The Interpretation of Old Testament Prophecy in the New Testament

During the early formation of Christianity, the writers of the New Testament considered the Biblical Scriptures of the Old Testament in order to understand the significance of Jesus Christ. As a Christian, this writer holds the view that Jesus Christ is the son of the Most High God of the Old Testament of the Bible thus this paper shall reflect that. There are contrasting views about whether or not the New Testament fulfills Old Testament prophecy, and this writer shall seek to clarify an interpretation that is most likely as plausible both with the exegetical understanding of the Old and New Testament writers, and the hermeneutics of personal interpretation. Further, contemporary reflection will suggest the relevance of studying the Biblical Scriptures as we may understand them with the now available scientific process of evaluation. This paper examines various research by scholars throughout history to understand the merit of New Testament interpretation of Old Testament prophecy.

Prophecy in the Old Testament

About the future, the Old Testament has much to say, and among the many prophecies, there are many verses about the future messiah of Israel. The reader may wonder what the messiah is. In the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah says that “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (NIV, Isa 7:14). Immanuel means “God with Us” (Gundry 2012, pg. 197). Further description of the messiah is in Isaiah 9:6-7. These were saying that the Lord would show humanity a true savior of his people with specific signs, and furthermore, there would be a general narrative fulfilled.

For Old Testament Jews, prophecy of the messiah was that he would be a sacrifice for sin (Isa 53:5-12), he would be an aforementioned virgin (Isa 7:14), and perhaps that he would be reborn from the dead (Psa 16:10). Together, these three parts of the Old Testament are collectively a message stating that the messiah would be an extraordinary person who ultimately does what other ancient religions viewed as not possible in the form of resurrection. Robert H. Gundry shared insights into the religion of ancient Egypt. Gundry said, “When the fourteen pieces of the dismembered corpse of Osiris were reassembled, for example, he became the king of the dead in the underworld” (Gundry, 2012, pg. 70). The ancient Egyptians believed that the most that could transpire after death is a transition to the another world that is not becoming born again but rather confirming the utter finality of death as a state of being from which no one may return.

In contrast, according to R. L. Routledge, the Old Testament does have some information about resurrection. Routledge said, “It is a common view among scholars that the idea of resurrection was a relatively late development in Old Testament theology—found in the Old Testament only in Daniel 12:1-3, which is generally dated in the second century BC” (Routledge, 2008, pg. 23). Routledge’s comment is regarding the passage in Daniel related to the end times, when “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12:2). The understanding of this writer is that the passage from the book of Daniel expresses a resurrection from death. G. Goswell shared insights about the meaning of sleep in Daniel 12:2. Goswell asserted, “It is plain that the reference to ‘sleep’ in Dan 12:2 is a metaphor for death (cf. 1 Sam 28:15; Ps 13:3 [Heb 40; Jer 59:39, 57; Job 3:13, 14:12; 1 En. 90:9-10” (Goswell, 2013, pg. 149).

While this is approved by the scholarly community, an alternative view on the meaning of sleep in Dan 12:2 was proposed by C.E. Armerding. Armerding wrote in a periodical titled Asleep in the dust (1964), to paraphrase, “The translators of the Septuagint evidently believed that katheudo gave the sense of the word yashen (sleep) in Daniel 12:2, rather than the word koimao (death)” (Armerding, 1964, pg. 156). However, modern analysis of ancient texts has resulted in the New International Version that states, to paraphrase, “or I will sleep in death” (Psa 13:3). This can be cross-referenced with Isaiah 26:19 in, to paraphrase, “But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy” (Isa 26:19). Therefore, it is likely that the original text in Daniel 12 meant to sleep in death, rather than to sleep and stay alive as the Greek Septuagint argues. Theologically, the ancient Israelites were seeking a messiah who would be the basis of an eschatology for realized hope in life rather than a final death, sheol.

Interpretation in the New Testament

When the New Testament writers formed their theology, they utilized hermeneutical understandings of Old Testament prophecy in order to process the events of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Shirley Jackson Case explained the methodology that they enacted was not strictly logical. Case said, “But the New Testament writers and their readers, rigid logic was not a necessity. They were moved by suggestions, figures, types, analogies, allegories” (Case, 1911, pg. 100-101). Case was saying that both the New Testament writers and readers in the early Christian churches interpreted Christ’s personhood and divinity as characteristically unexpected. Therefore, Immanuel’s statement about law requires understanding that comes with faith that leads to reason.

Within the Bible, there is the verse, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mat 5:17). One thousand years ago, Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said the famous phrase, “’credo ut intelligam’” (Cessario, 1990, pg. 209). This means having faith to understand. It is this writer’s view that St. Anselm and the early Christians were in agreement about the interpretation of the Old Testament related to Jesus Christ because of the fact that Jesus Christ lived on earth during history. N.T. Wright shares what the first-century world was probably like for the average Jewish person. N.T. Wright said, “It was never envisaged that one person might receive “the resurrection” while the rest of history continued unchecked” (Borg, Wright, 1999). While this is argued, so too is likely that there were many aspects of the messiah that were expected of him on his arrival that occurred, such as his triumphal arrival on an unridden donkey recorded in all four Gospels (Mat 21:1-11, Lu 19:28-44, Joh 12:12-19).

The sight of the lowly Christ on a donkey entering Jerusalem, for example, perfectly matches Zechariah 9:9. Having said that, there were other aspects of Old Testament culture that were relevant to its interpretation, and Samuel E. Balentine shared information about them. Balentine said, “For this purpose three sources are of primary importance: the rabbis, Philo, and Qumran” (Balentine, 1981, pg. 48). According to Balentine, beyond the Old Testament, extra-Biblical aspects of intertestamental culture was involved in the formation of New Testament theology. The inverse of this can be hermeneutically understood as the Old Testament Scriptures thus not being isolated to one part of culture. As rabbis who were “ritualistic” (Gundry, 2012, pg. 86), Philo’s combination of “Judaism and Greek philosophy” (pg. 91), and Essenes who “produced the Dead Sea Scroll from Qumran” (pg. 30), it is thus that the interpretation of the Old Testament came from a variety of backgrounds, which were both Jewish and Gentile, in order to understand how the messiah was someone who was punished, died and rose again of all the possible outcomes.

Conclusions and Contemporary Reflection

In the New Testament, there is the realization of Old Testament proposals and assertions about revival. Ervin Budiselić asserted that the Old Testament concept of revival is present in the New Testament. Budiselić supported, “We should not seek to experience revival without anticipating true reformation” (Budiselić, 2014, pg. 46). This is saying that revival leads to what could be correctly described as an improvement. Biblically speaking, this is what Jesus Christ intended for the God’s people when he fulfilled the Mosaic law. As a result, the law has been perfected. Thematically, the New Testament tells a story of new beginnings without forgetting the past. On the contrary to forgetting the past, it has utilized it to thoroughly supplant itself in the world as a source of moral guidance that goes even further beyond the law to describe a kind of grace that could be said to delineate the purpose of the third commandment.

The Bible says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exo 20:8). After the bondage of the Hebrews in Egypt essentially considered beasts of labor, the single day of rest changed humanity from that to sanctified creatures. In the same way, the act of grace by Jesus Christ fulfills this commandment’s full purpose by giving humanity, which is, to paraphrase, “formed from the dust of the earth” (Gen 2:7), a piece of divinity in the form of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s perfect law is God’s kingdom on earth, and God’s dwelling place is the body of human being. As Paul said to the Corinthians, to paraphrase, “your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God” (1 Cor 6:19). It follows that in addition to the narrative of the Biblical Scriptures saying that the Jews’ messiah shall come and do as Old Testament prophecy says he would, New Testament reformation shows that the meta-narrative of the Biblical Scriptures is that God intends for his people to receive blessings exceedingly.

The Bible’s meta-narrative can be said to represent a kind of epistemology about the world based on faith. Jacobus W. Gericke said that the writings of the Old Testament are philosophically interesting because of this. Gericke (2013) asserted:

For whilst the Old Testament is not philosophical in nature, the prophecies in the world in the text contain nascent metaphysical assumptions about the nature of divine foreknowledge, the deity’s relation to time and human freedom, whether the authors were aware of holding these or not. (pg. 2)

For the reader who studies the Biblical Scriptures, it is this writer’s assertion that understanding the exegetical assumptions of the writers of the Old Testament and the New Testament can assist in apprehending, to paraphrase, the meaning of Paul’s statement, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16). Therefore, it makes sense to assert that the New Testament interpreters were aware of assumptions as the world equally similar to that of Old Testament prophesiers as the message of the Biblical Scriptures seems consistent.

References

Armerding, C. E. (1964). Asleep in the dust. Bibliotheca Sacra, 121(482), 153-158.

Balentine, S. E. (1981). The interpretation of the Old Testament in the New Testament. Southwestern Journal Of Theology, 23(2), 41-57.

Borg, M. J., & Wright, N. T. (1999). The meaning of Jesus: Two visions. San Francisco, CA: Harper.

Budiselić, E. (2014). The Old Testament Concept of Revival within the New Testament. Kairos: Evangelical Journal Of Theology, 8(1), 45-74.

Case, S. J.. (1911). The New Testament Writers’ Interpretation of the Old Testament. The Biblical World, 38(2), 92–102. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3141526

Cessario, R. (1990). The Godly Image: Christ and Salvation in Catholic Thought from St. Anselm to Aquinas (Vol. 6). St Bede’s Publications.

Goswell, G. (2013). Resurrection in the Book of Daniel. Restoration Quarterly, 55(3), 139-151.

Gericke, J. W. (2013). Why Old Testament prophecy is philosophically interesting. Hervormde Teologiese Studies, 69(1), 1-6. doi:10.4102/hts.v69i1.1197

Gundry, R. H. (2012). A Survey of the New Testament (5th ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Pg.197

Routledge, R. L. (2008). Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament. Journal Of European Baptist Studies, 9(1), 22-39.

 

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Epistemology and Information on the Internet

A practice that is relevant to the development of views is finding citable sources. However, what constitutes a citable source is predicated on the notion that a source is trustworthy.

In contemporary times, one of the most relevant topics related to developing views is how we accept what we consider useful for dissemination, and the Internet is related to that. Bo Brinkman and Alton F. Sanders (2013) said, “Epistemology, roughly speaking, studies the nature of knowledge and how we know what we know” (p. 211). A practice that is relevant to the development of views is finding citable sources. However, what constitutes a citable source is predicated on the notion that a source is trustworthy. Brinkman and Sanders mentioned that the start of the age of Enlightenment began societal dependence on singular experts who apply reason and construct knowledge (p. 211). Although this is the progress of history from a secular perspective and is valid as a concept of reason, it is a position apart from the grace of the Most High. We may look to the ancient philosophy, that of science, also relevant for an understanding of how Biblical truths are germane. In paraphrasing, Stephen Law (2007) said,

Scientists construct theories they believe are confirmed by what they observe. Such confirmation, however, comes in degrees. A theory might be very slightly confirmed by a piece of evidence, or it might be very strongly confirmed. One question we might ask about confirmation is: what makes one theory more strongly confirmed than the next? (170)

For Biblical truths, I think that individuals and people may rely on trust. The strongest argument that a skeptic could say against trusting the Biblical Scriptures is that no sense of self or self-concept may be trusted; all of reality could be a hologram for a single brain interfacing with a computer while placed in a vat. However, the notion that nothing is real therefore nothing is permitted is an induction of an induction, and doing so is a failure to build a general or specific argument based on the character of an individual person or people related to an action or series of actions. Without the acknowledgment of differentiated character, there can be no general brain in a vat. Without a general commanding character, there can be no multiple brains in vats. The notion that a computer could represent human ideals as well as human immorality and unethical behavior as an unconstructed leader that could be known in human terms separates the skeptic’s argument from a brain in a vat controlled by a computer from the essential resulting position that is a computer that is co-dependent on the brain because the best that the computer could be is another level of creation. There must be an ultimate level of truth by the skeptic’s own method of exhaustion. As Thomas Aquinas said of the highest level of existence that must be apart from reality, et-hoc-dicimus-deum: “And this we call God.” (Charry, 2000, p. 33). In proposing this position as the basis of trust, I think that sources that seek truth may be trusted.

When reviewing reports from one source or another on a single issue and there are contradictory reports, that may be an indicator of some unseen truth that may be derived or, on the other side of the mathematical axis of logic, induced. Although there is a contemporary notion that a truth is merely a fact, Biblical truths are facts that apply to all of mankind, male and female. Different people saying the exact same thing about an event implies that there is one source thus different people saying different things about an event implies that there are multiple sources and is more trustworthy than a single source. A Biblical truth that is relevant to this discussion is a verse from Mosaic Law. The Book of Deuteronomy (KJV) says, “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established” (19:15). Therefore, even with two or more sources, if these so-called sources have a single source for themselves linking them all together, two separate sources are more historically credible in a way that truths may be respected and understood.

With that said, the Internet offers access to much data on the internet, but in my experience, there are relatively few major sources of information. The vertical honor or prestige that is apparent is elevated from the base of horizontal honor that is introductory recognition. For the purpose of keeping the freedoms of speech and equal protections led by the United States, alternative sources or news should probably be acknowledged in a truthful way. Going against that is an attack on the integrity of character that Internet news sources have respect for apart from mere consistency. Rather than only consistency, the integrity of character that I speak of is the consistency of doing right things. Without that kind of integrity, any notion of doing the right thing is coated by the subject of seeking an end that results in maximum good for a particular group of people rather than what benefits man in common. As a Christian American, I believe that those who lack in basic necessities such as knowledge need truths that may help enrich characters so even if money is tight, people may rejoice in the blessings that they do have or will have with hard work.

Even though the epistemology that people may take for granted can be useful in a variety of disciplines, I think that there are issues with contemporary perspectives related to the development of views about contemporary issues. There is a useful application for the skeptic’s strongest position and that is the recognition that computer that the brain in a vat is attached to would ultimately be a part of creation as well, so assuming the highest existence as beyond reality that is thus supernatural is more tenable. Having said that, distinguishing truths that apply to all men, male and female, may help recognize fact from fiction for the purpose of developing information relevant for dissemination on the Internet.

References

Brinkman, W. J., & Sanders, A. F. (2013). Ethics in a Computing Culture. Boston, MA.

Charry, E. T. (2000). Inquiring after God: Classic and contemporary readings. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Law, S. (2012). Philosophy.

 

Nicomachean Ethics Book I: The Good for Man

In the days of Ancient Greece, before Christ walked the earth in the flesh, a philosopher named Aristotle of Cyrene wrote a worked titled Nichomachean Ethics, and this entry is about the first book. The first book, THE GOOD FOR MAN, Aristotle begins with an assumption about all men. Steven M. Cahn and Peter Markie wrote that Aristotle said, “All human activities aim at some good: some goods are subordinate to others” (Cahn, Markie, 2012 p. 124). Aristotle was claiming that every personal and professional action throughout history can be assumed as working towards some end goal from a purpose. This may be interpreted as people having any particular end that is a personal philosophical argument. In the post-modern age, this is called a worldview. After this initial assumption, Aristotle derives an answer. Aristotle said, “The science of the good for man is politics” (p. 124). Further, Robert C. Bartlett asserted his stance about Aristotle. Bartlett said, “And in order to grasp the most important arguments of Aristotle’s “philosophy of human matters”—for example, to understand the ground of the superiority of intellectual to moral virtue—such reflection on happiness proves to be crucial” (Bartlett, 2008). With the words of Aristotle and Bartlett’s analysis, superior mental ability may be surmised as the means for attaining a particular good according to Aristotle.

Before this, the Biblical Scriptures contrasted this assertion. For example, the Book of Micah says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV, Micah 6:8). This is after the Exodus date asserted by Ralph K. Hawkins. In paraphrasing, Hawkins said, “Both biblical and extrabiblical evidence pointed to a mid-15th century BC date” (Hawkins, 2007). Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton assert an approximate date for Micah. Hill and Walton wrote, “He [Micah] is said to have prophesied during the days of kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. These three kings reigned during the last half of the eighth century BC, and it is a safe assumption that the prophecies would have been recorded at that time” (Hill & Walton, 2009, p. 642). During the time of the divided monarchy of Israel, Micah prophesied that God’s law is a reflection of His intelligence.

Although God is thought of in contemporary times as all knowing, the Hebrew Bible saw him particularly as infinitely wise in contexts of morality that exist in all things, and that is the distinguishing trait that separates Yahweh from all other gods. This may be seen with God’s position of lifting up people out of slavery and making them leaders of the ancient world; God is best noticed in his blessing of the meek. Therefore, Aristotle’s good for man is probably challenged the most in helping those who are meek. In my experience, the political good of a group even if refined from birth is not always moral in the eyes of Christ.

Bibliography

Bartlett, R. C. (2008). Aristotle’s introduction to the problem of happiness: On Book I of the Nicomachean Ethics. American Journal of Political Science, 52(3), 677-687. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5907.2008.00336.x

Cahn, S. M., & Markie, P. J. (2012). Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues (5th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

 

Hill, A. E., & Walton, J. H. (2009). A survey of the Old Testament (3rd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House.