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

Don Stewart :: How Did the New Testament Writers, Apart from the Four Gospels, View the Old Testament?

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Question 18

How Did the New Testament Writers, Apart from the Four Gospels, View the Old Testament?

An examination of Jesus’ view of the Old Testament, as recorded in the four gospels, makes it clear that He believed it to be God’s divinely inspired Word to humanity. We find that He never cast doubt upon it—on the contrary, He quoted it authoritatively and submitted to its teachings.

But what about the writers of the New Testament books other than the four gospels? Did they share the same view of the Old Testament as their Lord? The answer is a clear yes. They believed the God of the Old Testament was the living God and that He had spoken through the writers of Old Testament Scripture. Consequently, the teachings found in the Old Testament were the teachings of God. Thus, what the Scripture said is what God said. We can see this in the following ways:

  1. The People Actually Existed

    Like Jesus, the writers of the New Testament viewed the people in Old Testament times as actually existing; they were genuine flesh and blood people. They cite examples from different parts of the Old Testament and always assume these individuals were real people ? not mythical characters. We can mention a few examples:

    • Enoch

      The Old Testament character, Enoch, actually existed. The writer to the Hebrews said:

      By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:5 NRSV)

      The writer accepts as factual the Old Testament account that Enoch did not die but rather was taken by the Lord.

    • Melchizedek

      Melchizedek is assumed to be an historical character. We also read in Hebrews:

      This “King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him.” (Hebrews 7:1 NRSV)

      The historical existence of Melchizedek is not questioned.

    • Esau

      The New Testament accepts Esau as an historical character who sold his birthright. The writer to the Hebrews said:

      That there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. (Hebrews 12:16-17 NASB)

      His existence is accepted as factual.

    • Joseph

      Joseph also existed. Again, we read of this in the Book of Hebrews:

      By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial. (Hebrews 11:22 NRSV)

      This is only a small sample of the references to the Old Testament characters that are found in the New Testament writings. It is clear that the writers of the New Testament believed that the individuals named in the Old Testament were real flesh and blood people.

  2. The Events Actually Occurred

    Not only were the people in the Old Testament real, we also find the writers of the New Testament believing that the events recorded in the Old Testament actually occurred in history. Again, we will cite only a few examples.

    • Stephen Testified to Israel’s History

      Stephen, the first martyr of the church, gave a speech in front of a hostile Jewish crowd. In the speech, he traced the history of the nation of Israel from Abraham leaving his homeland to the time of Solomon and the building of the temple. He concluded by saying:

      Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. (Acts 7:52 NRSV)

      His speech assumes the Old Testament characters actually existed and the events associated with them occurred.

    • The Flood of Noah

      Peter testified to the flood in the days of Noah. He wrote about it this way:

      God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. (1 Peter 3:20 NRSV)

      There is no doubt in the mind of Peter that God judged the world in Noah’s day by means of a great flood; it was an historical event.

    • God Judged Sodom and Gomorrah, but Saved Lot

      The New Testament accepts the fact that God judged the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but saved Lot:

      Later, he turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into heaps of ashes and swept them off the face of the earth. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people. But at the same time, God rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a good man who was sick of all the immorality and wickedness around him. (2 Peter 2:6-7 NLT)

      This account which is recorded in Genesis is assumed to be true.

    • The Parting of the Red Sea

      Paul assumed that the Red Sea actually parted when the children of Israel made their exodus from Egypt. He said the following to the Corinthians:

      I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. (1 Corinthians 10:1-2 NRSV)

      We are dealing with actual fact; not fiction.

    • Balaam’s Donkey Spoke

      The miraculous account of Balaam’s donkey speaking is accepted as true in the New Testament. Peter wrote:

      But Balaam was stopped from his mad course when his donkey rebuked him with a human voice. (2 Peter 2:16 NLT)

      This remarkable account is assumed to have literally occurred.

    • The Rebellion Staged by Korah

      The rebellion against Moses by a man named Korah is treated as an historical event. Jude wrote:

      Woe to them! For they go the way of Cain, and abandon themselves to Balaam’s error for the sake of gain, and perish in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11 NRSV)

      This event, recorded in the Old Testament, is assumed to have occurred.

      To sum up, nowhere do we find the writers of the New Testament casting the slightest doubt upon the events recorded in the Old Testament. They believed the stories actually happened as the Scripture said they happened.

  3. God Is the Ultimate Author of the Old Testament

    Like Jesus, the writers of the New Testament believed that God was the ultimate author behind the writings of the Old Testament. To them, the Old Testament authors were God’s spokesmen ? they did not originate the message. The writer to the Hebrews sums up the New Testament teaching on the matter:

    Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets. (Hebrews 1:1 NRSV)

    Paul wrote to the church at Rome about the promise which God made in the Old Testament Scripture. He said:

    Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures. (Romans 1:1-2 NRSV)

    The living God made certain promises that are recorded in the Old Testament.

  4. The Teachings of the Old Testament Were Authoritative

    Because God was the ultimate Author of the Old Testament, the teachings were considered authoritative. When the Old Testament was cited, it was cited as God’s Word. Paul wrote to Timothy of the value of the Scripture:

    All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV)

    The New Testament writers believed that the Old Testament is God’s authoritative Word to humanity.

The United Testimony of the New Testament: the Old Testament Can Be Trusted

From the teachings of Jesus as found in the four gospels, as well as the writers of the New Testament, we find that the Old Testament is God’s Word to humanity—trustworthy in all that it says and teaches. Of this, there can be no doubt.

Summary - Question 18
How Did the New Testament Writers, Apart from the Four Gospels, View the Old Testament?

Jesus’ teachings are revealed in the four gospels. From them we find that He totally trusted the Old Testament. In the same manner, the writers of the remainder of the New Testament held the same view. They believed the people actually existed and that the events recorded actually occurred.

Like Jesus, they never cast doubt on any of its teachings, or its authority. They also believed that God was the ultimate author behind the writings. Consequently, the teachings were considered to be authoritative.

Therefore, it is the united testimony of the New Testament that the people mentioned in the Old Testament actually existed and that the events recorded truly occurred.

What Was Jesus’ View of the Old Testament? ← Prior Section
How Did Jesus View His Own Teaching? 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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