I want to get back to some of my musings on inspiration, canon, and how we view the biblical text. I find one complicating factor in all of this the way in which the New Testament writers used the Old Testament. They violate most of the principles of biblical interpretation that I use.
- The New Testament writers seem to value the words of the Old Testament above the intention of the original author. Take Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:16 for example:
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
Frankly, if anyone tried to use that reasoning in a discussion with me, I’d merely laugh away their argument. Look at the promise from the book of Genesis:
“I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.” (Genesis 13:16)
In context, it’s obvious that offspring is meant to refer to Abraham’s descendants. But Paul could ignore the original meaning and focus on the wording itself.
- The New Testament writers paid little attention to context. Matthew’s use of Hosea 11:1 (“out of Egypt I called my son”) to refer to Joseph and Mary taking Jesus from Egypt to Nazareth ignores the fact that Hosea is referring back to the exodus from Egypt, not forward.
- The New Testament writers freely spiritualized Old Testament passages. When Paul talks about the Israelites drinking water in the wilderness, he says, “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4) There’s nothing in the Old Testament accounts that suggests that there was a single rock that followed them in the wilderness, nor that the rock was anything more than an actual rock.
- The New Testament writers sometimes made points based off one translation of the text that couldn’t be made using other translations. There are myriad occasions in which the version quoted is the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, while the Hebrew version says something quite different. (A good listing can be found on this page, though it’s presented in a slightly argumentative way)
My solution has been to say that the New Testament writers were inspired in a way that I’m not, so they could do things with the text that I can’t. But that doesn’t keep these things from complicating how we view inspiration.