Do We Need to Understand the Old Testament to Interpret the New?

With every movement within American Christianity, there are strengths and weaknesses. With the recent emphasis on verse-by-verse expository preaching, the Bible has been faithfully declared in a way consistent with how it was written. This is a major strength of the expository preaching movement. If there is a weakness, it is that in some parts of this movement, there has been an emphasis on the New Testament to the point that the Old Testament serves strictly as moralistic teaching. I remember hearing D.A. Carson clearly and faithfully trace patterns and themes from the Old Testament into the New, and I felt like my hermeneutical world went from hazy to sharply focused. There was a richness there that I wanted in my preaching and teaching.

In David B. Capes’ new commentary, Matthew Through Old Testament Eyes, he seeks to bring into the interpretation of Matthew the Old Testament allusions and themes that are present throughout. These themes and pictures are especially evident in the Gospels and Acts, largely because of the significant overlap between the Mosaic covenant and the Age of Grace brought to bear at the death and resurrection of Christ. Capes’ strength is that he brings that richness. His is not a technical commentary or exegetical work. Rather, he writes with a heart for background material and how it can influence the interpretation of the text and how it can drive further application of that same text. I would highly recommend reading commentaries in this series along with other more technical volumes. This is a niche work that fills a needed gap in the scholarship.

With any work seeking to fill a gap that relies on outside expertise (in this case expertise in cultural and Old Testament backgrounds), there are going to be weaknesses and blind spots. While the commentary as a whole is very helpful, there are times when Capes seems to overstate his case without much OT support. For example, he makes the case that John the Baptist comes eating locusts because he is “destroying the destroyer” so often found in OT plagues and consequences. This may very well be true, but I hesitate to draw spiritual significance from each and every NT detail. This may be a failing on my part more than on the author’s. In fact, it is quite possible that my history of hearing preaching on the OT that was very poor and attempted to draw spiritual significance from the most minute detail while missing the beautiful story of redemption may be influencing my judgment here.

I encourage you to read the book for yourself. It’s not a complicated read, and there is much to commend it. At the very least, David Capes has capably sought to fill a gap in scholarship that I pray opens a flood of solid writings on the wholistic nature of the Bible without compromising the integrity of the Old versus the New and of Israel versus the Church.

I received a copy of this book from Kregel for an honest review.

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