In the New Testament, the Old unfolds
St. Augustine wrote this:
Novum Testamentum in vetere latet
Vetus in novo patet
For those of us who don’t understand Latin (like myself), this is translated:
Only in the New Covenant does the Old unfold,
And hidden lies the New Testament in the Old.
This is a very important principle to understand, as it is the New Testament that sheds light on the Old Testament. And what Augustine says here is key — the New Testament is hidden inside of the Old. As this has become a recurring theme in my studies as of late, I thought I’d create a series of posts about how the Old Testament unfolds in light of of the New Testament.
But first, some words from Jesus. There is an important verse in John’s Gospel account. It is John 17:6:
6 “I have revealed you [the Father] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.
and continuing down to verse 26:
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
So there is this sense that God the Father was never really made known, until Jesus revealed Him to us. This has vast implications of course, one of the major ones is that the Nation of Israel (the firstborn son in Exodus) didn’t truly understand the Father, even with the Revelation at Sinai and the continuing revelations throughout the Prophets.
And so, here again is this consistent theme in that the Old Testament has to be interpreted in light of the revelation brought to us through the Christ (Messiah). Also important to note: the New Testament never contradicts the Old Testament, but it casts light and Reveals what is contained inside of it. And once Christ is shown in the New Testament, suddenly things become much clearer in the Old and the shadowy archetypes in the Old Testament are shown to be pointers to Christ.
As a simple example of this, let’s look at a classic passage from the Fall of Man. Genesis 3:15 (I prefer NASB’s translation here, we’ll see why in a moment):
And I [God] will put enmity
Between you [the serpent/Satan] and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
This is a great passage, and is considered to be the proto-evangelium (first gospel). If you discard the New Testament from your Bible, then this passage appears to be nothing more than a description about the descendants of the snake and the descendants of the woman. And who can argue that snakes and men have a fairly contentious relationship?
However, the fascinating portion of this is how seed is considered a singular. Note how it states “He shall bruise you on the head”. Is it curious that the descendant of the woman will bruise the snake God is talking to? And not the descendants of the snake?
And notice how God is talking of the woman’s seed. Curious. Usually, we speak of the man’s seed. Hold that thought.
Anyway, if you read this passage in the Old Testament, you might brush this off as some sort of poetic license or something. But if you flip over to the New Testament, it appears as if the authors see something more meaningful here.
Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
In Genesis 12, God tells Abraham that he will give the land to his offspring (literally: seed). Paul says, “No” — he meant seed in the singular, not the plural. Which makes sense if you believe that the Messiah was to come from Abraham’s lineage, and would fulfill the following:
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
That the seed would be a blessing for all peoples on earth. That’s precisely what we believe Jesus Christ’s ministry did, allowing all people (not just those of Jewish descent) to have a relationship with the Living God. This is a profound promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12, and one that the Nation of Israel surely did not fulfill on its own. Instead, a single descendant of Abraham was responsible for spreading the Word of God to all nations. Representatives from almost every nation now sing Psalms of worship to the One True God. And it is all due to the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.
Now, look a few verses down in Galatians:
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,
One cannot help but think that Paul was thinking of Genesis 3:15 when he wrote this. The promise of the seed of the woman has been fulfilled in Christ. Jesus was born only of Mary’s ‘seed’, and was conceived via the Holy Spirit. Therefore, He truly fulfills the promise given to Eve in the Garden by God. Given Paul’s argument of Abraham’s seed – one cannot help but think that this is the same argument he would be making in interpreting Genesis 3:15.
Since we did touch on the promises given to Abraham a little bit here, look at what Jesus says about Abraham:
Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
Abraham rejoiced — he clearly saw that the promise of the blessing was fulfilled in Christ!
So once again — the New Testament is not in any way contradicting the Old Testament, but instead it reveals much more clearly what was being promised in Genesis. We often think of this promise in Genesis 3:15 as being given to Eve (and yes, it was) — but equally it was given to the serpent, who is also called the following in the book of Revelation:
And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
Remember, God keeps His promises. Even to Satan.