Jesus’ Use Of The Old Testament And The Genesis Of New Testament Theology -- By: E. Earle Ellis

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 03:1 (NA 1993)
Article: Jesus’ Use Of The Old Testament And The Genesis Of New Testament Theology
Author: E. Earle Ellis


Jesus’ Use Of The Old Testament And The Genesis Of New Testament Theology

E. Earle Ellis

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

For Peter Stuhlmacher on his Sixtieth Birthday

A paper read in the seminar on “Inhalte und Probleme einer neutestamentliche Theologie” at the meeting of Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, Madrid, 27-31 July 1992.

The present paper has its ultimate background in doctoral research at Edinburgh, Tübingen, and Göttingen, at a time when the Dead Sea Scrolls were beginning to be published. My study under Matthew Black, Otto Michel, and Joachim Jeremias placed me, in the categories of that period, among the “rabbinists” rather than the “hellenists,” and a visit in 1954 to Qumran and to the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, where the analysis of the Scrolls was proceeding, left a deep impression of the significance of the discoveries for the beginnings of Christianity. The importance of the pesher commentaries, of 4QFlorilegium, of 4QTestimonia, and of other midrashim combined with my dissertation topic1 to raise questions about the secondary role given the NT’s use of the OT by the then-dominant reconstruction of the ministry of Jesus and by what is now called the classical form criticism.

The place of the OT in early Christian thought will depend on its significance (1) in the word and works of Jesus, (2) in the composition of the four gospels, and (3) of other early Christian literature, which for all practical purposes means our NT. It would be enhanced if one could identify (4) certain dominical teachings from the OT that were taken up in Acts and in the letters of the apostolic missions.

At mid-century three axioms current in much of NT criticism ruled out an important role for the OT in Jesus’ teaching and, consequently, in the theology of earliest Christianity. They were (1) the perception of Jesus as an apocalyptic preacher, (2) the interpretation of NT theology in terms of contemporary pagan religions and of a Judaism conceptually separated from its OT roots, and (3) a form criticism of the Gospels that, under these influences, regarded their biblical citations, dialogues, and controversies as secondary creations of the postresurrection church. “The apocalyptic Jesus” of Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer was the prevailing view on the Continent2 although it was challenged in England by the realized eschatology of C. H. Dodd.3 This view of Jesus allowed little place for his role as a teacher, especially as an interpre...

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