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What Old Testament books are most quoted by the Savior?

TitleWhat Old Testament books are most quoted by the Savior?
Publication TypeMagazine Article
Year of Publication1973
AuthorsAnderson, Richard Lloyd
Issue Number10
Date PublishedOctober 1973
KeywordsEducation; Isaiah (Book); Jesus Christ; Pentateuch; Psalms (Book); Scripture Study

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What Old Testament books are most quoted by the Savior?

Richard Lloyd Anderson: Jesus showed impressive ability both to use the Old Testament and to depart from it, as he did in the Sermon on the Mount. Even speaking “as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29), he insisted that he had not come “to destroy the law, or the prophets” (Matt. 5:17).

Jesus’ Old Testament study began at the time that modern children are in kindergarten. At the age of 12 he brilliantly discussed scripture with Jewish doctors, and at maturity he saturated his message with quotations and precedents from the Old Testament. Our brief Gospels contain some 75 scriptural quotations from the Old Testament, showing his respect for the message and authority of these Jewish books. He knew them well, for he used most of them.

Quite predictably, he quoted the Pentateuch most often. Since these initial five books were the law, questions were most authoritatively settled from them, and they account for about one-fourth of Jesus’ scriptural citations. He quoted nearly as often from the Psalms, obviously finding great personal comfort and prophetic information in this body of devotional literature. Of the prophets quoted, Isaiah is referred to the most; he is quoted directly more than a dozen times. As with many Psalms, the messianic prophecies of Isaiah attracted the Lord. In his earth life, he applied Isaiah’s words to himself and declared them fulfilled. (Luke 4:21.) In the resurrection he continued to unfold “the things concerning himself” from “Moses and all the prophets.” (Luke 24:27.)

History parallels Jesus’ emphasis on the Pentateuch, Psalms, and Isaiah. Dead Sea Scroll discovery has proved the popularity of these Old Testament portions, judged by the number of manuscripts of these books preserved at Qumran. Such information has special interest for Latter-day Saints who know that the Book of Mormon quotes Isaiah more than any other prophet, and that the Savior there stressed, “great are the words of Isaiah.” (3 Ne. 23:1.)

Almost a third of Jesus’ quotations come from Daniel and the minor prophets. He selected predictions concerning the Messiah, personal righteousness, apostasy, restoration, and latter-day judgments. Those who follow the Savior will also find what he found in the Old Testament: instruction, inspiration, and prophetic guidance.