I recently finished a read-through of the Bible, during which I kept track of every instance the New Testament quotes an Old Testament passage.
I counted only direct, explicit quotations, such as those introduced with “it is written,” or “as it says in the Law of Moses.” I gave some leniency, allowing clear quotations on the list even if introduced by a mere “for.”
I did not include any mere allusions or references to people or events in the Old Testament. I don’t think such allusions are unimportant; I just think they can be difficult to measure. For example, when Jesus is called “Son of Man,” is that an allusion to Daniel 7:13, to Psalm 8:4, or to Ezekiel 2:1, 3, 6, 8, etc? Most likely, the answer is “all of them,” but Bible interpreters disagree. Therefore, I left such unclear examples off the list altogether. One unfortunate result is that books like 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation, which contain Old Testament allusions in almost every verse, are almost completely absent from the list.
This list has the top 10 NT books that quote the OT (click here for other lists). Which books assume or expect a greater knowledge of the Old Testament? Which books require much more flipping back and forth to make sure we get the point? Which books had in mind an audience that would be comfortable with such use of the Old Testament?
After each entry, I include the number of times that book quotes an OT passage.
Romans (58 quotes)
1 Corinthians (19)
1 Peter (8)
If a passage quotes two parallel Old Testament passages simultaneously, I counted it as two quotes. For example, Hebrews 1:5b simultaneously quotes 2 Samuel 7:14 and 1 Chronicles 17:13.
Frankly, I’m astonished that Romans, a book with only 16 chapters, tops the list. I don’t think I would have guessed it before I counted up the references.
Matthew and Hebrews are not much of a surprise, as they are considered some of the most “Jewish” books of the New Testament (along with James, which is too short to have many quotes). You can see there’s a large reduction in the number of references after those top three books.
All four Gospels are on this top 10 list. It’s possible that it’s mostly because they’re some of the longest books in the NT. But I think it’s also true that we simply will not understand Jesus’ person and work unless we understand him in light of the Old Testament. God has spoken in the whole Bible, and Jesus is the climax (Heb 1:1-4). For the raw data listing every quotation, see the resources page.
What else strikes you about this list?