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Old Testament Use of Old Testament: A Book-by-Book Guide, by Gary Edward Schnittjer. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2021, 1,104 pages, $74.99.

“Scriptural exegesis of Scripture is an engine of progressive revelation”—these words begin Gary Schnittjer’s tome Old Testament Use of Old Testament. The Bible is its own best interpreter (WCF 1.9) and biblical authors after Moses advanced revelation by exegesis, building upon the foundation of prior revelation. The chosen men inspired by the Holy Spirit took previous biblical truths and expanded upon them. Schnittjer’s aim is to show us precisely what they did and where they did it.

By speaking of progressive revelation, Old Testament Use of Old Testament places itself in the popular field of biblical theology.[1] As J. V. Fesko explains, “biblical theology has been a part of the church’s interpretive history from the earliest years, not simply in the patristic period, but stretching back into the very formation of the Old Testament (OT) canon, evidenced in its own intra-canonical interpretation.”[2] Schnittjer’s work offers something new, however: Old Testament Use of Old Testament proceeds book by book from Genesis to Malachi (or, more accurately, from Genesis to Chronicles, as Schnittjer follows the Hebrew ordering of the books).

In this, Old Testament Use of Old Testament surprised me. Given the title of the book, I expected it to be like Beale and Carson’s essential work Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007). I gleefully anticipated an unfolding of each quotation, allusion, and echo, given that “Scripture is characterized by a rich intertextuality. On almost every page, the Bible either quotes or alludes to other biblical passages.”[3] However, Schnittjer’s book, though over one thousand pages, has a far narrower aim. Schnittjer limits his study to places where an Old Testament book exegetes and develops another OT passage. Jeremiah 17, for example, develops sabbath compliance by pointing out a particular application of the sabbath to a situation that was previously implicit and unspecified (275). Likewise, at the beginning of the chapter on Isaiah, Schnittjer helpfully describes how Isaiah 1:2 and 1:10 draw on Deuteronomy 32:1 but does not explain what it means that Isaiah 1:10 refers to God's own people as “Sodom and Gomorrah” (221). Schnittjer does acknowledge that many “non-exegetical” allusions exist, but his declining to interact with them will surely disappoint many readers.

Purchasers should be aware, therefore, that Old Testament Use of Old Testament is not a companion volume to Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Nevertheless, Schnittjer’s book does not have some of the weaknesses of Beale and Carson’s, for here the same author with the same standards of allusion evaluates each book, whereas Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament features numerous authors.

“While anyone is welcome to read this book,” Schnittjer explains in his introduction, “it is designed as a reference study for students and ministers of the word” (xliv). Before delving into the biblical books, Schnittjer helpfully introduces readers to his project and various contemporary theories about intertextuality. Similarly, the large glossary in the back of the book contains helpful definitions of key interpretive terms, including “Seidel's theory,” where an author draws attention to a quotation by reversing its ordering, as when Jonah 4:2 inverts Exodus 34:6, “a gracious and compassionate God” rather than “a compassionate and gracious God” (899).

Each chapter of Old Testament Use of Old Testament begins with an explanation of the symbols used to summarize exegetical innovations, followed by a list of uses of prior revelation in that biblical book. Schnittjer provides a valuable “Hermeneutical Profile” at the outset of each chapter that interprets some of the data he will provide. Finally, each chapter ends with a “Filters” section where the author mentions numerous other echoes and allusions that he deems “non-exegetical” and therefore does not cover.

Because some OT books are shorter than others, some chapters are correspondingly brief. Genesis, as the beginning of biblical revelation, provides one of the shortest chapters. The chapter on Numbers was one of my favorites, as Schnittjer explains how God advanced revelation through authorized interpreters to facilitate his ongoing covenantal relationship with the people (58–59). That chapter has numerous insightful points, such as that Numbers 24:9 blends the Abrahamic promise with the blessing of Judah, hinting at the future intertwining of Abrahamic and Davidic covenants (68).

Furthermore, Schnittjer’s research prompts thought about the nature of progressive revelation and biblical law. He writes,

Views of scriptural legal instruction that do not allow for the dynamics of revelatory advancement misconstrue the nature and function of biblical law. Divinely revealed law should not be treated as inert fossilized data. … law serves covenantal relationship, not the other way around. (71)

Thankfully, nowhere in the book does one get the sense that progressive revelation is at odds with God’s immutability (see 899).

One critical challenge in evaluating scriptural exegesis of Scripture is determining dating and dependence. Typically, Old Testament Use of Old Testament gives some suggestion as to which text came first and which text “received” and exegeted a prior “donor” passage. Dating Chronicles “after the production of the majority of biblical writings,” means, for example, that “Chronicles will be regarded as the receptor context in cases of scriptural allusion …” (695) This also reveals the potential value of Schnittjer’s work in making exegetes really think through the old “chicken or the egg” problem; I was challenged to think, for example, about the assertion that Job 19 uses Lamentations, and therefore, “Lamentations is the donor and Job the receptor context,” with the implication that Job was written after 586 B.C. (557–58). Scholars considering the dates of biblical books will especially be helped by Old Testament Use of the Old Testament.

These and many other positive attributes aside, I do have reservations about this expensive work. Most importantly, Schnittjer’s distinction of exegetical advancement from other forms of intertextuality like echo and allusion limits the usefulness of the book. Exegetes should not expect Old Testament Use of Old Testament to be a one stop shop for understanding how a text fits into its Old Testament context. Because the book focuses on lexical and linguistic links, many significant connotations will slip through the cracks, such as Amos 5’s references back to Bethel and Gilgal and God’s mighty presence and grace experienced there. Amos builds on Israel’s history at those places, but readers of Old Testament Use of Old Testament would not know it.

Therefore, I wonder if pastors and students are really the best audience for this book. For students, there are other Old Testament introductions that cover each book in survey form, and preachers may be better served with a detailed commentary. Likewise, the book’s many symbols and data make it difficult to navigate and use. References to “the Deuteronomist” (e.g., 204–5) will likely make some readers uncomfortable, and the lack of explanation about such matters suggests a more academic audience.

Furthermore, Old Testament Use of Old Testament features a rating system that evaluates the likelihood of scriptural intertextuality (including A, “likely”; B, “probable interpretive allusion”; or C, “possible”). An “A” rating is only achieved by three shared Hebrew nouns or verbs. While three shared Hebrew roots is an objective standard, the author believes that seeing allusions is subjective: “Detecting allusions creates tension between art and science. … Decisions on more or less probability of allusion are necessarily subjective because of the literary artistry of the Hebrew Scriptures” (xxi, xxviii). Schnittjer would likely be more cautious than many of us in seeing intertextual links, and his method struck me as a strange mix of wanting certainty but also denying that it can be achieved.

These criticisms should not overshadow the evident hard work put into Old Testament Use of the Old Testament. It takes a love for the Word of God to prepare such an extensive book. Furthermore, Schnittjer has created something unique and thoughtful, a reminder that biblical authors faithfully tweaked, developed, and applied past revelation to new situations. As our Westminster Confession states, the way that the many books of the Word of God fit together (“the consent of all the parts”) is one of the “many … incomparable excellencies” that testifies to its divine authority (WCF 1.5). This work highlights that harmony and should make us appreciate how God, the ultimate author and shaper of the canon, artfully exegeted past Scripture and events, revealing more and more over time. Add this helpful reference work to your church library.

Endnotes

[1] Schnittjer studied at Dallas Seminary but has clearly drunk from the wells of the Reformed tradition, citing Vos in his first non-scriptural footnote (xviii and xlii).

[2] J. V. Fesko, “On the Antiquity of Biblical Theology” in Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in the Service of the Church, Essays in Honor of Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., eds. Lane G. Tipton and Jeffrey C. Waddington (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008), 445.

[3] Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and its Interpretation (New York: T&T Clark, 2011), 124.

Andrew J. Miller serves as pastor of Bethel Reformed Presbyterian Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Ordained Servant Online, March 2022.

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Ordained Servant: March 2022

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