How the New Testament Came to Be: The Thirty-fifth Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, ed. Kent P. Jackson and Frank F. Judd Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006), 227–242.
Paul’s Use of Old Testament Scripture
Jared W. Ludlow
Jared W. Ludlow was an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University when this was published.
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.  The most oft-quoted Old Testament books in the New Testament were Deuteronomy (35 instances), Psalms (95), and Isaiah (75).  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.
But what constituted scripture to the early Christians, and what authority did it hold? How and in what languages were these scriptures recorded and transmitted to the people? How widespread were literacy and education during the New Testament period? Were scriptures primarily read or recited orally? These are a few of the questions that will frame the discussion in this chapter. First, I will give an overview of how and in what languages Old Testament scriptures were transmitted to the early Christians. Then I will focus on Paul’s use of the Old Testament among his New Testament writings. For Paul and other New Testament writers, the Old Testament was a prime source of material to draw from that gave authority to their teachings as they dialogued with fellow Jews and Christians about the gospel.
Ancient Hebrew was strongly influenced by early Canaanite and Phoenician languages. One of the most significant improvements that simplified these languages was the development of the alphabet. Rather than relying on hundreds or thousands of symbols and characters, as had been the case in ancient Babylon and Egypt, writing could be reduced to the use of a few dozen letters representing sounds. Because of this development, literacy expanded in the region, which naturally affected the formation, transmission, and reception of biblical traditions. Based on the more frequent references to reading and writing in both biblical and other written sources, we can conclude that literacy spread beyond a scribal and socioeconomic elite during the latter part of the first millennium BC.  However, some studies show that in the Greco-Roman period, only a small percentage of the population could read and write. 
The political history of the kingdom of Judah also affected its linguistic development. Starting with the Assyrians, but continuing with the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, the inhabitants of ancient Judah usually found themselves under the domination of outsiders. One result of this domination was the adoption of the occupiers’ language. The Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian dominions in the eighth–fourth centuries BC spread Aramaic throughout the region and had lasting effects in Judah as Aramaic became the common spoken language of the people (until Arabic replaced it with the rise of Islam in the seventh century AD). Portions of the Old Testament were written in Aramaic (parts of Ezra and Daniel), several Aramaic words show up in the New Testament (Golgotha; Talitha cumi; Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani), and many of the personal names in the New Testament use the Aramaic word for “son,” bar, rather than the Hebrew ben (Barabbas, Bartholomew, Simon Bar-Jona).
When the Macedonians conquered Judah following Alexander’s military exploits in the region, Greek became another dominant language, especially as an instrument of education. Along with the language came a flood of Greek thought and influence. This Greek influence is commonly called Hellenism (from Hellas, the Greek word for “Greece”). Although it predated Alexander, Hellenism increased in Judah following his conquest and was prevalent among Jews who lived outside of Judea in the eastern Mediterranean. In fact, Greek became so dominant among these diasporic Jews that a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek was required. The translation of the Septuagint (commonly abbreviated LXX) was thus accomplished, and it became the Bible of Hellenized Jewish communities and most early Christians. It included several books of original Greek composition and translations of Hebrew or Aramaic originals that were not found in the Hebrew Bible. These additional books are known today as the Apocrypha. Although they are not accepted as canonical by many modern Christians, they were probably considered authoritative by early Christians. 
When Rome took over the former Hellenistic empires, Latin, alongside Greek, came to be found in the eastern Roman Empire. However, Latin never had the same influence that Greek had over the Jews or earliest Christians. The Latin preserved in the New Testament primarily deals with administrative matters, such as coins, military offices, and the charge against Jesus written above His cross (see John 19:20; also written in Hebrew and Greek). It was not until a few centuries later, especially after Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, that Latin became dominant within the Christian Church in the West, and the Latin translation of the Bible (Vulgate) became the authoritative text for many Christians.
Today most individual members of the Church have their own copies of the scriptures. But how common was that at the time of the New Testament? Since printing had not been developed by this time, the only means of reproducing texts of scripture was through hand copying. Hand copying required significant resources of materials and labor; hence few individuals had personal copies of scriptural texts in their homes. Most early Christians heard the scriptures at public assemblies, particularly in the synagogue or earliest church houses.  In fact, most of the reading in the ancient world was done aloud, even individually, so it would have appeared strange to see someone looking at a text but not saying anything. 
Because of the lack of printing, it would have also been extremely rare to have extensive collections of all the scriptural texts available. Most of the earliest New Testament writings, for example, existed as copies of letters that had been sent by Apostles to be read in various congregations. The extent of a text’s distribution would simply depend on whether a particular area found access to one of these texts and then copied it.  Copies of Old Testament texts were available, but again, congregations had to gather and copy these texts in order to make them available for public reading. We do find several references in the New Testament to Jewish sacred books described as “scriptures” or “holy scriptures,” but no identification of these texts is given (see Matthew 22:29; John 5:39; Romans 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:15).
A primary use of the Old Testament texts by the earliest Christians was to highlight the fulfillment of the awaited Messiah’s coming. According to one scholar, “they had learned from the Old Testament something of the ways of God in redeeming His people, and the promises bound up in the prophets concerning the Coming One who should deliver His people. In Jesus the first Christians had found the reality to which the Old Testament shadows led on. They found themselves living in the age of fulfilment, and looked back to the earlier centuries as those of promise.”  In so doing, they saw continuity with the covenant people of this ancient record, yet since the Messiah had now arrived, they also saw the need for new scripture to clarify, amplify, and reinterpret.
By examining how Paul used the Old Testament in his teaching and writing, we can likewise see that he highlighted the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and expectations. But Paul’s use of the Old Testament went beyond simply showing fulfillment; he selected phrases from many contexts to weave into his teachings and lend support to his ideas. Sometimes these quotations were woven seamlessly into the text so that only one very familiar with the Old Testament would have recognized the allusion. More often, however, Paul directly relied on the authority of a prophet, or simply “scripture” itself, by identifying the source of his quotation. Since Paul came from a strongly Jewish-educated background, his knowledge and use of the Old Testament were particularly extensive. One can identify Paul’s use of the Old Testament in at least nine different categories: election, faith and works, ministry/Paul’s defense, ethical teachings, separation from sin, resurrection, wisdom, collection for the poor, and the gift of tongues. By looking at his use of the Old Testament in these different categories, we can gain a clearer picture of the different purposes for which Paul quoted from the Old Testament. 
In many settings, Paul addressed the issue of God’s election of a people through covenant. More specifically, he believed that the followers of Christ were now the elect people of God. Paul did not reject the Jews; in fact, he strongly wished for their acceptance of Jesus. But he nevertheless believed they must profess faith in Jesus in order to be among the elect. In order to show God’s choice of the Christians as the elect people of God, Paul cited at least twenty-eight Old Testament passages, mostly within his letter to the Romans. The book of Romans was written as a letter of introduction to a congregation Paul was planning to meet for the first time. Unlike Paul’s other epistles that addressed random issues, Romans is the closest thing to a summary of Paul’s theology. Perhaps because of its context as a carefully crafted defense of his teachings, Paul relied heavily on the Old Testament to support his viewpoints.
As Paul began his debate about election in Romans 9, he used five pairs of scriptures—each pair, except one, from the same Old Testament book—to present his argument. The Old Testament passages were randomly “cut and pasted” from within these books rather than copied as sequential verses. Romans 9 became a mosaic of Old Testament thought that highlights figures and events of the Old Testament as examples and specifically mentions teachings by the prophets Moses, Hosea, and Isaiah. Most of these passages show that God would elect whom He chose, not always who might be perceived as the right choice. Although the firstborn was traditionally seen as the rightful heir, this pattern was frequently suspended in the Old Testament examples Paul cited. Becoming a child of promise or covenant was more important than being an heir after the flesh.
First, Paul gave the example of Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, to show that even though Ishmael was chronologically the firstborn, the blessings went to Isaac because of a promise made to Sarah (see Romans 9:7, 9; Genesis 21:12; 18:14). This allegory was carried further in Galatians when Paul talked about these two sons being born of different mothers—Hagar, representing Mount Sinai and the law given there, and Sarah, the mother of us all, representing Jerusalem and freedom (see Galatians 4:27, 30; Isaiah 54:1; Genesis 21:10). In a similar manner, Rebecca was told that Jacob would be elected over his elder brother Esau (see Romans 9:12–13; Genesis 25:23; Malachi 1:2–3). Thus, God will choose whom He will choose (see Romans 9:15, 17; Exodus 33:19; 9:16). He will even call the Gentiles His people (see Romans 9:25–26; Hosea 2:23; 1:10). But He will save a remnant from among Israel that will be accepted with the elect if they have faith in Christ (see Romans 9:27, 29; Isaiah 10:22–23; 1:9).
Faith and Works
Another major issue that Paul addressed, and consequently used some twenty-three Old Testament excerpts to prove, was the question of salvation through faith in Christ or through the works of the law. This argument and the accompanying quotations are found in Romans and Galatians. Particularly in Galatians, Paul seems to be directing his use of the Old Testament towards the Judaizers, who believed that early Christians should still continue to practice the law of Moses, specifically circumcision. Paul tried to show that individuals such as Abraham received promises and blessings from covenants with God even before the law of Moses was given. Therefore, Christians could receive promises and blessings through faith in Christ and covenants with God without practicing the law of Moses. Abraham was the great exemplar of receiving promises and blessings to himself and his seed as a result of faith in God, not works of the law (see Galatians 3:6, 8; 16; Genesis 15:6; 12:3, 7; compare Romans 4:3, 9, 22; and Genesis 15:6 [three times]; also Romans 4:17–18; Genesis 17:5; 15:5). Paul also wrote about how those people who were of the works of the law were under the curse (see Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:26) and were only justified through faith (see Galatians 3:11–12; see also Romans 1:17; 10:5;
Habakkuk 2:4; Leviticus 18:5). Paul next introduced an ironic argument that Christ became a “curse” in order to redeem from “the curse of the law” (see Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:23).
The argument about faith in Christ versus works of the law in Romans brings out a few additional points. First, the spirit of the law is more essential than the letter of the law. If one has the law, one must faithfully observe it; and although sin comes from knowledge of law, God’s righteousness by faith on Christ will justify (see Romans 2:24; 3:4, 10–18; 7:7; Isaiah 52:5; Psalm 50:6; 13:1–3; Exodus 20:17). Paul also stated that God will credit righteousness without works (see Romans 4:7–8; Psalm 31:1–2). Paul, then, compared the works of law to a stumblingstone because the Jews did the works of the law rather than accept Christ (see Romans 9:33; 10:11; Isaiah 28:16 [two times]). Finally, he gave a small explanatory section wherein he quoted an Old Testament phrase then gave its meaning as it applied to Christ and the righteousness which came from faith (see Romans 10:6–8; Deuteronomy 9:4; 30:12–14).
Another area in which Paul applied Old Testament scripture was in defense of his preaching of the gospel of Christ and of his calling as an Apostle. Since Paul had not been among the original disciples during Jesus’ mortal ministry, opponents questioned the source of his authority and particularly his use of the title “Apostle.” Although Paul’s ultimate argument for his authority derived from his experience with the resurrected Savior near Damascus, he also used the Old Testament to explain the need for sharing the gospel and specifically to clarify his role within that ministry. These passages, about twelve in total, deal with the ministry of the gospel to those who have not accepted it and are found in both letters to the Corinthians and in Romans. In many aspects, these passages can be related to other topics covered elsewhere in this chapter because they show how preaching the gospel will lead one to faith, election, and true wisdom.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul stated that the Saints preach the gospel of Christ crucified, which is foolishness to the unbelievers but the power of God to those being saved. Thus, the wisdom of the world would be frustrated through their preaching (see 1 Corinthians 1:19; Isaiah 29:14). But though their word had great power, the teacher should not boast of himself (see 1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17; Jeremiah 9:23 [two times]). Paul also used an Old Testament citation while stating that he did not receive temporal support from his preaching but sought only spiritual blessings (see 1 Corinthians 9:9; Deuteronomy 25:4).
In 2 Corinthians, Paul utilized a Psalm to present the motivation for preaching: having believed, they must now speak (see 2 Corinthians 4:13; Psalm 116:10). Also, as ministers of God, they preached that now was the time to accept the day of salvation (see 2 Corinthians 6:2; Isaiah 49:8). He closed his argument against those who believed he did not have the power of Christ by stating that two or three witnesses (visits or letters to Corinth) would prove his calling (see 2 Corinthians 13:1; Deuteronomy 19:15).
Within Romans, Paul addressed the tribulations that would come upon those within the ministry who believed in Christ, but he promised that eventually they would conquer all (see Romans 8:36; Psalm 44:22). He also discussed the necessity of preaching the gospel so that others could hear of Christ, accept Him, and be saved by their faith on Him (see Romans 10:15, 16, 18; Isaiah 52:7, 15; 53:1; Psalm 19:4).
Paul employed eight Old Testament citations dealing with various ethical teachings, mostly in a section on Christian ethics in Romans 12–14, perhaps to show that although the law of Moses was fulfilled through Christ, basic ethical rules or laws found in Old Testament scripture were still required. One rule he gave, within the context of a discussion on the validity of the law, was the need to love another as oneself and to please and edify others just as Christ sought to help others, not please oneself (see Galatians 5:14; Romans 13:9; 15:3; Leviticus 19:18 [two times]; Psalm 69:9). One prohibition Paul gave was against seeking revenge (see Romans 12:19; Deuteronomy 32:35). He stated that one should do good even to one’s enemy (see Romans 12:20; Proverbs 25:21–22). He reiterated some of the Ten Commandments, such as no adultery, murder, stealing, bearing false witness, or coveting (see Romans 13:9; Exodus 20:13–15, 17). He also argued that one should not judge another, because in the end only God will judge (see Romans 14:11; Isaiah 49:18; 45:23).
Separation from Sin
A fifth topic, where Paul used seven Old Testament verses to counsel his followers, was his exhortation to the believers to separate themselves from the unbelievers, especially in acts of immorality and idolatry. In general, he admonished them to put away the wicked from among themselves because they were temples of God and would be His children (see 1 Corinthians 5:13; 2 Corinthians 6:16–17; Deuteronomy 17:7; Leviticus 26:12; Isaiah 52:11; 2 Samuel 7:14). Specifically, he warned them to guard against immorality (see 1 Corinthians 6:16; Genesis 2:24) and idolatry (see 1 Corinthians 10:7; Exodus 32:6). Even more specifically, he used Old Testament scripture while addressing the issue of whether it was lawful to eat food sacrificed to idols or sold by unbelievers (see 1 Corinthians 10:26; Psalm 24:1). Thus, because the Old Testament Israelites faced some of the same challenges in trying to separate themselves from sin, Paul could use examples from scripture to encourage Christians to obey likewise.
In a discourse on the Resurrection found in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul used five Old Testament texts to put forward his belief in the Resurrection. Although none of the Old Testament passages directly focused on resurrection, they alluded to conquering death and Adam’s becoming the first living soul. First, Paul explained that Christ was resurrected so He could eventually subdue all His enemies and rule over everything (see 1 Corinthians 15:27; Psalm 8:6). Then he explained that if there were no resurrection, there would be no need for law or righteous living (see 1 Corinthians 15:32; Isaiah 22:13). He compared resurrection to Adam’s becoming a living soul and then a quickened spirit (see 1 Corinthians 15:45; Genesis 2:7). In the end, resurrection will conquer death (see 1 Corinthians 15:54–55; Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 13:14).
In 1 Corinthians, Paul attacked those who felt that man’s wisdom was the great power in the universe. He used four Old Testament verses to show that God’s wisdom is the greatest and will destroy the wisdom of man. First, he showed that God would reveal things not yet imaginable to man (see 1 Corinthians 2:9; Isaiah 64:3), for who can know the mind of God? (see 1 Corinthians 2:16; Isaiah 40:13). Second, he showed that man’s wisdom is really nothing and that God will eventually take the wise in their own craftiness (see 1 Corinthians 3:19–20; Job 5:13; Psalm 94:11).
Collection for the Poor
Paul used Old Testament references in two cases where he addressed the need for the Saints to contribute to a collection for the poor in the Church. First, he reminded the Saints that there should be greater equality (see 2 Corinthians 8:15; Exodus 16:18), and second, he taught that God would provide for all (see 2 Corinthians 9:9; Psalm 112:9).
The Gift of Tongues
Finally, Paul used one Old Testament example when treating the matter of the gift of tongues versus prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14. By using a passage from Isaiah, Paul was trying to show that the gift of tongues was for a sign to those who did not believe, whereas prophecy was necessary to edify the believers (see 1 Corinthians 14:21; Isaiah 28:11–12).
By paying attention to the many stereotypical formulae quotationis scattered throughout the New Testament, such as “as it is written,” “for the scripture says,” “for [prophet] says,” and “according to the law,” we begin to see how much the Old Testament was used by the New Testament Apostles in their writing. In this chapter, these formulae show how often the Old Testament was consciously cited by the Apostle Paul to strengthen his arguments and illuminate doctrine. It truly was an important source to lend authority to his teachings and enrich his writings. Because of the abundance of quotations, we can conclude that the Old Testament, particularly the Septuagint version, was familiar to many of Paul’s contemporaries and that by quoting it Paul lent authority to his message. The vast number of Old Testament quotations in his letters seems to indicate his early Pharisaic schooling and his desire to defend his beliefs through the Old Testament. In many doctrinal matters, he relied heavily on the Old Testament, which is noteworthy because of his great emphasis on a new covenant with a new elect people and the fulfillment of the law with now a need for faith in Jesus Christ. So despite all these changes within the belief system, Paul employed Old Testament passages to admonish and teach his followers. Perhaps the reason for the greatest number of quotations coming from Isaiah, Psalms, and the narrative section of Genesis was to avoid sections mostly containing the now-fulfilled Mosaic law.
Occasionally these citations were different from what we have in Septuagint or Hebrew manuscripts. Some may have been changed by Paul to strengthen his argument or to fit the new situation. For example, in Romans 9:33, Paul quoted Isaiah 28:16 but added the words “stumblingstone and rock of offence,” rather than a “precious corner stone.” In Paul’s teachings, the crucified Messiah became a stumblingstone to belief for many, so perhaps he added these words here to emphasize that fact. But many of the differences between the New Testament and the Septuagint and Hebrew Bible may simply have resulted from each group using different manuscripts, not just the transmission into the New Testament, because there were also differences between the Septuagint and Hebrew versions (such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Samaritan Pentateuch, Masoretic tradition, and others). As I have shown above, Paul’s primary emphasis when using these Old Testament passages was to show that covenant blessings and promises preceded the law of Moses and likewise continued after the fulfillment of the law. Paul also frequently used the Old Testament to demonstrate the election of the Christians, the importance of faith, and the necessity of preaching these messages to those who had not yet accepted them.
From Paul’s and others’ use of the Old Testament in their teaching, we learn that the fulfillment of the law of Moses did not mean an end to the validity and value of the Old Testament. Perhaps, like Paul encouraged, we also can gain knowledge and hope from the Old Testament (and other scriptures): “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
Tables of Old Testament Citations
Some 107 explicit citations to the Old Testament appear in Paul’s writings.  Many of these passages are set off by stereotypical formulae quotationis such as “as it is written,” “for the scripture says,” “for [prophet] says,” or “according to the law.” By far, the greatest number of Old Testament citations are in Romans, followed by 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and 2 Corinthians. Several of Paul’s epistles do not include any explicit Old Testament citations (for example, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philippians, and Philemon). The most oft-quoted book of the Old Testament in Paul’s writings is Isaiah, followed by Psalms, Genesis, and Deuteronomy. For the most part, these quotations were copied closely from the Septuagint and Hebrew versions of the Old Testament with only minor changes. Sometimes, however, larger differences are found. A detailed analysis of these variations is not possible here, but listed below are the basic, noteworthy discrepancies where one text varies from the other two, or in the last case, where all three differ from one another. Overall, Paul seems to rely most heavily on the Septuagint, but occasionally he seems to be giving his own translation of the Hebrew text. 
 See Bible Dictionary, “Quotations,” 756–59.
 The same three Old Testament books were the most quoted among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
 Michael D. Coogan, “Literacy in Ancient Israel,” in The Oxford Companion to the Bible, ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 438.
 Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3d ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 54. See also William V. Harris, Ancient Literacy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 328–30.
 See Doctrine and Covenants 91 for a revealed answer as to the reliability of the Apocrypha.
 An interesting verse that may capture this dual nature of reading and hearing scripture is Revelation 1:3: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy” (emphasis added; see also 2 Maccabees 15:39). The Greek verb used here for reading, anagino- sko- , can mean “read” or “read aloud” in public.
 “An excellent New Testament example of this practice [reading aloud] can be found in Acts 8:28–31. Philip hears the Ethiopian reading alone in his chariot because he was, obviously, reading aloud. Other reading aloud scenes are . . . [found in] Luke 4:16 and Acts 15:21. The first person from antiquity who is actually reported to have read without sound is St. Ambrose” (Mary Ann Tolbert, Sowing the Gospel: Mark’s World in Literary-Historical Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989), 44n35.
 In one case, Paul encouraged congregations to swap letters between them (see Colossians 4:16).
 G. C. D. Howley, “The Authority of the New Testament,” in The International Bible Commentary, ed. F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids, MI: Marshall Pickering/Zondervan, 1986), 997.
 For a more detailed look at the differences between the Septuagint, Hebrew Bible, and New Testament in Paul’s quotations of the Old Testament, see the tables on pages 239–41.
 See chart in M. Silva, “Old Testament in Paul,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), 631. This does not include allusions where a complete list would be very long. The influence of the Old Testament is dominant in his thought and language.
 “His dependence on the current Greek translation of his day is clearly established, but there is good reason to think that he was familiar with the original Hebrew and that the latter, in at least some cases, determined how he used the OT [Old Testament]” (Silva, “Old Testament in Paul,” 632).