Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament, Part 1

Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet, saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!'” ’ Matt. 3:1-3

Old Testament quotations in the New Testament. Seems like it would be pretty straight forward, easy to understand and comprehend. Not always, brethren.


There are several schools of thought on how you approach a quotation from the Old Testament mentioned in the New. Today, we seek to “enlighten” you to those various exegetical designations as they are taught among many in the religious marketplace. Exegesis simply is the explanation or interpretation of texts, in this case, Biblical texts. There are seven (generally agreed upon among Bible “scholars”) main categories for Old Testament quotes as they are used in the New Testament. They are: Midrash, light and heavy, equivalence, pesher, allegorical, sensus plenior and double fulfillment. Interestingly, many theologians deem typology “not so much a method of exegesis as it is a presupposition underlying the Jewish and Christian understandings of Scripture, particularly its historical portions.” (Craig Evans, The Old Testament in the New, pg. 133) Well, isn’t typology an “explanation or interpretation” of Old Testament texts? Hmmm… On to our definitions of exegetical categories with a supplied example (from the common taters). Midrash. Makes you think , “Boy, I hope I don’t get that!”, doesn’t it? Midrash comes from the Hebrew word darash meaning search. What does that mean? Well, when approaching a quote that is deemed Midrash, one needs to search “the text for clarification beyond the obvious.” (Evans, TOTITN, pg. 131) In plain English it means the text requires commentary updating “scriptural teaching to make it relevant to new circumstances and issues. This approach was felt to be legitimate because Scripture was understood as divine in character and therefore could yield many meanings and applications…” (Evens, Jewish Exegesis, pg 381) An example cited is that of John 6:25-59 where Jesus is commenting on Exodus 16:4 and Psalms 78:24 (this verse is quoted in John 6:31). Some scholars consider Jesus as offering a running commentary on the passage, particularly from the book of Exodus. Read it, check it out for yourselves. The next methodology is light and heavy and it’s really a subset of the midrash approach. A simple explanation for this concept is goes like this, if something is true in a less important “light” situation it proves important in a “heavier” or greater situation. Here’s an example of “light and heavy” offered by Theopedia, an online website.” Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:26) Since God cares for the birds (light) He cares for them as well (heavy). Scholars quantify these types of passages by the use of an “if” statement followed by a “how much more” statement. Other examples in Scripture (though not necessarily Old Testament quotes in the New Testament) are Matthew 7:11 and Romans 5:10. More on the other principal exegetical methods next week.



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