The Case for Jesus the Messiah – Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists/Part 22

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©{{{copyright}}}
Did the New Testament writers fairly quote the Hebrew Scriptures?

Editor’s Note: This material was first published in book form in 1989 by the John Ankerberg Evangelistic Association (now known as the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute).

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New Testament Writers

There are some 300 separate, referenced quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament, plus a total of 1,300 additional paraphrases and unreferenced quotations. These 1,600 New Testament citations refer back to some 1,200 different Hebrew passages.[1] Dr. Walter Kaiser has correctly stated, “The frequency with which the New Testament writings appeal to the Hebrew Scriptures must be judged by all to be most impressive…. The impact of the Hebrew Scriptures on the New Testament will always remain a major consideration in coming to terms with the meaning of the New Testament.”[2]

The New Testament writers were so convinced that the Hebrew Scriptures had miraculously and clearly predicted the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ that they preached this at the daily risk of losing their lives. History records they eventually were martyred because of their belief. Is it reasonable to think they would have died for views of the Messiah that were insufficiently supported by the Hebrew Scriptures? No man gives his life for what is not clear. And certainly, no man gives his life for what he knows is a lie. The prophecies had to be clear, persuasive, and true. They had to point to Jesus alone and not to a hundred other men.

Critics of NT Writers

But critics believe the New Testament writers were deceived men who preached a false view of Jesus to the entire world. The critics say the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures were never meant to apply to Jesus.

But it was the prophecies themselves that made a strong impression on the disciples. The disciples never would have thought to fabricate a story of Jesus as the Messiah by twisting the Hebrew Scriptures. “How could such a line of reasoning carry any weight, especially with a hostile Jewish audience that was more than skeptical about the illegitimate use of their Scriptures?”[3]

Kaiser points out, “The New Testament apostles argue[d] that they [were] finding in the [Hebrew Scriptures] precisely what the original writers understood them to say (e.g., Acts 2:29-34).”[4]

Citing Acts 3:19-23, Kaiser argues that

…the apostles were so confident of their equating the person, ministry, and office of Jesus with those [Hebrew prophetic] anticipations that they could, at times, threaten their audiences as Peter did on the porch of the temple…. The apostles betray no evidence that they were under some compulsion to make the details of the life of Christ fit some predetermined schema forced on the [Hebrew Scriptures] by giving [them] a different sense than what [they] originally had and then building their case on the assumption that the original passage had the same sense they had attributed to it.[5]

Willis J. Beecher observes that the historical unity that underlies the New Testament interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures makes it impossible that the New Testament writers had fabricated the picture of Jesus. He concludes that the biblical authors are in a class by themselves and that even the best historians of our own time do not surpass them:

Their interfitting and continuity is proof that they are true to reality; for chance statement would not fit thus, and it is unimaginable that all these writers joined in fabricating a fiction. There are arguments from the character of the biblical men. The loftiness of their point of view is wonderful. If we account for it by their inspiration, we have in it direct proof of the divine authority of the men and of their writings. If we try to account for it otherwise, we have to attribute to them remarkable insight and rare trustworthiness, and we thus put ourselves under obligation to accept their testimony, both in regard to the history they narrate and when they claim divine authority for themselves.[6]

Other scholars have also agreed with Beecher’s conclusion:

The great bulk of the [New Testament] quotations are careful reproductions or translations of the original Scripture. In most instances the historical sense is carefully preserved, and often the source of the quotation is accurately acknowledged even though such reference was not the normal practice at that time.[7]

Careful examination of the evidence (comparing the New Testament passages quoting Hebrew passages) reveals there can be no doubt that the New Testament writers fairly quoted the Hebrew Scriptures.

Read Part 23

Notes

  1. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Uses of the Old Testament in the New (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), pp. 2-3.
  2. Ibid., p. 225.
  3. Ibid., p. 229.
  4. Ibid., p. 230.
  5. Ibid., pp. 21-22.
  6. Beecher, The Prophets and the Promise, pp. 409-410.
  7. In Kaiser, The Uses of the Old Testament in the New, p. 228.

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