How The New Testament Used The Old.

Critics of the Bible usually accuse the New Testament of misquoting the Old. They use this as a proof of error. However, they forget that every CITATION need not be AN EXACT QUOTATION. It was accepted in Bible days, (as it is today) to PARAPHRASE the ESSENCE of a statement, without quoting verbatim. So many times, the writers of the NT were not quoting OT texts verbatim. They were drawing inferences from them!

The NT quotations of OT texts sometimes vary for SEVERAL reasons:

• Sometimes they vary because there is a change of SPEAKER.

For example, Zechariah records the Lord as saying, “they will look on ME whom they have pierced” (in Zec 12:10). When this is cited in the NT, John, not God, is speaking. So it is changed to “They shall look on HIM whom they pierced” (John 19:37).

This is not a contradiction. The speaker had changed, from God to John.

• Other times, the writers of the NT only cite PART of the OT text. Jesus did this at His home synagogue in Nazareth.

Luke 4:18-19 (NKJV)

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Jesus was citing Isaiah 61:1-2 which says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, AND THE DAY OF VENGEANCE OF OUR GOD; to comfort all who mourn.

Jesus cuts out “AND THE DAY OF VENGEANCE OF OUR GOD” in Luke 4:19. He does not COMPLETE the quotation but stopped right in the middle. And the reason is simple: if he had gone any further, He could not have said in vs. 21, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” because “THE DAY OF VENGEANCE OF OUR GOD” has not come yet. That refers to judgment at the end of the age. So Jesus did not MISQUOTE Isaiah 61:2. He simply did not go further to quote what had not been fulfilled yet.

• Sometimes the NT PARAPHRASES or SUMMARISES the OT text.

For example, Matthew 2:6 says, “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’

Matthew is quoting from Micah 5:2 here which says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.

Matthew SUMMARIZES Micah 5:2. He is not giving a verbatim quotation. So there is no contradiction here.

• Another reason for the variance is that some NT writers combine two OT texts into one.

Matthew 27:9-10 serves for illustration here.

Matthew 27:9-10 (NKJV)

9 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, 10 and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

This text MERGES both Jeremiah 32:6-9 and Zechariah 11:12-13. So Matthew combines the words of Jeremiah and Zechariah into one statement. Again, that is not a contradiction. You just have to read BOTH to understand his point.

• Occasionally, as well, a general truth is mentioned, without citing a specific text.

For example, Matthew said in Matthew 2:23, “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken BY THE PROPHETS, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’

Notice that Matthew does not mention any prophet SPECIFICALLY. He simply makes mention of “the Prophets” in general. It would be futile to search for a specific OT text, where that phrase in Matthew 2:23 (“He shall be called a Nazarene”) can be found.

It is a GENERAL conclusion reached from the words of several prophets in several portions of the Old Testament. The word “Nazarene” (from the Hebrew “Nêtzer“) refers to a small, weak Branch (see Isaiah 11:1-2, Jer 23:5, 33:15, Zec 3:8, 6:12). The word “Nazarene” was a term of contempt often hurled at Jesus. The Old Testament had prophesied that He would be come in the likeness of a small Branch (“Nazarene“), and be despised and rejected (Isa 53:2-3, cf. John 1:45-46).

• There are also instances where the NT applies a text in a different way than the OT did. For example, see Hosea 11:1 says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.” Hosea applies this text to ISRAEL.

Matthew, however, applies it to the PRODUCT of that nation, the Messiah, in Matthew 2.

Matthew 2:14-15 (NKJV)

14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (quoting from Hos. 11:1 ).

So the SAME text may be APPLIED in different ways, to SIMILIAR circumstances; Matthew is saying that JUST IN THE SAME WAY Israel went to Egypt, so did Jesus. Jesus is the true Son of God and the true Israel. So the SAME TEXT is applied in two similiar situations.

These are the reasons for the SEEMING misquotations of the OT by the New. Note however that the New Testament NEVER misquotes, misinterprets nor misapllies any Old Testament text. The NT makes no mistakes in citing the OT.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *