Limitation of the Discussion
II. CONSTRUCTIVE PRINCIPLES OF NEW TESTAMENT QUOTATION
1. Unity of the Two Dispensations
2. Biblical Movement Planned from the Beginning
3. The Old Testament Accepted as Authoritative
4. Issue Involved in Foregoing Principles of Reference
III. TYPICAL INSTANCES OF NEW TESTAMENT QUOTATION
1. Introductory Formulas
2. Unity of the Two Dispensations
3. Prevision of Christianity in the Old Testament
4. Argumentative Quotations
5. Catena of Passages, Illustrating Principles of Quotation
Limitation of the Discussion:
There are, all told, approximately 300 direct quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament. The presence of so many citations, each of one of which involves an interpretation of the passage given a new context in quotation, opens many avenues of discussion and propounds many difficult and far-reaching problems. In every separate instance, in the long list of New Testament quotations, the principle of accommodation (see Accommodation) in some form is involved and, consequently, the question of historical and exegetical accuracy is unavoidably raised. In the present article we shall concentrate attention upon that which is of far greater importance than the question whether the writer is incidentally correct, according to modern scientific principles, in any specific citation. This more important and vital issue we take to be the general, guiding principles adopted by the New Testament writers in their use of the book of the older covenant. A review of these principles, together with certain outstanding and typical instances in which these principles are used and applied, will form the substance of the discussion.
II. Constructive Principles of New Testament Quotation.
1. Unity of the Two Dispensations:
In the first place, the New Testament writers regard the Christian religion as having its roots in the Old Testament. From the call of Abraham to the founding and expansion of the Christian church the men of the New Testament recognize a single organic movement. In their use of the ancient oracles in new setting they constantly and confidently rely upon the unity of the two dispensations, that recorded in the Old Testament and that in which they themselves were participants. Such a unity, taking for granted its existence, would remove to a degree the very distinction implied in the terms Old and New Testaments, and would involve a definite and organic relationship of all the books to each other. There are no longer two separate groups of books standing apart from each other and having bonds of union only within the group, but, on the contrary, two related sub-groups outwardly corresponding to contrasted phases of the historical movement, but inwardly conformed to the deep-lying principles which make the entire movement one. According to this idea the Book of Genesis is as really related to the Gospel of Matthew as it is to the Book of Exodus. On the surface, and historically speaking, the Book of Genesis leads immediately to the Book of Exodus, which is its companion volume and complement, but go more deeply into Genesis and just as really and just as directly it leads to Matthew, which is also its fellow and complement. And so throughout. The unifying medium is, of course, the history which is one in that it involves the same organic principles applied to successive areas of human experience. The books of the Bible are, therefore, like any group of books on a common subject, phases of each other, contrasted and yet intimately cognate. In quoting from the Old Testament the New Testament writers were simply obeying an impulse common to all thoughtful writers and accounting for all quotations, seeking for diversified expression of the same truths.
2. Biblical Movement Planned from the Beginning:
The second great constructive principle of New Testament quotation, and manifestly in close harmony with the first one, is that the movement from Abraham to Christ was not only organically one, but that it was from the beginning planned and prepared for. The Bible is one because the history out of which it grew is one. The history is one because God is in the history and God is one. According to the writers of the New Testament in this history as a whole we have the unfolding of an all-embracing plan of God, stretching out into the remotest future and coming to its culmination in the person and the kingdom of the Messiah. They maintain also that this plan was disclosed in part beforehand, by way of anticipation and preparation, in order that men might intelligently cooperate with God in the fulfillment of His purpose. This is the idea involved in prophecy and its fulfillment, and in the closely related idea of promise and its realization. One mind, one will, and one central purpose are operating throughout the entire history which is, on the divine side, the fulfillment of a plan complete in thought before it takes shape in events. On the basis of this conception, of the foreseen plan of God and its gradual revelation to men through messages of hope and warning set in the key of the great future and pointing the way thither, the greater part of the structure of New Testament quotation is reared.
3. The Old Testament Accepted as Authoritative:
A third principle which really involves a combination of the other two and is prominently brought forward in the use of quotation for purposes of argument is the recognition and acceptance of the Old Testament as authoritative, a real Word of God, in form occasional, but essentially applicable to all experiences, and hence, good for all time. It is evident that the belief in the continued authority of the Scripture of the old covenant over the men of the new, rests upon the unity of the two dispensations and the acceptance of the same divine mind and will as operating throughout all outward and historical changes. This is admirably expressed by Paul when he speaks of `the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto an economy of the fullness of the periods, to sum up all things in Christ’ (Eph 1:9,10), and by the author of He when he says: `God, having of old spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by various portions and in various ways, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son’ (Eph 1:1,2).
4. Issue Involved in Foregoing Principles of Reference:
The justification of these accepted principles of reference on the part of the New Testament writers lies beyond the scope of the present discussion. It is sufficient to emphasize the fact that any detailed discussion of New Testament quotations seriatim is meaningless and futile except upon the basis of an explicit and consistent determination of these antecedent questions. To the present writer the validity of these principles is beyond question. The denial of any one of the three involves one in difficulties of interpretation, both critical and historical, from which there is no escape. It is to be noted, therefore, that the establishment of the principles, in accordance with which the New Testament writers quote, carries with it in a general way the justification of their usage.
III. Typical Instances of New Testament Quotation.
1. Introductory Formulas:
With these constructive principles in mind we are prepared to pass in review typical instances in which general principles are embodied. At this point we shall be greatly assisted in the analysis and distribution of the complex material before us by giving careful heed to the formulas, more or less fixed and uniform, by which the writers introduce quotations and indicate their sense of the value and significance of that which is quoted. While these formulas exhibit certain verbal variations, they are practically reducible to three, which correspond with substantial accuracy to the three constructive principles already noted: the unity of the Old Testament and New Testament; the prevision of the New Testament in the Old Testament; the authority of the Old Testament as the Word of God intended for all time.
2. Unity of the Two Dispensations:
The unity of the two dispensations is asserted in all those passages introduced by a formula, in which fulfillment is asserted as a fact, and in which the operation of identical principles in two or more separate events in the field of history is implied. A suggestive example is in Mt 13:14, where our Lord asserts, in connection with the parable of the Sower, that in the unbelief of the people of His day "the prophecy of Isaiah" is fulfilled. The prophetic words here quoted (Isa 6:9,10) are not predictive in any immediate sense, but are susceptible of repeated application and realization because of the general principle which they contain. They apply to the prophet’s own day; they also apply--and in that sense are fulfilled--to the time of Jesus, and by a legitimate extension of meaning, to stubborn unbelief in any age (compare Joh 6:45).
Another passage in which the same formula is used in a very exceptional way clearly sets forth the fundamental principle upon which this usage rests. Jas 2:23 asserts that the justification of Abraham in the offering of Isaac "fulfilled" the passage which affirms that his belief was counted to him for righteousness (Ge 15:6). This passage is not predictive in any sense, nor is there in the narrative any hint of a connection between the passage and the episode on Mt. Moriah. This use of the formula of fulfillment by James involves the principle that any event which realizes the meaning and truth of a Scriptural statement fulfils it. A vast number of quotations in the New Testament come under this head. Persons, events, doctrines, illustrate and confirm, or embody and concretely realize, principles which are taught in the Old Testament or implied in its history. We are warned by this passage and many others like it against a too rigid and literal interpretation of any formula implying fulfillment. While it may certainly be intended to imply literal prediction and an equally literal fulfillment, it may, on the contrary, be intended to intimate nothing more than a harmony of principle, fitting the passage to the person or event with which it is connected. In this connection it is to be remembered that a harmony of principle may extend all the way from a comparatively superficial illustrative resemblance to a profound assonance of thought. Not a few Old Testament quotations were made for purposes of illustration and literary embellishment. Herein lies the significance of Matthew’s use (Mt 2:17 f) of Jer 31:15. A glance at this quoted passage indicates that it is a figurative and poetic expression in which Rachel (already for many years in her tomb) is represented as weeping for her exiled children and refusing to be comforted except by their return. There is no strictly predictive element in the passage, save only the promise of return, which is not used by Matthew. Its applicability to the massacre of the children of Bethlehem lies in its poetical appositeness, and there alone. Once again the voice of wailing motherhood is heard in Israel. The tender and beautiful imagery is applicable in this sense and is used with true insight, but with no intention of justifying a claim of prediction and fulfillment in the literal sense.
3. Prevision of Christianity in the Old Testament:
The prevision of events in the life of Jesus and in the history of Christianity is involved in all the quotations in which a necessary connection between the passage as predictive and the event is asserted, or in which a prophet is said to have been speaking or writing concerning the event or person in question. An examination of the Old Testament without reference to its use in the New Testament seems to justify the conclusion that its bearing upon the future may be particularized under four heads, which in turn, with sufficient accuracy and exhaustiveness will classify the pertinent New Testament quotations.
(1) The prophetic teaching of Israel embodied not only in the messages of the prophets, but also in laws, institutions, and rites, has a twofold dispensational application. Reference is made here only to those explicit references to a future era of especial blessing. For example, in Ac 2:17 ff Peter interprets the Pentecostal experience in the terms of prophecy, referring to Joe (2:28 ff), who promises an outpouring of God’s Spirit in a "great and notable day" of the Lord. The promise through Joe is an undeniable prediction (every promise is such), which in a measure would be fulfilled in any exceptional manifestation of God’s Spirit among men. The only question which can possibly be raised in connection with Peter’s use of this passage is whether the Pentecostal outpouring was the climactic realization of the promise: that is, the establishment of the era of blessing foretold by the prophet. Later in the same book (3:20-26) the same apostle sweeps the whole field of prophecy as centering in certain promises fulfilled in Christ and the Christian community.
He gives two instances: the prophet like Moses (De 18:15) and the promised inclusive blessing through Abraham (Ge 12:3). He also includes (Ac 3:26) a hint of the Servant passages of Isa. This identification of the New Testament movement through two specific predictive promises is wholly justified by the prophetic character of Jesus, the range and richness of the blessings brought from Abraham through Him, and by the fact elsewhere emphasized that no other has measured up to the standard of the ideal servant. Negatively, it may be urged that if these promises were not fulfilled in Christ, history affords no possibility of discovering any fulfillment measurably adequate, either in the past or future. In Hebrews 8:8-12 reference is made to the promise of a new covenant in Jeremiah (31:31 ff) as a justification for believing that the Old Testament dispensation was not complete in itself and that in its very constitution it pointed forward to Christianity as its fulfillment. Combining this passage with that quoted above (Ac 2:17 ) taken from Joel, the strength of the case for this use of the Old Testament is at once seen. Distinctively Jeremiah’s "new covenant" was to be inward and gracious rather than outward and legal. The promise through Joe is an awakening of prophecy through the free outpouring of God’s Spirit. The distinctive feature of the gospel is its idea of justification by faith, through grace revealed in Christ and imparted by the Holy Spirit given according to promise at Pentecost. The "new covenant" foretold by Jeremiah was established at Pentecost through the outpouring of the Spirit promised through Joel. To deny this as fulfillment is to nullify the meaning of Christian history and to erase both promises from the page of credible prophecy.
(2) Contemporary persons or institutions are sometimes interpreted, not in the terms of present actuality, but on the basis of the ideal not revealed or realized until the coming of Christ. One striking example of this method is to be found in the so-called "Immanuel passage" (Mt 1:23, quoting Isa 7:14). Undoubtedly the message of the prophet to Ahaz had an immediate and contemporary significance. But, like many another notable prophetic message it is set in the key of the Messianic King whose unworthy predecessor Ahaz was. "The Messiah comes, but the willfulness of Ahaz has rendered His reign impossible" (G. A. Smith, "Isa," Expositor’s Bible, I, 134).
In Ac 2:24-36, passages representative of many others quoted, both the resurrection and ascension of Jesus are interpreted in the light of two quotations from the Psalms (16:8 ff; 110:1) as predetermined and therefore certain events in the plan and purpose of God. In both instances the argument is that the promises nominally made to David, or claimed by him, were couched in terms too vast to find fulfillment in his own experience, but were spoken of the greater King who was to come and in whose experience alone they were realized. In the former instance, a triumph over death was anticipated with assurance which not the Psalmist but only Christ attained; in the latter a royal ascendancy was promised that only Christ’s ascension to the place of power could satisfy. An examination of the passages shows that Peter’s interpretation is justified not merely by the wording of the promises, which point to a fullness of experience not realized by any Old Testament man, but still more clearly by the descriptive titles which identify the person who is the subject of the experience. In the first instance he is spoken of as Yahweh’s "Holy One," in the second as "My Lord." The triumph over death which the speaker anticipates is grounded in a unity of purpose and will with God--a holiness which was ideal and still unrealized until Christ came. The logic of the psalm is: God’s "Holy One" must not see corruption. The logic of history is: Christ is God’s Holy One and He did not see corruption. The principle that triumph over death is the logical issue of holiness found its justification and proof not directly in the experience of the singer who first glimpsed it as a truth, but in the career of Christ who first realized it as a fact.
NOTE--The argument here is not affected if one accepts the variant reading "Holy Ones" for the preceding passage.
The second passage is particularly interesting because our Lord Himself first pointed out its implications as to the place and work of the Messiah. Such a passage as this entire psalm (Ps 110) would have been impossible had not the powers and responsibilities of the Davidic King been keyed from the beginning at the Messianic level. The logic here is the same as in Ps 16. The Messianic kingdom over all nations awaited the coming of the true Messianic King. The long-delayed triumph followed hard upon the coming of the long-expected King (compare Ps 2:1,2; Ac 13:32-34).
The same principle is involved in our Lord’s use of the Servant passage (Isa 61:1 ) in His sermon at Nazareth. Here the issue as to Messianic prophecy is fairly joined at the center. It is central because it occurs in the Lord’s own teaching and also because it concerns, not any external or incidental happenings in the life of Jesus, but the whole trend and movement of prophetic thought, together with the entire meaning and interpretation of His career.
Interpreted altogether apart from the New Testament, the passage has an unmistakable bearing upon the future. As one of the series concerned with the Servant (Isa 42:1 ), the quoted passage focuses attention upon the mission of Israel to the world, still to be carried out. "Ye are my witnesses, saith Yahweh, and my servant whom I have chosen" (Isa 43:10), "Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen" (Isa 44:1). It also involves the entire scope and meaning of the prophetic office through which Yahweh’s will was made known to Israel and through Israel to the world. Both these considerations sweep out into the prophet’s future and both point unerringly to Christ as the historical fulfillment of Israel’s mission and as the actual realization of the ideal and ministry of prophethood. The very ambiguity of the reference in this chapter (Isaiah 61), whether to the Servant or to the prophet, and the questions raised as to whether Israel idealized is referred to or some person or personification, serve to make more clear and unmistakable the central fact that only in Christ is the conception embodied in the entire series of passages altogether realized. It thus becomes for sober thought a distinct revelation and portraiture in advance of what Jesus was in His person and work.
(3) In the course of Israel’s training to receive the Messiah, certain external items were given as bearing upon the identification of Him when He should come. We shall instance three items, closely related to each other, and each intensely interesting in itself. These three items are
(a) His sonship to David (Ac 2:30,31),
(b) His birth from a Virgin (Mt 1:22 f),
(c) His birth at Bethlehem (Mt 2:5).
Objection is offered at once to the interpretation of these Old Testament passages as predictive, and to the alleged fulfillments in the life of Jesus, on the ground mainly that being definite events (compare Mt 2:15) they are not included within the legitimate scope of prediction; and, secondarily, that being items of this external kind it would be an easy matter to invent fulfillments. It may be granted at once that incidents of this kind could be indefinitely multiplied by fabricating coincidences, but the fact remains that, in the absence of any visible check upon invention, very few such instances are alleged by New Testament writers. Furthermore, there are suggestive variations between the events recorded and the natural interpretations of the Old Testament passages connected with them; that is, the fuifilments arrive by such devious routes as to make it difficult to suppose them to be due to the imaginative stimulation of the passages. For example, the birth at Bethlehem was brought about by circumstances not at all to the liking of Jewish patriots; and was obscured to contemporaries by the previous and subsequent residence at Nazareth. The kinship of Jesus to the house of David was made adoptive (unless Mary was of that house) by the virgin birth. The interpretation of Isa 7:14 as intimating a virgin birth was not compulsory to one familiar with the Hebrew text of the passage and would have been thought of in that connection only by one assured of the fact. The virgin birth (see Immanuel; Virgin Birth) is not an etymological but a providential commentary on Isa 7:14. One other consideration of primary importance remains. In the one point where the identification of Jesus with the Messiah by His followers can be tested most severely, they are most completely triumphant. It would be comparatively easy to invent incidents suggested by Old Testament prophecies, and to take dignities and titles wholesale from the same source--but given all these, to find one capable of realizing and fulfilling the expectations so aroused is the chief problem. Here fabrication is impossible. And here too the New Testament meets and answers the challenge of truth. In view of these considerations it is safe to assert that even in matters of historical detail the career of Jesus was foreseen and predicted. Such passages belong to the philosophy of preparation as a whole and should be studied in that connection.
(4) In certain instances the original passage and its reappearance in quotation indicate a process New Testament which is continuous throughout all history. For example, the use of Zec 13:7 (Mr 14:27) suggests a deeper view of the connection between prophecy and history, immediate and more remote, than we are often aware of. On the face of them such passages as those concerning the Smitten Shepherd and the scattered sheep are predictions, and the life of Christ stands as fulfillment. It simply cannot be contended that such passages as these do not find fulfillment and explanation in the career of Jesus as nowhere else in the history. Nevertheless, the connection is far deeper than mere foresight of an isolated event and its occurrence. We may well say that, in a sense, the event is foreseen because it is already a fact. The allegory of the Smitten Shepherd is, as has well been said, "a summary of the history of Israel." But it is more than that. The relationship of God with Israel, which involved a dealing of divine grace with men, their rejection of it and the consequent vicarious immolation of the Divine Friend and Shepherd, which came to its climax in the tragedy of the cross, was established in all essential factors in the early days. Therefore, Christ can say, as the outcome of the profoundest insight into the meaning of history, `That which concerneth me hath fulfillment’ (compare Lu 24:44). He was more deeply concerned in the doings of an earlier time than being there foreseen. In a real sense, "the Lamb" was "slain from the foundation of the world," (Re 13:8). In this allegory of the rejected Shepherd and in the successive delineations of the Servant passages, we have the portrait of the Christ as He was--not merely as He was to be. In these quotations deep answers to deep. The only satisfactory interpretation of the tragedy of the cross is that in accordance with principles long operative in human history, "it must needs be." The only satisfactory interpretation of the passages cited is that they disclose the actual operation of the forces which in their culmination issued in the tragedy of the cross. This brings the passages in the original and in quotation into the framework of the same course of events. Peter in his sermon in Solomon’s porch thus sums up the whole process: "But the things which God foreshowed by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled" (Ac 3:18).
4. Argumentative Quotations:
The argumentative use of the Old Testament involves exactly the same principles which have been dealt with in the foregoing discussion. These principles coalesce in the conception of the Old Testament as authoritative.
The classical passage in the discussion of justification based upon an Old Testament quotation is Ro 1:17, quoting Hab 2:4. The quoted passage seems to fail the argument because the literal translation would appear to be that "the righteous shall live by their faithfulness." A deeper view, however, amply justifies the quotation; first, because the stedfasthess demanded by the prophet is a persistent trust in God in view of the delay of the promised vision; second, the deepest principle common to the Old Testament and New Testament is that stability of character has its root in trust in Yahweh (Isa 28:16; compare Isa 26:1-3). Nothing could be more foreign to the thought of the Old Testament than that a man could be righteous without trust in God.
One further quotation argumentatively used by Paul may fitly close this section of our discussion. In Ro 11:26,27 he quotes Isa 59:20,21 as indicating the divine purpose to include the Gentiles within the scope of salvation. This passage is doubly significant because it is attacked by Kuenen (Prophets and Prophecy in Israel) on the ground that it is uncritically taken from the Septuagint version which in this instance does not correctly represent the Hebrew text. It may be remarked that a large percentage of the New Testament quotations are taken from the Septuagint. (For estimates of the number see Johnson, Quotations of the New Testament, chapter i.) This prevalent habit is amply justifiable by, and in large consideration of, the fact that the New Testament was written for the purpose of being read and understood by those to whom the Septuagint was often the only version available, and the familiarity of that version was ample compensation for any slight loss in verbal accuracy. The only reasonable qualification of this general statement is that we should call in question any deviation which is depended upon for a point in argument. Kuenen, the severest critic of the New Testament writers in this particular, alleges very few instances, and Professor Johnson has satisfactorily dealt with these in detail (as above). In the case immediately before us the deviations in the version used by Paul do not in the least modify, in the way of strengthening, the reference to the Gentiles (beginning in Ro 11:19 and continuing throughout) which is the point upon which Paul is laying stress. It is not too much to say that Paul’s argument would be unimpaired had he used the Hebrew text, upon which our the Revised Version (British and American) rests (compare Heb 2:6-8). In general, it may be premised that no stringent rule of verbal accuracy should be considered binding upon writers who address a popular audience beyond that which guards the substantial cogency of their argument. From the fair application of this reasonable rule the New Testament writers have nothing to fear.
For the most part the New Testament writers confine their quotations to the Old Testament. In a single instance an extracanonical saying of Jesus (Ac 20:35), and, in at least two instances (Jude 1:9,14), non-canonical books are referred to. In addition to this Paul uses in the letter to Titus (1:12) and in his sermon at Athens (Ac 17:28) lines from native poets to illustrate and enforce his discussion (see Poetry, New Testament). In these latter instances the difference in usage from his ordinary habit of quoting authoritative Scripture is sufficiently obvious. In the case of the saying attributed to Christ, it is enough to say that it is so obviously Christlike that we need not hesitate to accept it as genuine, while in the case of Jude nothing is made to depend upon the quotations except certain accepted Christian truths (see Plummer, Expositor’s Bible. "James and Jude," 434 f).
5. Catena of Passages Illustrating Principles of Quotation:
(1) Based on Unity of Dispensations.
(2) Based on Prevision.
(3) Based on Authority of the Old Testament.
See also CHRONICLES, BOOKS OF, 5, 7, 10.
The literature is voluminous. Beside the standard commentaries and dictionaries, the reader will do well to consult C. H. Toy, Quotations in the New Testament; Franklin Johnson, Quotations of the New Testament; Cambridge Biblical Essays ("Our Lord’s Use of the Old Testament" by McNeile); Westcott, Introduction to the Study of the New Testament, Appendix A.