I like this 1877 painting, “Road to Emmaus,” by the Swiss painter Robert Zund (1827-1909), partly because of the prettiness of the landscape. It’s almost Asian in the smallness of the human figures in contrast to the depiction of nature. The painting also reminds me of a favorite Ohio walking trail, which was grassy and earthen rather than gravel, so I could comfortably hike the trail barefoot. Other artistic renderings include those by Caravaggio and Velázquez.
Since posting these notes in 2013, I’ve written and published a book, Walking with Jesus through the Old Testament: Devotions for Lent (Westminster John Knox Press, 2015). I use over forty passages from the Old Testament and show their connections to Jesus via the New Testament writings’ quotations and allusions.
My idea came from the story of Jesus walking with two fellows on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Verses 25-27 read:
Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures (NRSV).
Thus, in the original version of this 2013 post, I listened many of the Old Testament passages that one can connect to the New Testament:
Connections between the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and the New Testament:
* The Creation and New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17, Rev. 21:1)
* Adam and the Second Adam (Rom. 5:12-21)
* The faith of Abraham, in some important ways the key to the whole Bible (Gen. 12:1-3, Rom. 4, Heb. 11:8-22)
* The manna in the wilderness and the Eucharistic bread (Ex. 16:1-21, John 6:25-40).
* The covenant, the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and the Eucharist (Ex. 24:3-8; Lev. 7:12, 22:29, Ps. 107:22, 116:17, Amos 4:5, Mark 14:22-25 and parallels, 1 Cor. 11:25)
* The healing serpent and the healing of Christ (Num. 21:8-9; John 3:14-15)
* The condemnation in Deuteronomy of a condemned criminal “hanging on a tree” (Deut. 21:22-23; John 19:31, Gal. 3:13)
* The salvation of Noah’s ark (1 Peter 3:20-21)
* The role of Moses (Heb. 3:1-6, 11:23-28)
* Moses’ shining face (Ex. 34:29-35, 1 Cor. 3:12-18)
* The drink offering (Ex. 29:38-41, Lev. 23:12, 13, 18, Phil. 2:12-18, 2 Tim. 4:6-8)
* The priesthood of Aaron (Heb. 7:11-14, 9:1-10:18)
* The “rest” of the Promised Land (Heb. 3:7-4:13)
* The Pascal Lamb (Ex. 12:11; 1 Cor. 5:7)
* The two great commandments (Deut. 6:4-5, Lev. 19:18, Mark 12:28-34, Gal. 5:14).
Connections between the historical books (Joshua through Esther) and the New Testament:
* The great theme of Yahweh’s salvation. The name “Joshua” is in Hebrew the same name as “Jesus,” meaning “Yahweh saves.”
* The theme of the Land. The Land is not spiritualized in the Old Testament the way that it tends to be in the New. In the Old, we speak of the actual land and its possession. Deutero-Isaiah begins to move in a more spiritual direction (Isa. 44:24ff, 49:14ff), and in the New Testament, Jesus himself becomes the “place” where God dwells (John 1:14).
* The theme of the Kingdom of God. The phrase is not used in the Old Testament, but the kingdom of God is the principle theme of Jesus’ preaching and connects with God’s sovereignty through Israel’s history. As Graeme Goldworthy puts it, “While the Old Testament is everywhere eloquent in describing the sovereignty of God in history to work out his purposes, Jesus declares that he is the goal of that sovereign working of God.”
* The theme of a new kind of monarchy under David’s descendant, Jesus. In his person and work, Jesus brings themes like the Lamb of God, the sufferings of David, and the suffering servant of Isaiah into the theme of the king of Israel: thus, when Jesus is killed, the charge against him is “king of the Jews.” But in his suffering and death is victory over sin and death, and the ambiguities of the Israelite monarchy are understood to be resolved.
* The theme of the Temple. The New Testament never explicitly mentions the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, an odd omission considering the conjectural dating of some of the New Testament books to after the year 70. Jesus quotes Jeremiah concerning the Temple, and he himself is understood to be the new temple (John 2:20-22). Paul, in turn, calls each of us “temples of the Holy Spirit” in that God’s presence dwells within us (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
* The realities of post-exilic Judaism provide a more subtle connection. Groups like the Pharisees and Sadducees , as well as the Essenes and Zealots, formed in response to the needs of the people during the post-exilic time, as did institutions like synagogues, Sabbath requirements, and festivals to which Jews—many living in different parts of the world after the exile—came to Jerusalem (e.g., John 11:55 and also Acts 2:5-11).
* Not only is the exile a decisive turning point for the whole Bible—a climax of a long drama but also a new beginning for Jews and later for Christians—scholars hypothesize that the compilations and editing of law codes and historical materials happened as during and after the exile. Thus, the exile and the restoration necessitated the composition of the Bible itself.
Of course, the Jews who became the first Christians were post-exilic Jews who, like other Jews, looked to an even greater restoration of Israel’s fortunes. The Christians saw that restoration and monarchical fulfillment in the Jew Jesus, and they based that hope upon exilic texts like Isaiah 40-66.
* Exilic language flavors many Christian hymns, especially those that refer to our heavenly home to which we live in hope. In childhood Vacation Bible School I learned that peppy song “Do Lord” with its evocation of “Glory Land.” I also learned “Bringing in the Sheaves,” based on the post-exilic Psalm 136 and the struggle of returning exiles to reestablish agriculture.
Connections between the writings (Job through Song of Songs) and the New Testament:
* Proverbs is often quoted or alluded to in the New Testament. Some of the New Testament’s most well known passages allude to (and sometimes directly quote) particular Proverbs. Jesus’ words about the wise man and the foolish man who built their homes on rock and sand echo Proverbs 10:25 and 12:7. Jesus also echoes Proverbs 3:28, 11:4, 11:17, 11:28, 16:19, and 30:8-9 during his Sermon on the Mount. Proverbs 25:21-22 admonishes the wise to take care of one’s enemy rather than retaliate, and the Apostle Paul makes use of the saying in Romans 12:20. Jesus’ maturity (Luke 2:52) echoes Proverbs 3:4 Jesus also alludes to Proverbs 16:1, 18:21, 24:12, 25:6-7, 27:1, 28:24, 29:23 in the course of his teaching (see Matt. 10:19-20, 12:36-37, 16:27, Luke 14:7-11, Luke 12:16-21, Matt. 15:4, 6, Luke 14:11 and 18:14b, respectively).
* The Psalms are also frequently referenced in the New Testament: 2, 22, 34, 69, 78, 89, 110, and 118 especially, but also 33, 35, 39, 50, 102, 105, 106, 107, 116, 119, 135, 145, and 147. Several psalm passages are understood to be fulfilled in, or connected to Jesus (Matt. 13:35 and Ps. 78:3, John 19:24 and Ps. 22:18, John 19:36 and Ps. 34:20, Acts 2:25-35 and Ps. 16:8-11, 132:11, and 110:1).
* We also find connections in Acts 4:11 and Psalm 118:22, Acts 4:25-26 and Psalm 2:1, Hebrews 1:8 and Psalm 45:6-7, Hebrews 1:10 and Psalm 102:25, and notably Hebrews 1:13 and Psalm 110:1.
* The blamelessness and suffering of Job connects to those qualities of Christ. Also, Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, without specifically referencing or alluding to Job, is in harmony with Job’s values and also promises grace to those who suffer.
* A traditional, allegorical interpretation of the Song of Songs is: the song is about God and Israel, and Christ and the church.
Connections between the Prophets (Isaiah-Malachi) and the New Testament
* John the Baptist (Isa. 40:3-5, Mal. 4:5-6, Mark 9:1, Luke 1:17)
* Jesus’ birth (Isa. 7:14, 9:6-7, 11:1-5, Mic. 5:2, Matt. 2:6, Luke 1:30-33.
* Jesus’ authority and teaching (Isa. 6:9-12, 9:1-2, Matt. 4:14-16, 13:14-15)
* Jesus the shepherd (Ps. 23, Ez. 34:11-16, John 10:7-11)
* Jesus’ ministry (Isa. 32:3-4, 35:5-6, 33:22, 42:1-4, 61:1-2, Matt. 9:32-35, 12:17-21, Luke 4:17-21)
* Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Zech. 9:9, Matt. 21:4-5)
* Jesus’ sufferings, betrayal, and death (Isa. 52:13-53:12, Zech. 11:12-13, 12:10, 13:7, in addition to Ps. 22, 69, and others)
* Jesus’ resurrection (Ez. 37:1-14, Jonah 1:17, Matt. 12:40, and among the psalms Ps. 16:10 and Ps. 110:1)
* The New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34, Matt. 26:26-29, Rom. 11:26-36, Heb. 8:8-12)
* The Temple in relationship to Jesus (Isa. 56:7, Jer. 7:1, Mark 11:15-18, John 2:13-23, Acts 7:47-51)
* “The righteous shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17)
* The Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-29, Acts 2:16-21)
* The redemption of all nations (Isa. 2:1-4, 1 Peter 2:10)
* Related to the redemption of the nations, is the metaphor of marriage between God and his people (e.g., Hos. 1-3, Rom. 9:25-26, 1 Pet. 2:10, Eph. 5:25, 32, Rev. 19:7, 21:2, 9)(64)
* Many New Testament images of the end times come from the Old Testament: e.g., Daniel 7:1-12:13, much of the book of Zechariah, Ez. 38-39, etc. In fact, in another page on this site, I note that no other New Testament book quotes or alludes to the Old Testament as often as the Book of Revelation.
* The prophetic approach to the covenant becomes a key for Paul as he preaches about Jesus and the law. For Jews today, the prophetic criticism of faithlessness remains a call for contemporary faithfulness, as I said above; the prophet’s stress upon justice and suitable worship are as timely a Word of God today as in the ancient world. Paul understands faithless as a more basic flaw in both human nature and the law; we cannot keep the law faithfully, and thus we need Christ (Rom. 3:21-26). A passage such as Jeremiah 7:21-26 points to the need for new beginnings (Jer. 31:31-34).
* The prophet’s concerns for the poor and for justice are not as apparently strong in the New Testament but are certainly there. (See my post on this site concerning the needy.) In both the Torah and the prophets, God is a God of justice. (The Greek word dikaiosunê, corresponding to tzedakah, means “righteousness” and “justice.”) God takes the side of the poor, downtrodden, and powerless. Luke’s gospel and Matthew 25:31-46 very much echo God’s care for the needy. You could also think this way: in the Old Testament, God demands justice for the poor, outcast, and powerless. In the New Testament, God demands justice for the poor and powerless (see, for instance, Luke’s gospel) also takes the side of those who are spiritually impoverished, the Gentiles, bringing them into the circle of blessing.
* Although Christians are quick to stress that Jesus is “more than a prophet,” he was frequently understood to be a prophet (Matt. 21:11, Mark 6:15, 8:28, Luke 7:16, 24:19, John 4:19, 6:14, et al.) and possessed the Spirit in a way that people considered prophetic (Matt. 12:28, Mark 3:28-29, Luke 4:18-20, et al).