Many call themselves “New Testament Churches” and say they have no use for the Old Testament. But what Bible did the writers of their New Testament quote from, refer to, and base their teachings on? It is time to rethink some critically important fundamentals!
Picking up a Bible, the first thing you notice is that it is divided into two parts, an Old Testament and a New Testament. Because of the very names given to these two sections it seems that the Bible has an obsolete first part, bestowed with the title “Old,” which has been totally supplanted with a second part called “New.”
Most students of the Scriptures have been taught that what is found in the Old Testament is not actually intended for them but is only for Jews, while the New Testament is off limits to Jews and is approved only for Christian use.
Still, no one can explain why Christian Bible publishers continue to bind the Old and New Testament Scriptures into a single volume, as they have done for centuries. If the Old has been obsolete for 2,000 years, then why not just drop it? Clearly something fundamentally important has kept these two testaments together for 2,000 years.
A Website describes the popular understanding this way: “The Bible is mainly divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament contains books relating to the old covenant between Yahweh and Israel . The New Testament contains books and letters relating to the new covenant between Yahweh and the New Israel, the Church.”
Tertullian, 2nd century “father of the Roman church,” was the first to use the terms vetus testamentum or old testament and novum testamentum or new testament. He also introduced the term Trinity to the church vocabulary – nearly 200 years into the New Testament. But it is the regrettable use of the terms “old” and “new” (testaments) that has resulted in the most serious consequences.
The most far-reaching of them all is that two separate religions and faiths have ostensibly grown out of the same book – both worshiping the same Heavenly Father! But the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 expresses that the Father is of one mind and understanding, a characteristic the Son shares, John 17:11, 22.
Many would have us believe that Yahweh made a huge misstep in requiring Israel to obey Old Testament teachings, only to correct that error in the New Testament by requiring just faith alone.
Yahweh never intended that the Old Testament and New Testament present two completely different worship modes and requirements creating two different options for salvation. This was never how it was with the early Assembly as guided by the Apostles. Yahweh never wanted his Bible to be divided into two different belief systems for two distinct groups of worshipers.
We are going to see that despite some administrative changes, the Old Testament and New Testament agree on a single salvation plan for all people. Further, we will see how the writers of the New Testament looked to the writings of the Old Testament as the basis of Truth, and how the disciples, and even Yahshua Himself, based their teachings and practices on what is found in the Old Testament, the only Bible they had. When they used the term “Scriptures” they meant the Old Testament. There were no other Scriptures in existence.
The viability of the Old Testament is one of the most significant truths you will ever learn about proper, Biblical worship. Its implications are enormous. It means that if Old Testament truths are still in full force and effect, then what Israel was told to observe remains largely unchanged and therefore applies to today’s Believers as well. It means nothing less than that the foundation for our beliefs and practices must rest in the Old Testament – which even our own Savior called “the Scriptures.”
Paul Dynamites a Myth
Over the centuries the popular notion has developed that there exists two different paths to salvation for two different groups of people in two conflicting sections of the Bible. This myth has caused two different religions to spring from the same book. Paul categorically refutes this in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: For you are all one in Messiah Yahshua.”
Here is the champion of Christianity – none other than the Apostle Paul himself – refuting a fundamental Christian belief! Here is the supposed founder of modern church teaching telling us that there is no basic difference between the Jew and the gentile. All are united in Yahshua. So how does that work in everyday reality?
Most Bible believers see it this way: the Old Testament is useful and edifying in relating Yahweh’s actions with Israel – so long as it stays focused exclusively on Israel . It has some good history and individual lessons and examples that can also be nice for us to know. But for them it doesn’t have the same level of authority or relevance for the believer as does the New Testament.
This means that anyone in the Old Testament era was at a great disadvantage just because they lived at a different time. It means in essence that they were second-rate believers; their salvation, if indeed they had it, was inferior because they did not know New Testament truth.
We need not go beyond Hebrews 11 in the New Testament to see the error in this thinking. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and David will have exalted positions in the Kingdom – probably much higher than you and I and anyone else holding the New Testament, except Yahshua. And all that any of those patriarchs had to go by was the Old Testament. There they will be – sitting in high positions of authority in Yahweh’s government nevertheless.
Can we say, then, that the Old Testament is of inferior quality or has less merit than the New Testament? Remember, it was the only Bible possessed of the patriarchs who will rule in the Kingdom of Yahweh .
One Truth and Only One Way to the Kingdom
Paul has something else to say about mistaken notions concerning the Old Testament.
First, from Galatians 3:28 we learn that salvation is not exclusive to any one race or group. In Yahweh’s eyes believing Jews and believing Gentiles are on equal footing. This is true no matter your perspective. Verse 29 says you are the seed of Abraham if you are Yahshua’s and therefore have the salvation promise.
And neither is there a difference when it comes to the avenue leading to life everlasting. There is only one truth and one way to salvation. In Ephesians 4:5 Paul confirms that there is “one faith, one hope, one baptism,” not two truths, one for the ancient Jew and the other for the modern Christian.
In Jude 3, Yahshua’s brother tells us we must return to the original faith once given to the saints. And what is that? Ephesians 2:20says that faith is built on the Apostles and prophets, or in other words it encompasses both Old Testament and New Testament.
These are also truths taught fundamentally in the Old Testament.
The fact is, the “church” does not replace Israel but joins with it through the taking hold of the covenant promise that Yahweh proclaimed for all His people. We learn in Romans 11:1-2 that Yahweh did not discard Israel and start over with the New Testament. Israel is still key to His salvation plan, Romans 11:26. All who seek everlasting life must be grafted into the Israelite promise,Romans 11:17 clearly teaches.
In Yahweh’s master plan the Old Testament was never the special Bible for just Jews or Israel but was and is intended for all who seek Him. The same goes for the New Testament. If the Scriptures recognize that there is no difference between Jews and the “church,” then the Feasts, Sabbaths, and laws cannot be exclusively for Jews, Israel or restricted to any other particular people.
John wrote, “Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you have heard from the beginning,” 1John 2:7.
Our Savior’s Bible Was Also the Old Testament
This is consistent with what we find in New Testament practice. The Savior and His followers all kept what was heard from the beginning, meaning the Old Testament instructions and commands. They recognized the continuity between Old Testament command and New Testament performance by observing the seventh-day Sabbath, annual Feasts, and laws Israel kept.
Yahshua Himself kept them, and commanded us to follow what He did, Revelation 2:26. He knew the basis of New Testament faith rests in the Old Testament. He said in John 5:46-47: “For had you believed Moses, you would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me. But if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe My words?”
By Paul’s crystal clear statement on equality, ordinances given to Israel must also be observed by everyone, or else there is only favoritism and no equality. Jew and Gentile must follow the same Truth, because there is only one Truth. Notice that this fact is brought out later in His letter, where Paul tells the Galatians, “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all…Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise” (Gal. 4:26, 28).
Jerusalem as the capital of the Israelite nation is “mother” to all those seeking Yahweh, including the Galatian gentiles in the New Testament to whom Paul was writing. Furthermore, Paul says the covenant promise we are under was shared by the Old Testament patriarch Isaac. Both peoples are part of the covenant.
Already we are seeing proof that Old Testament promises apply in the New Testament.
Most people are unaware that the Old Testament contains teachings on a number of what are considered New Testament doctrines. For example,
- Grace, as an Old Testament concept, is found in Exodus 34:6-7.
- There is justice and mercy in Micah 6:8, which our Savior Himself refers to in Matthew. 23:23.
- Moses had the Holy Spirit in Numbers 11, and he gave it to 70 elders.
- David had the Spirit in Psalm 51.
- Circumcision of the heart is found in Deuteronomy 30:6 and Jeremiah 4:4.
- The “Gospel” was preached to the Israelite, we learn from Hebrews 4:2, as well as to Abraham, Galatians 3:8.
- Yahweh has no pleasure in sacrifices, but says obedience is better, Hebrews 10:6.
In the New Testament, whenever Yahshua and the apostles referred to the “scriptures,” they were in nearly every case referring to the Law, the Prophets and the Writings that make up the Old Testament.
They taught from them and about them; they used the Old Testament to support their position and make their points; they relied on Old Testament prophecies and used its teachings.
Yahshua even confounded Satan by quoting the Old Testament (Matt. 4:7-10). Why didn’t Satan say to Him, “Why are you quoting that outdated and dead book?” Even the Adversary knew the Old Testament was alive!
In short, the Old Testament was not only the textbook of the New Testament patriarchs, but also their guide to living the life acceptable to Yahweh.
This begs the quintessential question: Why would New Testament, Spirit-inspired teachers and writers, including Yahshua Himself as the greatest among them, refer hundreds of times in their teachings to a collection of writings known as the Old Testament that was either obsolete or very soon to be obsolete?
And why would Yahweh – for 2,000 years – delude millions of New Testament people by inspiring the direct quoting of 300 Old Testament passages that were obsolete?
In fact, one in every 22.5 verses of the New Testament is a direct quotation from the Old Testament. The New Testament refers to “Moses” no fewer than 80 times, and it mentions the Sabbath 60 times, despite modern attempts to say keeping the Sabbath is unnecessary. These solid facts contradict the idea that the Old Testament had no influence after Yahshua walked this earth.
If you take only Scriptural references or allusions into consideration, the numbers are much higher. Roger Nicole in his book, Revelation and the Bible says one estimate is that there there are as many as 1,640 allusions to the Old Testament in the New Testament, while another estimate he says totals 4,105 passages referring to Old Testament Scripture (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1958). As high as 1 out of every 10 verses in the New Testament is either a direct citation of or an allusion to the Old Testament
If the Old Testament has been dead for 2,000 years, why did Yahweh inspire it to be quoted, referenced thousands of times, and included in the same Bible with the New Testament?
It is only natural that Yahweh would inspire the use of the Old Testament because the Old Testament was just as alive and central to truth when Paul preached it as it is today. Paul even told Timothy: “But continue in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them; And that from a child you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Messiah Yahshua” (see Rev. 12:17). Further Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of Elohim, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of Elohim may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2Tim. 3:14-17).
Yahweh doesn’t inspire “all Scripture” only to rescind two-thirds of it later on. Hebrews 8 explains that it was not the fault of the Old Covenant but of disobedient Israel that caused Yahweh to open up the covenant promise to others. Yahshua echoed that same truth in his parable of those who would not come to the wedding supper, so he invites anyone traveling by to come in.
Paul Observed the Old Testament’s Teachings
Let’s look at some instances of direct reliance on the Old Testament by believers living in the early New Testament era.
When Paul commended the New Testament Bereans for diligently searching the scriptures to see whether what he was preaching to them was true (Acts 17:11), he referred to their study of what we call the Old Testament: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
But to them it was not the “Old Testament.” As far as the Bereans were concerned, they were merely searching Yahweh’s Word, which included the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets, to confirm that what they were hearing from the New Testament apostles was true.
Remember, the Old Testament was the only Bible they had. It was the foundation of their faith and belief, and Paul even applauded them for double-checking with the Old Testament first before believing anything they read in the New Testament writings!
All of which screams one especially important fact: the New Testament does not contradict the Old Testament.
Why did not Paul say, “Listen people, don’t bother with those old writings that are now out of date. Just read my letters and do what they say and forget that Old Testament. I am all the Bible you need now.” He knew that teaching such a thing, which churches everywhere do believe and teach today, would be an enormous falsehood. He himself based Truth on the Old Testament Scriptures.
Note how Paul supported and taught the law and the Old Testament:
- In Acts 24:14 Paul adamantly confirmed that he believed “all things which are written in the law and in the prophets” (Old Testament).
- To prove that he lived “in observance of the law,” Paul agreed to undertake a ritual purification at the temple, at which time he proved that he kept the law (Acts 21:24-26). Born a Benjaminite, he was instructed by Gamaliel “according to the perfect manner of the law,” Acts 22:3.
- In diametric opposition to what most clerics teach today, Paul said he was not against Old Testament teachings and did nothing to violate them, Acts 28:17.
- As a matter of fact, Paul taught the people about Yahshua from morning to night “out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets,” (Old Testament) Acts 28:23.
- In Acts 25:8 Paul maintained that he never broke any laws of the Jews or the temple.
All the books of the Old Testament except Esther, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon are quoted in the New Testament.
That Old Testament that is used only occasionally for a children’s Bible lesson or for reading of an infrequent Psalm or Proverb is a lot more important than most people think. Yahshua, the apostles, and the earliest converts relied on the Old Testament as the basis for their teachings. They constantly alluded to it and defined their faith in light of what it said.
Once you have all the facts, then you are prepared to make informed, correct choices. People urgently need this truth about the Old Testament so that their worship can be corrected and aligned with the same Truth the prophets, Apostles, and Yahshua the Messiah followed. Sadly, most don’t want the truth of the matter. They love darkness rather than light (John 3:19) for fear of what they might discover that could alter their beliefs and impact their lifestyle. They are comfortable and satisfied in their traditional beliefs no matter how erroneous.
Yahshua Taught Old Testament Precepts
Yahshua made many references to the Old Testament and its laws. He even directly commanded us to study the Old Testament, the only Bible in existence: “Search the Scriptures; for in them think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me,”John 5:39.
It is very important that in Matthew 23:2-3 Yahshua said the Scribes and Pharisees had the authority of the Old Testament commands when it came to teaching what you must observe. “Moses seat” is a euphemism for the Old Testament and its laws. The authority to obey Old Testament commands and laws comes right from Yahshua’s own mouth!
Let’s just look at a few of the many Old Testament truths that Yahshua taught:
- In Matthew 22:37-40 Yahshua referred to a fundamental precept in the Old Testament on which to base His teaching about the law: love Yahweh and love your neighbor, which He quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12; 30:6 and Leviticus 19:18;
- Yahshua deferred to the Old Testament in matters of divorce (Matt. 19:8);
- Yahshua deferred to the Old Testament in matters of the law (Matt. 5), saying that not even the smallest part of the law would be done away until heaven and earth themselves pass away, verse 18.
- Yahshua deferred to the Old Testament regarding salvation (Luke 16:29). In this reference Yahshua was telling the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. He ended it by saying, verse 31, that if they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, then it won’t matter to them even if one rose from the dead (meaning Himself). His lesson is clear – if they are not grounded in Yahweh’s laws and have no concern for the prophets’ warnings about sin, then Yahshua will have no influence them either. They won’t listen to Him, because His message is virtually the same as the Old Testament message brought by Moses and the prophets.
Some might argue, yes, but this was before Yahshua’s death changed everything and switched the focus from the Old Testament system to the New Testament. However, many years after Yahshua was come and gone Stephen launched into a speech before the Sanhedrin that highlighted Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham and how Moses was born to fulfill that covenant, and how the plan was continually obstructed by the people who refused to obey and listen to the prophets, Acts 7. And now he says you are doing the same thing as you kill Yahshua and disobey the law (Acts 7:51-53). Why would Stephen use the Old Testament as the context for their present rebellion unless it were still alive and in force?
Once Heretical Teachings Now Accepted
Was it the Roman Church that decided from the Scriptures themselves to throw out the Old Testament? Not on your life. There were many dark forces at work early on to derail True Worship, not the least of which were influential heretics like Marcion. Marcion was a second century teacher formally declared a heretic by the Roman church in 144 CE. Influenced by Gnosticism, Marcion taught that Yahweh of the Old Testament was an entirely different Mighty One from Yahweh of the New. Up until then, the traditional Church had considered the Old Testament to be sacred and assumed that Christianity was a fulfillment or continuation of Judaism. Hence they condemned doctrines that proclaimed such things.
Marcion’s rejection of that idea affected many different doctrines and beliefs. For more than 100 years Christians had been using the Old Testament as Christian Scripture, and even the most sacred documents of Christians referred to and relied heavily on, the Old Testament. The solution for Marcion was to completely reject the Old Testament and establish a canon that de-emphasized Christianity’s Old Testament and Jewish roots as much as possible.
For Marcion and others, the Old Testament Creator of the world was obsessed with law, while the New Testament Mighty One redeemed the world and was characterized by love and grace. Marcion not only threw out the entire Old Testament but also any New Testament books that seemed to him to emphasize law or good works at the expense of grace. Paul, with his perceived focus on grace, was by far Marcion’s favorite Apostle.
At the time, Marcion’s views disclaiming the Old Testament were not very influential. Amazing, isn’t it, that the essence of the teachings of a man who was pronounced a heretic by the early New Testament Assembly are today universally believed and tacitly applied to modern doctrine. Those teachings include emasculating the Old Testament and redefining grace as a replacement for obedience.
It is a sad commentary that so many have been deceived into thinking that the Old Testament is only for Jews, when in actuality it forms the very foundation for what is taught in the New Testament.
The New Testament categorically endorses Old Testament law. For instance, sin is clearly defined in the New Testament as transgression of Yahweh’s law (1John 3:4; Rom. 7:7). Throughout the New Testament the believer’s perpetual moral duty is that of love, and yet love is defined by the New Testament in terms of Yahweh’s law (Matt. 22:40; Rom. 13:10; 1John 5:2-3). Consequently the New Testament message and its morality are squarely founded on the operation of Yahweh’s law.
Both Old and New testaments teach Yahweh’s people to live by every word from His mouth, for Yahweh does not alter the words of His covenant. Every one of His ordinances, we are taught, is everlasting. Accordingly, Yahshua emphatically taught inMatthew 5:17-18 that His coming did not in the least abrogate one jot or tittle of Old Testament law. According to His own teaching, even the minor specifics of the law were to be observed — as a measure of our standing with Yahweh.
Paul maintained that every Old Testament Scripture has moral authority for the New Testament believer, and James in chapter 2 said that not one point of the law was to be violated.
We see both Old and New testaments coming together in a prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6: “Behold, I will send you Eliyah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of Yahweh: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
What does he mean? In Genesis 18:19 it means to teach children the statutes of Yahweh. It means that before the return of Yahshua, there will be a remnant who will turn back to the original truths of the Bible and restore them in their worship and lives. They will be keeping His laws, commandments, and ordinances, just as they did in the early New Testament assembly. Yahweh’s Restoration Ministry seeks to do just that.
Yahshua the Messiah magnified the law, not abolished it. As we have seen, He taught it and showed us its greater significance in our spiritual development.
Oftentimes the people who are introduced in the New Testament as blessed or favored by Yahweh are character-ized as obedient to His law — for instance, Elisabeth, Zacharias, Joseph, and Miriam (Luke 1:6; 2:21-24, 27, 39). During his ministry on earth Yahshua often appealed to the law of Elohim to bolster His teaching (John 8:17), vindicate His behavior (Matt. 12:5), answer His questioners (Luke 10:26), indict His opponents (John 7:19), and give concrete identity to the will of Yahweh for men (Matt. 19:17).
In all of these ways without elaborate introductions or explanations for departing from a general principle or perspective – the New Testament simply assumes the standing authority of every command of Yahweh found in the Old Testament. If the Old Testament law were invalidated by Yahshua, the preceding examples would be incredibly contradictory.
The New Testament writers used Old Testament quotations in their sermons, in their histories, in their letters, and in their prayers. They used them when addressing Jews or Gentiles, assemblies or individuals, friends or rivals, new converts or seasoned believers. They used them for argumentation and augmentation, for illustration, for instruction, for documentation, for prophecy, and for reproof. They used them in times of stress and in deep contemplation, in liberty and in prison, at home and abroad. They were always ready to defer to the impregnable authority of the “law and the prophets.”
The “Old” Testament is indeed “older” than the New, but so is a foundation older than the structure that rests on it. The Old Testament Scriptures establish a basis for the New Testament, providing legitimacy and giving it meaning and structure. It does the same for the True Worshiper who realizes that his faith is no different from the faith of the Apostles and Messiah Yahshua.