The New Testament quotes the Old Testament about 850 times. This does not include the many places where the New Testament talks about something in the Old Testament without quoting it.
So, it’s very important to know about the Old Testament in order to understand the New Testament.
This summary of the New Testament will look at how each book makes use of the Old Testament. It does not talk about all the main points of each book like the New Testament Survey course will.
It’s important to know that the only Bible the first Christians had was the Old Testament.
Pentecost was in 33 AD. James—the oldest book of the NT—wasn’t written until about ten years later.
Paul wrote his letters to churches between 45 and 67 AD.
Mark wrote the first gospel, based upon oral stories about Jesus, in the sixties.
People started copying and sharing these books with other churches.
The Muratorian Fragment (ca. 190 AD) is the earliest list we have of books which were later put together into the New Testament. It mentions all the New Testament books, except for James and Hebrews.
THE GOSPELS: The four books we call the gospels tell about the birth, life, ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Matthew: Written to Christians from a Jewish background, this gospel talks about Jesus Christ as King. It quotes the Old Testament fifty-five times and says that Scripture was fulfilled twelve times.
Mark: John Mark wrote this gospel especially for Roman gentiles. It talks about Jesus Christ as the Servant of God. When it talks about the Old Testament, those verses are often from the Psalms or Isaiah.
Luke: This gospel shows Jesus Christ as “the Son of Man”, the perfect man who can save people who are not perfect. Luke usually talks abouts the Old Testament, rather than using quotes. He wrote to Jewish and gentile believers about the Holy Spirit, people who didn’t have much money, and the women who traveled with Jesus’s disciples.
John: Starting with the first verse, this gospel shows Jesus is the messiah and God himself. John quoted and mentioned the Old Testament often. He also talked about Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and the Old Testament prophets.
BOOK OF HISTORY: Acts was written close to 63 AD.
Acts: The only history book of the New Testament talks about the role of the Holy Spirit in the beginning of Christianity. It starts with Christ’s return to heaven and ends thirty-three years later with Paul preaching in jail in Rome. Paul talked about Jesus being the Jewish messiah and then preached to gentiles if the Jewish people would not listen to him. Most of the twenty-seven OT quotes are in speeches.
PAUL’S LETTERS: As a man who studied with one of the most important Jewish teachers of his time, Saul wanted to stop Jesus’s followers from saying “Jesus is Lord.” He even put some Christians to death (Acts 22:3–5). In a vision, Jesus called Saul to himself and gave him the job of preaching to gentiles, people he once hated (Acts 9:3–16).
After Jesus changed his name to Paul, he wrote these letters to churches or to people he knew (ca. 48–62 AD). We have his letters in the New Testament according to their length, from the longest to the shortest, not in the order in which Paul wrote them.
Romans: In the first half of this book, Paul said that Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection fulfill the Old Testament Scriptures. The second half talks about how we must live by faith because of what Jesus has done for us. Paul quoted the Old Testament about sixty times, mentioned it more often than he quoted it, and compared the lives of Adam and Abraham with Christ’s life.
1 Corinthians: Paul heard news of people fighting, of idol worship, of poor people being insulted during the Lord’s Supper, of concerns about spiritual gifts, and of sexual immorality in the Corinthian church. He wrote to them about how Israel sinned in many of those areas, and God judged them for it. God will punish people in our churches too, unless they repent.
2 Corinthians: After writing 1 Corinthians, Paul made a hard visit to Corinth and sent an angry letter to the church, which we do not have. This letter talks about how happy he was that the Christians there repented. He wrote about true Christian ministry and the good use of money and our God-given abilities by talking about events in the Old Testament. Paul said that his suffering for the gospel proved he was an apostle.
Galatians: Soon after Paul preached in this part of Turkey, other missionaries taught the new Christians to obey the law of Moses, especially to practice circumcision. The apostle often quoted the Old Testament quotations and made some illustrations to prove that God saves people by their faith. If we expect circumcision to save us, we must keep the entire law, which no one can do.
Ephesians: Paul wrote to gentile believers in Ephesus, a large city where people worshiped the goddess Artemis. He used verses from Genesis, the Psalms, and Isaiah to remind them that Jesus defeated evil spirits and would make everything right. Christians share in Jesus’s victory. Through the Spirit’s power, we can live in harmony, use our spiritual gifts, submit to one another, and protect ourselves from evil spirits.
Philippians: The apostle wrote this letter to thank the church in Philippi for their wonderful gift and to remind Christians to be content while having joy in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. In order to have Christian unity, we must imitate Jesus, who did not insist on using his equality with the Father but came to earth as a slave. Paul quoted Isaiah to say that, someday, everyone on earth will bow before Christ, the greatest of all kings.
Colossians: This letter is much like Ephesians. Paul also said that Christians do not need to practice strict self-denial to get secret knowledge about God. He included a hymn which shows how Christ fulfills every meaning of the first Hebrew word in Gen 1:1.
1 Thessalonians: After Paul preached in Thessalonica for three weeks, he ran to save his life. He wrote this letter to tell the new Christians to live to please God even during times of persecution. Paul also said that that believers who have died will not miss Christ’s return. Instead, those Christians will rise first, followed by those who are still alive.
2 Thessalonians: Someone had sent a letter in Paul’s name. That person said that Christ had already come back to earth, and the Thessalonians missed him. In response, Paul wrote this letter. He named other things which will happen before Jesus comes back. The apostle also showed them what his handwriting looked like, so no one could trick them again.
1 Timothy: Paul had left his best helper in Ephesus, a city where most people worshiped the goddess Artemis. He told Timothy to teach good doctrine to correct false teaching, wrote about how people needed to live to become elders and deacons, and showed him how to identify false teachers who use the church to get rich.
2 Timothy: During his second time in jail in Rome, Paul knew he would die soon. This very personal letter to Timothy, who was like a son to him, warned him to watch for false teaching and to faithfully preach God’s Word.
Titus: Paul wrote this letter to a man preaching on the island of Crete. He talked about how all believers, and especially elders, should live because of what Jesus has done for us.
Philemon: In this letter, Paul wrote to help a slave who ran away from a Christian in Colossae. He asked Philemon to see Onesimus as a new brother in Christ. Paul asked Philemon to free Onesimus from slavery, instead of killing him for running away. Then, he could go back to Rome to help Paul in prison.
GENERAL LETTERS: These were written by people other than Paul.
Hebrews: This book by an unnamed writer helped Christians who were also Jewish to keep their new faith in Christ. It quotes and talks about the Old Testament and describes Old Testament events to explain that Jesus is better than angels, Moses, and even high priests. With the once-for-all-time sacrifice of his own blood he went into the temple in heaven to wash away our sins. So, we must live holy lives. We know that many believers who have lived and died before us are watching and cheering for us.
James: Christ’s half-brother wrote this book to Jewish Christians. It is probably the oldest book of the New Testament. James taught that we show true faith by what we do, not by what we say.
1 Peter: The Apostle Peter wrote this letter to Jewish Christians who were experiencing persecution. All Christians are priests in this world. So, he told them to live such good lives that people who spoke badly about them would repent when Jesus returns. Just as Christ suffered without fighting back, so should they.
2 Peter: Unlike 1 Peter, this letter warns about spiritual attacks coming from within the church through false teachers. It is much like the book of Jude.
1 John: The Apostle John wrote this letter. He quoted often from the gospel he wrote. It fights against a new belief called Gnosticism. According to Gnostics, only spiritual things are good. Everything we can touch, including the human body, is evil. However, even Jesus came in a human body which John heard, saw, and touched. This book also talks about the importance of love among Christians, which tells us that we have eternal life.
2 John: At a time when false teachers and Christian workers went from town to town, the Apostle John wrote not to give false teachers food, money, or a place to stay. He did not want them to help false teaching spread.
3 John: Unlike 2 John, John wrote this letter to tell Christians to help people who preach the gospel and evangelize as they travel from place to place to spread the gospel.
Jude: Another half-brother of Jesus wrote this letter to warn Christians to stay away from false teachers who say that how we live isn’t important. These people say that being saved by grace means that God will not punish our sins. Anyone who decided to sin believing that God will forgive them anyway is not a true Christian. This book shares many ideas with 2 Peter.
BOOK OF PROPHECY: The Roman Empire was beginning to force everyone to worship the emperor as a god by offering a sacrifice of incense in his name. Meanwhile, the
The Roman Empire was beginning to make everyone worship the Roman Emperor as a god. People had to offer a sacrifice of incense in the king’s name, saying “Caesar is Lord.” During that time, the Apostle John had been exiled to the Greek island of Patmos for saying, “Jesus is Lord.” This was the last book written in the New Testament, ca. 95 AD.
Revelation: This book of prophecy uses the OT more than any other NT book. The Apostle John described his vision of Jesus in heaven. He also described the final events of world history, the last judgment, and the heavenly Jerusalem coming down to the renewed earth where God will live forever with his people.
Image via Wikimedia Commons This twelfth century painting shows Jesus speaking with Moses and the prophet Elijah.