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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Why Is the Bible So Special?

Don Stewart :: How Does the New Testament View the Old Testament?

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How Does the New Testament View the Old Testament?

Why the Bible Is So Special – Question 12

The Old Testament claimed to record God’s Word to humanity. The New Testament writers also believed that the Old Testament was God’s Word. We discover this in a number of ways:

1. The Old Testament Is Cited with Formulas Such as “It Is Written” or “God Said”

The Old Testament is cited with the formulas such as, “it is written,” “God says” or “the Holy Spirit says.” We read in the Book of Acts that David, the human writer, spoke through the Holy Spirit. The Bible says:

And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?’” (Acts 4:24-25 ESV)

This is a quotation from Psalm 2:1-2. Thus the early church believed the Holy Spirit had spoken through David.

The Apostle Paul, in referring to the Old Testament, said the Lord has made certain commands. We read Paul’s words in the Book of Acts:

For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:47 ESV)

Here Paul is alluding to Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6. Again, the words of the Old Testament were God’s words.

In another place, Paul refers to the Old Testament and says, “God said.” We read the following in Second Corinthians:

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16 ESV)

This is a quotation from Leviticus 26:12. Therefore, we find that the Old Testament is treated as Scripture by the writers of the New Testament by the use of these formulas.

2. The Terms “God” and “Old Testament Scripture” Were Used Interchangeably

The word “God” and the words “Old Testament Scripture” are closely joined together in the New Testament. In fact, the New Testament writers speak of Scripture doing something that God is doing. We see the following examples of God and Scripture used interchangeably.

In the Book of Genesis, it says that God called Abraham:

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3 NRSV)

Yet in the New Testament, it attributes these words to Scripture, not God. Paul wrote:

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8 ESV)

In the Old Testament, it says that the Lord spoke to Pharaoh. It records the Lord saying the following:

But this is why I have let you live: to show you my power, and to make my name resound through all the earth. (Exodus 9:16 NRSV)

While the Old Testament records that the Lord spoke to Pharaoh, the New Testament says, “Scripture says to Pharaoh.” We read the following in Paul’s letter to the Romans:

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Romans 9:17 ESV)

Again, we have Scripture and the Lord used interchangeably. This shows that the New Testament writers viewed the Old Testament as the absolutely authoritative Word of God.

3. The New Testament Attributes Anonymous Old Testament Statements to God and the Holy Spirit

There are a number of statements found in the Old Testament where the speaker is not identified, but the New Testament attributes them to either God or the Holy Spirit. The following are some examples of this practice.

The Old Testament records the following statement in the Book of Psalms without mentioning the speaker. It says:

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert. (Psalm 95:7-8 NRSV)

While the speaker is not identified in the Old Testament, the New Testament attributes this statement to the Holy Spirit. We read:

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice...” (Hebrews 3:7 NRSV)

The Second Psalm records the following statements without identifying the speaker:

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One? (Psalm 2:1-2 NIV)

In the New Testament, these words are attributed to the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David. It says:

It is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’ (Acts 4:24-25 NRSV)

In the Old Testament, we read the following promise without the speaker being identified:

Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. (Isaiah 55:3 NIV)

The New Testament identifies God as the one who made the promise. We read of the Apostle Paul saying the following:

As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, ‘I will give you the holy promises made to David.’ (Acts 13:34 NRSV)

Again, we find an anonymous Old Testament statement attributed to God in the New Testament.

Conclusion: the New Testament Views the Old Testament as the Word of God

These passages are further indication that the New Testament writers believed the Old Testament was God’s Word. Of this, there is no doubt. Therefore, the consistent teaching of the New Testament is that the Old Testament is God’s Word.

Summary – Question 12
How Does the New Testament View the Old Testament?

The Old Testament writers unanimously taught that the Old Testament is the Word of the Lord. To begin with, the Old Testament is directly cited as being the Word of God.

In addition, we find statements in the Old Testament attributed to the Lord which the New Testament attributes to Scripture.

We also find statements in the Old Testament that are not attributed to anyone that the New Testament attributes to either God or the Holy Spirit. Consequently, God and Scripture are used interchangeably.

Consequently, there is no doubt that the New Testament writers considered the Old Testament to be God’s Word.

Does the Old Testament Claim to Be the Word of God? ← Prior Section
Does the New Testament Claim to Be the Word of God? Next Section →
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