(Old Facebook Post)
Have you ever wondered which are the most important Old Testament passages? Or at least which ones tell us the most about Christ?
There’s a fascinating old book I recently read, According to the Scriptures: The Substructure of New Testament Theology, by C. H. Dodd. It analyses the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament to try to determine which OT passages were most central in shaping the apostles’ understanding of the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Which passages did they quote most often when explaining the gospel message? Which most powerfully explain the significance of Christ’s coming?
Dodd’s list could be refined a little, but it’s a great start. Here are some of the most important OT passages you will ever read!
Genesis 12:3; 22:18
Deuteronomy 18:15, 19
2 Samuel 7:13-14
Psalms 2; 8; 16; 22; 31; 34; 38; 41; 42; 43; 69; 80; 88; 110; 118; 132
Isaiah 6:1–9:7; 11:1-10; 28:16; 29:9-14; 40:1-11; 42:1–46:5; 49:1-13; 50:4-11; 52:13–53:12; 55:3; 58:6-10; 61
Jeremiah 7:1-15; 31:10-34
Hosea (especially Hosea 2-3; 5:8–6:3; 13)
Daniel 7; 12
Each of these passages were referenced by multiple NT authors, often in ways that show they assumed their readers were already familiar with them. Learn them well, and watch for how the NT quotes and alludes to them. Find a good cross-reference Bible to see where these verses are used in the NT, and ponder how the apostles understood them. Then see the gospel with new eyes, and read the OT with new eyes.
I think one of the most exciting ways this list could be used would be as a guide for selecting OT memory passages! It would also serve as a good guide for public Scripture readings in church services.
Dodd groups these passages according to key themes of the gospel message: 1) apocalyptic-eschatological–prophesies about the Day of the Lord, with judgement and redemption; 2) scriptures of the new Israel–judgement upon rebellious national Israel, the calling of the remnant, the inauguration of the New Covenant and the emergence of the Church; 3) scriptures of the Servant of the Lord and the Righteous Sufferer; and 4) unclassified–which interestingly includes a few explicitly messianic passages–very few of the others on the list actually speak of a coming “anointed” one!