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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Is the Bible the Authoritative Word of God?

Don Stewart :: What Was Jesus’ View of the Old Testament?

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Question 17

What Was Jesus’ View of the Old Testament?

For the Christian, the proper view of Scripture is the view of Jesus Christ. As God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus is the last word on all matters of faith and practice; whatever He taught settles the issue. Consequently, it is crucial that we understand how He viewed Scripture.

Jesus and the Old Testament

In examining the four gospels, we have a great amount of information to work with concerning Jesus’ view of the Old Testament. His view can be simply stated in two words: total trust. Jesus accepted the Old Testament Scriptures as being divinely authoritative; He never cast doubt on any of the accounts recorded in it. Jesus assumed the people were actual people and that the events literally occurred. We never find Him giving the slightest hint of anything but the complete acceptance of the Old Testament as the Word of God. This can be seen as follows:

  1. Jesus Recognized the Entire Old Testament as Authoritative

    Jesus’ view of the Old Testament can be seen by the way He used the Old Testament Scripture. He recognized the entire Old Testament as Scripture, He accepted the two main divisions of the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets, and He quoted from fourteen individual books of the Old Testament.

  2. Jesus Recognized the Entire Extent of the Old Testament

    The Old Testament, in its entirety, was recognized as authoritative by the Lord Jesus. He called it the Scriptures. We read Him saying the following:

    You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me. (John 5:39 NASB)

    To Him, there was a completed Old Testament Scripture. In other words, He recognized every book as inspired by God.

  3. Jesus Recognized the Two Divisions of the Old Testament: the Law and the Prophets

    We find that Jesus also recognized the two main sections of the Old Testament; the Law and the Prophets. He said:

    Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. (Matthew 5:17 RSV)

    Jesus also made a reference to a third section of the Old Testament; the Psalms. On the day of His resurrection, He said to His disciples:

    Jesus said to them, “While I was still with you, I told you that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Books of the Prophets, and in the Psalms had to happen.” Then he helped them understand the Scriptures. He told them, The Scriptures say that the Messiah must suffer, then three days later he will rise from death. (Luke 24:44-46 CEV)

    He said that all the things written in these three parts of the Old Testament had to occur. In His teachings, He cited passages from each of these divisions. This is another indication that He accepted the Old Testament in its entirety.

  4. Jesus Cited Fourteen Different Old Testament Books

    The New Testament records Jesus referring specifically to fourteen different Old Testament books. The evidence is as follows:

    • Genesis

      When dealing with the subject of marriage, Jesus cited the Book of Genesis. We read of this in Matthew:

      But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife,] and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. (Mark 10:6-8 HCSB)

      He trusted this passage as giving God’s authoritative Word on the matter.

    • Exodus

      Jesus quoted from the Book of Exodus which records the Ten Commandments. He said:

      You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ (Luke 18:20 RSV)

      Jesus assumed these commandments were binding on the people.

    • Deuteronomy

      The Book of Deuteronomy is also cited by Jesus. We read the following in Luke’s gospel:

      Jesus answered him, “What is written in Moses’ Teachings? What do you read there?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.’ And ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” Jesus told him, “You’re right! Do this, and life will be yours.” (Luke 10:26-28 God’s Word)

      This passage in the Law of Moses emphasizes loving God with all of our being.

    • 1 Samuel

      Jesus cited the Book of First Samuel which contains the story of David and his men eating the bread of presentation on the Sabbath. Mark records the following words of Jesus to the religious rulers:

      And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him.” (Mark 2:25 RSV)

      Jesus reminded the religious rulers of the story of David and his men eating the bread of presentation when they were hungry. In doing so, Jesus cited the passage as authoritative Scripture.

    • 1 Kings

      The account of the queen of Sheba visiting Solomon is cited by Jesus as having literally occurred. Mathew records Jesus saying the following:

      The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew 12:42 NKJV)

      The Old Testament records this in the Book of First Kings.

    • Psalms

      Jesus cited the Book of Psalms and called it Scripture. Mark records Him saying:

      Have you never read the Scripture passage: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.’ (Mark 12:10 God’s Word)

      This psalm speaks of Jesus’ rejection by the people.

    • Isaiah

      Jesus refers to Isaiah the prophet by name. Matthew records Jesus saying the following:

      I use stories when I speak to them because when they look, they cannot see, and when they listen, they cannot hear or understand. So God’s promise came true, just as the prophet Isaiah had said, “These people will listen and listen, but never understand. They will look and look, but never see.” (Matthew 13:13-14 CEV)

      Jesus said that God’s promise, given through the prophet Isaiah, came true.

    • Daniel

      Daniel was cited by Jesus as predicting an event known as the “abomination of desolation.” We read of Him saying these words:

      Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand). (Matthew 24:15 NKJV)

      Jesus believed Daniel was an actual prophet who wrote Holy Scripture.

    • Hosea

      Jesus cited the prophet Hosea. Matthew records Jesus saying these words:

      Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices.’ For I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough. (Matthew 9:13 NLT)

      This citation from Hosea brings out an important truth; that God wants our heart, not merely our outward sacrifices or our outward obedience. Citing this passage as Scripture demonstrated its divine authority.

    • Jonah

      Jesus referred to the Book of Jonah. We read of this in Matthew. Jesus said:

      For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40 NRSV)

      He saw Jonah as an illustration of His own resurrection. In doing so, He acknowledged the authority of Jonah.

    • Zechariah

      Jesus cited a passage in Zechariah that predicted His betrayal. Matthew writes:

      Jesus said to his disciples, “During this very night, all of you will reject me, as the Scriptures say, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” (Matthew 26:31 CEV)

      Jesus accepted Zechariah as a prophet.

    • Malachi

      Finally, Jesus cited the prophet Malachi. This is also found in Matthew’s gospel. He said:

      In the Scriptures God says about him, “I am sending my messenger ahead of you to get things ready for you.” (Matthew 11:10 CEV)

      From these examples, we can see that Jesus confirmed the existence of two divisions of the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets, as well as the authority of a number of specific Old Testament books.

  5. Jesus Also Believed That the People Actually Existed

    Jesus also confirmed that the people mentioned in the pages of the Old Testament truly did exist. They were not mythical characters. He mentioned a number of Old Testament figures. They include the following people:

    • Abraham

      Jesus confirmed the existence of Abraham. He told the religious leaders that Abraham was their ancestor. He said:

      Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad. (John 8:56 NLT)

      The coming of Jesus was something that the patriarch Abraham looked forward to seeing. Abraham existed.

    • Isaac and Jacob

      The patriarchs, Isaac and Jacob, were real people according to Jesus. He said to the people of His day:

      I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11 NET)

      The kingdom of heaven will literally be set up with actual people who existed in history. This includes Isaac and Jacob.

    • David

      David, the first rightful king of Israel, was an historical character. Jesus used an event in the life of David to illustrate His authority over the Sabbath. The Bible records the following account:

      At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?” (Matthew 12:1-3 NRSV)

      According to Jesus, this story about David actually occurred.

    • Solomon

      Solomon himself, the great king, was an historical person. Jesus said:

      Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these! (Matthew 6:29 TNIV)

      Jesus compared the glory of King Solomon to the splendor of the lilies of the field; each has genuine existence.

    • The Queen of Sheba

      According to Jesus, the Queen of Sheba actually came to visit Solomon to hear about his great wisdom. Jesus said:

      The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon?and now, something greater than Solomon is here! (Matthew 12:42 NET)

      This illustration shows that He believed that Solomon and the Queen of Sheba were actual people and that she literally came to Jerusalem to visit him.

    • Elijah

      Elijah was a genuine prophet. When asked about Elijah returning to this earth, Jesus clearly said that the prophet was returning:

      Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things.” (Matthew 17:11 TNIV)

      Jesus insisted Elijah would return. This necessitates Elijah actually existing.

    • Elisha

      Jesus also confirmed the story about Elisha the prophet and Naaman the leper. He used the story as an illustration that not everyone is healed. Luke records Him saying:

      And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian. (Luke 4:27 NASB)

      There was no doubt in the mind of Jesus that Elisha was an historical character.

    • Zechariah

      Jesus also acknowledged Zechariah the prophet existed. He said the following:

      For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that this generation may be held accountable for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. (Luke 11:49-51 NET)

      Consequently, from these examples, we have every reason to think that Jesus believed in the literal existence of every Old Testament character.

  6. Jesus Believed That the Stories in the Old Testament Were Factual

    As we look at the way Jesus treated the Old Testament, we discover that He assumed the various accounts to be factual. They actually occurred as they were written.

    We discover this in the following examples:

    • Moses Gave the Rite of Circumcision

      Jesus stated that it was Moses who gave the people the rite of circumcision. In John’s gospel, we read Jesus saying the following:

      Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. (John 7:22 NRSV)

      Jesus accepted the idea that circumcision had an historical basis. We are dealing with reality, not mythology.

    • Manna Was Provided in the Wilderness

      The Lord Jesus confirmed the account of the provision of the manna that God gave to the children of Israel while they were in the wilderness. He said:

      Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (John 6:31 NRSV)

      The story of the manna in the wilderness, as recorded in the Book of Exodus, was an actual historical occurrence.

    • David Ate the Bread of Presentation

      Jesus acknowledged the story of David and his men eating the bread of presentation. Matthew records the conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders:

      He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests.” (Matthew 12:3-4 NRSV)

      Jesus believed this episode was an historical reality; it really happened.

    • David Was the Writer of Certain Psalms

      Jesus taught that David was the writer of certain Psalms. In a conversation with the Pharisees Jesus made His view clear:

      Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet?’” (Matthew 22:41-44 ESV)

      Here, Jesus is quoting Psalm 110. He believed David was the person who actually wrote this particular Psalm.

    • Moses Wrote the Law

      According to Jesus, the Law was indeed given by Moses. After Jesus healed a man with leprosy, He told him to follow the command that was given by Moses. Matthew wrote:

      And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:4 NASB)

      The New Living Translation expands on Jesus’ meaning. It translates the verse as follows:

      Then Jesus said to him, “Go right over to the priest and let him examine you. Don’t talk to anyone along the way. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy, so everyone will have proof of your healing.” (Matthew 8:4 NLT)

      Jesus believed that there was an actual Law given to the people through a real person—Moses. Again, we are dealing with actual history.

    • The Prophets Were Persecuted

      Jesus used the illustration that the prophets had suffered in the past as an example of how His disciples will also suffer. He said:

      Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12 HCSB)

      This example would make no sense unless the Old Testament prophets were actually persecuted.

    • The Popularity of the False Prophets

      Jesus acknowledged the popularity of false prophets among the people. He said:

      Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26 NRSV)

      These false prophets were popular because they told the people what they wanted to hear; not what they needed to hear.

    • The Episode with Lot’s Wife Occurred

      Jesus used the story of Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt as an example of not looking back. He said to His disciples:

      Remember Lot’s wife... (Luke 17:32 KJV)

      The episode of Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt while fleeing the city of Sodom actually occurred in history. It was not a legend.

    • The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah Actually Happened

      Jesus believed that Sodom and Gomorrah were actual cities that were judged by God. In fact, He used them as an illustration of judgment against the cities that existed in His day which did not accept His message. He said:

      If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. (Matthew 10:14-15 NRSV)

      The fact of the reality of the destruction of these ancient cities is assumed by Jesus. They did exist, they were destroyed.

    • The Destruction of Tyre and Sidon Is an Historical Fact

      Jesus also confirmed the literal occurrence of the judgment that came upon the cities of Tyre and Sidon. He said:

      Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you! (Matthew 11:21-22 NET)

      Like Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon were actual cities that received God’s judgment.

    These examples show that Jesus accepted the truthfulness of the Old Testament stories. He cites stories in many different parts of the Old Testament. These different parts cover the entire history of the events recorded in the Old Testament. He believed the Old Testament in its entirety.

  7. Jesus Confirmed Some of the Most Controversial Stories Found in the Old Testament

    In addition, Jesus confirmed some of the most ridiculed stories in the Old Testament. It is almost as though He went out of His way to put His divine approval on them. We can cite a number of examples to illustrate this:

  8. Adam and Eve

    Jesus believed in the Genesis account of creation - which includes the direct creation of Adam and Eve. The Bible records the following:

    “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’” (Matthew 19:4-5 NLT)

    He used Adam and Eve as an example of God’s purpose in marriage. While many people today deny the literal existence of Adam and Eve, Jesus did not.

  9. Cain and Abel

    The account of Cain killing Abel is rejected today in many circles, but Jesus believed it actually occurred. He said:

    So that this generation may be held accountable for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. (Luke 11:50-52 NET)

    Jesus used Abel as the example of the first recorded martyr in Scripture.

  10. The Flood in Noah’s Day

    Was there really a Flood in the days of Noah which God sent to destroy the earth? Jesus assumed there was. He said:

    When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the Flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the Flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 24:37-39 NLT)

    Jesus compared the circumstances surrounding Noah’s Flood as similar to those at His Second Coming. Since Jesus taught that He would literally come to the earth a second time, it logically follows that the Flood was also literal.

  11. Jonah and the Great Sea Creature

    Jesus also believed the story of Jonah and the great sea creature literally occurred. In fact, He used it as a sign of His resurrection. We read about this in Matthew’s gospel:

    Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (Matthew 12:38-41 ESV)

    If one wants to argue that the reference to Jonah was to a non-existent person, then one would have to conclude the following: Jesus illustrated His literal resurrection and literal judgment to come by using a non-existent character (Jonah) who was swallowed by a non-existent sea creature. Then this non-existent character preached an imaginary message to non-existent people (the Ninevites) who made a non-existent repentance. These non-existence people will one day judge people that actually do exist. Obviously, this scenario makes no sense whatsoever.

    All of these disputed and ridiculed accounts of the Old Testament were confirmed by Jesus as actually occurring. Furthermore, He used certain of them as illustrating some of the most important events in His own ministry - including His resurrection and Second Coming. Since He demonstrated Himself to be God’s Son, His testimony settles the matter—these stories did occur.

  12. Jesus Confirmed the Authorship of Disputed Books

    Jesus also confirmed the traditional authorship of Old Testament books—particularly the books of Daniel and Isaiah.

    • Daniel

      Though the authorship of Daniel is often rejected today, Jesus believed that he was a true prophet of God. We read the following words of Jesus in Matthew:

      So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel - let the reader understand. (Matthew 24:15 TNIV)

      Jesus believed the prophet Daniel existed and that he wrote about a future event known as the Abomination of Desolation.

    • Isaiah

      It is common today in many circles to argue that the Book of Isaiah was written by at least two different authors—Isaiah 1-39 by first Isaiah, and Isaiah 40-66 by second Isaiah. Jesus and the New Testament writers, however, quoted from both parts of Isaiah and attributed the entire work to the same author—Isaiah. We read in Matthew:

      When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17 TNIV)

      This cites Isaiah 53:4 from the so-called “Second Isaiah.”

      There is another illustration where “Second” Isaiah is cited. This time it is from Luke’s gospel. It says:

      Now Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. (Luke 4:16-20 NET)

      This passage quotes Isaiah 61:1-2. It is in the section written by the so-called Second Isaiah. Yet, here it is attributed to Isaiah the prophet by Jesus.

    • Jesus Directly Quotes Isaiah

      There is also a passage where Jesus clearly spells out that Isaiah wrote it. We read about this in John. It says:

      Although Jesus had performed so many miraculous signs before them, they still refused to believe in him, so that the word of Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled. He said, “Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:37-38 NET)

      Jesus personally attributed this passage to Isaiah. Yet this is a citation from Isaiah 53:1—the so-called Second Isaiah. He then proceeds to cite the first section of Isaiah:

      For this reason they could not believe, because again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and turn to me, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw Christ’s glory, and spoke about him. (John 12:39-41 NET)

      This citation is from Isaiah 6:10. Jesus said that Isaiah was the person who said these things.

      Therefore, the testimony of Jesus is that the Book of Isaiah was written by only one man—the prophet Isaiah.

  13. Jesus Spoke of Old Testament Prophecy Being Fulfilled

    Jesus said that certain predictions recorded in the Old Testament were fulfilled in His life and ministry. The Bible says:

    Then he [Jesus] began to tell them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read.” (Luke 4:21 NET)

    The New Living Translation translates the verse in this manner:

    Then he said, “This Scripture has come true today before your very eyes!” (Luke 4:21 NLT)

    Jesus said the coming of John the Baptist was a result of fulfilled prophecy. Matthew records Him saying the following:

    John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger before you, and he will prepare your way before you.’ (Matthew 11:10 NLT)

    Jesus said that Elijah had already come to the earth in the person of John the Baptist. Mark writes:

    Jesus responded, “Elijah is indeed coming first to set everything in order. Why then is it written in the Scriptures that the Son of Man must suffer and be treated with utter contempt? But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and he was badly mistreated, just as the Scriptures predicted.” Mark 9:12-13 NLT)

    Jesus spoke of the future destruction of Jerusalem as an example of Old Testament prophecy that must be fulfilled. He said to His disciples:

    Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. (Luke 21:21-22 NASB)

    Jesus considered the predictions of the Old Testament as being absolutely authoritative—He assumed they needed to be fulfilled.

  14. Jesus Completely Trusted the Teachings of the Old Testament

    We find that Jesus believed the Old Testament spoke with ultimate authority on all matters of faith and practice. For example, He appealed to the Scripture when He was tempted by the devil:

    But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 NKJV)

    He referred to the Scripture as giving God’s view of marriage. We read the following in Matthew:

    Jesus answered, “Don’t you know that in the beginning the Creator made a man and a woman? That’s why a man leaves his father and mother and gets married. He becomes like one person with his wife. Then they are no longer two people, but one. And no one should separate a couple that God has joined together.” (Matthew 19:4-6 CEV)

    He appealed to Scripture on the issue of the resurrection of the dead. Matthew also writes:

    Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’—He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:29-32 NRSV)

    Jesus taught that the Sadducees erred because they did not know what the Scriptures said.

    Whenever Jesus spoke with the religious rulers, He referred to Scripture to solve any question of doctrine or teaching. Thus, Jesus had complete confidence that the Old Testament Scripture settled all doctrinal issues. To Him, it was the final court of appeal on all matters of faith and practice.

    In fact, Jesus told His disciples to observe, or follow, the teachings of the Pharisees and the experts of the Jewish Law:

    Then Jesus said to the crowds and his disciples, “The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” (Matthew 23:1-3 NET)

    When these religious leaders taught from the Hebrew Scriptures, their teachings were to be followed. What the disciples were not to follow was their conduct. Therefore, the teachings of the Old Testament were considered to be authoritative by Jesus.

  15. Jesus Personally Submitted to the Authority of the Old Testament

    Not only did Jesus teach that the Old Testament was God’s authoritative Word, He personally submitted to its authority. He said:

    Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19 NRSV)

    His coming was not to contradict what had been written previously, but rather to fulfill it.

    We find that Jesus referred to an Old Testament story to defend His own actions. We read about this in Matthew’s gospel:

    But Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what King David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and they ate the special bread reserved for the priests alone. That was breaking the law, too. And haven’t you ever read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath?” (Matthew 12:3-5 NLT)

    At times, Jesus broke with Jewish tradition because it contradicted God’s Word. This is especially true with the various human-made traditions that were connected with the Sabbath. John wrote:

    Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus doesn’t come from God. If he did, he would not break the law of the Sabbath.” Others asked, “How could someone who is a sinner work such a miracle?” (John 9:16 CEV)

    However, Jesus never disputed or violated anything recorded in God’s Law as given in the Scriptures. To Him, it was the Word of God.

  16. Jesus Believed the Old Testament to Be the Word of God

    Jesus believed the Old Testament was the very Word of God. John records Jesus saying the following to the religious leaders of His day:

    If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled. (John 10:35 NRSV)

    He believed the Old Testament was Scripture. In fact, Jesus quoted it in such a way that He recognized and affirmed its divine status. As the Word of God, the Scripture spoke with absolute authority on all matters. On another occasion, Jesus specifically equates Scripture with God speaking:

    Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death.’” (Matthew 15:3-4 NLT)

    There is no doubt that Jesus believed the words of Scripture were the words of God.

  17. Jesus Saw the Old Testament as Speaking of Himself

    There is one last thing. Jesus saw the Old Testament as a document that spoke primarily about Him. His life and ministry were the fulfillment of Old Testament teachings. He said to the religious leaders of His day:

    You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40 NKJV)

    The Scriptures have the words of eternal life because they testify of Him.

    In a synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read from a section in the scroll of Isaiah. He then told the congregation that the Scripture portion that He had just read was fulfilled in Him. Luke records it as follows:

    Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:20-21 NKJV)

    Jesus saw this passage in the Old Testament as speaking of Him.

    On His way to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world, Jesus made the following prediction to His disciples:

    Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33 NKJV)

    He emphasized that what the prophets wrote must be fulfilled. Jesus believed their writings had absolute authority. On the day of His resurrection, He rebuked two of His disciples for not believing that the Old Testament spoke of His suffering:

    “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NKJV)

    The Contemporary English Version says:

    Then Jesus asked the two disciples, “Why can’t you understand? How can you be so slow to believe all that the prophets said? Didn’t you know that the Messiah would have to suffer before he was given his glory?” Jesus then explained everything written about himself in the Scriptures, beginning with the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets. (Luke 24:25-27 CEV)

    The entire Old Testament was summed up in Him. Not only did He confirm its truthfulness, He also made it clear that the message of the Old Testament was centered on Him.

Our View of the Old Testament Should Be Christ’s View: Total Trust

Jesus believed that the God who is revealed in the Old Testament is the living God; the only God who exists. In addition, He believed that the teaching found in the Old Testament is the authoritative teaching of this true God.

To Jesus, what the Scripture said is what God said. Jesus also believed the people of the Old Testament actually existed, and the events recorded literally occurred. His attitude toward Scripture did not change.

Consequently, to be consistent, the Christian should hold the same view as Jesus. We should believe the Old Testament is what it claims to be, and what Jesus believed it to be—the divinely inspired, authoritative Word of the Lord.

Summary - Question 17
What Was Jesus’ View of the Old Testament?

The proper view of Scripture will be the perspective that Jesus held. He is our standard. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial that we hold the same view of Scripture as He did.

As we examine the attitude of the Lord Jesus toward the Old Testament, we find Him viewing it as totally trustworthy. Jesus accepted the entire Old Testament as the Word of God. He referred to the two divisions of the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets and He cited from fourteen separate books.

Jesus believed that the people actually existed and the stories literally occurred. He confirmed the historicity of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Elijah, Elisha and Zechariah.

Jesus also confirmed a number of Old Testament accounts. These include God giving Moses the rite of circumcision, God providing the manna in the wilderness, David eating the bread of presentation, David as the writer of certain Psalms, Moses writing the law, the suffering of the prophets, the episode with Lot’s wife, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the destruction of Tyre and Sidon.

Jesus also confirmed a number of the most controversial accounts recorded in the Old Testament. They include: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the Flood in Noah’s day and Jonah and the sea creature.

There was also the confirmation by Jesus of the authorship of certain disputed portions of the Old Testament—Daniel and Isaiah. Jesus quoted from Daniel as a prophet. He also cited both sections of Isaiah and attributed them to Isaiah alone. Jesus also spoke of Old Testament prophecy being fulfilled. He assumed the passages cited made divine predictions which needed to be fulfilled. He also saw the Old Testament as speaking of Him. It anticipated His coming into the world.

In addition, Jesus never cast doubt on any parts of the Old Testament. On the contrary, He believed all of it was equally authoritative.

Consequently, Christians, to be consistent, should have the same view as Jesus; the Old Testament is the divinely inspired Word of the living God.

Did the Biblical Writers Always Understand That They Were Recording the Word of God? ← Prior Section
How Did the New Testament Writers, Apart from the Four Gospels, View the Old Testament? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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