I’m reading Graeme Goldsworthy’s book Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, at the moment. His insights in ch 5 (“Was Jesus a Biblical Theologian?”) have been personally quite stimulating. There he points up the limitations of using first century Judaism in understanding Jesus and the early Church and concludes,
The gospel interprets Judaism as a historical and religious phenomenon, not the other way round.
It can be easy to consider first century Judaism as a “magic key” to unlock the secrets of the New Testament.
Such an approach is rather akin to taking a cloth or sponge that has been wrung out, and attempting to extract further liquid. Possible by dint of force, but greatly lacking in volume. It is something to which we can be drawn if we consider Judaism as a legitimate successor of OT religion on an equal footing with Christianity. However, the NT is the rightful continuation of OT religion, and Judaism is a deviation from it. It is apt that Christ regarded the Pharisees as blind guides, for so they were.
In the 400 so-called silent years between Malachi and Matthew, a man-made religion had developed from God’s OT revelation. When God’s final revelation in Christ was revealed, the deviation from OT religion was apparent. Christ took exception not to OT Scripture and revelation, but to Pharisaic interpretation and their own religious system which had deviated so far from OT religion that it did not require reformation, but replacement.
A Christian can therefore expect little help in understanding NT Christianity from first century Judaism. Like the insight an evangelical Protestant Christian might expect form a traditional Roman Catholic interpreter, it is at best occasional and surprising; sporadic rather than constantly recurring.
Goldsworthy points out how Christ himself saw the gospel as “the completion and fulfilment of all God’s saving acts and promises in the Old Testament.” (48)
He concludes his discussion of Jesus’ View of Himself by saying,
While it is true to a point that the Old Testament is needed to enable us to interpret the New, the overruling principle is that the gospel expounded in the New Testament is the definitive interpretation of all that the Old Testament was about. (50)