I can never forget noticing in school that my brother was carrying a New Testament in his back pocket. I thought, “What is a New Testament?” Then I thought, “Maybe it’s the Old Testament revised… like a second edition or something.” Later, I found out that some fellow Jews felt we shouldn’t read it. I also realized that some felt a little more secure if they stayed close to something that had been around a little longer: i.e., the Old Testament has been around for 3,500 years, but the New Testament for only 2,000 years. Then there are others who may think the New Testament is a book for Christians, and the Old Testament, or the Hebrew part of the Bible, is for us Jews. I would like to address some of these thoughts, fears, and concepts in this short reading.
You may be very surprised to realize that the old and new testaments actually complement each other and go together as one perfect and complete book. If you are missing half of a particular book, how can you understand its full meaning? This point certainly applies to God’s speaking in His Word, the Bible.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The Bible demonstrates this principle magnificently. It is hard for us to understand abstract, spiritual truths. So when God inspired the Scriptures, He designed the first 39 books (written in the Hebrew language and sometimes known as the Old Testament) to be books of “illustrations, types, and symbols.” All these types and figures point to one person—Christ! All the people such as Isaac, Jacob, Moses, King David, and Solomon are truly part of our (Jewish) history, yet they each reveal and express a particular aspect of Christ. Although there are many aspects, we will look at one example.
Isaac — A Type of Christ
An example of a “type” of Christ is Isaac, the beloved son of Abraham. When going to Mount Moriah to be offered as a burnt offering, Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice on his back. In so doing, he is a type of Christ. This type was fulfilled when Jesus carried the wooden cross on His back and walked to the place of His crucifixion. Jesus was crucified on Mount Moriah, the very mountain where Abraham offered up Isaac to God. Also, Isaac was in essence “given back” to his father, Abraham, after the Angel of Jehovah intervened and prevented Abraham from slaying his son. This type was fulfilled when Christ resurrected from the dead and ascended to His Father (see Genesis 22:10-12; Hebrews 11:19).
Through this picture we can see Isaac as the type, and Christ as the fulfillment of the type. Each was his father’s beloved son (see Genesis 22:2; Matthew 3:16). Each took his father’s will as his own, each was obedient unto death (see Genesis 22:9-10; Luke 22:42), and neither opened up his mouth in protest (see Genesis 22:9-10; Acts 8:32; Isaiah 53:7-8). Moreover, Abraham received Isaac back just as Christ was received back by His Father (see Genesis 22:12; Philippians 2:9). In both cases we observe a substitute: a ram in place of Isaac, and Christ in place of us (see Genesis 22:13; Isaiah 53:6-7). Although we all deserve to die for our sins, Christ in His love took our place (see 1 Peter 3:18).
This is one of many tangible examples that are recorded in the Scriptures. These people and events, however, are much more than historical personalities and stories—they are figures and illustrations (i.e., types) that carry spiritual significance. The significance of these types is particularly defined in the second half of the Bible, the New Testament. While the first half, the Hebrew part of the Bible, presents allegories concerning many spiritual matters, the second half, the New Testament, contains what we could call the “captions” that accompany these allegorical pictures. In the New Testament, the types contained in the Hebrew part of the Bible (i.e., the Old Testament) are defined and explained. It has even been said that the New Testament is concealed in the Old Testament and that the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament. Thus, the New Testament fulfills what was symbolized in the Hebrew portion of the Scriptures.
At this point, we can address a misconception. Some among us who are Jewish still believe that the New Testament is a religious deviation made by first-century Jewish believers in Christ. This, however, is a religious concept held by men and is not according to the living Word of God. How do we know this? We know this by examining the Hebrew Bible itself. Around 600 B.C. the prophet Jeremiah foretold a new covenant, or testament, which was yet to come:
Indeed, days are coming, declares Jehovah, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by their hand to bring them out from the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was their Husband, declares Jehovah. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares Jehovah: I will put My law in their inward parts and write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. And they will no longer teach, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for all of them will know Me, from the little one among them even to the great one among them, declares Jehovah, for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34, emphasis added).
Far from being a deviation from the Scriptures, the New Testament is part of the Scriptures! Moreover, did you realize that Jewish writers wrote almost all 27 books of the New Testament? Only two books were written by a gentile, Luke, a physician. Since it is a fact that the New Testament was written by Jews, don’t you think you should read it and find out what it says?
Finally, I would like to share a true story, concerning a Holocaust survivor who fought in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The man’s name was Zvi, and he came to know Christ as his Messiah. A few years later, Zvi spoke to a rabbi who was scheduled to preside at his wedding. Zvi mentioned to him that he believed that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and that this fact was clear in the Bible that he had been reading for some time since arriving in Israel from Europe. Zvi spoke from the Bible. However, the rabbi said, “I don’t have a Bible, but I could tell you what the Gemara says about what you believe.” Then Zvi said something very strong yet truthful to the rabbi.
“There is little difference between what you are saying and what a Catholic would tell me.” “Catholic!!” the rabbi thundered. “How could you say this?”
Zvi said, “Catholics are forever quoting traditions, interpretations and popes—in other words, they believe that what the (Catholic) church teaches is more important than what the Bible says. So, you can tell me about what the rabbis say, and you believe that what they say is more valid than what I can find in the Bible. I believe in going to the best source first and finding the answers there–the Bible.”
Yes, amen, the best source is the Bible itself, and the answers are really there. This last statement is so true. There is a saying that if the blind lead the blind, they both fall into a ditch. Don’t entrust your eternity and eternal salvation to the opinions and commentary of others. Rather, go to God’s Word, the Bible. Find out the truth for yourself. Ask God to show you the truth… and He will!
I would like to quote the first verse of the New Testament for you.
“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1)
Maybe you would like to know more about how the following are clearly fulfilled in Christ, The Messiah: Joseph, the prophet Jonah, the kings–David and Solomon, Yom Kippur, the Passover, Succoth, Purim, Hanukah, and the Temple (the House of God) with the sacrifices. If so, please write to us and let us know which of these you would like to understand more clearly.
The passage from Jeremiah is excerpted from Holy Bible Recovery Version, published by Living Stream Ministry. The portion related to Zvi is based on Zvi, by Elwood McQuaid, p. 187 (The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1978).