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

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Don Stewart

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. Jesus assumed the people were actual people and 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. The People Were Actual People

The first thing we find Jesus confirming about the Old Testament is that the people mentioned in its pages truly did exist. They were not mythical characters.

Abraham

Jesus confirmed the existence of Abraham. He said:

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad (John 8:56).

Isaac And Jacob

The patriarchs, Isaac and Jacob, were real people according to Jesus.

And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11).

David

David, the first rightful king of Israel, was a historical character.

He [Jesus] answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?" (Matthew 12:3).

Solomon

Solomon himself, the great king, was a historical person.

Yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these (Matthew 6:29).

The Queen Of Sheba

According to Jesus, the Queen of Sheba actually came to visit Solomon.

The Queen of the South shall rise up against this generation at the judgment and shall condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here (Matthew 12:42).

Elijah

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

And he answered and said, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things" (Matthew 17:11).

Elisha

Jesus also confirmed the story about Elisha the prophet and Naaman the leper.

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).

Zechariah

Jesus also acknowledged Zechariah the prophet.

From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation (Luke 11:51).

2. The Stories Were Factual

As we look at the way Jesus treated the Old Testament, we discover that He assumed the various stories to be factual.

God Gave Circumcision

Jesus stated that it was God who gave the people the rite of circumcision through Moses.

On this account Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man (John 7:22).

The Manna In The Wilderness

The Lord Jesus confirmed the provision of the manna, given to the children of Israel while they were in the wilderness.

Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread out of heaven to eat' (John 6:31).

David Eating The Bread Of Presentation

Jesus acknowledged the story of David and his men eating the bread of presentation.

But he [Jesus] said to them, "Have you not read what David did, when he became hungry, he and his companions; how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?" (Matthew 12:3,4).

David The Writer Of Certain Psalms

Jesus taught that David was the writer of certain of the Psalms.

He said to them, "Then how does David in the Spirit call him 'Lord,' saying" (Matthew 22:43).

Moses Wrote The Law

According to Jesus, the Law was indeed given by Moses.

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, for a testimony to them" (Matthew 8:4).

The Suffering Of The Prophets

The fact that the prophets suffered was used by Jesus as an example of how His disciples will suffer.

Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:12).

The Episode With Lot's Wife

The story of Lot's wife, turning into a pillar of salt, was used by Jesus as an example of not looking back.

Remember Lot's wife (Luke 17:32).

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah

Jesus believed that Sodom and Gomorrah were actual cities that were judged by God.

Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city (Matthew 10:15).

The Destruction Of Tyre And Sidon

Jesus confirmed the account of Tyre and Sidon, the cities that were judged in the Old Testament.

Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you" (Matthew 11:21,22).

3. Jesus Confirmed Some Of The Most Controversial Stories

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 stamp of approval on them.

Adam And Eve

Jesus believed in the Genesis account of creation - which includes the direct creation of Adam and Eve.

And he answered and said, "Have you not read, that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, 'For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh'" (Matthew 19:4-5).

He used Adam and Eve as an example of God's purpose in marriage.

Cain And Abel

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

From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation (Luke 11:51).

The Flood In Noah's Day

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

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:37-39).

Jesus compared the circumstances surrounding Noah's Flood as similar to those at His Second Coming.

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:

But he [Jesus] answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The people of Nineveh shall stand up against this generation at the judgment, and shall condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Matthew 12:39-41).

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.

4. Jesus Confirmed The Authorship Of Disputed Books

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

Daniel

Though the authorship of Daniel is often rejected today, Jesus believed that he was a true prophet.

Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) (Matthew 24:15).

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 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.

This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases" (Matthew 8:17).

This cites Isaiah 53:4.

The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:17-19).

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

Jesus Directly Quotes Isaiah

There is also a passage where Jesus clearly spells out that Isaiah wrote it.

This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" (John 12:38)

This is a citation from Isaiah 53:1. He then proceeds to cite the first section of Isaiah.

For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn - and I would heal them." Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him (John 12:39-41).

This is from Isaiah 6:10 Therefore, the testimony of Jesus is that the Book of Isaiah was written by only one man - the prophet Isaiah.

5. Jesus Spoke Of Prophecy Being Fulfilled

Jesus said that certain predictions, recorded in the Old Testament, were fulfilled in His life and ministry.

And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21).

Jesus said the coming of John the Baptist was a result of fulfilled prophecy.

This is the one about whom it is written, 'Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you' (Matthew 11:10).

Jesus said that Elijah had come in the person of John the Baptist.

And he [Jesus] said to them, "Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? "But I say to you, that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him" (Mark 9:12,13).

Jesus spoke of the future destruction of Jerusalem as an example of prophecy that must be fulfilled.

Because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled (Luke 21:22).

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

Summary

As we examine the attitude of the Lord Jesus toward the Old Testament we find Him viewing it as totally trustworthy. Jesus believed the people actually existed and the stories literally occurred. He confirmed the historicity of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David, Solomon the Queen of Sheba, Elijah, Elisha, and Zechariah.

Jesus also confirmed certain Old Testament accounts. These include God giving Moses the rite of circumcision, the giving of 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 some 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.

Finally Jesus spoke of Old Testament prophecy being fulfilled. He assumed the passages cited were authoritative and needed to be fulfilled.

Jesus never cast doubt on any of 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.

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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