How did Christ and His Apostles view the Old Testament?
According to Jesus, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). When referring to the Old Testament, He would often assert, “It is written”, making clear that He considered Scripture to be the final authority in all matters of faith and life. Along with the Pharisees He regarded the Old Testament as truly God’s Word. When quoting Genesis 2:24, for example, He affirmed that it was God speaking (Matthew 19:4, 5) even though the passage itself does not specifically state this.6
In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Commenting on this verse, and the New Testament in general, Frederick C. Grant, Professor of Biblical Theology at Union Theological Seminary wrote, “Everywhere it is taken for granted that what is written in scripture is the work of divine inspiration, and therefore trustworthy, infallible, and inerrant.”7
From this it might be understood that Professor Grant held to a similarly high view of Scripture. Not at all! In fact, he believed much of the Bible to be based on myths. Despite this, and along with many other liberal theologians, he recognised the Apostles’ unswerving commitment to the Old Testament as the Word of God and as unquestionably trustworthy in everything it teaches.
It is not difficult to see why scholars understand this to be true.8,9 In the Apostle Paul’s thinking, the Jews had been “entrusted with the oracles [the very words] of God” (Romans 3:2). When referring to the Old Testament he had no hesitation in affirming, “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers …” (Acts 28:25). Similarly, when quoting from the Psalms, the Apostle Peter stated that, while the words came from the mouth of David, it was the Holy Spirit speaking (Acts 4:24, 25). Moreover, he affirmed that “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20–21).
Both Jesus and His Apostles undoubtedly regarded Genesis as history. Jesus, for example, affirmed the creation of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4), the murder of Abel (Luke 11:50, 51), the Noahic Flood (Matthew 24:37–39) and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15). Moreover, for Him, these were not simply interesting stories; rather they provided the basis for understanding important spiritual truths. Similarly, the Apostle Paul built his teaching on events recorded in the Old Testament, such as the doctrine of Original Sin (Romans 5) and the role of men and women in the church (1 Timothy 2:12–14). The writer to the Hebrews referred to the accounts of Abel, Enoch and Noah as real events that happened to real people (Hebrews 11). Significantly, this letter was written to encourage Christians who were facing serious persecution; but what use are mythical characters to those potentially facing death? The idea that anyone would think that such people might be helped by reminding them of stories suitable only for Sunday School children is absurd. The writers of the New Testament undoubtedly accepted the first book of the Bible as historical and Huxley was right: if Genesis is wrong, Christianity was built upon no more than “legendary quicksands”.
Where does your church, your denomination stand on the inerrancy of scripture? Ask your pastor to get one of the excellent PhD speakers from Creation Ministries to come speak at your church on the evidence for the Genesis account of Creation. His response may surprise you.