Finding Old Testament Allusions in the New Testament: An Introduction

Thank you to those of you who have stayed with me through the Old Testament allusions in the armor of God  (Ephesians 6:10-20) series. I received a couple of questions in how I came to understand the Bible this way. After these questions, I thought it might be most helpful to equip my readers with some introductory tools and steps to reading the Bible the way God divinely inspired it and breathed it out through human authors. Here are 5 ways to begin thinking through and understanding the Bible as Jesus himself meant for us to read it.

1. Read through Luke 24 and try to grasp what Jesus is teaching his followers.

Throughout this blog you will hear a mingling of what is called “Christ in all of Scripture” as well as “Biblical Theology.” Christ in all of Scripture is a way of defining Jesus’ statements in Luke 24 that all of the Bible is about him. That means Genesis to Malachi are not primarily old stories or moral indicatives, but primarily about Jesus. Biblical Theology holds the same conviction but is focused more on showing unfolding themes through the unified storyline and drama of the Scriptures. This means that their are numerous themes that begin in seed form and blossom throughout the Bible (Ex: The Gospel itself is found in seed form in Genesis 3:15 and slowly progresses throughout the Old and New Testament). When starting to understand these two realities, Old Testament allusions start to make much more sense in the New Testament.

2.  Use your cross references.

What initially drew me to look into Old Testament allusions was a slow and open-minded study of the book of Revelation. I had went to a college that interpreted it one way, and a seminary that interpreted it another way. I decided to slowly work through the unique book and look up every cross reference. This changed everything for me. As I found 400+ allusions to the Old Testament, I read all the Old Testament texts (and their contexts), it seemed as if I was given access to the mind of the Apostle John. I would encourage that you start with your daily devotion and look at the cross references each day and find out if there is an Old Testament story or idea that the New Testament writer had in mind, or vice versa.

3.  Become more familiar with the Old Testament.

This is necessary. Sure you can read books (which I will recommend below), but let that be a secondary goal. Read the Old Testament in big chunks. Maybe even consider reading through the whole Old Testament in the next 3-6 months. Then do it again. And again. The more familiar it becomes, the easier you will start to see the Old Testament allusions in the New Testament. Remember, the authors of the New Testament were primarily Jewish men who only had the Old Testament. The Divine author himself used all their knowledge and love of the Old Testament in writing the New Testament.

4.  Be curious and ask questions.

There is nothing wrong with having questions. I would argue that God wants us to be curious and ask lots of questions of the text, even if they seem to be “wrong” questions to ask. When reading this beloved Word of ours, jot down questions. I remember reading 1 Corinthians 10:4 years ago and thinking, “Jeez Paul, aren’t you making that conclusion a little flippantly? How can you say Christ was the Rock in the wilderness if he wasn’t even born yet? How irresponsible of you!” But the truth is, the Divine Author himself was using Paul to make conclusions that would end up in the inspired and inerrant word that is able to make people wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

5.  Read books

There are men and women out there that are plenty smarter than me, and probably you also. God has gifted some people to study in these area at great lengths for the benefit of Christ and his church. Again, books are helpful but please read the Bible as well and let the Spirit of God speak before you enlist the voices of others. With that said, here is a list to scratch the surface of the incredible recourses out there to get you started, some regarding Christ in the Old Testament, some regarding Biblical Theology. If you need or want more resources, comment below and I can add more.

-Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson.

-The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament by Edmund Clowney.

-Anything in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by D.A. Carson.

-Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels by Richard Hays

-Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments by Geerhardus Vos.

-A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New by G.K. Beale.

-How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology.

-Preaching: A Biblical Theology by Jason Meyer.

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