While the Old Testament is not the immediate historical, cultural, or religious setting for the life and ministry of Jesus, the apostles, and their associates… it is the foundation upon which their immediate context was built upon. How else could the New Testament writers assume their target audience possessed knowledge of the Old Testament? They could safely and confidently make that assumption because the history and teaching of the Old Testament was taught to God’s people by those responsible for communicating it to the common Jewish people. Evidence of that, I believe, is found throughout the New Testament. One example is found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. There in 2 Corinthians 6:11 – 18 we find the apostle Paul urging the church to practice biblical separation from unbelievers and does so based upon God’s covenant promise of dwelling in, walking among, and being their God (v.16). His Old Testament quote in v.16 points the Corinthians back to or at least causes them to recall the covenantal language found in the Old Testament books of Genesis and Ezekiel (Gen. 17:7-8; Ezek. 36:25 – 28).
Other examples I believe are found in the Gospels. I remember listening to the late Dr. R.C. Sproul recalling the time when he was teaching within the context of the Bible institution he asked his newly accepted students who could name the greatest Old Testament prophet. While many Old Testament prophets were named… no one identified the greatest prophet…namely John the Baptist. Of course identifying John the Baptist as the greatest Old Testament prophet is based upon the Lord Jesus Christ’s designation found in Matthew 11:11. While the time period of the four Gospels is not the immediate historical, cultural, and religious setting of the Old Testament books of Genesis through Malachi… the period in which Jesus Christ and His disciples lived in is indeed Old Testament. You see, the Old Testament covenant system was still operative and remained so until the death of Jesus Christ at which time the New Covenant was made operative. Now for the example from the Gospels.
In Matthew 19 we find the Pharisees testing the Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. They were attempting to find something to accuse Him of. They thought they could trip Him up by asking doctrinal questions. So they ask a question regarding marriage and divorce. They asked Him if a man could divorce his wife for any given reason. How does the Lord answer? He answers by pointing them back to the Old Testament teaching on marriage. That from the beginning God “made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not a man separate” Matt. 19:5 (NKJV). Why did Christ the Pharisees back to the Old Testament teaching on marriage? He pointed them back there because the biblical understanding of marriage in His day, His day meaning during His earthly ministry, was founded upon the Old Testament teaching.
So, again, while the Old Testament is not the immediate historical, cultural, or religious setting for the life and ministry of Jesus, the apostles, and their associates… as we have seen from just two examples out of many, it certainly is, in my humble opinion, the foundation upon which their immediate context was built upon.