Theology of Promise: Christ the Promised One as the Ordering Center of the Old and New Testaments ONE BIBLEŃTWO TESTAMENTS?! Lk 24; Heb 11; Eph 4)

Initial Question: Of what value is the Old Testament to the Church and the Christian, now that the Messiah has come, the Church has replaced Israel as GodŐs people, the temple and sacrifices have come to an end, and grace/faith has replaced the law?



A.      The writers of the NT use the OT as their scriptures.

1.       Prophecies: Ps. 2, 16, 110; Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-2; Micah 5:2

2.       Types: John 3:13-15; I Cor. 5:6; I Pet. 3:18-21

3.       Allegories: Gal. 4:21-31; I Cor. 10:1-11

4.       JesusŐ model: Lk. 24:44; John 5:39, 46

B.      The OT is absorbed as a Christian book.

1.       Epistle of Barnabas 4:6 says that the OT does not belong to the Jews who misunderstand it, but to the Christians.

C.      The OT is totally rejected as a non-Christian book.

1.       Marcion of Sinope, in a Gnostic type dualism, separated God into two gods: One is the OT inferior god of justice who created the world, the other is the NT god of salvation in Christ, who is good and to be worshiped alone.

2.       His anti-Semitism resulted in a total rejection of the OT, and a removal of all things Jewish from the NT canon.

D.      Early Christian apologists reaffirm the inspiration of the OT.

1.       Justin Martyr sees Jesus as the Logos inspiring the OT prophets (as well as the Greek philosophers). He shows how the patriarchal covenant relates to the Christian covenant: both depend on faith rather than circumcision or law.

2.       Irenaeus shows that one and the same God is creator and redeemer and has inspired both OT and NT.

E.      The Alexandrian School allegorizes the OT in neo-Platonic way.

1.       The Jew Philo applied Stoical hermeneutics of allegorizing to the OT, making the crude literal meaning more palatable to the Hellenistic world.

2.       Clement of Alexandria and especially Origen champion the deeper and symbolic meaning over the literal meaning.

F.       The Antiochene School studies the OT in grammatical and historical fashion, stressing the literal sense as essential.

1.       This school distinguishes PaulŐs allegorizing from that of the Alexandrians because Paul never denied the actual historicity of the OT reality referred to.

2.       Antioch, as in Theodore of Mopsuestia, would rather question the canonicity of an OT book than allegorize it.

3.       People in this tradition: Diodorus of Tarsus, Theophilus of Antoch,Jerome, John Chrysostom, Nestorius

G.      AugustineŐs position of primacy of the literal sense with moderate allegorizing becomes the Roman Catholic position of the Middle Ages.

1.       At first AmbroseŐs allegorizing of the OT allowed Augustine to break with ManicheanŐs dualism between OT and NT.  But he grew more and more appreciative of the literal sense as primary.

2.       Two principles guide the Roman Catholic church of the Middle Ages: both OT and NT need to be interpreted according to all ether scripture and according to the apostolic tradition as guarded and proclaimed in Rome.

3.       Scripture has four senses:  the literal (Jerusalem in Palestine), the allegorical (Jerusalem as the Church), the moral or topological (Jerusalem as the soul), the anagogical or eschatological (Jerusalem as heaven). Of these four, the literal is primary, basic, and essential (as presented in Thomas Aquinas).

4.       By this growing emphasis on the literal sense, exegesis becomes more Bible centered and less attached to contemporary thought patterns.  This separates theology from exegesis of the Bible to wed itself to philosophy (Scholasticism).

H.      In the Reformation, both OT and NT are interpreted by a Holy Spirit enlightened reason according to the historical, grammatical, and literal sense.

1.       According to Luther (more subjective view), a personŐs reason is enlightened to see Christ in both OT and NT by the Holy Spirit.

2.       According to Calvin (objective view), the Holy Spirit does not rely on human reason, but faith is given when a person is enabled to accept GodŐs infallible Word by GodŐs grace.

I.        Sixteenth and seventeenth century orthodoxy followed more and more CalvinŐs model, until rationalism began to undercut first the OT and then the NT.

1.       Thomas Hobbes sees Bible as a record of revelation, rather than revelation itself.

2.       B. Spinoza proposes that biblical revelation does not add anything that is not already available to the philosopher. Only the uneducated need the literal sense of OT and NT.

J.        Nineteenth century critics either relegate the OT to a non-Christian heathen status (Schleiermacher), or see it as a natural step in the historical evolution of ethical monotheism.

K.      The twentieth century is witnessing a tremendous variety of approaches to the OT.


For an excellent survey of modern approaches to the relationship of OT and NT, see D. L. BakerŐs Two Testaments; One Bible (IVP, 1976).


A.      The OT is GodŐs Word; the NT just interprets it or enhances it.

1.       This position of some Dutch Reformers is explained in BakerŐs book referred to above.

2.       Many sects base their beliefs directly and independently of the NT on the OT: Seventh-Day Adventists on the Sabbath, Mormons on polygamy, H. W. Armstrong on America as the remnant of Israel, and the JehovahŐ Witnesses on GodŐs name, Christmas trees (Jer. 10:3-4), blood transfusions.

3.       Dispensationalism makes much of the Christian age and the gospel of the cross and GodŐs grace a mysterious parenthesis in GodŐs ongoing dealings with a reluctant Israel.

B.      The NT completely eliminates any need for the OT.

1.       This position starts with Marcion, emerges in Schleiermacher, and continues in Bultmann and others.

2.       The Restoration Movement in stressing the restoration of the unity and authority of the NT church, has on a popular level been misunderstood to have no need for the OT.  But, as we shall see in conclusion, many themes of the NT are incomprehensible apart from the OT.

3.       Note the initial tension of PaulŐs appreciation of the OT (2 Tim.3:16-17) and need to reinterpret it (as he does with Deut. 30:11-14 in Rom. 10:5-10, and with Deut. 25:4 in 1 Cor. 9:8-10).

C.      The OT in some way supports and builds up the NT.  See my following proposal.


A.      If we realize that the two ŇtestamentsÓ (better ŇcovenantsÓ) really stand for two covenants (diatheke), we can learn much about how the books relate, from how the covenants relate. Just as between the covenants of OT and NT, so between the two sets of writings there is an essential CONTINUITY.

1.       Note how love and law relate in Mt. 22:40 and Rom. 13:8-10.

2.       Note the gospel in Hos. 6:6; Micah 6:6-8.

3.       Note faith at work in OT: Hab. 2:4 (Rom. 1:17).

B.      The OT for Christians is subordinate to the NT.

1.       The law serves to prepare the way for Christ (Gal. 3:23ff) .

2.       Like the law, the OT serves to stop all boasting, to make all guilty before God, and to make sin appear even more sinful (Rom. 3:19; 7:7,13).

3.       The author of Hebrews and the gospel of Matthew especially show the inferiority of IsraelŐs institutions to Christ.

C.      The OT is fulfilled in the NT.

1.       Read, for instance, Heb. 1:1-3; 7:11-19; 8:4-7; 8:13; 9:15-17; 10:1, 5-10 (Jer. 31 in 16-18); 11:1 (law is shadow; faith is substance); ch. 11:  all OT looks to NT for fulfillment!


1.       The OT provides the historical and cultural background to the NT.

2.       By presenting a theistic worldview, the OT provides the philosophical background to the NT. There is a strong continuity in the view of God, cosmos, man, life, death, ethics, and history.

3.       The OT, both in Hebrew and LXX, provides the linguistic background for the NT.

4.       There is a theological continuity in that God uses both to reveal Himself.

5.       There is a homiletical tie, as the NT uses the OT in prophecy, type, allegory, and illustration.

6.       There is an ethical tie as law spells out love and love makes the behavior law legislates possible.

7.       Both share the same eschatology and teleology of judgment and reward.



James D Strauss