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What Does Jesus Say about the Old Testament? | Part 4 of 6 Answering Big Questions About the Old Testament

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Jesus summarized the Old Testament Scripture as existing in three parts: the Law, Prophets, and Psalms.51 He accepted the Old Testament canon as it exists today without any modifications and came to fulfill it.52 As a rabbi, or preacher and teacher of Scripture, Jesus’ entire ministry involved the instruction and application of the Old Testament. Jesus’ public ministry even began with him reading from the Old Testament book of Isaiah and stating that his ministry was to fulfill the Old Testament promises about his coming.53 Jesus clearly stated that his ministry was an Old Testament ministry in that it was to fulfill all of the Old Testament promises and longings that pointed to him.

Consequently, it is impossible to be a faithful Christian and not fully embrace the Old Testament as God’s Word. Occasionally, someone will claim to be a Christian yet not embrace all of the Old Testament. One example is an ancient heretic (false teacher) named Marcion. He said that the Old Testament was in fact a far lesser book than the New Testament and encouraged Christians to remove it from their Bible. Unlike Marcion, however, Jesus clearly accepted and taught the Old Testament as sacred Scripture without reservation. Subsequently, we must either accept Rabbi Jesus as our most trustworthy Old Testament teacher or confess that he was a poor Bible teacher who made errors—and in turn elevate some other teacher over him that we trust more fully.

I am refuting the seemingly endless parade of Bible “scholars” who somehow simultaneously claim to be faithful Christian Bible teachers while disagreeing with the teaching of The Bible Teacher, Jesus Christ. Without seeming too negative on this point, I must say that this is a constant issue with college students. Many of them take classes on the Bible at both public and private colleges taught by professors who claim to be Christians. Yet, many of these professors belittle their Christian students for simply believing the Scriptures. These students often speak to me about their confusion, asking what they should do. I share the following points with them and tell them to humbly defend the teachings of Jesus, even if it should result in scorn and getting a lower grade, because Jesus himself was poorly treated by the self-appointed “scholars” in his own day who were too arrogant to see that there is no Bible scholar greater than Jesus.

First, the parts of the Old Testament that are most commonly rejected as erroneous are also those sections of Scripture that Jesus clearly taught. This includes the literalness of Genesis 1-2,54 Cain and the murder of Abel,55 Noah and the flood,56 Abraham,57 Sodom and Gomorrah,58 Lot,59 Isaac and Jacob,60 the manna,61 the wilderness serpent,62 Moses as lawgiver,63 the popularity of the false prophets,64 and Jonah in the belly of a great fish.65

Second, in matters of controversy, Jesus used the Old Testament as his court of appeals.66 On many occasions when an Old Testament teaching was questioned, Jesus simply believed the clear teaching of Old Testament Scripture and defended himself by saying, “It is written.”67

Third, in times of crisis, Jesus quoted from the Old Testament, indicating that it was his source of truth, solace, and defense. For example, when tempted by Satan, Jesus quoted from the book of Deuteronomy.68 At the moment of his death, Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”69 And breathing his last in Luke 23:46, Jesus quoted Psalm 31:5, saying, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Fourth, Jesus repeatedly taught that Old Testament prophecy had been fulfilled.70 Fifth, Jesus named the authors of some Old Testament books. Some of the most common critiques launched at the Old Testament are in regard to authorship. For example, many Old Testament “scholars” boldly claim that Moses did not pen any of the first five books of the Old Testament, or that two or three authors penned Isaiah—none of whom was actually Isaiah. But Jesus taught that Scripture was authored by Moses,71 Isaiah,72 David,73 and Daniel.74 Therefore, we are again left with the simple decision of whether we will accept Jesus as the most accurate and trustworthy Old Testament teacher or replace him with another teacher or school of thought that we consider to have greater integrity and insight.

In summary, Jesus taught that the Old Testament was perfectly inspired and totally truthful Scripture. Jesus devoted his ministry to teaching the Old Testament, defending the Old Testament, fulfilling the Old Testament, and using the Old Testament. Having established the authorship of the Old Testament and reflected upon what the Old Testament, New Testament, and Jesus have to say about the Old Testament, we will examine how its thirty-nine books were chosen to be in the Bible in the next post.

41 Heb. 4:12.
42 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:19–21.
43 Luke 16:29–31.
44 John 17:17.
45 Rom. 16:26.
46 2 Tim. 3:15.
47 James 1:22.
48 Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12.
49 James 1:21.
50 1 Pet. 2:2.
51 Luke 24:44.
52 Matt. 5:17.
53 Luke 4:16–21.
54 Matt. 19:4–5; Mark 10:6–8.
55 Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:51.
56 Matt. 24:37–39; Luke 17:26–27.
57 John 8:56.
58 Matt. 10:15; 11:23–24; Luke 10:12; 17:29.
59 Luke 17:28–32.
60 Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:28.
61 John 6:31, 49, 58.
62 John 3:14.
63 Matt. 8:4; 19:8; Mark 1:44; 7:10; 10:5; 12:26; Luke 5:14; 20:37; John 5:46; 7:19.
64 Luke 6:26.
65 Matt. 12:40.
66 Matt. 5:17–20; 22:29; 23:23; Mark 12:24.
67 Matt. 4:4, 6, 10; 11:10; 21:13; 26:24, 31; Mark 1:2; 7:6; 9:12ff.; 11:17; 14:21, 27; Luke 2:23;
4:4, 8, 10, 17; 7:27; 10:26; 19:46; 22:37; John 2:17; 6:31, 45; 8:17; 10:34.
68 Matt. 4:1–11, cf. Deut. 8:3; 6:13, 16.
69 Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34.
70 Matt. 11:10, cf. Luke 7:27; Matt. 26:24; Matt. 26:31, cf. Mark 14:27; Matt. 26:53–56, cf. Mark
14:49; Mark 9:12–13; 14:21; Luke 4:21; 18:31–33; 21:22; 22:37; 24:25–27; 24:44–47; John
5:39–47; John 13:18, cf. Ps. 41:9; John 15:25, cf. Ps. 35:19; John 17:12.
71 Mark 7:10.
72 Mark 7:6; Matt. 13:14.
73 Mark 12:36.
74 Matt. 24:15.

The content for this post was originally published in the book “On the Old Testament” that is out of print until it is revised and rereleased.