Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The New Testament’s Use of the Old

By Max Strange

 N.T.’s Use of the O.T.
            The broadcast of the Old Testament could be summed up by saying, “Make way for the King!” Then, John the Baptist unites salvation history when, on the banks of the river Jordan, he also heralds and echoes what the prophet Isaiah had said, “Make straight the way of the Lord!” (Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23).  The Old Testament was anticipatory and a forerunner, like John, announcing the coming King Jesus.  John’s ministry embodied the heralding announcement of the Old Testament prophets.  He fused the Old and the New into one unit, ensuring us that God’s Story is an interlocked progression of events, and not isolated acts done by God.  Jesus affirms this inter-connectedness by saying, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:13-14). 
            Because both Jesus and John see the connection between the Old and the New Testaments, then so must we.  The New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament is very apparent.  It is most obvious that the New Testament is besieged with Old Testament quotations and that the New draws from the wells of the Old.  Directly or indirectly, the New Testament cites or alludes to the Old thousands of times (ex. “The Flood”…Gen.6-9…Ps. 124:4…Matt. 24:38-39…2 Pet. 2:5).  

Fuller Meaning –Progressive revelation:
Any discussion regarding the New Testament’s use of the Old will clearly reveal an Almighty and Sovereign God who rules history by His providence and who alone has mapped out every epoch of history.  His Story builds and never crumbles, it ever progresses and never digresses, it has growing truth and not truth at rest, it gradually unfolds and never shrivels back, it has stages, fuller realizations, and little rivers that pick up speed until they all reach into the ocean.  It is not beyond the scope of God’s colossal intellect to piece together His logical plan this way, in which one text unfolds out of the next, the latter dependent upon the previous, the children a necessary consequence of their parents.  This is progressive revelation (Acts 2-Peter Speech connected to revelation history, Acts 7 Stephen’s Speech).  The Old Testament texts seem always to point forward in some way to the future and the New Testament writers continually claim that some event or other is the fulfillment of an OT prophecy, “this is what was spoken by the prophet” (Acts 2:16).  The Old and New have connected themes such as the Genesis 3:15 Skull Crusher, the seed of the Serpent vs. the Seed of the women, Covenants, God’s people, the judges, the priests, the kings, man’s justification and redemption, the Garden, the Temple, City of God vs. city of man, the Day of the Lord, the Messiah, etc…are all mounting thematic shadows that run up and kiss the feet of Jesus.  And Jesus is the end goal of how to interpret all that the Old previewed where everything foreshadowed found it’s ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ in Him (2 Cor. 1:20).  Then in the New, the Old still speaks through the Cross with recurring themes such as the new creation, the New Covenant, a new kingdom, the new desert, the new Sinai, a new Zion, a new Israel, a new exodus, a new heavens and a new earth.  If the New builds on the Old, and the New draws out the inherent meaning already present, then this means that a fuller meaning is a reality. 

Dual Authorship:
The individual authors of the Bible understood this.  They understood in their writings that there was a divine intention that could and would grow out from their original intent.  They knew that in their writings, that God had the divine scheme always before Him and knew infinitely more than they.  So yes, there is the intention of the human author and there is also the Divine intent.  Each Old Testament writer knew in some degree that what they wrote could transcend their immediate consciousness because the final Author had a clear line of sight of the beginning and its end (Gen. 2:7; Ps. 8; 95:7-11; Isa. 7:14; Hos.11:1; Dan. 12:8-9).  They knew that God, the overarching Author, who sees history as one sequential whole, used earthly language with a heavenly thrust.  Thus, God could intend more than what they were aware of.  This is not an open sesame to allegorical interpretation or a runway to uncontrollable typology.  This method allows Biblical Theology to be done right by permitting the extended references to develop as God has intended from Old to New and back in a reciprocating fashion.     

One Message:
            Being so welded together by the Biblical authors and by Jesus, it would seem too risky and dangerous to rip apart the Old and New Testament’s one message, that one super metanarrative.  Therefore, what God has joined let no man tear apart.  Even the superiority of the New does not lessen the tremendous importance and role of the Old.  Both need each other to communicate God’s sacred history.     
Furthermore, this one message has multiple authors.  There is always some human agency and God overshadowing.  Being that each piece fits with the one prior, demonstrates the unity of the authors with the Divine Author.  There is never a squabble between authors.  There is never a contradiction, a wrangle or disagreement, inconsistencies, or warring parties between the big ‘A’ author and the little ‘a’ author.  Each author fills-up what was previously intended all along in the wits of God.  Big ‘A’ and little ‘a’ are never at odds with each other when communicating the one message.  There is complete harmony and intent concerning all salvation history. 

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