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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are the Right Books in the Old Testament?

Don Stewart :: Does the New Testament Quote the Old Testament as Authoritative Scripture?

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Does the New Testament Quote the Old Testament as Authoritative Scripture?

Are the Correct Books in the Old Testament? – Question 17

Yes. As we examine the evidence, we find the New Testament quoting the Old Testament writings as authoritative. There are over two hundred and fifty quotations from Old Testament books that are found in the New Testament. Most of the books of the Old Testament are directly cited as Scripture in the New Testament. The evidence is as follows:


Jesus cites the creation account of humanity in Genesis (Genesis 1:27) as authoritative Scripture. We read about this in the Gospel of Matthew. It says:

He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’”? (Matthew 19:4-5 NRSV)

Genesis is assumed to have authoritative status by the Lord Jesus. Of this there is no doubt.


The Apostle Paul quoted the Book of Exodus (Exodus 20:12) when he wrote to the Ephesians. He stated it as follows:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother-- this is the first commandment with a promise: so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. (Ephesians 6:1-3 NRSV)

The Book of Exodus is quoted as being the very Word of God.


After healing a man with leprosy, Jesus told the person to go and show himself to the priest. This is according to the command written in the Law of Moses in the Book of Leviticus (Leviticus 14:2-32). Matthew records it in this manner:

Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:4 NRSV)

Therefore, Leviticus is assumed to be part of Holy Scripture.


The faithfulness of Moses (Numbers 12:7) is cited in the Book of Hebrews. The writer stated it as follows:

Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house, but only as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. (Hebrews 3:5 NLT)

This shows that the material recorded in Numbers was assumed to be divinely authoritative.


Deuteronomy is quoted a number of times in the New Testament. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:13 when He was tempted by the Devil. We read in Matthew:

Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” (Matthew 4:10 NRSV)

There is no doubt about the authority of Deuteronomy. Thus we find that all five books of Moses are quoted as authoritative in the New Testament. This is obvious from the evidence.


The writer to the Hebrews quotes the Book of Joshua (Joshua 1:5) as Scripture. He cited it in the following manner:

Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NET)

Joshua, the successor to Moses, is considered as writing authoritative Scripture.


While Judges is not directly quoted as authoritative Scripture, events that are recorded in the Book of Judges are cited in the Book of Hebrews. We read the following:

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets. (Hebrews 11:32 KJV)

Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah are all featured in stories in the Book of Judges. The writer to the Hebrews used them as illustrations of faith. All of the other illustrations in this portion of the Book of Hebrews, which used by the writer, were taken from characters which are found in the pages of Old Testament Scripture. These include such people as Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jacob. Placing these characters from the Book of Judges alongside the characters in the canonical books clearly testifies to the status of Judges.

As far as the Book of Ruth is concerned, while it not directly cited in the New Testament, Ruth was probably attached to the Book of Judges at the time of Christ. Consequently, when the writer to the Hebrews cited these accounts of great faith from the Book of Judges, it would mean that Ruth was also recognized as Holy Scripture seeing that it was part of the Book of Judges.


Jesus cited the account of David and those with him eating the bread on the Sabbath (1 Samuel 21:1-6). We read the following statements of Jesus in Matthew:

But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: ‘how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?’” (Matthew 12:3-4 NKJV)

Citing the book of First Samuel would also include Second Samuel; since they were one book in the Hebrew arrangement.


Paul cited God’s reply to Elijah (1 Kings 19:18). He wrote:

But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” (Romans 11:4 NKJV)

First and Second Kings were one book in Hebrew. Therefore, a citation from First Kings means the entire book was cited as authoritative.


First and Second Chronicles is one book in Hebrew. While Chronicles is not directly cited in the New Testament, Jesus seems to testify to its authority. Jesus said:

So all the righteous blood shed on the earth will be charged to you, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. (Matthew 23:35 HCSB)

The death of the prophet Zechariah is listed in Chronicles. This event was recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:20-21. However, while this statement of Jesus may be referring to the Zechariah mentioned here, it is not certain. There is no record in the Old Testament of Zechariah son of Berechiah having been murdered. The Zechariah mentioned in Chronicles is Zechariah the son of Jehoida.

It may possibly be referring to a Zechariah who was martyred in Jesus’ day. If so, then this would not be a reference to Chronicles. Yet, we do know from other passages in the New Testament, such as Matthew 1:5,12, that the writers were familiar with the Book of Chronicles. The best which we can say here is that this may be a reference to an event listed in Chronicles.


Paul quotes Job 5:12-13 in his letter to the Corinthians. He wrote:

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “God catches those who think they are wise in their own cleverness” And again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are worthless.” (1 Corinthians 3:19-20 NLT)

Job is considered to be part of the Word of God by Paul.


The Psalms is one of the most often quoted Old Testament books. For example, Jesus quoted Psalm 82:6 in his discussion with the religious leaders. John writes:

Jesus replied, “It is written in your own law that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people, who received God’s message, were called ‘gods’ why do you call it blasphemy when the Holy One who was sent into the world by the Father says, ‘I am the Son of God’”? (John 10:34-36 NLT)

There is no doubt that the psalms were assumed to be divinely inspired of God.


James cites Proverbs 3:34 in his letter. He writes:

He gives us more and more strength to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.” (James 4:6 NLT)

Proverbs is also considered to be sacred Scripture.


The Book of Isaiah is quoted often in the New Testament. Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah, in Isaiah 61:1-2 at a synagogue in Nazareth. The Bible states it as follows:

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 upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:17-21 NRSV)

Isaiah was assumed to have written God’s authoritative Word. In this case, a prophecy that Jesus Himself fulfilled.


Matthew cites a passage from Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 31:15). This is in the context of the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem. He wrote:

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:17-18 NKJV)

Jeremiah’s authority is assumed in the New Testament.


Matthew records an allusion to the Book of Lamentations (Lamentations 3:30). He wrote:

They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. (Matthew 27:30 NASB)

While not a direct quote, it does give the impression that Lamentations was considered to be authoritative Scripture. However, it is likely that Lamentations was attached to the Book of Jeremiah at the time of Christ. Therefore, its canonical status was not in doubt.


The Book of Ezekiel is alluded to on several occasions in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul alluded to Ezekiel 37:27 in his letter to the Corinthians:

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

Ezekiel is assumed to be a divinely inspired work.


Jesus identifies Daniel as one of the prophets. He quotes him as speaking authoritatively (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11):

So when you see ‘the abomination of desolation’?spoken about by Daniel the prophet?standing in the holy place (let the reader understand). (Matthew 24:15 NET)

There is no doubt about the status of Daniel. Jesus made that clear.

The Twelve

The Twelve Minor Prophets were considered to be one book. The fact that one of them is cited as authoritative testifies to the divine authority of all of them. However, nine out of the twelve are specifically cited as Scripture in the New Testament. The evidence is as follows:


Matthew quotes the prophet Hosea (Hosea 11:1). He wrote:

That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” (Matthew 2:14-15 NLT)

His prophetic status is clear. Hosea wrote of Jesus’ flight to Egypt.


On the Day of Pentecost, Peter cited a passage from Joel 2:28-32 as God’s Word. He said:

But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; (Acts 2:16 KJV)

He then went on to quote a major section from Joel. This leaves no doubt as to Joel’s authority.


In Acts, the Book of Amos is quoted (Amos 9:11-12) by James, the Lords’ brother, at the council of Jerusalem. He said:

This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord - even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called. Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things.’ (Acts 15:15-17 NRSV)

His writings are assumed to carry divine authority.


Jesus referred to the incident of Jonah being swallowed by the large sea creature (Jonah 1). We read the following in Matthew:

Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees answered him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:38-40 NET)

Jonah’s prophetic status is confirmed by the Lord Jesus.


Matthew cites Micah as the one who predicted the place where the Christ is to be born (Micah 5:2):

After assembling all the chief priests and experts in the law he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they said, “for it is written this way by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are in no way least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:4-6 NET)

The writings of Micah are assumed to carry God’s authority.


Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 in his letter to the Galatians. He wrote:

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11 NRSV)

Habakkuk was indeed a prophet of God.


The writer to the Hebrews quotes Haggai (Haggai 2:6 in the Septuagint). He said:

At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” (Hebrews 12:26 NRSV)

Haggai is also believed to have composed Holy Scripture.


The Book of Zechariah is quoted on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9). Matthew wrote the following:

“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Matthew 21:5 NRSV)

This important prophecy was cited on Palm Sunday. Zechariah was indeed God’s prophet.


Jesus cited the necessity of the coming of Elijah (Malachi 4:5). Matthew wrote about this. He said:

His disciples asked, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?” Jesus replied, “Elijah is indeed coming first to set everything in order.” (Matthew 17:10-11 NLT)

Malachi is believed to be God’s prophet.

The New Testament Cites All the Old Testament Books (with Four Exceptions)

All Old Testament books are quoted as authoritative works by the New Testament writers with four exceptions: Ezra/Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. However, the absence of any quotations of these books does not speak against their canonicity.

These Four Books May Be Alluded To

In fact, there is some evidence that these four books were considered divinely inspired. We offer the following evidence:

Purim, from Esther, May Have Been Mentioned in the New Testament

It should be noted that the Feast of Purim celebrated the events recorded in the Book of Esther. We read of the following command given in the Book of Esther:

These days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every family, province, and city; and these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants. (Esther 9:28 NRSV)

This verse commands a continuous celebration of Purim. According to John’s gospel, Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate a certain feast:

Later, Jesus went to Jerusalem for a Jewish festival. (John 5:1 God’s Word)

It is possible that this refers to Purim. If so, then this indicates that the people recognized the tradition to celebrate Purim in remembrance of their deliverance from the Persians. By doing so, it gives testimony to the authority of the Book of Esther.

There are some who say that a statement that is found in the Book of Revelation seems to echo something that was written in the Book of Esther. In Revelation, it says the following about the two witnesses who are killed in the city of Jerusalem:

And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. (Revelation 11:10 NKJV)

The people celebrated and sent gifts because of their death. In Esther, we read:

He told them to celebrate these days with feasting and gladness and by giving gifts to each other and to the poor. This would commemorate a time when the Jews gained relief from their enemies, when their sorrow was turned into gladness and their mourning into joy. (Esther 9:22 NLT)

Each statement speaks of people giving gifts to one another because of the victory over their enemies.

Therefore, we may have allusions to the Book of Esther in the New Testament.

Song of Solomon Was Read at the Passover

There is also evidence for the Song of Solomon. It was traditionally read at each Passover. This gives testimony to its importance among the people of Israel. Again, it is evidence of its divine inspiration.

It is also possible that the reference of Jesus to “living water” was referring to Song of Solomon. Jesus said the following to a Samaritan woman whom He met at a well:

Jesus replied to her, “If you only knew what God’s gift is and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him for a drink. He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10 God’s Word)

We read the following in the Song of Solomon:

You are a garden fountain, a well of living water, as refreshing as the streams from the Lebanon mountains. (Song of Solomon 4:15 NLT)

Jesus may have been referring to Song of Solomon in His illustration of living water. Therefore, He would be quoting from the Song of Solomon as Holy Scripture.

Ecclesiastes Is Alluded to in the New Testament

While Ecclesiastes does not have any direct quotes from it in the New Testament, there are a number of passages that allude to it. For example, Paul wrote to Timothy:

For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10 NLT)

This seems to depend upon the following verse in Ecclesiastes. It reads:

The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NRSV)

While Ecclesiastes is alluded to in the New Testament, we may also have a direct quote from it. Paul wrote the following to the Romans:

As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. (Romans 3:10 HCSB)

This is possibly a direct quote from Ecclesiastes 7:20. It reads as follows:

There is certainly no righteous man on the earth who does good and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20 HCSB)

If this is the case, then we do have a direct citation of a passage from Ecclesiastes from the New Testament.

In another place in Romans, Paul also seems to allude to Ecclesiastes in his description of the fallen creation. He wrote:

For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope. (Romans 8:20 NRSV)

The word translated “futility” is the same Greek word found in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes in the Septuagint, or Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Here it is translated, “meaningless:”

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “utterly meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2 NLT)

Creation was made subject to futility or meaninglessness because of the curse of the fall.

Therefore, there seems to be direct dependence upon this book in a number of places in the New Testament. In addition, there is evidence that Paul directly quoted Ecclesiastes in his letter to the Romans.

There May Be a Reference to Ezra/Nehemiah

There also may be a reference in the New Testament to a statement found in Ezra/Nehemiah. Jesus spoke of the bread that came down from heaven. John records him saying the following:

Our fathers ate the manna in the desert, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat. (John 6:31 HCSB)

This may have reference to a statement in Nehemiah. It reads as follows:

You gave them bread from heaven to stay their hunger. (Nehemiah 9:15 REB)

While Jesus’ statement may be a reference to Nehemiah, this same reference of “bread from heaven” is also found in the Psalms. It says:

He rained manna for them to eat; He gave them grain from heaven. (Psalm 78:24 HCSB)

These references, while not directly quoting these four books, do show the importance of these works in the sight of the people.

Therefore, while Ezra/Nehemiah, Esther, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes are not directly cited in the New Testament, this does not mean that they were not part of Scripture. The number of books had been long-fixed before the time of Christ. This list included these four works. Indeed, at the time of Ben Sirach, two centuries before Christ, these works were cited as Holy Scripture.

However, there is some evidence that even Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon were directly quoted in the New Testament. If this is the case, then only Ezra/Nehemiah and Esther are the only two books of the Old Testament which are not specifically cited in the New Testament.

Therefore, the evidence leads us to believe that the first Christians had the exact same Hebrew Scripture as their Jewish contemporaries.

A Final Observation: No Books Outside of the Hebrew Canon Were Cited as Scripture

There is one other point that needs to be emphasized. No other book outside of the Hebrew canon is ever cited with the formula, “Thus says the Lord,” “It is written,” or “Scripture says.” While some non-canonical writings may have been alluded to by the New Testament writers, these works are never quoted as Scripture or as having some sort of divine authority. This is further testimony that the extent of the Hebrew canon was clear to everyone at the time of Christ.

Summary – Question 17
Does the New Testament Quote the Old Testament as Authoritative Scripture?

We find that most of the books of the Old Testament are directly cited as Holy Scripture. The fact that these books were cited demonstrates the belief of the New Testament writers that they were quoting from God’s Word.

There are only four books that were not cited—Ezra/Nehemiah, Ecclesiastes, Esther, and Song of Solomon. While these books are not directly cited in the New Testament, their inclusion in the Hebrew canon is testified to by other means. Furthermore, we do find possible allusions to each of these books in the New Testament.

Add to this, there is actually some evidence that Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes were directly cited in the New Testament. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that these thirty-nine books were the only writings that God divinely inspired and that the New Testament writers recognized as Holy Scripture.

Was the Hebrew Canon Determined after the Time of Christ? (The Council of Jamnia) ← Prior Section
Did the New Testament Recognize a Completed Old Testament Canon of Scripture? Next Section →
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