The New Testament authors do quote from the Old Testament, but most of their uses of the Old Testament are allusions. And these allusions sometimes come back-to-back. Like those who understand the expression, “May the force be ever in your favor,” we need to be diligent readers of the Old Testament so that the allusions to it in the New will be more evident to us. We can read how an author uses an earlier text and smile and say, “Ah! I’ve seen language like this before. I know this phrase is pulling from an earlier source.”
I can’t remember the first time I saw someone write, with a smirk no doubt, “May the force be ever in your favor.” It’s like those memes that attribute a Lord of the Rings quote to Harry Potter. I smile at these things when I see them, and maybe you do too, because we know what the writer is up to. The conflation is deliberate. We’re “in” on the joke.
With the statement, “May the force be ever in your favor,” the first half is drawing from Star Wars, and the second half is drawing from The Hunger Games.
Years ago I heard someone use that deliberately-melded line to make a biblical point: “The New Testament authors do this all the time.” Now that got my attention. What did he mean?
The New Testament authors don’t mind putting back-to-back allusions to the Old Testament together without telling you that’s what they’re doing. In order for you to understand what the biblical authors are doing, we must be careful readers who are immersed in earlier Scripture. If someone isn’t aware of Star Wars or The Hunger Games, then the statement, “May the force be ever in your favor,” won’t have the effect that it should.
As a biblical example, the Gospel of Mark opens like this: “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’” (Mark 1:2–3).
These words in Mark 1:2–3 push several Old Testament lines together.
- In Exodus 23:20, “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.”
- In Isaiah 40:3, “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”
- In Malachi 3:1, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.”