10 Apr 2016

Strange World of the Bible #3: Ten Times the NT is Actually the Old Testament But You Didn’t Know it!

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Exegesis, Hebrew Bible, Jesus, Jewish Backgrounds, Septuagint

ntqot-pt-introToday we gather around the Table of Fellowship and Love to remember our Lord with whole family of God in the presence of the Risen Lord. We will hear stories and testimonies and Scripture.  More than likely the Scriptures you will hear today will be from the “New Testament.”  In the first century church they read instead from Moses, the Prophets, the Psalms and even from what Protestants call the Apocrypha.

Today we too will also hear the Old Testament but often do not realize that is what we are reading because it is written in the New Testament. In fact a great deal of the “New Testament” is the “Old Testament.” Thirty-three (33) percent of the actual words in the Greek New Testament are direct quotations of the Hebrew Bible/Septuagint.  That is one out of every three words … and even then that is not half the story as the saying goes.

So today, on this wonderful Lord’s Day, I offer another “strange world of the Bible” where we hear the Old Testament but probably do not know it.  That is places where the language of the NT is shaped by the ink of the Hebrew Bible or its translation in the Septuagint …

1) The Gospel of the Exodus is applied directly – yes directly – to Christians in Jude 1.5. Does anyone read Jude?

Now I desire to remind you {plural}, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt ...” There is an interesting textual variant here that makes it even more explicit, where the text reads “Jesus who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt …”  The Exodus – Old Testament – has been applied directly to the “New Testament church.” Every first century listener would have made the connection.

2) The baby Jesus is connected to baby Samuel, one of the greatest prophets. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Lk 2.52).  Luke’s telling of Jesus is shaped by the young Samuel narrative, “The boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and man” (1 Sam 2.26). Every first century listener would have made the connection.

3) The baby Jesus returns from Egypt after the angel speaks to Joseph saying “those who are seeking the child’s life are dead” (Mt 2.20).  Matthew’s language is shaped by the Mosaic narrative when the Lord instructs Moses to return to Egypt “for those who are seeking your life are dead” (Ex 4.19). Every first century listener would have made the connection.

4) The reader of the Gospels is told no less than 7x, by my count today (Mk 14.61; 15.5; Mt 26.63; 27.12, 14; Lk 23.9; Jn 19.9) that during the interrogation of Jesus he remained mysteriously “silent” and made no word of reply. He did not open his mouth. The reason for this lies in the Hebrew Bible’s description of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53.7, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.” No first century listener would have missed the connection.

5) We are told in Matthew (27.38), Mark (15.27), Luke (23.33) and John (19.18) that Jesus was crucified between two criminals. While this is historically factual, the Evangelists present this, again, using the language of the “Old Testament” from the Servant Song in Isaiah 53 which declares “he was numbered with the transgressors” (53.12). No first century listener would have missed the connection.

6) Some moderns read in 1 Peter 4.8 and think that new (or renewed) covenant suddenly became all about love when they hear “love covers a multitude of sins.” But what is so often is not realized, but what every first century listener knew, is that Peter is actually quoting his “Bible” in Proverbs  10.12, “Love covers a multitude of sins.”

7) Many Psalms in the Psalter are quoted multiple times in the NT. Psalm 34, for example, has 22 verses. Of those verses no less than 12 are directly used in the NT itself. This Psalm was prominent in early Christian worship as well. Psalm 34.12-16 is used by Peter in 1 Peter 3.10-12.

8) The Book of Revelation has been described as the Old Testament in a dream. It is saturated with words, images, and echoes of the Hebrew Bible that were part of the first century church’s DNA. Four times in Revelation 19 we encounter what can only be described as a “ritual command,” or in its Hebraic form “Hallelujah.” This ritual command of corporate worship (in a Christian setting btw) is from the Psalms which occurs no less than 22x, by my count, in the Psalter. The Psalter continues to shape how John experiences his revelation when twice we encounter the statement that God’s People vocalize a “Sing to the Lord a new song” (5.9; 14.3). This is in obedience to the ritual command in the Psalter (Evangelicals tend to hate anything with “ritual” associated with it but John didn’t have such an allergy) which calls God’s People in no less than five Psalms to sing a new song to the Lord. No first century listener would miss the connection.

9) The Sermon on the Mount is heavily indebted to the Hebrew Bible. This is because Jesus of Nazareth was the world’s greatest disciple of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus tells us to pray for those who persecute us (a command God’s people have never been good at) in Mt 5.44. In Luke’s version it says “bless those that curse you” (Lk 6.28). This is something the Nazarene encountered as he prayed thru the Psalter in Psalm 109.28, “let them curse you, but you will bless.

10) Returning to the Passion of Jesus. We read in passing in Mark (15.29), Matthew (27.39) and Luke (23.35-36) that while Jesus was suffering on the Cross “those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads at him.” While this is no doubt a historical statement it is more. The Evangelists have in mind the language from that perennial Passion Psalm, Psalm 22. “All who see me mock me … they shake their heads” (Ps 22.7). No one in the first century would miss the connection.

The New Testament authors used the Hebrew Bible not only to make doctrinal points but also simply to communicate. The Hebrew Bible shapes how they say what they say. But they are making important doctrinal claims with Old Testament language. The NT simply would not exist if not for the ink well of the Hebrew Bible and its translation in the Septuagint. New Testament doctrine IS Old Testament doctrine. Or as Christopher J. H. Wright once quipped “The New Testament is the first Old Testament theology!”

When we are reading the “New Testament” chances are you are reading the Old Testament already.  The more we know the Scriptures like they did in the first century the deeper and more profound will be our encounter with the New Testament texts themselves.  God grant us eyes to see and ears to hear.

2 Responses to “Strange World of the Bible #3: Ten Times the NT is Actually the Old Testament But You Didn’t Know it!”

  1. Mitch Says:

    With regard to #4, we often say that Jesus was silent during his questioning by Pilate and Annas, however Mark 14:62, Matt 26:64, John 18:20-23, John 18:34-37 and John 19:11 all give accounts of Jesus answering back to his interrogators.

  2. Dwight Says:

    I think the concept is that Jesus didn’t fight for his right to live or for his innocence, rather than he said nothing at all.
    When Jesus talked he did so in response to agreeing with the charges of being the Son of God, or being King of the Jews, etc.
    But he didn’t offer opposition.
    In regards to his defense against going to the cross he was very silent.

Leave a Reply