First, a presupposition

“Without faith it’s impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) In this study I’m summarizing material from the Gospels and the New Testament, with a presupposition in mind: I believe the New Testament is a reliable document. This is my presupposition, and it is the foundation that makes this study function.

We live in a confusing world. That’s why it’s so important for Bible believing Christians to understand why there are only certain books in their Bibles. Why do you think the table of contents in your Bible reads the way it does? Why do you reject the Apocrypha, and the mysterious new gospels that are being found every other week? (e.g. “The Davinci Code”.)

This study is meant to answer the questions – “What books of the Old Testament did Jesus and the Apostles use?” And therefore– “What books of the Old Testament should we use for quotation and teaching?”

How many OT quotes in the NT?

If you want to lock in a visual image of how many times the New Testament writers quote the Old Testament all you have to do is open your study Bible and look at all the verses that are indented. Usually a good study Bible will reference every quote from the OT (in the center bar, or in the margin). You would think it would only be a matter of literally counting all these passages to determine an exact number.

We can come close to an exact number of how many direct quotes are in the NT: 195. But the NT authors go far beyond announcing an OT Text and then quoting it. A NT writer may allude to an OT text, or even present an idea without mentioning that it came directly from the OT. (1)

This is probably why even the best Bible scholars sometimes differ to the exact number of quotes and allusions to the OT. (Dr. Charles Ryrie counts 250 (2); David Bock about 195 (1); The United Bible Societies first edition of the Greek New Testament notes 401 (1), but this number includes quotes and allusions; and Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology quotes another source as counting 295 (3).)

One thing is for sure; there are hundreds of quotes and allusions and references from the OT in the NT! Sit down with your study Bible and see if you can come up with an exact number.

The NT authors pretty much stuck with quotations from the OT. When I write “pretty much” I mean almost exclusively. They never quote from the Apocrypha. But they do seem to allude to other sources four times: Cleanthes in Acts 17:28; Menander in 1 Cor. 15:33; Epidmenides in Titus 1:12; 1 Enoch in Jude 14, 15. (4) Although NT writers refer to other literature they never call this literature “Scripture”. Of the 51 times the Greek word “graphe” is used, it is used exclusively for the OT, and at least twice for the OT and portions of the NT. (5)  The NT writers quote or allude to every book of the OT except Esther, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. (2)

 Jesus believed in the historicity of the Old Testament.

 He relied heavily on the actual existence of OT people. He believed in a literal Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:3-5, Mark 10:6-8), Noah (Matt. 24:38-39; Luke 17:26-27), and Lot (Matt. 10:15; Luke 17:28, 29).

Charles Ryrie writes:

“He accepted as true the story of Jonah and the great fish (Matt. 12:40) and acknowledged the historicity of Isaiah (12:17), Elijah (17:11-12), Daniel (24:15). Abel (23:35), Zecheriah (23:35), Abiathar (Mark 2:26), David (Matt. 22:45), Moses and his writings (8:4; John 5:46), Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11; John 8:39).”   (Charles Ryrie – Basic Theology, pp.98-99)

Jesus considered every detail of the OT Scriptures indestructible.

Consider Matthew 5:17-18 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

The Jot and Tittle are the smallest parts of letters of the Hebrew language. In essence He is saying every part of the Law and Prophets (OT) will be fulfilled, right down to the smallest details. These details are recorded in language.

Jesus is correcting a misconception some people might have had about Him, given his controversy with the Jewish religious leaders. Some might think He was abolishing (bringing to nothing) the OT. They might have thought He was setting aside and replacing it with something new and contradictory.

He emphatically denies this. He emphasizes the continuing activity and authority of the OT by saying it will not cease until every detail of it (jots and tittles) will be accomplished. He glues together the concepts of the smallest detail of the OT with the smallest detail of the language in which it was recorded. They are in fact inseparable. To diminish God’s inspiration and authority in the details, is to diminish God’s inspiration and authority in producing the letters, and vice versa.

In other words the smallest letters, and thus the smallest details, of the OT Scriptures will not pass away until they are fulfilled. Heaven and earth will pass away first! Think this through. How important did Jesus think the OT was? Is He willing to say some of it is not God-breathed? What minor detail is Jesus willing to say will pass away?

Jesus believed in the inerrancy of the OT.

Consider John 10:31-38 “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.”

You may need to read the passage again slowly. Don’t take lightly Jesus attitude toward the OT when He says “…and the scripture cannot be broken.”  In the context Jesus is defending Himself against Jews who wish to kill Him because of His claim of Deity. He’s quoting from Psalm 82:6, and if you were to read the passage on your own without the context it would appear controversial even to your NT ears. Yet Jesus refers to it as scripture and uses it to pressure them to consider His claims.

Think through His line of reasoning: “Is it not written — about our forefathers — to whom the word of God came, and the scripture can not be broken: “ye are gods?” He’s making His argument on the basis of one word which we translate “gods”. And He is clearly stating His belief in the scriptures as dependable and authoritative. How can Jesus make this statement unless He believes the OT is inerrant?

Jesus relied on the details of OT words to defend His ministry.

Consider Matthew 22:23-33 “The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.  Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.”

Jesus entire argument is based on a verb tense! God says “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  In defending Himself Jesus relies on the details of OT grammar.


Jesus and the apostles reserved the word “Scripture” only for Genesis – Malachi (as ordered in our Bibles.) They quoted or alluded to every book in our Old Testaments except; Esther, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. They never quoted from the Apocrypha. Jesus depended on the accuracy of the Old Testament books – right down to the very verb tenses.  Jesus relied fully on the historicity of the OT. He proclaimed his belief in the inerrancy of the OT when He declared:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”


We should consider only Gen-Malachi to be the authoritative, inspired word of God, as Jesus and the Apostles did. We should not consider the Apocrypha Scripture.

We should rely on the OT in the same way Jesus did – right down to its words and letters.

We should rely on the historicity of the OT just as Jesus did. This implies rejecting an allegorical approach to Old Testament stories such as the flood and the creation.

End Notes

(1) “…in the United Bible Societies’ first edition of the Greek New Testament, the editors note 401 OT quotations or allusions, which they put into bold print. Yet only about half (195) have some type of introduction in the biblical text to indicate that the OT is being cited. Sometimes an author quotes the ancient text, sometimes he alludes to it, and sometimes he presents an OT idea without referring to a particular passage.”   (David Bock – Foundations for Biblical Interpretation pp 97, 98)

(2) “There are some 250 quotes from the Old Testament books in the New Testament. None is from the Apocrypha. (Jude 14 quotes from the noncanonical book of Enoch, but that is classified as the Pseudepigrapha, not Apocrypha.) All Old Testament books are quoted except Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.”  (Charles C. Ryrie – Basic Theology, p 122)

(3) “According to one count, Jesus and the New Testament authors quote various parts of the Old Testament Scriptures as divinely authoritative over 295 times, but not once did they cite any statement from the books of the Apocrypha or any other writings as having divine authority. The absence of any such reference to other literature as divinely authoritative, and the extremely frequent reference to hundreds of places in the Old Testament as divinely authoritative, gives strong confirmation to the fact that the New Testament authors agreed that the established Old Testament canon, no more and no less, was to be taken as God’s very words.”        (Wayne Grudem — Systematic Theology p.57)

(4) “…when literature outside the corpus of what is now recognized to be the Old Testament canon is cited (e.g. Cleanthes in Acts 17:28; Menander in 1 Cor. 15:33; Epidmenides in Titus 1:12; 1 Enoch in Jude 14,15), it is not referred to as Scripture (graphe) or assigned to the Holy Spirit or to God as the ultimate author.”   (D.A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, Leon Morris – An Introduction to the New Testament, p.491)

(5) “The New Testament uses this word “Scripture” fifty-one times and always in reference to some part of the Bible. Sometimes it refers to the entire Old Testament (Luke 24:45; John 10:35); sometimes, to a particular Old Testament passage (Luke 4:21); sometimes (once), to a particular New Testament passage (1 Timothy 5:18); and sometimes (once) to a larger portion of the New Testament (2 Peter 3:16, referring to Paul’s writings).” (Charles Ryrie – Basic Theology p.77)