If you spend any amount of time on what I would term “The Christian Internet,” you see much being written about how we are to read the book of Genesis. As we have become more enamored with science, it has become fashionable, even among Evangelicals, to second-guess the Bible’s creation account, or at least what we were taught the Genesis account was saying.
The problem here is that we might tend to toss everything out all at once. Noah’s ark? To a scientific mind it seems unlikely. Balaam’s donkey? Seems impossible to many. And on and on it goes until there’s nothing left to unravel except for the centerpiece of the Christian Bible, the resurrection of Christ.
That’s why I think it’s so important to remember that Jesus affirmed several Old Testament stories. My favorite is always:
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. – Matthew 12:40
He doesn’t try to argue the merits of what so many today consider an improbable story. He simply takes it as a given. Now I realize you could read this, ‘Just as in the story of Jonah he was three days and nights in the fish, so also will…’ In other words, you could say that Jesus was drawing a parallel between his coming death and resurrection and the tale of Jonah, but the text certainly seems to take Jonah’s fish incarceration is not just a part of their literature, but it’s being cited as a given; something that really happened.
Last week Daily Encouragement ran a 4-part series on the city of Sodom and the last part‘s key verse was:
“Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:32,33)
The story is that Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back. Many find such a story totally fanciful. But here again, the story is taken as a given. Jesus doesn’t say, ‘Remember that crazy story about Lot’s wife? Well we all know the moral of that story, and so I’m telling you now that…’
The New Testament writers also allude to various OT passages. At the website Bible Study Tools:
…The word often used to describe this treatment of the Old Testament is “typology.” This technique may be illustrated by the use made of the Exodus, which receives frequent typological treatment.
- Matthew suggestively applies Hosea 11:1 to Jesus’ return from Egypt ( 2:15 ), highlighting the parallel between Israel, who failed the temptations in the wilderness, and Jesus, who came through them victoriously to form the heart of a renewed people of God.
- John 6 presents the feeding of the five thousand as a glorious repetition of the manna miracle, signaling a greater exodus from sin and death.
- Paul applies the exodus themes of “slavery” and “redemption” spiritually to the work of the cross (e.g., Rom 3:24 ;8:23 ; Ephesians 1:7 Ephesians 1:14 ), and finds in the wilderness wanderings several typological foreshadowings of Christ and the church ( 1 Cor 10:1-13 ).
- Hebrews develops the theme of the political “rest” enjoyed by Israel in the promised land and applies it typologically to that spiritual sharing of the life of God himself, which is the fruit of the work of Christ for all believers (3:1-4:13).
- First Peter 2:9-10 uses Exodus 19:5-6, a central statement of exodus theology, to make Israel a type of the church.
- Revelation uses the Egyptian plagues typologically ( 8:7-12 ), and applies the numbering of the exodus tribes to the church ( 7:4-8 ).
There are also a host of places where the OT is quoted in the NT. You can read a brief overview of this topic at Theopedia or in this various-authors discussion of the topic in the Zondervan Counterpoints Series.
I know that some people are not attracted to a mentality of “The Bible says it, that’s settles it, I believe it.” But I think it’s important to make a distinction concerning the OT stories the NT affirms.
I was thinking of this song while reading the series at Daily Encouragement. We’ve used it here 2 years ago, but some of you may not have seen it. The singer is Marty McCall from the band Fireworks.