The Bible of the New Testament Church

For many years I have been fascinated with the use of the Old Testament by the New Testament church. For at least about the first fifteen years of the first century, the only written revelation the church possessed was the Hebrew (and a bit of Aramaic) Scriptures.

The Old Testament is quoted, paraphrased, or alluded to some 800 times in the New Testament. Some scholars place this number much higher by including thematic references to the Old Testament which do not quote or paraphrase specific texts. The majority of quotations follow the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, commonly referred to in print as the LXX.

My interest in this subject has resulted in two books, Reading Between the Lines: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament, and The Messiah in the Psalms: Discovering Christ in Unexpected Places. Both are published by Word Aflame Press.

Recently, a question came into my mind, How often are key words used in the New Testament to refer to the Old Testament, even when specific Old Testament references may not be quoted, alluded to, or paraphrased?

I’m not ready to answer this question yet, but I have taken a step toward it. The key words used in the New Testament to refer to the Hebrew Scriptures are these: scripture, scriptures, written, wrote, prophet, prophets.

My initial work on this reveals the following, with the key word and the number of appearances following in parentheses: scripture (31); scriptures (21); written (86); wrote (4); prophet (37); prophets (60).

All together, there are about 239 references to the Old Testament by means of key words in the New Testament. Many of these will fall under the category of quotations, paraphrases, or allusions, but this list will enlarge the number of references to the Old Testament in the Bible of the first century church.

We must not minimize or ignore the importance of the Old Testament for the church. The Old Testament was the only Bible our earliest brothers and sisters in Christ possessed until the first New Testament Scriptures began to be written, resulting in an enlargement of the inspired canon. We are blessed today to have the entire body of Scripture, a blessing that could not be enjoyed until nearly the end of the first century.