Thursday, February 7, 2013
Two Testaments, One Bible: The Theological Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments by David L. Baker
Two Testaments, One Bible: The Theological Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments
by David L. Baker
Hardcover: 376 pages
Date Published: 2010 3rd edition
Point: Do we still need the Old Testament? Baker answers with a whole hearted “yes” and demonstrates why the Old Testament is important. Following a study of the various views of the Old Testament’s relationship to the New, the author treats the main issues and forms of interpretations. He addresses four key themes which tie the Testaments into a unified work. These are typology, promise and fulfillment, continuity and discontinuity, and covenant.
Written in four parts, Baker begins his work by addressing the problem. Throughout the ages, readers have understood the Old Testament’s purpose in different ways. Some have rejected it, others have honored, but all have had to deal with it. From Marcion to Augustine, the Middle ages to Calvin, Kirkpatrick to the Nazis, the Old Testament has seen its share of fights.
Part two reviews four modern solutions which have surfaced over the years. First, some regard the New Testament as the essential Bible. Baker primarily focuses on Rudolph Bultmann and his critique of the faith. He concludes that Bultmann’s existential method decreases the importance of history, and fails to deal with the Old Testament (76). Second, some see the two Testaments as equally Christian Scriptures. Wilhelm Vischer offers a general view of this persuasion. Third, others such as Arnold van Ruler accept the Old Testament as the essential Bible. Fourth, Gerhard von Rad argues that the Testaments form one salvation history.
Part three focuses on the four key themes which unite the Old and New Scriptures. Baker first examines typology and the New Testament’s view of the Old. Typology is historical, not a fanciful interpretation of Scripture (179). It also implies a real correspondence, not necessarily in every detail, but in fundamental principles (180). He also clarifies what typology is not, namely allegory, prophecy, exegesis, or a method/system (181-2). He then looks at promise and fulfillment, the Old Testament’s role of prophesying the Messiah. This relationship shows a mutual dependence where neither Testament can stand alone (217). His third study addresses continuity and discontinuity, highlighting the continuing presence of a people of God. He argues that the “church is simultaneously ‘Israel of God (Gal 6:16) and ‘new creation’ (2 Cor 5:17). It perpetuates the old and inaugurates the new” (223). His final treatment regards the term and significance of “covenant.” Referencing covenants with Abraham, the children of Israel, and the New Covenant, Baker looks to the New Testament to see how those are treated by the apostles.
Part four concludes with the general relationship between the testaments. The author proposes a “biblical” solution and explains the implications for such a view. This solution involves six fundamental concepts which are Christology, Salvation history, Typology, Promise and fulfillment, Continuity and discontinuity, and Covenant.
Much of what Baker presents is of value to the reader. His summaries of the various views and their primary proponents reveal a thorough study and understanding on his part. His explanation of typology and promise/fulfillment also is a valuable resource. Overall the book is very helpful.
Several ideas which he presented raise questions. In his treatment of Israel and the Church he recognizes a continuity and discontinuity, yet it does not appear that he leaves place for national Israel to once again be God’s people. Even in statements concerning the covenants, he sees national Israel as being excluded from the fulfillment. The covenant made with Abraham is and everlasting covenant, “and God is always faithful to that intention...” (241). “However, the promise of land does not have any obvious fulfillment in the coming of Jesus...” (215). Should this fact not cause us to reevaluate the place of Israel in God’s plan?
Often these books will end with the question, can we treat the OT as the NT authors treated it? He states,
It is sometimes thought that the key to interpreting the Old Testament is in New Testament use of the Old. However, we live in a different world from the authors of the New Testament, and our task is not to imitate the way they interpreted the Old Testament but to develop our own way. Their methods of interpretation were suited to the needs of the first century, but cannot simply be repeated at the beginning of the twenty-first century. We can learn a great deal form the way the early Christians read and understood the Old Testament, but to truly understand and respond to the Word of God today we should use the methods of modern hermeneutics (278).
This thought leaves many questions to be answered. Baker is primarily concerned with the hermeneutical methods, however, is there propositional truth to be understood? Did the NT authors understand the truth of the OT? If so, did that truth change? The NT authors saw the OT as valuable, relevant, and crucial to understanding Jesus Christ, and therefore used it appropriately. Where should twenty-first century change? Some would agree that we must not interpret the OT as the apostles did, but they base their idea on inspiration. Baker does not.
Does the OT still hold value? This book demonstrates that it does.
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