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Theology > Jesus > Introductory Considerations > Relationship of Old and New Testaments


Even a casual reading of the Bible communicates the fact that there is a dynamic relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament, with the very words that are used of the two divisions, “Old” and “New,” confirming the relationship. Two Testaments comprise the Bible, with “Old” and “New” suggesting connection and continuation.

In the relationship between the two is seen the unity of the two. And this unity is characterized by continuity and discontinuity. Some elements of the Old are continued in the New, while other elements are radically altered or even cease to be, thereby allowing the appearance of new elements.

But not everyone who has perused the Canon has come to this obvious conclusion. Marcion in the second century clearly divorced the New Testament from the Old Testament, teaching a complete disunity between the nation of Israel and the Church, between the Demiurge-Creator of the Old Testament and the God of love of the New Testament. While not stating the disparity in such stark terms there have been through the centuries those who in varying degrees disparage the Old Testament, or ascribe to it in word or practice some sort of inferior position relative to the New Testament.

In contrast to Marcion and to those who have in some measure emulated his position, there is the well-known declaration of Augustine that “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” In other words, the two Testaments cannot be separated without destroying the essence of each Testament—they stand or fall together. Spoken in slightly different terminology it can be affirmed that the Old Testament anticipates the New Testament, and the New Testament is predicated on the Old Testament. There are the ideas of announcement in the Old and accomplishment in the New. There is a dynamic relationship.

The New Testament has numerous quotes, nearly four hundred, from the Old Testament. In many cases it is the New that gives understanding and clarity to the Old; in fact the Old cannot be understood without the New. At times the New takes concepts from the Old and invests them with either new meaning or additional meaning. The two Testaments must be read together.

The entire Bible reads like a story from beginning to end, and this is true because it is a single story, the story of God and His Christ. Jesus unequivocally affirmed that the Scriptures were about Him; without hesitation and without apology He taught that He was the subject of the Hebrew Old Testament:

You search the Scriptures . . . and it is they that bear witness about Me (Jo. 5:39);

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Lu. 24:27);

Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures (Lu. 24:44);

But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled (Acts 3:18);

I stand here testifying . . . saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles (Acts 26:22-23);

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories (I Pet. 1:10-11);

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17).

Jesus is the theme that unites the two Testaments. In Him each is understood—He is predicted in the Old and presented in the New (see: Confirmation of Christ in the Old Testament and Predictions of the Prophets).

The full spectrum of colors
is expected to reveal a compatible blend
and not a painful clash.
Gerhard Hasel

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