Book Reviews

Book Review: The Old Testament in the Gospel Passion Narratives (Douglas Moo)

OT in the Gospel Passion Narratives, Douglas Moo

In recent years Doug Moo has been known for his works on justification in Romans and Galatians and studies in Pauline theology and exegesis. He was previously Blanchard Professor of New Testament from 2000–-2011 and previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for over 20 years. But one almost hidden talent (until the republication of this book in 2008) was his doctoral dissertation on the work how the New Testament Gospel writers viewed the Old Testament and applied it in their narratives on the passion of Christ. Moo doesn’t have much work out on the market dealing with the Gospels, but after reading through this I sure wish he did have more. This is one smart book, and great for the Greek student and scholar grappling with the issue of the NT’s use of hermeneutics from the OT.

Book Outline:

I. The Hermeneutics of Late Judaism
II. The Use of Isaianic Servant Songs in the Gospel Passion Texts
III. The Use of Zechariah 9-14 in the Gospel Passion Texts
IV. The Use of the Lament Psalms in the Gospel Passion Texts
V. The Use of OT Sacrificial Imagery in the Gospel Passion Texts
VI. The Use of Misc. OT Passages  in the Gospel Passion Texts
VII. Conclusions


In the first seventy-eight pages Moo gives a sweeping overview in an introduction and methodology of the hermeneutics of late Judaism. Moo gives an overview of different types of literature circulating around circa 1 A.D. and the statements they make about Scripture and how “it relates to a particular community” (pg. 8). In step 2 Moo looks at the techniques by which specific texts have been “contemporized” or “actualized” to shed light on the hermeneutical system. In step 3 the genre and methods by which the interpreter uses to incorporate the Old Testament into his writing are looked at to show the process of appropriation as a whole.

The use of examples were well-appreciated, considering that Moo’s syntactical writing in his doctoral dissertation (we must not forget the genre of Moo’s own book!) can be quite difficult, especially (and mainly) in this section of the book. He speaks of typology as how “…the history of God’s people and of his dealings with them is a single continuous process in which a uniform pattern may be discerned…God has acted in the past, so He may be expected to act in the future, only in an incomparably greater way” (pg. 31).


Moo is more concerned with how the Gospel writers grammatically and syntactically used the OT in their writings more than he is concerned about the themes and overall story of the Old to the New (though he does look at thematics). He looks at words in the OT and if/how they have been changed to apply to Jesus’ passion, whether it be by looking at imperfect verbs, or future tenses, or literalistic renderings from the LXX, MT, or Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) to the NT Greek.

In the last paragraph or two of the NT section(s) in view, Moo brings into focus the application of what the NT is telling us. John 13:18 alludes to Psalm 41:9 about the painful treachery of a “bosom friend” (pg. 238). “What makes the psalm so appropriate with respect to Judas’ behavior is the emphasis on the breaking of table fellowship, which was regarded as a time of particular trust and intimacy in the ancient world. Thus, Jesus’ words during the Last Supper are not intended too identify the betrayer, but to point out the heinous crime about to be committed by a trusted associate” (pg. 239).

The Cottage Cheese

(some will appreciate these aspects, others will not, just like cottage cheese)


Since this is essentially a direct copy of Moo’s dissertation, nothing (it appears) has been changed. There are places where the quotes or footnotes don’t really help much unless you can speak German. I spent a year in Germany, but I don’t read it. This isn’t a major quibble, but it was dissatisfying to read, “The intertestamental period is the time in which it is asserted that the concept of the Righteous Sufferer was developed and became popular. Such a concept was a not unnatural feature in light of the difficulties which the Jews experienced in these years. Ruppert sketches the course of this development:…” (pg. 289) to which the German quotation begins.

What is the idea Ruppert sketches? Well, we don’t know. But not all hope is lost. While this dissertation was written in 1983, this is 2014 and we have new innovations such as Google Translate. If nothing else one could write up the German quotes on there.


Often times with scholarly books such as this, the reader doesn’t know how much knowledge of the Greek language will be expected of them until they open the book. While Greek words and phrases aren’t found on every page of this book, when they are it’s usually pretty important. Moo doesn’t give a transliteration of the Greek so a good grasp on the language is essential to a fuller knowledge of this book, especially when he compares Greek texts between the Synoptics and John and the LXX.

However, if you do know Greek then this will be a big plus!

In speaking of the quotation of Ps. 118:22, which all three synoptic gospels quote, the “quotation functions as a continuation and epilogue of the parable by predicting the transformed status of the ‘son,’ who is rejected and slain: the λιθον represents Jesus as the one whose humiliation is turned into exaltation [1] by the intervention of God Himself (cf. Mk. 12:11 – Mt. 21:42b) [2]” (pg. 335).  It is a clear reference to Jesus’ death. But with this simple word the Greek reader can look at Ps. 118.22, Mk. 12.10-11, Mt. 21.42, and Lk 20.17 and see how this word is used between the gospel writers (and even when used polemically against the religious leaders in Acts 4.11).


For the Greek reader, student, teacher, and scholar Moo’s book is fantastic, especially if you take interest in the hermeneutics of late Judaism. Moo’s work will be appreciated among many with his book. Though his dissertation is from 1983, there is exegetical information in here I haven’t seen in some commentaries (though I haven’t read every one). Moo is a capable scholar, and isn’t afraid to decline an allusion nor is he reluctant to affirm a debated allusion.

N.T. Wright has stated, “One of the things I really respect about Doug Moo is that he is constantly grappling with the text. Where he hears the text saying something which is not what his tradition would have said, he will go with the text. I won’t always agree with his exegesis, but there is a relentless scholarly honesty about him which I really tip my hat off to.” He looks at the text in question and bases his decisions from there over the opinions of others (and throughout the book he surely looks at other opinions. Moo is well-read and certainly has done his research).

While not going in depth into any one section, his coverage of the data is incredibly vast. One would have a good grasp on exactly what Moo set out to show: knowing how the Gospel writers used the OT in their passion narratives following the themes of the OT while showing the legitimate changes in the syntax, grammar, and structure of the text to fit the situation showing Jesus to be the fulfillment and Messiah that the OT had anticipated.


  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Wipf & Stock Pub; Reprint edition (March 25, 2008)

[Special thanks to James at Wipf & Stock for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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