n one of the shortest parables, Jesus talks about the householder (Mat 13:52). Jesus asked His followers: “Have you understood all these things?” (13:51). “These things” refers to the series of parables on the kingdom that He had just told (13:1–50). And the disciples answered, “Yes, Lord” (13:51b). Jesus recognised that the disciples were claiming more insight than they possessed. So He gave them the parable of the householder to explain the situation.
Householder was a person with authority over what went on in a home. If one were to visit homes, the head of the house might bring out something old—perhaps one that the family treasures such as a coin, or something new—maybe a recent purchase. Jesus is saying that every teacher of the Law who has learned the truth about God’s rule is like a householder.
In effect, the disciples would be like “scribe(s) instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven” (v.52). Scribes were a learned class of scholars who studied the Jewish scriptures and served as copyist, editors, and teachers. They occupied a prestigious position. Just as the Jewish scribes studied the Law, recalling old truths recognised for centuries as well as “new” truths that applied scriptures to the demands of new situations, the disciples were also storing up Jesus’ teaching and—someday—would share it with others, write it down, and teach from it, passing on “things new and old”.
Here Matthew does not intend a contrast between the new (Jesus’ interpretation of the Law) and what is old (Judaism’s interpretation of the Law) but sees them in a favourable way. Matthew may be thinking of the Old Testament, together with Jesus’ interpretation and application of it. No wonder Matthew saturates his gospel with Hebrew scriptures than any writers.
Today we possess the written records of these treasures in the form of the Bible. But like Jesus’ first disciples, and Matthew himself, we find both old and new. Jesus and the Apostles studied, memorised, used, quoted, and read most often from the Bible of their day, the Septuagint. According to one scholarly estimate, the New Testament has more than 4,000 references to the Old Testament — a fascinating way to engage both “old” and “new” in our lives.
As we read this issue, please realise that the books of the Old Testament have been essential for Christians and remain “permanently valuable” because they were “written under divine inspiration”. The article ‘Relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament’ by Jacob Cherian in South Asia Bible Commentary (2015) is a helpful read in this context.