume, recurrence, thematic coherence, historical plausibility, history of interpretation, and satisfaction (33). After this section, Beale introduces to the reader the most pertinent resources for recognizing quotations and allusions in the NT (35-39).

In the third chapter (41-54),  Beale lays out his nine-step approach to understanding how a NT writer uses an OT text: (1) identify the OT reference; (2) analyze the broad NT context where the OT text occurs; (3) analyze the OT context both broadly and immediately; (4) examine how early and late Judaism might be relevant to the NT’s use of the OT text; (5) compare the texts and their variants; (6) analyze the author’s textual use of the OT; (7) analyze the author’s interpretative (hermeneutical) use of the OT; (8) analyze the author’s theological use of the OT; (9) analyze the author’s rhetorical use of the OT (42-43).  Beale spends the rest of the book explaining these steps in greater detail.

The fourth chapter deals with the primary ways the NT uses the OT. Beale’s gives twelve:

1. To Indicate Direct Fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy (56-57).

2. To Indicate Indirect Fulfillment of Old Testament Typological Prophecy”(57-66).

3. To Indicate Affirmation That a Not-Yet-Fulfilled Old Testament Prophecy Will Assuredly Be Fulfilled in the Future (66-67).

4. “To Indicate an Analogical or Illustrative Use of the OT (67-71)

5. “To Indicate the Symbolic Use of the Old Testament” (71-72).

6. “To Indicate an Abiding Authority Carried Over from the Old Testament” (72-73)

7. “To Indicate a Proverbial Use of the Old Testament” (74-78).

8. “To Indicate a Rhetorical Use of the Old Testament” (78-79).

9. “To Indicate the Use of an OT Segment as a Blueprint or Prototype for a New Testament Segment” (80-91). “

10. “To Indicate an Alternate Textual Use of the OT (89-91).

11. “To Indicate an Assimilated Use of the Old Testament” (91-92).

12. “To Indicate an Ironic or Inverted Use of the Old Testament” (92-93).

In chapter five, Beale elaborates on the hermeneutical and theological presuppositions of the NT writers (95-102). Along with affirming that Jesus and his following understood the OT to be sacred and God’s message to humanity (95), Beale believes there were five presuppositions held by the writers of the NT:

1. Assumption of corporate solidarity or representation.

2. “Christ as the Messiah is viewed as representing the true Israel of the OT and the true Israel—the church—in the NT.”

3. “History is unified by a wise and sovereign plan so that the earlier parts are designed to correspond and point to the later parts.”

4. “The age of eschatological fulfillment has come in Christ.”

5. The “later parts of biblical history function as the broader context for interpreting earlier parts because they all have the same, ultimate divine author who inspires the various human authors… Christ is the goal toward which the OT pointed and is the en-time center of redemptive history, which is the key to interpreting the earlier portions of the OT and its promises.” (96-97).

In chapter six, Beale gives an annotated bibliography of relevant Jewish background sources and provides an example of how using these sources can assist in the exegetical task (103-132). Beale gives eight primary sources that should be consulted: Septuagint, OT Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran, Philo, Josephus, targums, and rabbinic literature (108-121). He concludes with an example of this step by showing how the tongues of fire imagery in Acts 2 is contains notions rooted in the OT and confirmed and clarified via Jewish sources (124-129).

In the final chapter, Beale provides an example of nine-step methodology by looking at Revelation 3:7’s use of Isaiah 22:22 (133-148). The work finishes with an extensive bibliography that covers all various aspects of the NT’s use of the OT (149-162).

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Beale’s work is a first-class introduction to the study of the NT use of the OT. Beale introduces the reader to the pertinent issues in studying the NT use of the OT and gives a helpful nine-fold approach to the task.  His acquaintance with the scholarly literature of the topic is unprecedented, and the bibliography that he gives might be worth the cost of the book by itself.

Dispensational readers will take umbrage regarding some of Beale’s points (inaugurated eschatology, church as Israel), but can still greatly benefit from his overall approach.

What I found to be the most interesting is Beale’s case for typology and recapitulation, showing that these practices originate from the OT itself (61-62). I also greatly appreciated how Beale demonstrated that the NT’s contextually-cognizant approach produced a greater rhetorical effect on their hearers than if they were merely quoting it atomistically (78-79).

Overall, I recommend this book to everyone who is seriously interested in exploring how the NT uses the OT.  It is not an easy read, but it does equip you for the task.

-Tom Schmidt


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This is a Guest Post from Tom Schmidt. Tom is married to Rachel and attended Wheaton College Graduate School (MA in Biblical Exegesis and MA in Historical and Systematic Theology). He currently is being trained to plant a church in the Chicago suburbs with the church he attends (Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles IL.). His blog and additional writings can be found here: www.ttschmidt.com.