In the previous lesson, we learned that Christ used the Old Testament as evidence of its authority. In this blog, we will learn that the Apostles also regard the Old Testament as God’s word, and authoritative.
Here are some brief facts.
- NT Quotations from OT. There are direct quotations about 224 times. These are Introduced by definite phrases such as, “Scripture says,” or “It is written” which clearly indicate its authority. There are also seven occasions when a second quotation follows on from the first (e.g. Romans 3:10-18, Hebrews 1). There are also nineteen occasions when a summary or paraphrase is used rather than a direct quotation. Lastly, there are forty-five occasions when no claim to be quoting from the OT is made but where a passage is clearly in mind.
- NT References to OT. Notice the frequent references (295) contained in 352 verses of the New Testament (these are about 4.5% of the total number of verses in the New Testament, or one verse in every twenty-two and a half!). There are only nine books of the OT that are not quoted in the NT. (Ruth, Judges, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 & 2 Chronicles). But they are all included in the Jewish canon without the Apocryphal books even before Jesus came. Jerome, the translator of the Bible to Latin considered the Apocrypha as ecclesiastical, which means that they were read in churches and used for edification but not to establish or confirm doctrine).
- FACT: In the New Testament there is not one reference to a book of the Apocrypha (books that came historically between Malachi and Matthew). More on this in our future lessons.
Let us consider these important questions: Exactly how did the apostles use the Old Testament? What did the apostles think when they wrote their letters to the young churches?
THE OT is considered as authored by God
Fifty-six times the NT refers to God as the Author of the OT, and even where the human writer is known, the divine authorship is often stated instead (Hebrews 1:5-13 – 2 Sam. 4:17; Psalm 2:7; 104:4; 45:6-7; 102:25-27; 110:1). The human writers are ignored entirely and five times the apostle introduces a quotation with the phrase: “He (God) says.” The author to the book of Hebrews in 10:15 quoted Jeremiah 31 and refers to it as the Holy Spirit Himself bearing witness.
Divine authorship is added to the human writer. Here, God spoke through human messengers and writers (Acts 1:16 and Psalm 41:9; Acts 4:25; Acts 28:5 and Isaiah 6:9-10; Romans 9:25 and Hosea 2:23). There can be no doubt in our minds that Peter and Paul understood the words of the OT writers to be those of God the Holy Spirit speaking through men. They are not merely the words of the prophets but ultimately the Word of God. This is the essence of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, in that the inspiration of the Bible extends to the very words of it.
We agree with the old Princeton Seminary professor, Benjamin B. Warfield when he says that though the Scriptures are written by men, they “….are throughout a Divine book, created by the Divine energy and speaking in their every part with Divine authority directory to the heart of the readers.”1
The OT was referred to as “law”
The term ‘LAW’ is used for the whole of OT and does not cover merely the Ten Commandments. Everything in the OT has the force of law. Jesus, in answering the Jews (John 10:34) quoted Psalm 82 and refers to called it ‘law.’
Even the apostle Paul calls the Scriptures ‘Law’ in Romans 3:19 but he has just quoted from five Psalms and the prophet Isaiah (see also 1 Corinthians 14:21 with Isaiah 28:11-12).
The OT Scriptures are the ‘words’ of God. They are called living oracles from God (Acts 7:38) and they were entrusted to Jews as the oracles of God (Romans 3:2; see also Hebrews 5:12, 1 Peter 4:11). In the Septuagint, it was referred to as ‘logion’ 36 times (19 from Psalm 119). Again, apart from three references, logion, as used in the Septuagint, BB Warfield always refers to ‘a sacred utterance of the Divine Being [God].2
The OT is God-given, authoritative & relevant
Luke writes that the Lord has commanded His people while quoting Isaiah 49:6 in Acts 13:47. In teaching about discipline, the author to the Hebrews quoted Proverbs 3:11-12 in Hebrews 12:5-6. There was nothing merely historical about the OT for the apostles. It was a book of authority and relevance and the apostles placed themselves under its commands.
Paul confessed that he believed everything that was laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets (Acts 24:14) and that what was written before was written for our instruction (Romans 15:4).
Now, though the apostles’ used the Septuagint (LXX) it is nevertheless an imperfect translation. Still, the apostles use it since they spoke koine Greek and so did all their readers. The apostles did not assume that the Septuagint became an inspired translation whenever they used it; it was simply a translation, and was only authoritative in so far as it faithfully represented the OT Hebrew. This is similar to preaching. We quote other translations (NIV, KJV & NLT) to drive a point or to convey the meaning of the Scriptures with clarity. But it doesn’t mean that they are infallible.
Their use of it is infallible, certainly, but this does not imply infallibility in the whole or any part of the Greek translation. The apostles often paraphrased passages from the Septuagint. Often, they also chose only to pick out parts of the verses.
Some liberal theologians put forth alleged accusation that the NT writers are sometimes too free in their application of an OT passage, giving it a meaning that is not clearly there in the original. One of them was C.H. Dodd, he was no supporter of the evangelical view of Scripture. He maintained that, “In general…the writers of the NT, in making use of passages from the OT, remain true to the main intention of their writers.” But don’t fail to notice he says, “In general…” It is very subtle.4
We answer that If the doctrine of the Scriptures as the “God-breathed” word is true, then we can safely assume that where the NT writers understand an OT passage in a less than obvious way, or apply it in a way we would hesitate to do, this is because God has more light to reveal to us through the apostles.
In 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, we may not all see the rock from which water came for the Jews in the wilderness as a picture of Christ, but clearly, Paul did.
In Galatians 3:16, the Hebrew and Greek word for “seed” can be either singular or plural. But Paul, by insisting upon the singular, is drawing out deeper meaning and reading Christ in all the Scriptures.
As Augustine famously said, the Old is in the New revealed; the New is in the Old concealed.3
Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon on Proverb 6:22 entitled the Talking Book once said,
Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years. It is true, it cannot really grow, for it is perfect; but it does so to our apprehension. The deeper you dig into Scripture, the more you find that it is a great abyss of truth. The beginner learns four or five points of orthodoxy, and says, “I understand the gospel, I have grasped all the Bible.” Wait a bit, and when his soul grows and knows more of Christ, he will confess, “Thy commandment is exceeding broad, I have only begun to understand it.”5
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
*This blog post is based on our notes on Bibliology provided by our pastor.
1 Richard Phillips, Scripture as a Divine and Human Book
2 Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, The Oracles of God
3 R.C, Sproul, Ancient Promises
4 As quoted by Brian H. Edwards in his book, “Nothing but the Truth.” p. 73
5 Charles Spurgeon, The Talking Book