Greg Beale and how the New Testament uses the Old

One of the questions many of us have is whether we read the Old Testament in a “Christocentric” way.[1] A “Christocentric” reading of the Old Testament views the whole Biblical canon and the whole narrative of history through the lens of the Jesus.[2] There are a number of Biblical scholars would want to critique viewing the Old Testament in an overly Christocentric way,[3] as they would be careful not to read a meaning into the OT that either was not originally intended or does not exist. Greg Beale offers an interesting response to this type of criticism. Beale notes that many NT authors quote or allude to OT texts in a Christological way, reading Christ into the OT. Beale’s argument is that in his view, in the occurrences where this happens, the NT author always provide a “satisfying” understanding of the original context to back up their assertions.[4] The argument, therefore, is that the NT author is correct in reading the OT passage in a “Christocentric” way. Beale goes on to note several presuppositions the NT authors would have had,[5] but of particular note are Beale’s assertions that the NT authors viewed Jesus as the culmination of the OT, indeed the person which the entire OT pointed towards.[6] Some scholars, such as Steve Moyise, critique this and suggest that Beale’s presuppositions may be more important to Beale than the Biblical text itself is.[7] This is a fascinating, as not only the NT authors, but Beale and, indeed, myself are coming at the Old Testament with a very Christocentric worldview.

Interestingly, Beale’s method is not about finding the only correct interpretation of a text, but instead seeks to use a method to view the Biblical text from “different angles”.[8] Consequently, Beale desires the methodology to be used to discern what is “possible” and “probable” in the interpretation of a text.[9] There is some nuance here in the way the text is appropriated. Yet, there are a number of presuppositions within Beale’s work.  His undergirding aim to discover how the NT authors viewed the Old Testament[10] is a major one. In addition, Beale asserts that there is a continuity between the OT and NT,[11] that the NT authors are good exegetes of the OT[12] and that they understand the context of the passages they quote.[13] These presuppositions may be challenged by some scholars,[14] but most conservative Biblical scholars would seek to affirm them. It is nowhere explicitly stated, but the overwhelming conclusion of Beale’s work is that the methodology proposed in the book seeks exegetical accuracy. Specifically, the task is to figure out what the NT author is doing with an OT text, while assuming an overall unity within the Biblical text. Beale does come close to acknowledging this when suggesting his method is helpful for any student regardless of theological persuasion, but then noting how the method has firmed and strengthened his own view on the “unity of Scripture”.[15] This desire for exegetical accuracy is critical in any way we engage with how the New Testament uses the Old Testament.

With this being said, Greg Beale develops a nine step approach to studying how the New Testament uses the Old Testament.[16] These are:

  1. Identify what Old Testament text the New Testament is citing or alluding to.
  2. Spend some time analysing the New Testament context by reading the chapter, and even the whole New Testament book.
  3. Study and reflect on the Old Testament text itself, and spend some time reading the chapter in which it is found.
  4. Study how that Old Testament verse is used in other Old Testament and extra-Biblical texts
  5. Compare other New Testament uses of the Old Testament text and look at any textual variants that might be relevant
  6. Look closely at the New Testament author’s use of the Old Testament text. Is he using Hebrew or Greek translations, for example.
  7. Consider how the New Testament author applies and interprets the Old Testament
  8. Consider the New Testament author’s “theological use” of the specific Old Testament text
  9. Consider the New Testament author’s “rhetorical use” of the specific Old Testament text

My experience has been that if you are able to do some, or all, of these different things when you find the Old Testament in the New Testament then it offer real insights into how the New Testament author’s used and viewed the Old Testament.


[1] That is “about Jesus” or “centred on Jesus.”

[2] Graham, Walton & Ward, Theological Reflection, p. 78.

[3] An interesting focal point may be the Christological reading of Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:6-8 (a vital text to my own dissertation), and whether the author of the epistle to the Hebrews intended to read Psalm 8 Christologically, and how modern translations such as the NRSV and NIV render this in different ways. A discussion of this point is in; S. Moyise, The Later New Testament Writers and Scripture, (London: SPCK, 2012), pp. 87-90.

[4] Beale, Handbook on the NT use of the OT, p. 8.

[5] Beale, Handbook on the NT use of the OT, p. 95-102.

[6] Beale, Handbook on the NT use of the OT, p. 97.

[7] S. Moyise, Evoking Scripture: Seeing the Old Testament in the New (London: T&T Clark, 2008), p. 132.

[8] Beale, Handbook on the NT use of the OT, p. 42.

[9] Beale, Handbook on the NT use of the OT, p. 24.

[10] Beale, Handbook on the NT use of the OT, p. 42.

[11] Beale, Handbook on the NT use of the OT, p. 1-5.

[12] Beale, Handbook on the NT use of the OT, p. 13

[13] Beale, Handbook on the NT use of the OT, p. 5.

[14] An example of this is the work of Steve Moyise, who asserts that the NT authors often “change” and “modify” OT passages. See: S. Moyise, The Later New Testmaent Writers and Scripture (London: SPCK, 2012), p.4-5.

[15] Beale, Handbook on the NT use of the OT, p. 27.

[16] Beale, Handbook on the NT use of the OT, p. 42-43.

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