Saturday, February 13, 2010


I have a question that I would like to get input from you all on. I've been reading some of Richard Hays work on intertextuality and also am taking a course in biblical theology where this issue came up. When an New Testament writer alludes to or quotes the Old Testament, how often do they intend to pull in a wider context than the verses they just cited? To use a modern example, if you were delivering a speech on social justice, and you uttered the phrase, 'I have a dream' you probably would be doing more than just quoting a small phrase from Dr. King. You would probably be attempting to pull in the wider context of his speech and the moment in history and perhaps even of the character of Dr. King, himself. How often do biblical authors do the same thing and how integral is it to their arguments?

I am incluned to think that the above scenario does happen, so my follow up questions are, how conjectural should our exegesis be and what role this conjectural exegesis should have in the formation of our theology?

Any thoughts?


  1. Marcus--

    These are important questions. Speaking rather generally, I believe there are times when Paul does in fact allude to entire narratives. For instance, I believe Paul alludes to the entire Exodus narrative (Ex 32-34) in 2 Cor 3.7-18. N.T. Wright argues that Paul has the entire Psalm 116.10 in mind when he states "I believed; therefore I have spoken." (Paul for Everyone: 2 Corinthians--sorry no page #.) In the end, when doing exegesis and ultimately theology, we should probably not assume this is Paul's only method of interpreting the scriptures of Israel (e.g. Gal 4.21-31). In other words we should treat allusions on a case by case basis.

  2. Hi Matthew,

    I think your answer is well balanced. I know that I have run into some who seemed very hesitant to see allusions or even if they think they might be there are tentative to allot much weight to them. That seems to run the risk of missing out on some of the beautiful texture of Scripture. On the other hand we do need to avoid finding allusions under every rock. I find Hays work helpful because he provides solid criteria for detecting allusions.