top of page
  • Connor Kennedy

Run In Their Wake: A Summary and Commendation of Greg Lanier’s Old Made New

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Guest Contributor: Connor Kennedy

John Webster once said that every theologian’s chief obligation and delight is to run in the wake of the apostles and prophets.[1] By “run in their wake,” he meant something like, “carefully trace the logical contours of their thoughts, which the Holy Spirit led them to pen in Holy Scripture.”

Every preacher is chiefly obligated to think the biblical authors’ thoughts after them. He must habituate his people to do the same. A vital part of this task includes helping them comprehend later Scripture’s use of earlier Scripture. This is a difficult task, but the payoff is worth the toil. When we do this well, we enable our people to think God’s thoughts after him.

The point of this post is to highlight an important resource for busy pastors seeking to run in the wake of the apostles and prophets––Greg Lanier’s Old Made New: A Guide to the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. In the book, Greg Lanier assists pastors by offering a simplified three-step process for understanding the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament.

Why must preachers understand Scripture’s use of Scripture?

Clarity. What’s at stake is nothing less than the clarity of God’s gospel mediated through our preaching. Not all of God’s words are equally easy for us to understand (cf. 2 Pet 3:16), but woe to us if we muddle them because we didn’t take the time to double-click (Lanier’s metaphor) on the biblical authors’ citations of prior Scripture.

Paul’s words to Jewish hypocrites echo in the back of my mind, “You then who teach others, do you not teach yourselves?!” Yes, I know. Paul was speaking primarily about doctrine driving holiness. Yet, I think the application stands for preachers. How can we call our people to assiduously attend to God’s words in their quiet times while hurdling the apostles’ OT citations and allusions in sermon prep?

The whole Bible progresses, integrates, and climaxes in Christ, his gospel, and his church. In part, we lead our people to see Christ in all of Scripture through a CLEAR presentation of the Scripture’s use of Scripture.

How can preachers run well when they run into citations, quotations, and allusions?

As God’s writers, the apostles and prophets drew theological conclusions from God’s prior speech to support, clarify, and justify their messages. To keep pace with their Spirit-wrought logic, we need strategies for identifying and following their citations of antecedent revelation. For our messages to be Christ-centered and clear, we must regularly ask and answer the question, “How did the Holy Spirit lead this later author to ground, explain, and vindicate his theological conclusions by earlier Scripture?” This is a necessary step in studying all of God’s progressively unfolding revelation––the OT use of the OT (prophets), and the NT use of the OT (apostles).

How can preachers avoid getting bogged down in scholarly minutiae?

I love scholarly minutiae. I’m thankful for people who think carefully about the Scripture’s use of Scripture. But I’m not eager to wade through esoteric scholarly particularities when I have other pastoral duties and a Sunday deadline looming.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many accessible resources for pastors interested in sharpening their NT-Use-of-the-OT tools. Greg Lanier appropriately laments, “If one wants to retrace the footsteps of Jesus and the apostolic circle in how they read and apply the OT, the landscape can be daunting.”[2] Lanier continues:

“Readers who try to brush up on the NT use of the OT often find themselves overwhelmed with jargon and theoretical frameworks. Some of the best books on the subject quickly drown the reader with technical terminology like “rabbinic midrashic exegesis,” “Qumran scrolls,” and “Jewish apocalyptic literature.” Others clothe excellent ideas with flowery garb—“catalytic fusion,” “figural fusions,” “figural web”—that may puzzle the average layperson. Commentators regularly declare that an NT author has ripped an OT passage out of context, raising questions about the trustworthiness of the Bible. Other scholars draw fine distinctions between Luke’s “prophetic-fulfillment” versus Matthew’s “messianic” use of the OT, without explaining why or how those differ. In short, the step from knowing that the NT uses the OT to understanding how is often a perilous one.”[3]

But Lanier didn’t merely lament the lacuna. In response to the hole in scholarship, he authored a resource outlining his methodology for evaluating Scripture’s use of Scripture that is substantial yet comprehensible, scholarly without being esoteric. Lanier’s Old Made New: A Guide to the New Testament Use of the Old Testament is an excellent primer to help weary pastors refresh their approach to analyzing the NT use of the OT.

Below is an outline of Lanier’s simplified approach to evaluating the NT’s use of the OT. Let it provoke you to press for greater clarity when you encounter Scripture’s use of Scripture. And go buy his book. His kids will appreciate it.

Lanier’s Three-Step Process[4]

Step 1: Identify the Passage

1. Ask, “Is the OT passage being cited, quoted, or alluded to?”

a. Citation: OT passages introduced with a formula such as “it is written” (Jn 6:31), “therefore it says” (Eph 4:8), “it has been testified somewhere” (Heb 2:6), “written in Isaiah” (Mk 1:2), or “written in the second Psalm” (Acts 13:33) to directly alert the reader that the OT is being used. Often a sentence or more, used to prove something apologetically (Acts 2:16–21; 28:25–28) or to add argumentative weight (Rom 3:10–18; Heb 8:8–12).

b. Quotation: Somewhat lengthy portions of the OT, often quoted verbatim, but without an introduction formula (e.g., Matt 7:23/Ps 6:8; Rom 9:7/Gen 21:12; 1 Cor 5:13/Deut 17:7). The NT author is quoting the OT, but not necessarily telling you that. The main effect of an unsignaled quotation is that the NT message is given an OT significance—like clothing the apostolic author’s ideas in the garments of the OT.

c. Allusion: A brief expression consciously intended by an author to be dependent on an OT passage (e.g., Gen 28:12/Jn 1:51; Num 32:13/Matt 4:2; Dan 7:3–8/Rev 13:2). Usually shorter and less precise than quotations.

i. 4 Criteria: Volume (How much word-for-word parallelism?), Recurrence (Does the NT author use that OT passage (or book) elsewhere?), Coherence (Does the OT passage fit with the argument in the NT?), Plausibility (Could the original NT audience have detected this allusion too?)

Step 2: Double-Click on the OT (Wording and Broader Context)

1. Compare the wording of both passages and note any differences.

a. Many passages will be identical with the OT counterpart in your English Bible. However, variations occur for two reasons: (1) NT authors may be consulting something that differs from the standard Hebrew used for modern bibles (quoting from memory, Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls) (Matt 12:21/Isa 42:4); (2) a NT author may intentionally tweak the wording to fit his new context (updating grammar, rearranging clauses, omitting portions, paraphrasing, substituting words). Such modifications can help us understand what the NT author is driving at (e.g., Lk 4:19/Isa 61:2).

2. Read the chapter or larger section in which the OT quotation resides.

3. Make broader observations about the OT Passage:

a. Where does this passage fall in the history of Israel (patriarchal period, exodus period, cycle of judges, early monarchy, later monarchy, exile, restoration)?

b. What type of writing is this (narrative, law, poetry, wisdom, prophecy)?

c. What keywords or themes stand out that may have attracted the NT author’s attention?

d. What is the basic sense of this OT passage in its original context? How does its theme relate to the bigger storyline of the OT?

Step 3: Listen to the Remix

“A remix involves reinterpreting a musical composition through various changes: adjusting tempo, adding new sounds, rearranging strophes or verses, inserting portions from other songs, and so forth. A good remix leaves the original recognizable but brings out newness, often with a different audience in mind. There is continuity (because it is a re-mix, not a wholly new song) but also discontinuity.”[5] That’s what the NT authors are doing. They are interpreting the OT Scriptures in light of the fullness of God’s revelation in Christ. They are reading backwards. The hinge of discontinuity is Christ himself. “In him, Old is made New.”[6]

1. Ask, “Is it a Prediction, Pattern, or Prescription?”

a. Prediction: The OT author prophesied a future person or event, and the NT author points to a concrete reality and says, “That is what the OT author was talking about” (Acts 2:31/Ps 16:8–11; Acts 3:20–22/Deut 18:15).

b. Pattern: Analogy (Acts 7:51) or Typology. Typology is God’s writing on human history the pictures he wants us to have to understand his salvation in Christ. An OT person, place, or thing plays a role in salvation that prefigures an even greater person, place, or thing in the NT such as Jesus, the gospel, or the church (“Adam” Rom 5:14; “Tabernacle/Temple” John 2:21, 1 Cor 6:19, Heb 9:24; “Passover/Exodus” Jn 1:29, 1 Cor 5:7).

c. Prescription: Moral instruction. Sometimes it is indirect in nature, drawing out basic principles (1 Tim. 5:18) or moral examples (Heb. 11). Other times it is direct in nature, applying OT commandments in a straightforward and normative manner today (Rom. 13:9). Either way, God’s own moral character transcends time (continuity), though the application may change in light of the new era of the church (discontinuity).

2. Draw conclusions from the NT context/argument.

a. What is the flow of thought in the NT text?

b. How does the OT text contribute to the author’s point?

c. What does it add that would be missing if the citation, quotation, or allusion were not there?

d. How does the OT passage shine light on the NT here? And how does the context of the NT shine light on the OT here?

e. What response does this use of the OT seem to elicit from the reader (original and today’s)?

[1] John Webster, “Biblical Reasoning,” quoted by R.B. Jamieson and Tyler Wittman in Biblical Reasoning: Christological and Trinitarian Rules for Exegesis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2022), xviii. [2] Greg Lanier, Old Made New: A Guide to the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 15. [3] Lanier, Old Made New, 15–16. [4] For Lanier’s extended discussion of his method, see Chapter 1, “Tools of the Trade,” pp. 19–40. [5] Lanier, Old Made New, 32. [6] Lanier, Old Made New, 33.

38 views0 comments


bottom of page