Since the good news of Jesus appears in what became known as the “New Testament,” readers might assume that the gospel is a completely “new” phenomenon. Insofar as Christianity has deemed Israel’s Scriptures the “Old Testament,” it has established a superficial scriptural bifurcation by which the “New” constitutes an innovation of the “Old.” However, what God accomplishes through Yeshua—salvation through divine initiative rather than human effort—reiterates what God does for Israel in the exodus from Egypt. The New Testament’s good news is a salvific exclamation point on a divine decree that was already written in the Scriptures of Israel.

The New Testament letter to Titus summarizes the gospel, saying that God “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Messiah Jesus our savior” (3:5-6). The word for “mercy” (ἔλεος; eleos) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew חסד (hesed), which denotes God’s covenantal fidelity. After the exodus, Moses sings to God, “In your hesed (חסד) you have led forth the people whom you have redeemed” (Exod 15:13). Later, Moses tells God of “the greatness of your mercy (ἔλεος; eleos), just as you have been gracious to [Israel] from Egypt until now” (Num 14:19 LXX). More, the divine mercy that “saved” (σῴζω; sózo) according Titus 3:5 is the same liberating force that made the Israelites “a people saved (σῴζω; sózo) by the Lord” (Deut 33:29 LXX). The mercy and salvation that God lavished on Israel reemerges in the work of Yeshua.

Titus also notes that salvation was not based on “works done by us” (3:5). This truth resonates just as strongly in Israel’s case: as slaves in Egypt, the Israelites could do no works to bring about their own salvation. The exodus was based on divine grace, rather than human effort. Indeed, the Sinaitic commandments begin with God’s declaration of grace (based on no works): “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exod 20:2). After this initial reminder of pure grace, God gives Israel some rules to follow. Yet, the Torah’s rules do not earn the Israelites salvation, relationship, or favor with God; the people receive divine commands after God has already commenced relationship, shown favor, and enacted salvation in taking them out of Egypt.

According to Titus, God’s saving mercy comes to fruition in “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (3:5). While this language may sound “Christian,” it originates in the Jewish Scriptures. Isaiah recalls the time of “Moses and his people,” when God “put his Holy Spirit (רוח קדשׁו; ruach qadsho) in the midst of them” (63:11). Just as the Holy Spirit renewed the formerly enslaved Israelites, the Spirit renews those who had been “slaves to various passions and pleasures” (Titus 3:3). More, Scripture anticipates Titus’s “washing (λουτροῦ; loutrou) of regeneration” in Ezekiel’s expression of relational cleansing that Israel received in its infancy: “On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed (λούω; loúo) with water to cleanse you… so I washed (λούω; loúo) you with water” (16:4, 9). It is this kind of cleansing that transpires according to Titus: in the Messiah-led exodus from sin, the Holy Spirit washes and renews humanity. Thus, the New Testament gospel is not all that new; in the good news of Jesus, God reruns the salvation of Israel.

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43 COMMENTS

  1. The gospel or "good news" is not "new". God doesn't change and so we find in Galatians 3:8 that the gospel was preached to Abraham. God doesn't make mistakes and have to adapt his plan. God knows the future and everything works out according to his plan and purpose.
  2. God sacrifices his only begotten son for the sins of the world. Did this make it his new testament to his people?
    • Jesus' death is the most comprehensive example of the atoning power of sacrifice that appears elsewhere in Israel's historical narrative (e.g., Lev 17:11; Num 25:13; 2 Sam 21:1-14; 2 Macc 7:37-38; 4 Macc 6:28-29; 17:22). Thus, God's work through Jesus is not "new," but rather is an intensified outcropping from Jewish Scriptures.
  3. The Covenant given to Moses is a everlasting covenant with the promise a full restoration as a people of God. Ezekiel spoke of this fulfillment when he spoke about the people of faith being given a heart of flesh. Jesus spoke of the greatest command which if found in Moses. Later he spoke of the actual fulfillment in the discourses found in John 14-17. The covenant is found in the book of life which is held by the Lamb.
  4. 1. What non-Biblical (and non theological/religious) proof is there that Jesus was a real person who lived on Earth? 2. What Holy Books (ie word of God) does Judaism use? And how have those books been vetted for aunthenticity (ie who wrote them, when and in which language(s)?) 3. Who wrote the Bible, when and in which language(s)? 4. Where are the original manuscripts (in original language(s)) of 2 and 3 above?
    • 1. Outside the New Testament, Jesus and/or the movement he spawned are mentioned by Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, Suetonius, Mara ben Serapion, Thallus, Lucian, Celsus, and the rabbis. Not only does Josephus mention Jesus, but also his brother James and John the Baptist; 2. Judaism's foundational text is the Tanakh (what Christians call the Old Testament); 3. The Bible was written by many authors over the course of hundreds of years in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek; 4. This question about "original" manuscripts misunderstands the process by which ancient texts and traditions were created and disseminated; there likely never was one "original" master version of these narratives.

      + More answers (2)
  5. "Jesus’ death is the most comprehensive example of the atoning power of sacrifice that appears elsewhere in Israel’s historical narrative." Except sacrifice is NOT necessary to achieve God's forgiveness. The Ninevites- gentiles, and an arch enemy of Israel- repented and were forgiven, without having offered any sacrifice!
    • Atonement and forgiveness are two related, but different, phenomena. Jesus' death (i.e., blood) atones for sin -- that is, "purges" it away. God can "pardon" or "forgive" sin without blood (e.g., Num 14:20), but only blood makes atonement (see Lev 17:11).
  6. "Outside the New Testament, Jesus AND?OR the movement he spawned are mentioned by..." nice move, but unfair. Darmilli's question was about Jesus, not the early cburch. Plus, how many of those sources were preserved by Christians, who might have altered the texts to their own benefit? Like Eusebius on Josephus.
    • Any amount of textual tampering is possible, but a vanishingly small number of scholars (Christian or not) disputes the authenticity of Josephus's reference to James -- and Jesus in the same passage (Ant. 20.9.1) -- or John the Baptist (18.5.2).
    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!
    • Tom, Good try, but "anyone could have or might have" actually has very little weight as evidence. Josephus was not just preserved by Christians. The fact that the movement is mentioned well after His death is a huge proof. I've read somewhere the Romans claimed Him as being on their tax records. But Dr. Nicholas' answer doesn't need that. but others may answer yes or no.
  7. There is a golden thread connecting the "Old Testament" and the "New Testament", evidence that the God of the "Old Testament" is the same as the God of the "New Testament". We need both to understand the nature of God.
  8. It seems to me that Jesus insisted that his message was Not new. "You don't fix an old coat with a new patch". Luke 5:36
  9. 1. Alan Hart: see S. Zeitlin JQR (April, 1931) on Eusebius' interpolation of the Christ passage in Josephus. 2. following up on Reuven: why the claim that Jesus' death was atonement for sin, since Gen. 22 clearly delegitimates the notion of human vicarious atonement?
    • Tom, while much as been said since 1931, the authenticity of the so-called "Testimonium" (Ant. 18.3.3) continues to be debated. It may well be a Eusebian-style interpolation, at least in part. However, Josephus's reference to "Jesus who was called Christ" in 20.9.1 is generally accepted as authentic. Genesis 22 doesn't "clearly" say anything, and it likely does not delegitimize human sacrifice (see Jon D. Levenson, "The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son" [Yale UP, 1993]). Jesus' vicarious atonement for sin is the primary rationale for his death in the NT (cf. Matt 1:21; 20:28; 26:28; Mk 10:45; Jn 1:29; Rom 3:25; Heb 9:22; 10:12; 1 Jn 1:7; 4:10; Rev 1:5) because (human) vicarious atonement pervades the biblical texts that preceded Jesus (e.g., Num 25:13; 35:28; 2 Sam 21:1-14; Isa 53:4-6; 2 Macc 7:37-38; 4 Macc 6:28-29; 17:22). Later rabbinic tradition finds such atonement in the deaths of biblical figures, including Miriam, Nadav, and Avihu. Thus, the theology of the NT represents standard Judaic biblical interpretation that spans from the Hebrew Bible onwards.
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