use of the Old Testament in the Gospels

This is a shortened version of a paper I wrote in 2011 for Theological Study. I have recently been looking further into the fulfilment of the Old Testament by the new and edited this slighted for sharing (changed a few sentences to make it sound a little less academic). I have left the reference markers in there but removed the several pages of reference listings. Happy to share if anyone is interested, or needs an insomnia cure.

The Old Testament was the scripture of the Jewish people (1) at the time of Christ structured (unlike in the modern Christian Canon of the Old Testament) into the Law (the five books of Moses) the Prophets and the Writings. The Jewish people, as the initial emphasis of Christ’s saving mission on earth (2) were generally well versed in the scriptures and it flows logically that this common point of reference would be used heavily by Christ and his disciples as they ministered to them.

New Testament writers also follow the practice of utilising the words already penned by others in the history of the Scriptures, recognition that the Old Testament has a clarity they could not improve on. (3) This approach is continued in Orthodox tradition in the manner of referring to the Scripture and Church Fathers.

Christians often overlook the importance of these references, halting their attention at the authority of those quoting without considering the origin of the quotes. However, as these Old Testament works are are understood as the direct communication between God and his people these quotations, particularly as they relate to events show the authority of God in the New Testament, as the “New Testament writers firmly believed that what they were witnessing was exactly what the Old Testament spoke about.” (4)

This article will look at a General review of Old Testament usage in each of the Four Gospels, usage for Highlighting the fulfilment of prophecy and as a Revelation of Old Testament types.

General review of Old Testament usage in the Four Gospels

Matthew

With the Gospel of St Matthew being directed at the Jews (5) and it’s main objective being to “to prove to the Jews that Jesus Christ is precisely that Messiah Whom the Old Testament prophets had predicted”6 it is not surprising that it contains much in the way of direct scriptural reference to the Old Testament. The amount of scriptural references that a close enough for biblical commentators to consider as quotations is fifty-five, whereas the the remaining three Gospels number fifty-five.(7) These considerable links to the Old Testament help form a solid transition from the Old Testament to the New and have led to the thought that this had some bearing on it’s placement as the first of the Gospels. (8)

Even as early as St Matthew expounds his infancy narrative there are direct references to prophecies in the book of Isaiah. (9) As the Angel of the Lord explains to Joseph the circumstances of Mary’s conception the words used “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”(10) are all taken from Isaiah “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, And shall call his name Immanuel.”(11).

Further on we come to an explicit reference (12) to the place of the Saviour’s birth, referencing the Old Testament prophecy of Micah: “But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah,Though thou be little among the thousands of Judah,Yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”(13)

In several instances St Matthew explicitly states his quotation of the Old Testament, the first (14) of which occurs during his account of Herrod’s Massacre and his reference of the Prophet Jeremiah “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, (18) In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”(15)

St Matthew’s Gospel also contains one of the more interesting practices of joining the quotations of several prophets together. “Matthew 24:15–31 contains references to Dan. 11:31; 12:11; Dt. 13:1–3; Isa. 34:4; Dan. 7:13; Zech. 12:10; and Isa. 27:13.”(16) This is a long passage spoken by Christ where these prophecies are interwoven in a dialogue about his second coming referencing the scriptures they were familiar with as shown in historical writings.(17)

Mark

St Mark’s Gospel is less endowed with direct quotations from the Jewish scripture, namely as his main focus is on a “strong and clear narration of Christ’s miracles, emphasizing through them God’s heavenly greatness and omnipotence”(18). Mark does maintain the key Old Testament reference of John the Baptist as “The voice of one crying in the wilderness”(19) recalling the speech of the Prophet Isaiah.

In his response to criticism of His disciples by the Scribes and Pharisee’s Christ quotes the Prophet Isaiah also, bringing into question the amount of faith in their hearts as opposed to them “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.(20)”

In the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem prior to his passion, the people praise his arrival using the psalmody of their Jewish tradition. The praise in the verse “And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:”(21) coming straight from the Psalms. (22)

At his trial, answering the question of the high priest, the high priest asked him, and said unto him, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”(23), Christ answers directly “I am: hand ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”, (24) using the scriptural references to both Psalms (25) and Daniel (26) to place His authority.

The final complete quotation in Mark comes in the Lord’s final moments as he cries out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?(27)” quoting the Psalms (28). This was recognized by those around him who mocked him believing he was calling Elijah.

Luke

In the Gospel of St Luke the direct quotations are not as lengthy than in Matthew or Mark, rather a one or two verses at most are generally used in this manner. (29) While St Luke was a convert to Judaism (30) he is very familiar with much of the canon of Hebrew scripture “were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms” (31).

The majority of quotations in Luke are inclosed in the speech of others, in fact all but the first three. (32) Not surprisingly Christ quotes a significant number of these starting with his rebuke of the devil during His temptation in the wilderness. (33)

Although Luke’s direct references are shorter and less prevalent than those in the first two Gospels, there is no shortage of allusion to the Old Testament which some have listed at 449, with this allusion in a first century Jewish context being none the less important than direct reference. (34)

Luke also carries the linkage between Christ and the “Wisdom of God” (35) in the Old Testament and firmly presents that by the allusions and references that announce and witness to Christ’s arrival and mission are proof of their divine ordination.(36)

Similar to Mark there is a direct quotation in the account of Christ’s final moments where the Lord cries out “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (37) as with the former a quote from the Psalms; asserting God’s plan for salvation and the voluntary nature of Christ’s death to fulfil this plan. (38)

John

The timeline of John’s Gospel differs from the others in that it starts with the pre-eternal birth of the Son of God39. These first seven verses in John parallel the creation story in the same location in the book of Genesis but giving these concurrent ideas a more elevated purpose in the New Testament.(40)

The closer the narrative of John’s Gospel moves towards Christ’s death on the Cross the greater the emphasis of the Old Testament reference to the fulfilment of scripture and significant stress on the notion that the rejection of Christ by the Jews strongly achieves this. (41)

The entry of the Lord into Jerusalem has direct quotation in John as in other Gospels, both in the manner of His entry42 and the praises from the people.(43)

When Christ encountered criticism from the Pharisees in the temple regarding Him bearing his own witness44 both parties reference the Jewish Tradition that no person may be a witness to their own works (45). The response of Jesus to this is rejection of the Pharisees judgment of Him as an ordinary man and the reference of His Father as the witness to His authority. (46)

Highlighting the fulfilment of prophecy

Both in the narration of the Gospel authors themselves and the quotations directly from Christ’s teachings Old Testament references are used to highlight the the fulfilment of Jewish prophecy in the words or actions of Christ. From the early references around Christ’s conception, as mentioned above, where the birthplace of the Messiah is shown to be that mentioned in Isaiah, not to mention Herod’s massacre, the Gospel author’s point out how these early events fulfil the Jewish “Messianic Hope”. (47) This highlighting of prophecy serves to highlight the revealing of the Messiah to His people.

One of the earliest open displays of Christ’s succumbing to the fulfilment of scripture comes at his Baptism at the Jordan. Despite St John the Baptists initial refusal to baptize him, 48Jesus insists “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil call righteousness. Then he suffered him.” (49) so that the essential nature of God’s determination is shown. (50)

Many examples of prophetic fulfilment have been outlined in the discussion of the Four Gospels above.

Revelation of Old Testament types

Scriptural references for the elaboration of typology are common in the Gospels (and indeed the remainder of the New Testament). In Christian theology these typological references are seen not only to maintain the original historical context but extend their significance greater than the Old Testament example alone. (51) Many of these typologies relate directly to Christ or His actions.

Christ is seen as the new Adam, with the first human being made in the image of the Word. (52) In Mark’s Gospel this is shown in the wild beasts acknowledging Christ’s sovereignty over them. (53) This typology is also alluded to by tradition by the location of the crucifixion as being that where the first human reposed (54).

In John’s Gospel the recounting of St John the Baptist’s proclamation of Christ as the “Lamb of God” links Him to the replacement of the sacrificial lamb of temple worship and the prophecy of Isaiah where the Messiah is “brought as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, So he openeth not his mouth”.(55) This rendition also types the lamb God calls Abraham to sacrifice in place of his son.(56)

There is also significant Davidic typology, particularly in the Gospel of John (57) where references to Psalms in which David is speaking are used. (58)

The revelation of the Old Testament types started in the Gospels then expands itself through the New Testament especially throughout the Pauline writings and the Apocalypse of John. (59)

Conclusion

Old Testament references occur frequently in the New Testament and particularly in the four Gospels. Even with the different objectives and audiences of the four different Gospels the use of Old Testament reference either by direct quotation or allusion is frequent whether by the recorded words and actions of Christ, the usage of the authors themselves or others with whom Christ and the Apostles interacted.

These references are critical to share in context the arrival of the Messiah with the people of the time, highlight the fulfilment of prophecy to them and to the generations to come and provides to this day a revelation of the Old Testament to the Church in light of Christ’s ministry on earth. The Church has recgnized this fullfillement with the sybolic usage of a man or angel (for Matthew), a lion (for Mark), an ox (for Luke) and an Eagle (for John) itself a reference to the “mysterious chariot seen by the prophet Ezekiel at the river Chebar”. (60)

use of the Old Testament in the Gospels

This is a shortened version of a paper I wrote in 2011 for Theological Study. I have recently been looking further into the fulfilment of the Old Testament by the new and edited this slighted for sharing (changed a few sentences to make it sound a little less academic). I have left the reference markers in there but removed the several pages of reference listings. Happy to share if anyone is interested, or needs an insomnia cure.

The Old Testament was the scripture of the Jewish people (1) at the time of Christ structured (unlike in the modern Christian Canon of the Old Testament) into the Law (the five books of Moses) the Prophets and the Writings. The Jewish people, as the initial emphasis of Christ’s saving mission on earth (2) were generally well versed in the scriptures and it flows logically that this common point of reference would be used heavily by Christ and his disciples as they ministered to them.

New Testament writers also follow the practice of utilising the words already penned by others in the history of the Scriptures, recognition that the Old Testament has a clarity they could not improve on. (3) This approach is continued in Orthodox tradition in the manner of referring to the Scripture and Church Fathers.

Christians often overlook the importance of these references, halting their attention at the authority of those quoting without considering the origin of the quotes. However, as these Old Testament works are are understood as the direct communication between God and his people these quotations, particularly as they relate to events show the authority of God in the New Testament, as the “New Testament writers firmly believed that what they were witnessing was exactly what the Old Testament spoke about.” (4)

This article will look at a General review of Old Testament usage in each of the Four Gospels, usage for Highlighting the fulfilment of prophecy and as a Revelation of Old Testament types.

General review of Old Testament usage in the Four Gospels

Matthew

With the Gospel of St Matthew being directed at the Jews (5) and it’s main objective being to “to prove to the Jews that Jesus Christ is precisely that Messiah Whom the Old Testament prophets had predicted”6 it is not surprising that it contains much in the way of direct scriptural reference to the Old Testament. The amount of scriptural references that a close enough for biblical commentators to consider as quotations is fifty-five, whereas the the remaining three Gospels number fifty-five.(7) These considerable links to the Old Testament help form a solid transition from the Old Testament to the New and have led to the thought that this had some bearing on it’s placement as the first of the Gospels. (8)

Even as early as St Matthew expounds his infancy narrative there are direct references to prophecies in the book of Isaiah. (9) As the Angel of the Lord explains to Joseph the circumstances of Mary’s conception the words used “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”(10) are all taken from Isaiah “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, And shall call his name Immanuel.”(11).

Further on we come to an explicit reference (12) to the place of the Saviour’s birth, referencing the Old Testament prophecy of Micah: “But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah,Though thou be little among the thousands of Judah,Yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”(13)

In several instances St Matthew explicitly states his quotation of the Old Testament, the first (14) of which occurs during his account of Herrod’s Massacre and his reference of the Prophet Jeremiah “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, (18) In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”(15)

St Matthew’s Gospel also contains one of the more interesting practices of joining the quotations of several prophets together. “Matthew 24:15–31 contains references to Dan. 11:31; 12:11; Dt. 13:1–3; Isa. 34:4; Dan. 7:13; Zech. 12:10; and Isa. 27:13.”(16) This is a long passage spoken by Christ where these prophecies are interwoven in a dialogue about his second coming referencing the scriptures they were familiar with as shown in historical writings.(17)

Mark

St Mark’s Gospel is less endowed with direct quotations from the Jewish scripture, namely as his main focus is on a “strong and clear narration of Christ’s miracles, emphasizing through them God’s heavenly greatness and omnipotence”(18). Mark does maintain the key Old Testament reference of John the Baptist as “The voice of one crying in the wilderness”(19) recalling the speech of the Prophet Isaiah.

In his response to criticism of His disciples by the Scribes and Pharisee’s Christ quotes the Prophet Isaiah also, bringing into question the amount of faith in their hearts as opposed to them “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.(20)”

In the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem prior to his passion, the people praise his arrival using the psalmody of their Jewish tradition. The praise in the verse “And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:”(21) coming straight from the Psalms. (22)

At his trial, answering the question of the high priest, the high priest asked him, and said unto him, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”(23), Christ answers directly “I am: hand ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”, (24) using the scriptural references to both Psalms (25) and Daniel (26) to place His authority.

The final complete quotation in Mark comes in the Lord’s final moments as he cries out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?(27)” quoting the Psalms (28). This was recognized by those around him who mocked him believing he was calling Elijah.

Luke

In the Gospel of St Luke the direct quotations are not as lengthy than in Matthew or Mark, rather a one or two verses at most are generally used in this manner. (29) While St Luke was a convert to Judaism (30) he is very familiar with much of the canon of Hebrew scripture “were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms” (31).

The majority of quotations in Luke are inclosed in the speech of others, in fact all but the first three. (32) Not surprisingly Christ quotes a significant number of these starting with his rebuke of the devil during His temptation in the wilderness. (33)

Although Luke’s direct references are shorter and less prevalent than those in the first two Gospels, there is no shortage of allusion to the Old Testament which some have listed at 449, with this allusion in a first century Jewish context being none the less important than direct reference. (34)

Luke also carries the linkage between Christ and the “Wisdom of God” (35) in the Old Testament and firmly presents that by the allusions and references that announce and witness to Christ’s arrival and mission are proof of their divine ordination.(36)

Similar to Mark there is a direct quotation in the account of Christ’s final moments where the Lord cries out “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (37) as with the former a quote from the Psalms; asserting God’s plan for salvation and the voluntary nature of Christ’s death to fulfil this plan. (38)

John

The timeline of John’s Gospel differs from the others in that it starts with the pre-eternal birth of the Son of God39. These first seven verses in John parallel the creation story in the same location in the book of Genesis but giving these concurrent ideas a more elevated purpose in the New Testament.(40)

The closer the narrative of John’s Gospel moves towards Christ’s death on the Cross the greater the emphasis of the Old Testament reference to the fulfilment of scripture and significant stress on the notion that the rejection of Christ by the Jews strongly achieves this. (41)

The entry of the Lord into Jerusalem has direct quotation in John as in other Gospels, both in the manner of His entry42 and the praises from the people.(43)

When Christ encountered criticism from the Pharisees in the temple regarding Him bearing his own witness44 both parties reference the Jewish Tradition that no person may be a witness to their own works (45). The response of Jesus to this is rejection of the Pharisees judgment of Him as an ordinary man and the reference of His Father as the witness to His authority. (46)

Highlighting the fulfilment of prophecy

Both in the narration of the Gospel authors themselves and the quotations directly from Christ’s teachings Old Testament references are used to highlight the the fulfilment of Jewish prophecy in the words or actions of Christ. From the early references around Christ’s conception, as mentioned above, where the birthplace of the Messiah is shown to be that mentioned in Isaiah, not to mention Herod’s massacre, the Gospel author’s point out how these early events fulfil the Jewish “Messianic Hope”. (47) This highlighting of prophecy serves to highlight the revealing of the Messiah to His people.

One of the earliest open displays of Christ’s succumbing to the fulfilment of scripture comes at his Baptism at the Jordan. Despite St John the Baptists initial refusal to baptize him, 48Jesus insists “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil call righteousness. Then he suffered him.” (49) so that the essential nature of God’s determination is shown. (50)

Many examples of prophetic fulfilment have been outlined in the discussion of the Four Gospels above.

Revelation of Old Testament types

Scriptural references for the elaboration of typology are common in the Gospels (and indeed the remainder of the New Testament). In Christian theology these typological references are seen not only to maintain the original historical context but extend their significance greater than the Old Testament example alone. (51) Many of these typologies relate directly to Christ or His actions.

Christ is seen as the new Adam, with the first human being made in the image of the Word. (52) In Mark’s Gospel this is shown in the wild beasts acknowledging Christ’s sovereignty over them. (53) This typology is also alluded to by tradition by the location of the crucifixion as being that where the first human reposed (54).

In John’s Gospel the recounting of St John the Baptist’s proclamation of Christ as the “Lamb of God” links Him to the replacement of the sacrificial lamb of temple worship and the prophecy of Isaiah where the Messiah is “brought as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, So he openeth not his mouth”.(55) This rendition also types the lamb God calls Abraham to sacrifice in place of his son.(56)

There is also significant Davidic typology, particularly in the Gospel of John (57) where references to Psalms in which David is speaking are used. (58)

The revelation of the Old Testament types started in the Gospels then expands itself through the New Testament especially throughout the Pauline writings and the Apocalypse of John. (59)

Conclusion

Old Testament references occur frequently in the New Testament and particularly in the four Gospels. Even with the different objectives and audiences of the four different Gospels the use of Old Testament reference either by direct quotation or allusion is frequent whether by the recorded words and actions of Christ, the usage of the authors themselves or others with whom Christ and the Apostles interacted.

These references are critical to share in context the arrival of the Messiah with the people of the time, highlight the fulfilment of prophecy to them and to the generations to come and provides to this day a revelation of the Old Testament to the Church in light of Christ’s ministry on earth. The Church has recgnized this fullfillement with the sybolic usage of a man or angel (for Matthew), a lion (for Mark), an ox (for Luke) and an Eagle (for John) itself a reference to the “mysterious chariot seen by the prophet Ezekiel at the river Chebar”. (60)

Mr Bean VS the wobbly army of tolerance

Came across the following speech from Mr Bean creator and London Olympics opening ceremony superstar Rowan Atkinson. He is showing his support for the “Reform Section 5 campaign” in the UK, aiming to modify a long standing law that has more recently been used by the soldiers of the the wobbly army of tolerance in the UK to prosecute people, often in ludicrous situations, for essentially having an opinion that someone else may not “like”.

“While arresting a protestor for using threatening or abusive speech may, depending on the circumstances, be a proportionate response, we do not think that language or behaviour that is merely insulting should be criminalised in this way” (UK Parliament joint committee on human rights)

It is refreshing to hear a public figure speaking out in this way. The majority of “free speech” rumblings I have seen in the last few months are declarations of “rights” while showing intolerance to others (usually Christians). Mr Atkinson defines it sweetly and succinctly “. . . what you might call the new intolerance, a new but intense desire to gag uncomfortable voices of dissent”

Atkinson throughout the next few minutes provides some solutions or antidotes to the issue of society’s unwillingness to let an uncomfortable word float in our consciousness without significant retribution.

“For me the best way to increase society’s resistance to insulting or offensive speech, is to allow alot more of it”

“we need to build our immunity to taking offence so that we can deal with the issues that perfectly justified criticism can raise. Our priority should be to deal with the message, not the messenger”

“if we want a robust society we must have a robust dialogue and that must include the right to insult or offend”

I found at this point to diverge from my standpoint of agreement with Atkinson but soon needed to check myself. It is not so much that he is calling for mass dissent and abuse all round but the ability to have meaningful and honest conversations. It is those overly liberal supporters of this new intolerance who have re-defined the word intolerance to “saying those things that I don’t want to hear from you”.

This dribble has been most obvious globally over the last year or so, in debates surrounding islamic militancy and same sex marriage where vocal charges of racism, intolerance and hatred are labelled on anyone who dares to hold a different opinion. It is enough for one to define something as a “right” in this new secular age in order to stop any open debate about it, even with long held opinions not too long ago deemed acceptable. Even when the debate is in a spirit of love, the response is usually a bombardment of hatred.

And when the wobbly army of tolerance gets upset, even at the ridiculous, the outcome can be horrific. Just recall recent global responses to a piece of rubbish film placed on youtube. Just as when Salman Rushdie was given a death sentence all those years ago I had to have a look at what spawned this response. I got about three minutes in when I decided to stop poking myself with the metaphorical fork to keep me awake and label it as “dribble”. Yet in Pakistan three churches where burned down and fourteen Christians murdered as a response to this. More locally to me, people arrested for violent activities in the protests in Sydney admitted they hadn’t even watched this video but he had been told it was blasphemous and got caught up in the protest. Que??????

“it is a small skirmish, in my opinion, in the battle to deal with what Sir Salman Rushdie refers to as the ‘Outrage Industry'”

More beautiful imagery; thank-you Mr Atkinson! The “Outrage Industry” well describes the perpetuation of this new intolerance.

“Firstly, we all have to take responsibility for what we say, which is quite a good lesson to learn, but secondly we have learned how intolerant and prickly society has become at even the mildest adverse comment”

“The law should not be aiding and abetting this new intolerance”

We must all take responsibility for our words and actions but not in a tirade of hate. Nor should we legislate for common sense to protect to cotton wool agenda of the rising new intolerance.

Without this safe environment where we are allowed to question the behaviour of others we are in a difficult position of waiting for our cultural martyrdom. As Christians we are called to turn the other cheek, which must prohibit our engagement in the fighting with the wobbly army on their terms; we are to share the love of the Gospel, not hatred. However this can not cause us to sit calmly by, silently nodding our heads when the motherhood talks rambles past us. We must speak the truth in love, and be examples and icons of Christ.

I do not know Atkinson’s take on faith if at all, but he is taking a very appropriate stand here. Take a look at the speech . . .

Just for fun I dug up the old skit the comedian mentioned from the old UK comedy show “Not the 9 o’clock news”. Hilarious still, but if the world continues on it’s current path it may become a piece of intelligence to help us survive a brush with the law in the future; should we decide to disagree with anything.

have you been saved? (sidebar)

Looking back at my previous recollection on this topic in light of a comparative theology essay I am working on, I tripped over the reverse almost of what I am to write about. The document titled “Witnessing to People of Eastern Orthodox Background” was produced way back in 2001 as a manual for Baptist Missionaries who came into contact with people of Orthodox Faith. I will leave it to this paragraph from the preface to explain it’s purpose:

“Rarely in the history of missions has such a large area opened to the gospel as did Eastern Europe following the fall of Communism in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Although clearly God was at work behind the “wall” prior to the fall, once the wall fell, there was an unparalleled openness and freedom for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Thousands came from the West to participate in evangelizing people who for so many years had been told by Communist governments that there was no God. Many who came were surprised to find that despite the years of Communism, many people in Eastern Europe claim to have a Christian heritage via the Eastern Orthodox Church. What are the beliefs of the Orthodox Church and how should these beliefs affect our attempts to witness? The manual I have written is an attempt to address this question.”

There are more than a handful of items in the above that have me grumbling under my breath, but the now Patriarch Kyrill in 1995 publicly raised his concern (as a Metropolitan) that after surviving a godless atheist regime Russia was now being bombarded by sects and branches of protestantism engaged in proselytism. But I digress . . .

After discussing where many of these Orthodox folk hide out in the world, the paper moves on to discuss the spiritual condition of the Orthodox people which is what I will focus on with some reference to other items in document. While I will not go through a full discourse on the entire item, it would behove many Orthodox Christians to read this item in light of their faith and understand the misconceptions that are out there.

It is stated that “the spiritual condition of peoples in so-called Orthodox countries is in actuality quite poor” referring to a study published in 1995. Considering communism only “fell” in 1991 and the propagation of years of forced atheism on the people of Eastern Europe I find it not unusual for this to be the outcome of a study. It is this spiritual state and later comments on levels of personal faith in Christ that I feel are most relevant to us Orthodox in the Diaspora.

While I have no empirical evidence my experience, over the past 10 or so years, points to more of what I will term “nominal Christians” attending more often in the Orthodox Church, than my experience in many protestant denominations. Even if one just takes a subjective visual attendance at Easter and Christmas between the two in my experience – the multiplication factor of those coming to the Orthodox Church is far greater. One of my first lightbulb moments was the emphasis put on Easter (Pascha) compared to my protestant experiences which were limited to a couple of extra services and a little more targeted teaching about the time of year.

Now, don’t get me wrong I am not laying the foundation for a heretical theology where coming to Church for Easter and Christmas gets you a ticket through the so-called “pearly gates”, rather that due to many factors cultural or otherwise I have experienced more attendance by irregular church-goers in the Orthodox Church than in my protestant lifetime. There are often many obstacles for the “cradle” Orthodox to overcome; from services in another language to poorly catechised relatives not able to put into words the context behind the Orthodox life. This provides the challenge of how to “re-catcechise” it’s faithful and teach the true faith rather than abandon the Faith once and for all delivered to the Saints.

Fortunately in our diocese there is slowly more and more happening in this regard. We now have yearly conferences for various levels of youth to teach and answer there questions. We have a handful of parishes that are completely in English including the Holy Annunciation Parish in Brisbane that is heavily focused on teaching the Faith to all who wish to “Come and see”. I still believe we have a long way to go and that our most critical challenge for missions lie within our walls; converting those occasional attendees to Christians on the narrow path to Salvation.

The text also points out the difference between Holy Tradition and scripture, but taking the expected Sola Scriptura stance. Many more eloquent than I have written well on this, but suffice to say that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ didn’t write a book, He founded a Church, and that Church through it’s Holy Tradition and conciliar approach decided what was to be Scripture over hundreds of years of consideration.

One of my other old favourites came up also, the “Corporate vs Private” prayer and the thinking that “the church building is the only place God’s Spirit works”.

“There is the potential barrier posed by the Orthodox concept of the Holy Spirit, which taken to an extreme seems to limit the Spirit to working only in the corporate context of the church. The idea of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of the individuals who comprise the church, a concept so important among evangelicals, is foreign to the Orthodox mind.”

Human beings can say some special things even in the light of obvious exception but I have never heard this extreme ideal before. The Church has always been defined as the gathering of the faithful, the buildings supporting this gathering and the services and sacraments that make up their worship. Early in my journey I came home meeting with friends after a vigil service and was questioned by them in depth about what I had experienced. Apart from not understanding why I would spend two and a half hours at church on a Saturday night, the focus was then moved on to why there was no sermon at a church service. Out of those two and a half hours almost one and a half was pure scripture (psalms chanted, old testament readings and a Gospel) with most of the rest being hymns or prayers founded in Scripture.

Those denying the personal aspect of Orthodox faith have no doubt never seen the prayer rule requested of the faithful to direct their hearts to worship and humility rather than, as Father Thomas Hopko puts it on occasion, “We stop explaining to God what he already knows and telling him what he ought to do about it, which is what lots of people’s prayer, too many people’s prayer is”.

Now time to step off the soapbox for a bit I am very glad to have come across this paper. A critique of ones beliefs from time to time is helpful to nudge you into clarifying your understanding, not that the current secular materialistic society doesn’t smack us around enough every day. While some of the information suffers I think in the translation and other information is, well, wrong, I think it good to have Protestants looking at church history which is outlined in the start of the document. If they look back far enough they will find the Orthodox Church.

Again, we must all focus on our continual conversion. Everyday we need to recommit ourselves to Christ, immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, give ourselves to Christ in our services, and participate in the holy mysteries of the church given to us by our Saviour for our salvation.

use of the Old Testament in the Gospels

This is a shortened version of a paper I wrote last year for Theological Study. I have recently been looking further into the fulfilment of the Old Testament by the new and edited this slighted for sharing (changed a few sentences to make it sound a little less academic). I have left the reference markers in there but removed the several pages of reference listings. Happy to share if anyone is interested, or needs an insomnia cure.

The Old Testament was the scripture of the Jewish people (1) at the time of Christ structured (unlike in the modern Christian Canon of the Old Testament) into the Law (the five books of Moses) the Prophets and the Writings. The Jewish people, as the initial emphasis of Christ’s saving mission on earth (2) were generally well versed in the scriptures and it flows logically that this common point of reference would be used heavily by Christ and his disciples as they ministered to them.

New Testament writers also follow the practice of utilising the words already penned by others in the history of the Scriptures, recognition that the Old Testament has a clarity they could not improve on. (3) This approach is continued in Orthodox tradition in the manner of referring to the Scripture and Church Fathers.

Christians often overlook the importance of these references, halting their attention at the authority of those quoting without considering the origin of the quotes. However, as these Old Testament works are are understood as the direct communication between God and his people these quotations, particularly as they relate to events show the authority of God in the New Testament, as the “New Testament writers firmly believed that what they were witnessing was exactly what the Old Testament spoke about.” (4)

This article will look at a General review of Old Testament usage in each of the Four Gospels, usage for Highlighting the fulfilment of prophecy and as a Revelation of Old Testament types.

General review of Old Testament usage in the Four Gospels

Matthew

With the Gospel of St Matthew being directed at the Jews (5) and it’s main objective being to “to prove to the Jews that Jesus Christ is precisely that Messiah Whom the Old Testament prophets had predicted”6 it is not surprising that it contains much in the way of direct scriptural reference to the Old Testament. The amount of scriptural references that a close enough for biblical commentators to consider as quotations is fifty-five, whereas the the remaining three Gospels number fifty-five.(7) These considerable links to the Old Testament help form a solid transition from the Old Testament to the New and have led to the thought that this had some bearing on it’s placement as the first of the Gospels. (8)

Even as early as St Matthew expounds his infancy narrative there are direct references to prophecies in the book of Isaiah. (9) As the Angel of the Lord explains to Joseph the circumstances of Mary’s conception the words used “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”(10) are all taken from Isaiah “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, And shall call his name Immanuel.”(11).

Further on we come to an explicit reference (12) to the place of the Saviour’s birth, referencing the Old Testament prophecy of Micah: “But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah,Though thou be little among the thousands of Judah,Yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”(13)

In several instances St Matthew explicitly states his quotation of the Old Testament, the first (14) of which occurs during his account of Herrod’s Massacre and his reference of the Prophet Jeremiah “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, (18) In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”(15)

St Matthew’s Gospel also contains one of the more interesting practices of joining the quotations of several prophets together. “Matthew 24:15–31 contains references to Dan. 11:31; 12:11; Dt. 13:1–3; Isa. 34:4; Dan. 7:13; Zech. 12:10; and Isa. 27:13.”(16) This is a long passage spoken by Christ where these prophecies are interwoven in a dialogue about his second coming referencing the scriptures they were familiar with as shown in historical writings.(17)

Mark

St Mark’s Gospel is less endowed with direct quotations from the Jewish scripture, namely as his main focus is on a “strong and clear narration of Christ’s miracles, emphasizing through them God’s heavenly greatness and omnipotence”(18). Mark does maintain the key Old Testament reference of John the Baptist as “The voice of one crying in the wilderness”(19) recalling the speech of the Prophet Isaiah.

In his response to criticism of His disciples by the Scribes and Pharisee’s Christ quotes the Prophet Isaiah also, bringing into question the amount of faith in their hearts as opposed to them “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.(20)”

In the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem prior to his passion, the people praise his arrival using the psalmody of their Jewish tradition. The praise in the verse “And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:”(21) coming straight from the Psalms. (22)

At his trial, answering the question of the high priest, the high priest asked him, and said unto him, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”(23), Christ answers directly “I am: hand ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”, (24) using the scriptural references to both Psalms (25) and Daniel (26) to place His authority.

The final complete quotation in Mark comes in the Lord’s final moments as he cries out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?(27)” quoting the Psalms (28). This was recognized by those around him who mocked him believing he was calling Elijah.

Luke

In the Gospel of St Luke the direct quotations are not as lengthy than in Matthew or Mark, rather a one or two verses at most are generally used in this manner. (29) While St Luke was a convert to Judaism (30) he is very familiar with much of the canon of Hebrew scripture “were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms” (31).

The majority of quotations in Luke are inclosed in the speech of others, in fact all but the first three. (32) Not surprisingly Christ quotes a significant number of these starting with his rebuke of the devil during His temptation in the wilderness. (33)

Although Luke’s direct references are shorter and less prevalent than those in the first two Gospels, there is no shortage of allusion to the Old Testament which some have listed at 449, with this allusion in a first century Jewish context being none the less important than direct reference. (34)

Luke also carries the linkage between Christ and the “Wisdom of God” (35) in the Old Testament and firmly presents that by the allusions and references that announce and witness to Christ’s arrival and mission are proof of their divine ordination.(36)

Similar to Mark there is a direct quotation in the account of Christ’s final moments where the Lord cries out “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (37) as with the former a quote from the Psalms; asserting God’s plan for salvation and the voluntary nature of Christ’s death to fulfil this plan. (38)

John

The timeline of John’s Gospel differs from the others in that it starts with the pre-eternal birth of the Son of God39. These first seven verses in John parallel the creation story in the same location in the book of Genesis but giving these concurrent ideas a more elevated purpose in the New Testament.(40)

The closer the narrative of John’s Gospel moves towards Christ’s death on the Cross the greater the emphasis of the Old Testament reference to the fulfilment of scripture and significant stress on the notion that the rejection of Christ by the Jews strongly achieves this. (41)

The entry of the Lord into Jerusalem has direct quotation in John as in other Gospels, both in the manner of His entry42 and the praises from the people.(43)

When Christ encountered criticism from the Pharisees in the temple regarding Him bearing his own witness44 both parties reference the Jewish Tradition that no person may be a witness to their own works (45). The response of Jesus to this is rejection of the Pharisees judgment of Him as an ordinary man and the reference of His Father as the witness to His authority. (46)

Highlighting the fulfilment of prophecy

Both in the narration of the Gospel authors themselves and the quotations directly from Christ’s teachings Old Testament references are used to highlight the the fulfilment of Jewish prophecy in the words or actions of Christ. From the early references around Christ’s conception, as mentioned above, where the birthplace of the Messiah is shown to be that mentioned in Isaiah, not to mention Herod’s massacre, the Gospel author’s point out how these early events fulfil the Jewish “Messianic Hope”. (47) This highlighting of prophecy serves to highlight the revealing of the Messiah to His people.

One of the earliest open displays of Christ’s succumbing to the fulfilment of scripture comes at his Baptism at the Jordan. Despite St John the Baptists initial refusal to baptize him, 48Jesus insists “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil call righteousness. Then he suffered him.” (49) so that the essential nature of God’s determination is shown. (50)

Many examples of prophetic fulfilment have been outlined in the discussion of the Four Gospels above.

Revelation of Old Testament types

Scriptural references for the elaboration of typology are common in the Gospels (and indeed the remainder of the New Testament). In Christian theology these typological references are seen not only to maintain the original historical context but extend their significance greater than the Old Testament example alone. (51) Many of these typologies relate directly to Christ or His actions.

Christ is seen as the new Adam, with the first human being made in the image of the Word. (52) In Mark’s Gospel this is shown in the wild beasts acknowledging Christ’s sovereignty over them. (53) This typology is also alluded to by tradition by the location of the crucifixion as being that where the first human reposed (54).

In John’s Gospel the recounting of St John the Baptist’s proclamation of Christ as the “Lamb of God” links Him to the replacement of the sacrificial lamb of temple worship and the prophecy of Isaiah where the Messiah is “brought as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, So he openeth not his mouth”.(55) This rendition also types the lamb God calls Abraham to sacrifice in place of his son.(56)

There is also significant Davidic typology, particularly in the Gospel of John (57) where references to Psalms in which David is speaking are used. (58)

The revelation of the Old Testament types started in the Gospels then expands itself through the New Testament especially throughout the Pauline writings and the Apocalypse of John. (59)

Conclusion

Old Testament references occur frequently in the New Testament and particularly in the four Gospels. Even with the different objectives and audiences of the four different Gospels the use of Old Testament reference either by direct quotation or allusion is frequent whether by the recorded words and actions of Christ, the usage of the authors themselves or others with whom Christ and the Apostles interacted.

These references are critical to share in context the arrival of the Messiah with the people of the time, highlight the fulfilment of prophecy to them and to the generations to come and provides to this day a revelation of the Old Testament to the Church in light of Christ’s ministry on earth. The Church has recgnized this fullfillement with the sybolic usage of a man or angel (for Matthew), a lion (for Mark), an ox (for Luke) and an Eagle (for John) itself a reference to the “mysterious chariot seen by the prophet Ezekiel at the river Chebar”. (60)

the real religion of peace

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. The Holy Bible: King James Version. (Mt 5:43–48).

Rather than calling for the murder of people who say something you don’t agree with, why not respect the people in your community and love your neighbour?  Christ called us even to love our enemies, and more than that pray for them. This not only creates a calm and loving environment but mandates the Christian to ponder on the salvation of those who wrong them.

Save, O Lord, and have mercy on those who hate and offend me, and do me harm, and let them not perish through me, a sinner. (Morning Prayers)

have you been saved?

This is a question that I have pondered for many years, and now after almost 12 years as an orthodox Christian I feel I can only just in some manner respond to it. This is a question that you will hear, and quite often be confronted with by protestants in mission work, that is terribly confusing for most Orthodox Christians. This is mostly due to the fact that the Protestant understanding of salvation is very different to the Orthodox understanding salvation.

When I was around 11 years old, in my first year of high school, I began going to the school’s Christian Fellowship. I had been baptized in a Methodist Church, went to many Bible studies as a young child and of course attended the Sunday School. My spiritual life was a little bit skew by the fact that I also went to a Roman Catholic public school and as a class we attended Mass every Friday. Even this young age I understood that I was not Catholic, and could understand some of the basic differences between Roman Catholicism and the pietistic Protestant tradition in which I was involved.

Often during primary school when certain Roman Catholic traditions were being undertaken by my school friends, such as 1st holy Communion and confirmation, I was left out with a couple of other Protestants and quote the Greek students”. This in many ways helped me to understand the differences but I must admit that I never felt really left out as the parish priest and my teachers were very loving towards those not of the faith.

So upon entering high school I considered myself a Christian. At one of the functions of this Christian Fellowship, a Christian rock concert, I was confronted by something most confusing to my young mind. There were a handful of more senior students roaming the crowds ministering to the younger kids. Three of them came to me and asked me if I was a Christian. This was something I was not expecting and I fumbled through an answer throwing up points around going to church, praying, and reading the Bible; then came the kicker “have you invited Jesus Christ into your heart?”

The only thing I could find in response to this was “huh” and this was exactly what my newfound friends were waiting for. Soon I was politely lead to a side room that was put aside for prayer and private discussion while the band clanged away in the other main auditorium. At this point I was asked if I would like the other youths to pray for me and to let Jesus into my life. They prey variation of what we would now referred to as the “sinners prayer”. Apparently now I was a Christian.

Unfortunately when I woke up the next morning this newfound Christianity had not let me to any great oratory windfall. My main response to the activities of the previous night was still “huh”. In many ways this scene of confusion would stay with me for another 18 years until I discovered orthodoxy.

I won’t bore you at this time with those 18 years, however, even during my deep dives into Calvinist theology I still couldn’t grapple with this one moment that apparently made everything in my life OK. Many of my friends and peers would brushoff times in their life where they acted not as their best with the mantra “I been saved”. Any discussions around our attempts to write ourselves with God led to a polite tirades on works based theology and arrows targeted at the nearest Roman Catholic Church. I had begun to feel the effects of losing the baby with the bathwater that had been the Protestant Reformation.

Looking back on this confusion through the lens of the orthodox churches more synergistic understanding of salvation I can more fully understand and appreciate my muddled brain during this time. More recently when I am asked this question I have replaced my befuddled “huh” with the slightly wittier “with God’s grace every day I am saved” or “with God’s will I hope so”. That at least gets me into the start of a more realistic conversation and an opportunity to speak the truth in love rather than being dragged into that side room.

We need to focus ourselves on our continual conversion. Everyday we need to recommit ourselves to Christ, immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, give ourselves to Christ in our services, and participate in the holy mysteries of the church given to us by our Saviour for our salvation.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner