Connecting the Old and New Testaments

In my last article, “Are All Bibles the Same?”, I began to talk about connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament. We need one to understand the other. Here, I think of the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who, unknowingly, encounter Jesus (Luke 24:13-35). The disciples did not understand the Crucifixion and empty tomb. Thus, in Luke 24:27, Jesus, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.” Here, the “scriptures” would have been solely the Old Testament.

Here I think of the four suffering servant passages in the Book of Isaiah that I mentioned last time, (Isaiah 42:1–4, 49:1–750:4–1152:13–53:12). As Christians, we see these passages fulfilled in Jesus’ Passion. However, Jesus’ Passion are not the only way they are applied. Think of it this way, Isaiah was a prophet. For the people to know this, they would need to see at least some of what he prophesied fulfilled in some way. If they never saw anything Isaiah said fulfilled, they would not believe him. Jesus would not come until over 600 years later. Biblical scholars say that in some way this suffering servant passages began to be fulfilled in the suffering enduring by the Israelites as a nation and/or by Isaiah himself. Yes, Jesus fulfilled these prophecies but they were not without meaning before He came.

There are numerous stories in the Old Testament that have great significance of their own but also prefiguring Jesus. Here I think of the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18). God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham is willing to do it. Isaac himself carries the wood for the sacrifice (22:6) just as Jesus will carry the Cross when He sacrifices his life for us. When Isaac asks in verse 7 where the sheep for the sacrifice is, Abraham replies in verse 8, “God will provide the sheep.” God does indeed provide the ram (22:13) that day. Ultimately, God sacrifices his Son Jesus for us.

The story of the Crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), crossing through the waters, represents the Israelites being set free from slavery in Egypt as they head to the Promised Land. This prefigures Baptism where we are set free from sin and enter to eternal life.

In the desert the Israelites find themselves hungry. God provides the manna as bread from heaven (Exodus 16). This prefigures Jesus as the Bread of Life to feed our souls (John 6).

Each of these events had huge significance for the people in the story. The stories are very important for that reason alone. However, they are also very important for us to understand Jesus.

With this is mind, I again include here the quote I used last time from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

“Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself.  Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament.  As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New ” (129).

I offer one last connection between what happens in the Old Testament and the New Testament. In Genesis 3, we hear the story of the first sin, the original sin. Adam disobeyed God and was expelled from the God. In Philippians 2:5-11, Jesus obeyed God and was exalted. Adam sought to become like God. Jesus humbled himself to become one like us. Adam brought sin into the world. Jesus brought life.

These are just some of the connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament. I hope I have helped you understand that the Old Testament is of great value by itself but that it also helps us understand Jesus. Thus, we read from both the Old Testament and New Testament at Mass.


Fr. Jeff

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