In his lecture on Paul’s Interpretation of Yehoshua ben Yoseph through the Scriptures of Israel
as “retrodiction”, Gert Steyn addressed a sensitive and hotly debated contemporary issue –
particularly amongst South African Christians – namely the assumed prediction of the Jesusevents
in the Old Testament. This contribution connects with several areas in biblical
scholarship, such as the canonicity of the Bible (particularly the relation between the Old and
New Testaments), biblical hermeneutics and Bible translation. Steyn has, in this manner,
chosen a relevant topic – not only for scholarly research in the biblical disciplines, but also for
the church’s doctrine on Christology.
From a methodological point of view, Steyn’s utilization of a narrative approach in the first part
of his lecture, and an exegetical approach in the second part, turns out to be not only a
strategically effective structure of communication, but also lends itself effectively to an
introduction and analysis of the research problem. Moving from the macro-context of the New
Testament to the micro-context of Pauline hermeneutics, he briefly introduced his audience to
both the width and the depth of his research the last 26 years on the use of the Old Testament
in its Greek form (the Septuagint) by the New Testament writers.
But the contribution of Steyn’s inaugural lecture goes beyond the relevance of the topic, his
communicative strategy and his methodological approach. He convincingly argued, on the one
hand, and as he has shown with his two examples, on the other hand, that the Old Testament
did not predict the Jesus-event. Although there were expectations about different messianic
figures during the course of pre-Christian times, and although the New Testament connects
with these messianic expectations when interpreting the Jesus-events, the early Christian
writers also identified and made their own selection of passages which they could relate
particularly to the passion, the crucifiction, empty tomb and post mortem appearances of Jesus
of Nazareth. This became particularly clear from the examples that Steyn discussed in his
exposition. Paul, as the earliest documented Christian writer, uses passages from his Scriptures
that had no connection to the Jesus-event, but Paul interprets these passages in the light of the
crucifiction and the conquering of death by Jesus.
The direction in this hermeneutical stream does not flow from the Old Testament to the New
Testament when dealing with the particular events surrounding Yehoshua ben Yoseph, Jesus of
Nazareth, but it flows rather from the New Testament back to the Old Testament. By illustrating
this, Steyn positioned himself to be on a par with mainstream biblical scholarship on this issue.
The relation between the Old and New Testament should thus not be reduced to the
perception that the Christian canon is a single a-historical book, but the diversity, chronology
and ancient historical context of the different Old Testament books ought to be acknowledged
when dealing with the Old Testament literature from a New Testament perspective.
Finally, by coining “retrodiction” as a new term in biblical hermeneutics, Gert J Steyn takes
especially the New Testament scholarly community one step further towards responsible
interaction with the Old Testament. It is hoped that this term will establish itself well in biblical
scholarship and that future generations of biblical scholars will continue to connect the term
with Steyn’s research.