Beckwith on the Relationship between the Testaments

In his magnificent book, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, Roger Beckwith writes (408):

The church was, of course, given its own authoritative interpretation of the Old Testament by Jesus and the apostles, but since Christianity was a thorough-going prophetic movement, claiming a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, withdrawn when prophecy ceased, the writings in which this interpretation was incorporated formed not just an appendix to the canon but a new body of Scriptures, which took its place alongside the old one, as its fulfillment, in the unfolding life of the church.

Beckwith’s book may be the most compelling volume I have ever read.

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10 Comments

  1. If so compelling, why did you not follow his argument for the ordering of the OT canon when you wrote GOD’S GLORY IN SALVATION THROUGH JUDGMENT?

  2. Ok. Wait. Wait. I’m confused.

    Jesus gave to the Church (or is ‘c’hurch?) it’s own authoritative interpretation of the Old Testament. Except it wasn’t Old when Jesus gave it…. It was still in force – “gegraptai” – “it stands written” (i.e., Mat. 2:5).

    So if the NT is the fulfillment of the “old one” (OT), then the church must be the fulfillment of Israel. And if the church is the fulfillment of Israel, then the Israelites can only get confused by the OT – they really don’t need the OT anymore. So there really isn’t a need anymore for and “old” and a “new,” just a “New.” The OT is used up – it fulfilled it purpose – it’s all fulfilled.

    And, umm, fellas, how does this not lead to modern Marcionism? Oh yeah. Sermon illustrations and clever sightings of Jesus. He’s the Greater Jonah, you know… #missthepoint

    1. If I understand you correctly, it seems like you’re implying that one is being “Marcionite” if they see the Old Testament pointing to and fulfilled in the person of Jesus? But how would that make the Old Testament irrelevant? It seems to me the author is saying that the New Testament isn’t to be seen simply as ‘additional’ books, but rather the rest of the story that the OT was anticipating. But then I haven’t read the book, so perhaps Jim can clarify?

      1. not, “fulfilled in the person of Jesus” as you say – but as Beckwith writes, “its fulfillment, in the unfolding life of the church.”

        Every time I get to the Grand Canyon I’m both humbled and amazed at God’s creation. But it’s also a fittingly sized chasm – for it is approximately the difference between what you wrote and what Beckwith wrote.

  3. I’m curious Jim, about the section “…claiming a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, withdrawn when prophecy ceased…”. It seems like he’s promoting cessationism, is that right? Or is he just saying that the authoritative canon is closed?

    1. He’s arguing for the cessation of prophecy being tied to the exclusion of the apocryphal books from the OT–they weren’t written by inspired prophets. And by implication the same implies to the closure of the NT canon.

      1. So, we come to the know the canon “in the unfolding life of the church?”

        I know the Scriptures have a life in themselves (1 Peter 1:23)… the church too? meh.

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