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New Testament writers frequently quote the Old Testament, and in doing so show their acceptance of the Old Testament as God’s authoritative Word (see INSPIRATION). But in some cases the New Testament quotations differ from the Old Testament originals. In others the meanings given to the quotations in the New Testament differ from those of the Old Testament originals.

Different wording in Old and New Testaments

Since the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, any quotation of the Old Testament in the New requires translation. This naturally brings a change in wording. Sometimes the New Testament writers made their own translations. Usually, however, they used the existing translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX), which Jewish scholars had made in the third and second centuries of the era before Christ (see SEPTUAGINT).

Just as a preacher today may use an alternative translation to give the desired emphasis, so did the New Testament writers. They used the translation that suited their purposes (cf. Isaiah 28:16 with Romans 10:11).

In many cases, again like preachers today, the New Testament writers made their quotations from memory. As a result their quotations do not follow the Old Testament originals word for word. They were concerned with the meaning rather than the wording of the passages they quoted (cf. Romans 11:8 with Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 29:10). In other cases, however, they were concerned with the wording rather than the meaning. They may even have based a teaching on the meaning of a particular word (cf. Galatians 3:16 with Genesis 12:7).

Writers and preachers, ancient and modern, often quote passages from well known writings merely to give liveliness or colour to their writings. The New Testament writers at times did likewise. They were so familiar with the Old Testament that they quoted its words naturally. They may not have intended any connection between the Old and New Testament contexts (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16-17 with Exodus 29:45; Isaiah 52:11; 2 Samuel 7:14).

The nature of fulfilment

Certain passages of the Old Testament are quoted repeatedly in the New Testament. This suggests that there was in New Testament times a collection, either oral or written, of selected Old Testament passages in common use among the churches. For example, Psalms 118:22-23, Isaiah 8:14 and Isaiah 28:16 are used in such passages as Matthew 21:42, Acts 4:10-12, 1 Peter 2:1-10, Romans 9:33 and Romans 10:11. Similarly Zechariah 12:10-14 is found in Matthew 24:30, John 19:37 and Revelation 1:7. Psalms 69 is quoted in Matthew 27:34, John 2:17, John 15:25, Acts 1:20, Romans 11:9-10 and Romans 15:3.

These selections of Scripture are all used in relation to Jesus Christ, for the New Testament writers understood them as having their fulfilment in him. The primary meaning of that fulfilment was not just that Old Testament predictions had now come true, but that the Old Testament work had now been completed. The Old Testament was written not merely to predict New Testament events, but to record what God was doing in working out his purposes. The New Testament writers saw that in Christ God had brought that work to completion, to fulfilment, to finality.

God was the controller of history. His repetitive activity in judgment and salvation, bondage and deliverance, reached its climax in one great act of judgment and salvation at Golgotha. There God gave absolute deliverance to those who were in hopeless bondage. He completed the pattern that he had been working out for all people through the history of Israel. In Christ he brought his plans to fulfilment (Exodus 6:6-8; Isaiah 11:15-16; Hosea 2:14-15; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 15:3).

Israel’s Old Testament history was the record of the ongoing revelation of God. It was not just a record of events, but a record of what God was doing. What the Old Testament writers saw, though having meaning in its own day, developed greater significance through the New Testament events. Christians now saw Jesus as the goal towards which all God’s Old Testament activity had been moving. They saw Jesus as the centre of all history. The old era prepared the way for him; the new results from him.

Jesus and the Old Testament

Now that God’s purposes had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the New Testament writers discovered in the Old Testament writings greater truths than the original writers were aware of (1 Peter 1:10-12). While accepting the original meaning of the writings, the New Testament writers expanded that meaning because of the fuller revelation that had come through Jesus Christ.

Promises may have already been fulfilled in the Old Testament, but now they had a greater fulfilment in the New (Deuteronomy 12:9; Deuteronomy 25:19; Joshua 21:45; Hebrews 4:1-10). Psalms, prophecies and songs may have been written at first concerning some Old Testament person or event, but now they had new meaning because people saw them as foreshadowings of Christ (cf. quotations from Psalms 2 in Acts 4:25-26; Acts 13:33; cf. quotations from Psalms 45 in Hebrews 1:8-9; cf. quotations from Psalms 69 in John 2:17; John 15:25; John 19:28-30; Acts 1:20; cf. quotation of Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23).

The New Testament writers saw Jesus the Messiah as the fulfilment of all God’s purposes for Israel. He was the great descendant of Abraham through whom Israel received its supreme glory and through whom people of all nations are blessed (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16).

Since Jesus was the one to whom the entire Old Testament pointed, he fulfilled the Old Testament (Matthew 4:14-16; Matthew 8:17; Matthew 12:17-21). The New Testament writers were so convinced of this that they spoke of a ‘fulfilment’ even when they saw only a striking similarity between Old and New Testament events. For example, as Israel came out of Egypt, so did Jesus (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15). As there was loud weeping when the Babylonians took the Israelites captive, so was there when Herod slaughtered the Jewish babies (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:17-18).

Although Israel repeatedly failed and suffered God’s punishment, the people still hoped for a glorious future. Jesus Christ, the true fulfilment of Israel, not only suffered for his people’s sins, but he completed perfectly what Israel had failed to do (cf. Isaiah 53:4 with Matthew 8:17; cf. Isaiah 42:1-4 with Matthew 12:18-21). The New Testament fulfils the Old in that Jesus Christ became all that Israel should have been but never was (cf. Isaiah 53:5-6 with 1 Peter 2:24-25; cf. Zechariah 9:9-11 with Matthew 21:5; Matthew 26:28-29; see SERVANT OF THE LORD).

Like Israel in general, David’s kingdom in particular failed to fulfil God’s purposes. David’s psalms reflect both his sorrow over Israel’s failures and his expectation of better things to come. He looked for the day when God’s people would enjoy his blessings in a kingdom of righteousness. The ideals that David longed for found their fulfilment in David’s great descendant, Jesus the Messiah (cf. Psalms 40:6-8 with Hebrews 10:5-9; cf. Psalms 110:1 with Matthew 22:44). (For discussion on the use of David’s psalms in the New Testament see PSALMS, BOOK OF, sub-heading ‘Interpreting the Psalms’.)

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Quotations'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​bbd/​q/quotations.html. 2004.
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