New Testament Use of the Old Testament

By Jerry Wierwille

One of the important features of the NT is that it contains a number of quotations from passages in the OT. In order to appreciate this aspect of the NT scriptures, we need to understand the ways that the NT uses OT scriptures and how they fit into the message each NT writer is trying to convey.

Usages of the OT in the NT

  1. Prophecy
    a) Direct Fulfillment—the OT prophecy has a single expected fulfilment that is shared by the human writer and divine author. Only one event or a related series of events is in view.

i. Mal 3:1 in Matt 11:10
ii. Zech 9:9 in John 12:13-15
iii. Mic 5:2 in Matt 2:6

b) Typological Fulfillment—the OT prophecy contains a short-term (proximal) fulfillment that sets a pattern (i.e., type) that is then ultimately completed or repeated by a long-term (remote) fulfillment.

i. Psa 22:18 in John 19:24
ii. Jer 31:15 in Matt 2:17-18

  1. Authoritative Illustration—an OT prophecy, person(s), or event is/are mentioned as a lesson and exhortation for a new audience. The circumstances are often quite different; and the illustration is meant to teach a particular point, usually by example but sometimes through principle or analogy.

a) Exod 32:6 in 1 Cor 10:7
b) Psa 82:6 in John 10:34
c) Exod 22:28 in Acts 23:5

  1. Appeal to Principle—an OT principle is brought forward to teach a spiritual truth or to be applied to a new circumstance for the purpose of describing an event or contemplating a decision or action.

a) Psa 2:1-2 in Acts 4:25-26
b) Deut 30:12-14 in Rom 10:6-8
c) Deut 25:4 in 1 Cor 9:9

  1. Allegory—historical OT person(s) or event(s) are re-interpreted in a rhetorical way to depict the meaning of newer revelation or to provide a basis for understanding the relationship/likeness between two realities that are historically dissimilar but share a similarity in their structure or spiritual understanding.

a) Sarah and Hagar in Gal 4

  1. Re-Appropriation—an OT prophecy, event, or description is quoted in a NT context that is unrelated to the original context for the purpose of substantiating the writer’s argument.

a) Deut 25:4 in 1 Tim 5:18
b) Hos 1:11 in Matt 2:15
c) Isa 28:11-12 in 1 Cor 14:21

  1. OT Ideas, Language, or Summaries—OT ideas, events, or principles are explicitly mentioned but only in summary or general terms, not directly quoted from a particular passage.

a) Luke 24:44-47
b) Mark 9:12-13
c) 2 Tim 3:8

1 Response

  1. In 1992 Dr. David B. Capes (the new NT editor of the Word Biblical Commentary series) published a book called Old Testament Yahweh Texts in Paul’s Christology. He argued that Paul’s application to Jesus of OT texts that refer to YHWH prove that Jesus is YHWH! This view, first proposed by Dr. Capes, has now become commonplace among biblical scholarship. But note how Dr. Capes flat out misreports the all important Ps 110:1 in order to buffer his claim that Jesus is YHWH!

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