Use of the OT by NT Writers

Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation, 2nd ed.

One obvious reality of the NT is that it is full of OT citations, allusions, echoes, and so on. This is a topic that has been discussed and debated often and for quite some time. I recently read Joel Green and Richard Hays’ chapter in Hearing the New Testament called “The Use of the Old Testament by New Testament Writers”. Here’s a summarized section of the chapter that I thought was helpful – it’s about how NT authors utilized the OT Scriptures:

1. Among the ways in which NT texts are linked to Israel’s Scriptures, the most obvious is direct citation, which may or may not be introduced with an introductory formula. For example, in Luke 3:3–6 the ministry of John is said to be continuous with the prophecy of Isa 40:3–5….

2. In other cases, the NT writer’s dependence on the OT is evident in summaries of OT history and teaching. The sermon of Paul in Acts 13:16–41 is of interest in this regard….

3. The influence of the OT is also seen in the use of type-scenes in NT narratives. Type-scenes constitute a form of repetition in biblical narrative, an episode composed of a fixed sequence of motifs, often associated with recurrent themes. They reiterate similar events—say, the announcement of birth or the trial in the wilderness—by drawing on a common inventory of actions….

4. Finally, the dependence of NT writers on the OT is recognized in allusions or linguistic echoes…. In attuning our ears to register OT echoes in NT texts, we account for the way in which the great stories of Israel have served the writer as a trove of symbols and metaphors that shape the author’s understanding and representation of the world and of God’s salvific activity.

The above quotes are found in Richard B. Hays and Joel B. Green, “The Use of the Old Testament by New Testament Writers,” in Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation, ed. Joel B. Green, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 129.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI