In With the Old, In With the New

Many people concentrate the bulk of their Bible reading in the New Testament. The reasons for this range from the New Testament being easier to understand, to the Old Testament being somewhat boring, to the fact that we are living in the New Testament age therefore it is more immediately applicable. These are shallow reasons and inevitably lead to a “shallow at best” reading of the New Testament.

It would be hard to argue with Paul or Jesus that concentrating one’s Bible reading in the New Testament is preferred. Paul and Jesus quoted the Old Testament extensively. Here are some statistics that are quite revealing:

1) There are around 225 direct quotations of Old Testament passages in the New Testament.

2) The New Testament writers allude to the Old Testament over 1,000 times. These may be paraphrases or references to stories or truths.

3) One out of every 22.5 verses in the New Testament refers to the Old.

4) There are 278 Old Testament verses cited in the New.

5) In Matthew 22:29 Jesus refers to the Scriptures. This means that by the time of Jesus the Old Testament was canonized and was the primary document of faith reference.

6) In Luke 16:16 Jesus refers to the Law and the Prophets which are the basic divisions of the Old Testament. “Law and Prophets” is a carte blanch way of referring to the whole.

7) In the Hebrew breakdown of the Old Testament Canon, which is somewhat different than the English Canon, there are only 4 of the 22 books of the Old that are not referenced in the New. The four are Judges, Chronicles, Esther and the Song of Solomon. However, there are references in the New Testament to each of them except Esther.

If the statistics are not motivation enough for Old Testament reading then Romans 9 – 12 should do the trick. Without an understanding of Jewish history it is impossible to truly understand this passage. Recognize how many times in this passage Paul references Old Testament texts. In Romans 9 Paul refers to Genesis 21:1, Genesis 18:10, and 14, Genesis 25:23, Malachi 1:2-3, Exodus 33:19, Exodus 9:16, Hosea 2:23, Hosea 1:10, Isaiah 10:22, 23, and Isaiah 1:9, and 28:16. How can you even begin to understand Romans 9 without reading the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and the Exodus? How can one appreciate Romans 9:1-5 without having some knowledge of the magnitude of “the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises?”

The Old Testament beat continues in Romans 10. In this chapter Paul makes reference to Deuteronomy 30:14, Joel 2:32, Isaiah 53:1, Psalm 19:4, Deuteronomy 32:21, and Isaiah 65:2. It looks like it may have been Paul’s writing in Romans 9 – 10 alone that drove the average OT use in the NT up to 1 citation per 22.5 verses.

As you study Romans 10 this week you must do “contextual reading.” Go back to those references, your Bible should somehow direct the way with footnotes or column notes, and see what was happening when the passage was birthed. You will find it interesting how Paul takes these passages from Moses and the Prophets and interprets them in light of his subject, justification by faith.

Books that discuss the topic of OT references used in NT:

Norman L. Geisler and William Nix, From God to Us (Moody, 1974).

Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, When Skeptics Ask, A Handbook on Christian Evidences (Victor Books, 1990).


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