Category Archives: OT in NT

“Letter Carriers and Paul’s Use of Scripture” Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters

The most recent issue of the Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters contains an article I wrote entitled “Letter Carriers and Paul’s Use of Scripture.” Here is the abstract:

Within the discussion of Paul’s use of Scripture, scholars have frequently wondered how his predominantly Gentile congregations would have recognized his often subtle allusions to and echoes of the Old Testament, let alone their broader context. One solution has been to suggest that the carrier of the letter played a role in further explaining its contents. In order to assess the validity of this possibility, this article begins by exploring the role of letter carriers in the ancient world. A survey of the Pauline epistles indicates that his letter carriers performed a similar range of tasks; they were more than merely couriers. They were similar to Greco-Roman envoys, sent as a manifestation of Paul’s παρουσία and authorized to act on his behalf. As a result of this survey, two implications emerge for the study of Paul’s use of Scripture and the audience’s competency to recognize it: (1) Paul’s use of envoys suggests they were authorized to explain the contents of the letter further, including his use of Scripture. (2) Given the letter’s role to mediate the very presence of Paul himself, it is reasonable to conclude that his envoys engaged in teaching, a central component of his own ministry. Thus, there are solid grounds for suggesting that Paul’s letter carriers played a role in helping the audience to recognize Old Testament allusions and echoes, as well as their original context.

If you are interested in the study of the how the NT authors use the OT, this article is for you.

Noteworthy Book – Philippians: A Mentor Commentary

CoverAs some of you know, I have been working on a Philippians commentary for the past several years. What a privilege it has been to live inside this rich letter and see my joy in Christ and his gospel deepen as a result. Philippians has much to say to us as believers today, so I have written this commentary to help pastors, missionaries, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and all Christians understand and apply it to their lives.

I am excited to announce that it has finally been released in the United Kingdom (the publisher, Christian Focus, is located in Scotland) and will soon be available here in the United States and internationally. You can order it through Amazon or

Here are the endorsements:

Matt Harmon explains Paul’s letter clause by clause, traces Paul’s argument, reads Paul’s argument in light of the rest of the Bible, and applies the letter to people today. He reminds me of two of his professors when he was working on his PhD at Wheaton: Doug Moo and Greg Beale.

Andy Naselli, Assistant Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis


Historically aware, exegetically astute, and theologically sensitive, Matt Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is full of insight and ideas for those who want to understand this beautiful epistle. He is not simply up to date on recent scholarship, but digs deeply and appropriately into evangelical commentaries of the past too, to enliven and enhance his own exposition. His suggestions for preaching and applying Philippians are crisp, clear, and eminently useable. A new go-to resource for pastors and students!

Dr Lee Gatiss, Director of Church Society and Editor of the NIV Proclamation Bible.


Our Lord calls his own to love God with all their heart, soul and mind (Mt. 22:37). This blend is seldom seen in commentaries, which tend to favor either the academic or the devotional. Authors write as believing pastors, or as detached scholars – which would seem to sunder what God has explicitly joined. Matt Harmon represents this happy marriage in his commentary on Philippians. Harmon has no less a keen eye for the particulars of the Greek text and academic illumination than he does for the splendorous and transforming truths that text communicates. It is clear that Matt has put the text under a microscope; it is just as clear that he is thrilled with the Savior and Gospel it reveals. This will now be my “go-to” book for teaching or preaching Philippians, joining Martin and Silva and Lightfoot and the others. I can’t commend Matt Harmon’s commentary on Philippians highly enough to pastors and students in all areas of church ministry and life. It is deep-rooted, solid, and broadly accessible. God grant that it receives the visibility and use it merits, to His glory and His church’s edification!

Dan Phillips, Pastor, Copperfield Bible Church


Matthew Harmon has given us a fresh and faithful reading of Philippians that will be a powerful help to all who preach and teach the word.

James M. Hamilton, Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


Matthew Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is a model of good commentary writing: clear prose, adequate interaction with the array of scholarly perspectives, and helpful application. I commend his work to students, teachers, and preachers who seek better to understand this important letter of Paul.

Douglas J. Moo, Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College


Matthew Harmon is a gifted and trustworthy guide for helping us to understand and apply this Pauline epistle of joy. This commentary strikes me as just the right combination of what most of us need: clear prose, sufficient background and lexical information (without overwhelming the read in technicalities), insightful theological analysis, and practical pastoral application. Pastors and laypeople alike can benefit from this finely crafted work.

Justin Taylor, managing editor, The ESV Study Bible


This commentary is a study in clarity and balance. It is simple in expression, yet profound in insight. It is thorough in scope, yet selective enough not to overwhelm. It is informed by recent scholarship, yet avoids fruitless complexities. It draws on knowledge of ancient languages, yet makes its case in plain English. It is classic in its focus on God, Christ, and redemption, yet current in showing how a gospel from long ago is just as true and powerful today. In a word, this is a fine resource for serious students of Philippians in both church and college settings.

Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO


Matthew Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is an outstanding work. We find careful exegesis and a clear explanation of the the text. The commentary is theologically rich, in terms of both biblical and systematic theology, and so there is more than a running commentary. Harmon also applies the text to readers in practical ways. Scholars, students, pastors, and teachers will profit significantly from this work.

Tom Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary





Noteworthy Book – Hidden but now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery by G.K. Beale & Benjamin L. Gladd

The relationship between the Old and New Testaments is notoriously complex, and there are a variety of different ways of approaching the issue. I believe that one of the most fruitful is studying how the New Testament authors quote from, allude to, or echo Old Testament texts. Yet even when one does this, the way that NT authors interact with OT texts can often seem strange. At times they seem to assert that certain events fulfill what was promised in the OT, yet when one reads the OT text(s) in question it can sometimes be hard to see it.

Enter the new book by G.K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd: Hidden but now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery.

They use the concept of “mystery” as their entry point for exploring the relationship between the OT and NT. They define mystery as:

the revelation of God’s partially hidden wisdom, particularly as it concerns events occurring in the “latter days.”

Their starting point is how the term is used in Daniel, since that sets the foundation for how it is used in the NT. From there Beale and Gladd look at specific occurrences of the term mystery in Early Judaism, Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and Revelation. They also include chapters on the concept of mystery in the NT where the specific word does not occur, as well as the difference between mystery within Christianity and the pagan mystery religions.

Also of note is an appendix by Beale entitled, “The Cognitive Peripheral Vision of Biblical Authors.” It tackles the thorny issue of cases where the NT authors appear to draw meaning from an OT text that goes beyond the conscious intention of the OT human author.

As a Ph.D student at Wheaton College, I had the privilege of learning from Dr. Beale, as well as become good friends with Ben (who was studying under Beale). I can think of no two men better qualified to trace the theme of mystery and tease out the implications for our understanding of the Old and New Testaments.

You can find an early review of the book here. It promises to be a significant contribution to our understanding of biblical theology and how the Old and New Testaments relate to each other.

Announcing: Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo

Last night at a dinner celebrating the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Committee on Bible Translation (responsible for the NIV Translation), I had the distinct privilege of presenting a Festschrift to my doctoral mentor and friend, Doug Moo. For those who don’t know what a Festschrift is, it is a volume written to honor a scholar who has made significant contributions to his/her field. So along with Jay E. Smith, I edited Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo , a volume of essays on various aspects of Pauline studies, published by Zondervan. We managed to assemble an outstanding team of former students, colleagues, and prominent Pauline scholars.

It is available for purchase here at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Diego. It should be available for purchase through the usual outlets within a matter of days. (When links become available I will post them on the blog).

Here is a look at the table of contents:



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Here were my comments when presenting Doug with this volume:

God calls us to show honor to whom honor is due, and that is what Jay and I are here to do tonight for Doug Moo. Over the course of his academic career and ministry in the church, Doug Moo has proved himself to be a faithful servant of Christ and steward of God’s mysteries. During his years at Trinity and Wheaton Doug has prepared countless men and women for gospel ministry. Both of us had the privilege of doing our doctoral work under Doug’s supervision: Jay while at Trinity and me while at Wheaton. He proved to be a terrific mentor, blending high expectations and critical analysis with timely encouragement.

Doug is well-known for his numerous biblical commentaries that are models of careful exegesis, thoughtful theological analysis, and wise pastoral application. The clarity of his prose is matched by his commitment to represent the views of others in terms they themselves would recognize.

Doug’s most significant contributions as a scholar center on two primary areas: Pauline studies and Bible translation. He has actively engaged the complex issues surrounding the New Perspective on Paul, as well as the relationship between the Mosaic Law and the gospel. And of course we are here tonight because of Doug’s role as the chair of the Committee on Bible Translation. In this capacity he has overseen the production of the most recent revision of the New International Version released in 2011. In this role, Doug has proved an able advocate of the NIV, carefully explaining the rationale for various decisions of the CBT and graciously responding to critics.

So for the past four years, Doug, Jay and I have been secretly working behind your back to produce a Festschrift as a small token of our love and appreciation for you and your faithfulness as a servant of Christ and steward of God’s mysteries. We have assembled an outstanding team of former students, colleagues, and prominent Pauline scholars to write on various subjects focused on Pauline studies and translation issues. So it is our distinct honor to present this volume to you tonight.


How the Old Testament relates to the New Testament – An Analogy

Understanding the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament is one of the most challenging (but important!) questions a Christian can wrestle with. One of the key texts in thinking about this question is 1 Peter 1:10-12

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

This passage makes it clear that the message of the of the prophets in the Old Testament is the same as the gospel message proclaimed in the New Testament. In a sermon I preached on this passage, here is an analogy I used to try to illustrate this:

When I was kid there was an old 12” black and white TV that I used to occasionally watch football games on when my dad was watching something else. The reception wasn’t very good and the picture was kind of grainy. But you could still make out the players and follow the game at a basic level. Today in my basement I have a 42” high definition flat screen TV. The difference is stunning—the colors are bright and crisp, you can see so much more of the field, and at times it feels like you are actually there at the game. But if you were to watch the game on the 12” black and white TV while I watched it on the 42” HDTV, we are still watching the same game. We would both be able to tell you who played, what the score was, and what the key plays were. The same is true with respect to the gospel. When we read the Old Testament it is like seeing the gospel in black and white—you can see the basic message, who the key player is and what the key plays are. But when we read the New Testament it is like seeing the gospel in full high definition color—in addition to the basic message, the key player and the key plays you can also see the amazing details that help compose that picture. You can see the fuller scope of the message as well as its background.

No analogy is perfect, but I believe this analogy helps explain how the OT relates to the NT.

Review of She Must & Shall Go Free – Ciampa (JETS 55 [2012]: 199-202)

Part of life in the academy is having your work reviewed by other scholars. Since I have mentioned other reviews (see here) of my dissertation She Must and Shall Go Free: Paul’s Isaianic Gospel in Galatians, I wanted to draw attention to a recent review by Roy Ciampa, who is a NT professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a widely respected scholar in the field of the use of the OT in the NT. He also has written an excellent monograph on the use of Scripture in Galatians 1-2. The review was published in the March 2012 issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (pp. 199-202). Unfortunately it is only available online to members of the Evangelical Theological Society, so I will have to summarize its contents (I’ll skip the part where he simply summarizes the contents).

Ciampa begins with the positives. He commends my work in the relevant secondary literature and the effort to “turn over every rock and look behind every tree in order to bring to our attention both potential instances of Isaianic influence and possible ties between such instances within Galatians” (199-200).  While noting that other scholars have noticed some of these instances, he notes that a number are new and provide insights that others have missed. He especially appreciated my treatment of Galatians 4:21-5:1 and the role of Isa 54:1 in that section, even though he disagrees with the extent of the influence I propose. And he agrees with my conclusion that this section is not a digression but rather the climax of Paul’s exegetical argument.

The problem for Ciampa arises when he comes to my central thesis that Paul’s argument in Galatians as whole has been shaped by Isaiah 40-66. He writes: “While I am impressed with the boldness of the thesis and the work carried out to defend it, I find myself largely unconvinced, but still grateful for insights gleaned along the way” (200).  He claims that I do not pay enough attention to other sources of influence for Paul’s thought in Galatians (though he notes that such attention would require a much longer and more complicated study!). While acknowledging that Isaiah was an important influence, Ciampa contends that Paul draws his gospel “from a much wider swath of material” (200). He then provides examples of where other such sources do not appear to have been read through Isaianic lenses.

I am grateful that Ciampa devoted careful attention to my monograph. In many respects this is the highest compliment that a scholar can receive–to have his work taken seriously.  He has been more than fair in his assessment of my work. While nothing he has said has changed my mind, his review has certainly given me food for thought as I revisit Galatians down the road in a future commentary.

On a personal note, Ciampa has gone out of his way to be kind, encouraging, and gracious in our various personal interactions. He has been an excellent model to me of how to engage in gracious critical interaction with those whom he disagrees.

Review of She Must and Shall Go Free

It is both a strange and humbling experience to have something you have written reviewed by someone you have never met. Yesterday, a review of my published dissertation She Must and Shall Go Free: Paul’s Isaianic Gospel in Galatians was published in Themelios 37.1. You can read the review here.

The reviewer, John Anthony Dunne, was kind enough to send me an advance copy to ensure that he represented my views fairly. He was more than fair; in fact, he is exceptionally gracious when he writes:

Overall, Harmon’s book is an exciting and informative read. His explanations are insightful, and he includes many helpful charts comparing the MT and LXX of Isaiah with Pauline texts. Although a few of Harmon’s suggestions are not fully convincing to me, he succeeds in demonstrating how impactful Isaiah was for Paul as he wrote his letter to the Galatians. She Must and Shall Go Free is a must-read for those serious about Galatians and Paul’s use of the OT.

To God be the glory for Dunne’s kind words and any usefulness my work might have for understanding God’s Word better!

1 Peter 2:13-17

In the weekly Bible study that I lead, I am teaching through 1 Peter. This week I will teach through 2:13-17, a section that speaks about the Christian’s obligation to submit to government authorities and the place of government within God’s created order. One of the things that I always seek to do is trace the biblical-theological roots of the (or one of the) major themes in the passage. So with respect to tracing the biblical theological roots of the obligation to submit to government authorities and the role of government, what key passages would you draw upon and how would you trace them out? The obvious parallel is Rom 13:1-7 (though there are some differences between the two passages), but I’m thinking primarily of the OT and canonical roots.

I’ve already taken my stab at it, but I want to see your efforts before I share mine at some point. So, readers, how would you trace the biblical theological roots of submission to government authority?

The Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-13 records the Transfiguration of Jesus in front of Peter, James and John (cp. Mark 9:1-13). During that transfiguration Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain with Jesus (17:3). What is the biblical-theological significance of their appearance? And why Moses and Elijah? How does their appearance contribute to our understanding of who Jesus is?

HINT: There is a LOT that could be discussed here; feel free to explore any and all of those possibilities.

Christ as the Rock of Exod 17 (1 Cor 10:1-4)?

In 1 Cor 10:1-4, Paul makes the shocking claim that the rock from which the Israelites drank in desert (Exod 17) was Christ:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
(1 Cor 10:1-4; NAS1995)

On what basis does Paul make such an identification? Is this merely fanciful exegesis? Is there any theological basis for such an identification?