Mixed Usefulness

Finding the Old Testament in the New, by Henry M. Shires (Westminster, 1974, 251 pp., $7.50), is reviewed by John Goldingay, lecturer in Old Testament, St. John’s Theological College, Bramcote, England.

Henry M. Shires, who is professor of New Testament at Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, has written a wide ranging survey of how the New Testament uses the Old. He begins by noting that the New Testament regards the Old as the inspired word of God, “authoritative for belief and practice”:

It was the recognition that the Holy Spirit was active in the writing of the Old Testament which enabled Christians to accept its authority over them as over the Jews. Moses, David, Isaiah, Hosea, and other authors are looked upon as God’s chosen instruments for the writing down of his words [p. 27].

Later Shires affirms that Jesus too took this attitude to the Old Testament. But, he adds, it is true that in Jesus and the giving of the Spirit something new has come, with an authority equal to that of the Old Testament. Thus the New Testament quotes and treats the Old Testament with a sovereign freedom. Indeed, paradoxically, Jesus abrogated the Old Testament as well as accepting it, says Shires. His evidence for this conclusion is that Jesus taught that the Old Testament did not go far enough, that he treated some parts of it as on a higher level than others, and that he assumed the authority to give his own interpretation of it; one may grant the truth of these three points without regarding them as a demonstration that Jesus abrogated the Old Testament. Elsewhere Shires infers that the New Testament’s failure to quote from some of the psalms signifies that it rejected them, and he indicates that he himself ...

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