In Romans 3, Paul launched into the longest string of Old Testament verses recorded in the New Testament. By taking a closer look, we can begin to get a sense of how to enrich our reading of not only the Old Testament but the whole Bible.
Paul began in verse 10 with a standard introduction to Old Testament quotes: “as it is written.” This signals for us the beginning of a quotation, though what comes next may have surprised even the savviest first-century reader.
The apostle strung together his quoted text from at least six different passages. (Check the notes in your Bible for where to find the originals.) As a former rabbi, Paul likely had these words committed to memory, so bringing them to mind would not have been difficult. However, rather than think about historical context or various grammatical rules, as is common today, Paul gave credence to the theological value of these texts, using them in bits and pieces to bolster his theological point about the depravity of humanity.
Does this mean that understanding the Bible’s historical context or grammar is of no value? Of course not! Rather, the way Paul referenced these passages should allow us the freedom to read the Bible theologically, informed by the clear truths of the gospel, truths like the depravity of humanity.