Read the NT Through the Lens of the “Old”

It was in 1947—the year before the State of Israel was constituted—that the Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered, in the caves of Qumran.

By Dov Chaikin & Ryan Jones | | Topics: BIBLE STUDY
Jewish men dance joyfully with a Torah scroll. The New Testament cannot be truly understood without the so-called "Old" Testament. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90
Jewish men dance joyfully with a Torah scroll. The New Testament cannot be truly understood without the so-called "Old" Testament. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90

This treasure trove consisted, inter alia, of fragments of different books of the Tanakh [the ‘Old Testament’], except for Esther—and one complete scroll: the book of Isaiah. {The manner in which this scroll had been copied, as demonstrated in the facsimile on display in the Shrine of the Book (next to the Israel Museum), would appear to refute the concept of Deutero-Isaiah.}

Comparison of the Qumran scroll with the Isaiah of the Masoretic Text (MT), shows only very minor differences (scribal errors?) between the two, giving credence to the MT being the textus receptus. This poses the question of, how reliable is the Septuagint (the LXX), the Greek translation of the Tanakh traditionally commenced in Alexandria ca. 250 BC, which demonstrates no few differences with the MT—and on which modern translations seem to rely to quite some extent. It is not known, by the way, what was the text available to the Septuaginists.

It may not be too far-fetched to assume that the text preserved by the Masorites, which had been handed over to them by the Scribes [mentioned in the NT], had been the same as the one Ezra the Scribe had. Furthermore, it should not be unreasonable to assume that what was done by the Sages of Tiberias (towards the end of the first millennium AD) in providing the extant MT vowel-pointing and cantillation marks, was based on a tradition of correct reading of the text dating back at least to the 2nd century BC’s Shimeon ben-Shatah.

Consider one of the best-known verses in the Bible, Psalm 122:6. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” is the invariable rendering of the Hebrew שאלו שלום ירושליםShaalu shlom Yerushalayim, ‘shlom’ being the possessive form of ‘shalom’. While ‘peace’ is the most frequent (correct) translation of ‘shalom’, it should be borne in mind that there are also other (correct) rendering of the word—such as ‘well-being’.

What is really the most puzzling in the translation, is the ‘pray for’ rendering of ‘shaalu’. This word may stand for ‘request’, ‘seek’—or even ‘borrow’ [see the Hebrew of 2 Kings 6:5]—but ‘pray for’?! We would suggest that the best translation of those three Hebrew words, would be ‘Seek the well-being of Jerusalem’.

Then there is Zephaniah 3:9, commencing כי‫-‬אז אהפך אל‫-‬עמים שפה ברורהki-az ehepokh el-amim safah vrurah—the most impeccable translation of which is, “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language” [NKJV]. The word ‘safah’ can mean ‘language’ or ‘lip’, but never the plural ‘lips’—yet that is how all translations other than the NKJV render it. Could that conceivably be because the preceding verse is the only one in the entire Tanakh that contains all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet—the 22 plus the five which change form when appearing at the end of a word?

Last but not least is the well-known Messianic passage of Proverbs 30:4, which begins, “Who has ascended into heaven, and descended?” The Hebrew word translated as “and descended” is וַיֵרַדva-yerad. But the vowel-pointing and cantillation marks present in the MT in both this and other verses (see 2 Sam. 22:10, repeated in Psalm 18:10; also in Num. 24:19 & Jud. 5:13) provide evidence that וַיֵרַד has, in fact, been mistranslated, the correct rendering being “ruled” or “have dominion,” coming from the Hebrew root רָדָה.

In their zealousness to connect such passages to Yeshua (Jesus), translators have for centuries rendered וַיֵרַד as “descended,” having obviously been influenced by John 3:15—disregarding the fact that our verse refers to two entities. A more fitting translation, in keeping with the original Hebrew, would be: “Who has ascended into heaven and ruled.” Va-yerad should not be confused with the va-yered [וַיֵרֵד] of Genesis 11:5, which obviously speaks about descent.

The mismatch may not seem all that significant. But it is indicative of a phenomenon whereby the Tanakh has, for the Christian audience, been largely translated through the lens of the New Testament. Really, it is the New Testament that must be seen through the lens of the ‘Old’ for it to be properly understood. This flip-flop has resulted in many tainted interpretations of the Word and Will of God, leading to serious doctrinal conflicts, among them the fierce debate over how Christians are to view the modern rebirth of Israel.

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5 responses to “Read the NT Through the Lens of the “Old””

  1. Gay Ford says:

    Yes, I believe with all my heart that the Old Testament is THE FOUNDATION FOR THE NEW! I believe we must start from the Very First Verse in The Old…Genesis 1’IN THE BEGINNING……!’ How can you know me at my now age of 87, if you knew nothing of why I am who I am Now?

    I could write a Book on this Subject as to Why we are Now Living in this World’s History Confused as well as Facing Wars !! Why?….because of the Creature Trying To Rule by and with our Way! But,… THE CREATOR IS SOVEREIGN ! May we Come To Know HIM AS OUR CREATOR THROUGH HIS WHOLE HOLY WORD! Gay Ford

  2. Rick Blake says:

    Yes, and thanks. When I discovered this proper understanding 20 years ago it opened up so much of a better (truer) understanding of the scriptures. I’ve watched the opposite perception confuse and hinder so much the ‘walk’ of my Christian friends and relatives. This is a study worth pursuing.

  3. Malcolm Baker says:

    Many blessings to you Dov

  4. Paul Cruice says:

    There is a web site which offers much excellent comment about the problems with the OT and NT. It can be found at
    You will have to hunt around as this web site touches on many issues, particularly NT translation.
    Personally, I don’t believe, I KNOW that the OT is the base for the NT, but there are some real issues. Come Lord Jesus come!

  5. Lindsay Johnston says:

    A fascinating article. An expression I heard many years ago. The Old is the new concealed. The New is the old revealed. The verse quoted in Prov.30:4 NKJV bears this out. Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Sons name, if you know? Here the Son is concealed if you like. We only need look at Mat.3:16-17 NKJV as one example for the revealing. When He had been baptised, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And suddenly a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”

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