Paul’s Use of Old Testament Scripture


Paul, Old Testament, Scripture, New Testament


Throughout the New Testament, Jesus, Paul, and others often quoted from Old Testament scripture in their sermons and letters. In fact, quoting from and dialoging with scripture was a significant background source for the writing and compilation of the New Testament. The LDS Bible Dictionary, for example, lists some 342 instances of quotations from the Old Testament found in the New Testament.[1] The most oft-quoted Old Testament books in the New Testament were Deuteronomy (35 instances), Psalms (95), and Isaiah (75).[2] Some instances of quoting existing scriptures were to reinterpret their meaning in a new higher-law setting. One of the most recognizable examples of this technique is from the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus repeatedly stated: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, . . . [quotation of scripture or tradition], but I say unto you, . . .[reinterpretation or giving the higher law]” (for example, see Matthew 5:21–22, 27–28, 33–34, 38–39, 43–44). In other cases as in Paul’s writings, earlier scripture was allegorized to give it an entirely new meaning in a Christian context (see Galatians 4:22–31). Yet another use of quoted scripture was to demonstrate the fulfillment of earlier prophecy. The Apostle Matthew was particularly adept at this strategy in his efforts to convince his readers that their awaited Messiah had arrived (see Matthew 1:22–23; 2:17–18, 23; 27:9). What becomes clear from these varied techniques for using scripture is that the earlier Old Testament scriptures were an important resource from which to draw upon in the creation of what would become new or additional scripture, the New Testament. It also becomes evident that these scriptures were read, recited, and known well enough by the listeners and readers to use as support and authority for their teachings.

Original Publication Citation

“Paul’s Use of Old Testament Scripture.” In How the New Testament Came to Be. Ed. Kent P. Jackson and Frank F. Judd, Jr. 35th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium; Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University and Deseret Book, 2006; 227-242.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Religious Studies Center




Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor