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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39 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.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  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.

      • Dr. Nicholas J. Schaser Very good answer I was asked that question and used some of the same references but you gave even more. I also pointed out most from that time period were not mentioned either.

  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).

    • 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.

  10. Good morning prof. Schaser. A very interesting article that puzzles me. Reading the Greek NT we find several occasions that the term New Covenant/Testament is mentioned by Jesus or the disciples. For example Mat.26:28 or 2Cor.3:6 To me, the term (and of course His ministry) “New” comes straight out from the Gospels and letters and not just because it became known as such through the centuries. Can you please comment on this?

    • Thanks for this comment, Rolandos. It’s not that there are zero “new” aspects to the gospel, but that even the “newness” originates in Israel’s Scriptures — indeed, the term “New Covenant” comes from Jeremiah 31:31. See https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/new-testament-or-new-covenant/ When Jesus mentions the “new covenant in my blood” (Matt 26:28), the “newness” is that sins will be forgiven through “his” blood, rather than the blood of an animal (cf. Lev 17:11), but the concept of forgiveness through blood begins in the so-called Old Testament. When Paul uses “new covenant” in 2 Cor 3:6, the “newness” is that the Law is not written “on stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (3:5). That is, the content is vastly the same, but the location has changed; this idea, too, comes from the Old Testament (cf. Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; 33:33; Ezek 11:19-21; 36:26-28).

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  11. Dr. Schaser: pls. define “standard.” Angelology and prostitution are as common (“standard”?) in the HB as human vicarious atonement: that does not necessarily make them central or dispositive for theology. And forgiveness does not require blood. According to the prophets, the practice of idolatry is as customary (standard) as obedience.

    • In the above response, “standard” means a “common” or “well-attested” view. The Bible condemns prostitution and idolatry; it does not condemn vicarious atonement. Forgiveness doesn’t require blood, but atonement does (see Lev 4-5; 16-17). Blood atonement is the foundation of Levitical theology (cf. Lev 17:11; Heb 9:22), and the New Testament stresses that Jesus’ life is a bodily sacrifice in exchange for other lives (cf. Mk 10:45; Matt 20:28; 26:28; Jn 1:29; 10:11; Rom 3:25; Eph 5:2; 1 Jn 4:10; Heb 7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:10; 1 Pet 2:24; 3:18). From a NT perspective, the death of Jesus as a means of salvation from sin makes little sense apart from substitutionary atonement.

    • 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!

  12. “Salvation” in the HB means deliverance from peril, usually physical- not “sin”.
    In the Lev. verses you reference, the sacrificial offering brought forth as atonement is an animal, not a person- the “anointed priest” is not asked to sacrifice himself (or any other human being). This switch in species is a huge one: expressing not continuity with Israelite practice but a radical innovation that goes against the grain (pun intended) of Temple worship.

    • Nice pun. Human deaths make atonement for guilt in the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Num 25:13; 2 Sam 21:3; cf. LXX 2 Macc 7:37-38; 4 Macc 6:28-29; 17:22), and the death of the “anointed high priest” atones for the sin of murder according to Numbers 35:25-29. Jacob Milgrom, the foremost scholar of priestly literature, says of the latter passage, “As the High Priest atones for Israel’s sins through his [sacrificial] service in his lifetime… so he atones for homicide through his death” (Numbers, 294). If Jesus’ death marked a “radical innovation that goes against the grain” of Temple worship (and, therefore, against the pro-Temple texts of Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, 1-2 Kings, Ezekiel 40-48, Haggai, Zechariah, Psalms, Ezra/Nehemiah, and 1-2 Chronicles), that would mean that God’s Son works against the words of his Father and the Scriptures of his people, which would disqualify him from being the Jewish Messiah. Rather than going against the Temple, Jesus’ atoning death underscores and affirms the efficacy of God’s sacrificial system.

  13. Genesis clearly sets forth three levels of creation: Creator, critter (humans) and creatures (fauna), with no intermixture among them. (No one knows who/what the nephilim really were). Apocalyptic literature erodes this three-fold demarcation. The notion of God having a “son” who is part human, part divine is pagan, not Hebraic- which shows Hellenistic influence. Finally: you seem to conflate martyrdom with atonement. E.g, What did MLK Jr’s death “atone” for?

    • The biblical text itself associates martyrdom with atonement. The Septuagint — the Bible of the New Testament writers — assigns atoning power to the deaths of martyrs (see 2 Macc 7:37-38; 4 Macc 6:28-29; 17:22), and Jesus understands his own mission as affirming this Jewish history of atonement (cf. Matt 20:28; 26:28; Mk 10:45). “Son of God” language appears in the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Exod 4:22; Ps 2:7) and figures other than God are described in divine terms in both the Tanakh (e.g., Ps 45:6-7) and in Second Temple Jewish literature (e.g., 4Q246; 1 Enoch 48).

    • 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!

  14. Slavery is “standard” in the Bible, as is idolatry and prostitution, but unlike the latter two (as you note), not only not prohibited, but accepted as a valid social institution. So, by your account, it can be viewed as dispositive for Biblical theology? As for Temple theology, the major prophets marginalized rital sacrifice, extolling in its stead good deeds and the practice of justice.

    • The difference between slavery and atonement is that “slavery” is not a fundamental tenet of Israelite theology, nor is it the telos of Jesus’ earthly mission. On the other hand, blood atonement is central to the biblical worldview, and Jesus explicates that he gives his life as a ransom payment for sin (see Matt 20:28; Mk 10:45; cf. Matt 1:21). Insofar as “dispositive” denotes fully settling an issue, no article or response from IBC faculty is a dispositive declaration on biblical theology; rather, we seek to interpret texts and present exegetical topics for discussion (hence the open comment boards).

  15. You note that “”Son of God’” language appears in the Hebrew Bible” and that “figures other than God are described in divine terms.” Correct: BUT such designations are intended as an honorific, and certainly not meant metaphysically, which is the way it is invoked in Christian language in viewing Jesus as part of the Godhead. The contemporary idiomatic equivalent of the phrase “son of God” is SUPERSTAR. The 20th century rock opera got this right!

  16. Blood atonement may be AN element in the biblical worldview -like polygamy – but not, as you claim “CENTRAL.” That is a tendentious/theological, not historical/scholarly, assessment. Further, human deaths in the HB are not atonements, but paybacks (cf. Gen 9:6). And, of of course, the books of the Maccabees are part of the Catholic and Orthodox canon, but not Jewish or Protestant.

    • The efficacy of substitutionary blood atonement is as close to a central claim of the historical Jesus as any scholar would be able to posit based on the available data (cf. Mk 10:45; Matt 20:28; 26:28). In the instances of human death listed above, the Hebrew word for “atone/atonement” (כפר) appears explicitly; hence, they are examples of atonement (cf. Num 25:13; 35:33; 2 Sam 21:3). The Maccabean literature is part of the Septuagint and, therefore, in the canon of the New Testament writers.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  17. “The efficacy of substitutionary blood atonement is as close to a central claim of the historical Jesus …..” It is fine if you posit it as a “claim” of Jesus rather than a statement of uncontested factual analysis of the HB. “The Maccabean literature is part of the Septuagint and, therefore, in the canon of the New Testament writers.” OK but it is in Greek, thereby incorporating Hellenistic influence.

  18. As I noted previously, “As for Temple theology, the major prophets marginalized rital sacrifice, extolling in its stead good deeds and the practice of justice.” The case here being that the central claim/thrust of the Hebrew canon is prophetic, not priestly/Levitical: i.e., is focused on (social) justice, not blood atonement- on creating a good and just society, not the vagaries of individual cultic purity.

  19. My teacher, the late Harvard Divinity School OT professor (and Presbyterian minister) G. Ernest Wright, once remarked: “There is Israelite religion and its two heresies: Christianity and Judaism.” To which I would add that the Christian strand is Levitical – stress on blood atonement- and the Jewish one is Deuteronomic: the Shema and the Deuteronomic code of behavior.

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