The New Testament Interprets the Old Testament

By Jeff Klick

This is the second in a series from an essay I wrote for a seminary class called Hermeneutics, which outlines the four basic "norms" of Biblical interpretation.

We who live in the New Testament era are most blessed. We have more at our disposal than any person listed in the Bible. We have a complete Bible. Paul didn't. Peter didn't. Jesus didn't. No Old Testament man or woman of God had the whole Book. Not Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah, or Ezra. Not until the New Testament was canonized did we have the whole, written, revelation of God. Paul, Peter, Jesus all used the Greek Old Testament to preach. They did a wonderful job with what they had, but we have the final, complete revelation!

This does present a significant problem. How do we handle the Old Testament in light of the New Testament? This basic norm of Hermeneutics gives insight on how to interpret the Old Testament.

First, we must understand that the New Testament interprets the Old, not the other way around. We never interpret the New in light of the Old. The Old Testament was fulfilled in Jesus. The Old Covenant (Testament) was fading away and incomplete and needed to be updated -Hebrews 7:18, and 8:7. It was not in error, or false in any way, but incomplete. The entire Old Testament is true and the Word of God. However, it is not the final revelation or complete revelation of God. This takes place in the Man, Jesus, and ultimately in the New Testament. The Old Testament is the New Testament in infant form. Or to say it another way, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." (Hebrews 1:1-2) The complete revelation of God is in Jesus.

When we read the Old Testament we must look for Jesus. Any doctrine or insights we see in the Old, must be filtered through the New. Jesus did this in His teachings. Jesus would say "You have heard it said," or "It is written," then He would say "But I say to you..." Jesus was updating the revelation of God in the Old Testament. This is called progressive revelation. The revelation in theOld Testament was limited and incomplete. Jesus came to fulfill that revelation and to give us the complete revelation of God. Jesus the Living Word, gives complete understanding to the written Word.

The Old Testament was not abolished, but fulfilled in Christ. Therefore, when we read the Old we must look at it through the New. To make doctrine solely on the Old is incomplete and in error. This "norm" of hermeneutics is critical for our understanding of the written Word of Cod. Many strange and misguided teachings have evolved from trying to live under the Old Testament without first filtering the teaching through the New Testament. Doctrines about marriage, dietary regulations, governmental issues, worship in the church based on temple worship, prophets, and a host of others, are examples of problems with transporting the Old into the New

When we approach the Old Testament it must be through the fuller, deeper revelation of the New Testament. God used to appear to man through angels, in a cloud, or dreams. Now, He has walked among us as a man, Jesus Christ. Whereas man used to live for years with no contact of God, now we have the Spirit of Jesus living in us. We are instructed to learn from the Old Testament as an example and to glean what we can of Jesus, but not to live under it's rules and principles. This would be backward revelation, not progressive revelation. Jesus has fulfilled the Old, let's not go back and try to live under the Old again.