An Interlude (a thought on preaching the OT)

While we wait with anticipation for Randy’s next post on Preaching the Old Testament here is an excellent thought from John Sailhamer on the relationship between the OT and the NT. His article is refreshingly different because he doesn’t buy in to the common idea that the OT must be interpreted through the grid of the NT:

The NT is not so much a guide to understanding the OT as it is the goal of understanding the OT. Unless we understand the OT picture of the Messiah, we will not understand the NT picture of Jesus. The OT, not the NT, is the messianic searchlight (11).”

From John H. Sailhamer, “The Messiah and the Hebrew Bible” JETS44/1 (March 2001) 5-23.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Great quote, Paul. I can’t [wait] to get to Sailhamer’s article on the prophets in the book we’re discussing.

  2. Randy, I would like for you to do a post at some point on Sailhamer’s understanding of compositional seams (for those of us on the low end of intelligence). I have read him a lot on this subject and it has only raised more questions for me.

  3. Sure, I’ll see if I can summarize in a way that is fitting for a blog.

  4. Posted by Allen on January 28, 2007 at 8:27 am

    I’m looking for some good material on preaching NT narrative. Perhaps this has been a discussion here before. Does anybody know of some good, concise articles, or maybe a good book or section that I could check out?

    Sorry my comment is unrelated to the post.



  5. Allen,

    There are a number of good resources but I find that Walter Kaiser’s chapter on “Narrative” in Cracking Old Testament Codes” works for NT narrative as well.

    His guidelines for interpretation are:
    1. Identify each scene of the narrative.
    2. Analyze the plot of the narrative.
    3. Determine the point of view from which the narrative is recorded.
    4. Pay close attention to the details of the scene.
    5. Examine the dialogue that the author uses to narrate the story.
    6. Look at the units within a scene and their relationship with one another.
    7. Study the stylistic devises the author used.

    I would say that # 2, 6, and 7 have been most helpful to me as I have preached through Matthew. #6 is really important because it will ultimately keep the message on point without losing the focus of the larger pericope and/or theme.

    I am working on a series of posts for Expository Thoughts on preaching the Gospels and Acts wherein I hope to deal with these issues more fully.


  6. We would not understand the O.T. without the N.T.
    We have to have the N.T> to undertand the O.T. in the Messianic light.

  7. Charles,

    I’m sure you realize this, but that is not what the quote is saying. In fact, it’s saying the exact opposite of what you said. Why do you disagree with the quote?


  8. Charles,

    The more prevalent view(i.e., the NT interprets the OT) is what you have articulated here but I provided the quote to hopefully challenge some of the ideas associated with the popular view. I think a lot of it is built on false assumptions about the older testament.

    Sailhamer is arguing (in the larger paper)that to understand the NT you have to understand the OT. For example, it is theologically impossible to articulate a biblical view of atonement without going to the OT first. The entire teaching of the NT on atonement depends (in every way) on the OT teaching. Likewise, I would argue that one does not get to the bottom of Romans or Hebrews without an OT foundation. Other items like eschatology are not rooted in The Revelation but in the covenants with Abraham, David, and the New Covenant and the preservation of those covenant promises through the Prophets.

    However, Sailhamer’s main argument is that the foundational teaching for the person and work of the Messiah is in the OT. So it is the OT that paves the way for the NT.

  9. Paul and Randy

    “The NT is not so much a GUIDE to understanding the OT as it is the goal of understanding the OT. ”

    What I missed was “is not so much a guide”. I should have read careful the whole quote.

    Paul thanks for the note of explanation on the quote. And I agree with your points.

    My method has been to preach from the N.T. and use the O.T. as an illustration of the N.T. principle. But I am learning that is not a popular view point.

    The Scripture is a progressive revelation of the plan of God, thus what the O.T. books tell us was within that they understood. I am not sure to what degree they understood as those in the N.T. time.

    Yes we need to apprehend the teaching of the O.T. because as a progressive revelation, the N.T. then announces what God’s purpose was in the first place. Jesus Christ.

    Where I have trouble understanding, can we teach the O.T. in the frame time that it was written?

    I have trouble in teaching that every chapter and verse is about Jesus Christ. I do think some books and chapters speak to the Earthly Kingdom as well as Heavenly Kingdom.

    How would you teach the O.T. if we did not have the N.T. as a reference.

    Could we know God’s plan and purpose if we didn’t have th O.T.?


  10. Sailhamer’s JETS article about the Messiah and his “preaching the prophets” article are both spot on.

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