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Stories from a life in progress.

In (brief) defense of the Old Testament

Life continues to be busy here, though I think I'll have a little more room to breathe after this week.  I sincerely hope so -- among other reasons (such as "breathing is good") I wish I had more time to talk about some of the things I'm learning.  It doesn't add up to a coherent whole yet, but the pieces are fascinating and I'm excited to talk about them!

I can post one part today, because it's basically already written (is it cheating as a blogger to just post my class homework?)  One of the first assignments in my Old Testament class on the Pentateuch and Joshua was to imagine this scenario and respond: what if a Christian friend at another school asked you "why do we actually need the Old Testament?  Isn't the New Testament sufficient?  Doesn't the New Testament supersede the old Hebrew scriptures anyway?"

Talking about the Hebrew Scriptures.  (Sometimes literally.)

Talking about the Hebrew Scriptures.  (Sometimes literally.)

I was very pleased to work on this, because the answer has a lot to do with my personal interest in the Old Testament (and why I may end up specializing in it some day, though I'm not far enough along to be at all certain).  In semi-specific order, here are my points in response to "Why do we need the Old Testament, anyway?"

  • Jesus himself endorsed the Hebrew scriptures.  He quoted them constantly, he relied on them when he was tempted (Matthew 4) and when he was suffering on the cross (Mark 15:34).  In the Sermon on the Mount he says "I haven't come to abolish this stuff, I've come to fulfill it.  Not a speck of it is going away."  (Matthew 5:17-19)  If you want to know what Jesus fulfilled, or what he was telling the people to follow, it's in the Old Testament (OT).  If Jesus himself relied on the Hebrew scriptures, we can do a lot worse than learn to rely on them too.
  • The other apostles also endorse the Hebrew scriptures; see the whole rest of the New Testament.  The OT is quoted all over the place.  When Paul says things like "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17), he's talking about the Hebrew scriptures.  The earliest church didn't have the New Testament, and they seem to have done all right for themselves, didn't they?  They learned from the OT and the teaching of the apostles -- in other words, the complete Bible we acknowledge now.
  • There's a reason the Bible repeats its teachings so much, and in different kinds of ways -- to help us learn 'em.  Without hearing the truth of the Bible taught in ALL of the ways it chooses to teach us, there's a bigger chance we'll miss something.
  • Stories are an awesome way to teach principles, with nuance and wisdom and humility and humanity.  A story can teach you a different thing every time you read it.  The OT is stuffed full of stories.
  • If the OT contains confusion, chronology, and wars, it also contains incredible rescues, beautiful triumphs, and a whole lot of real and relatable people.  It contains passionate love-letters from God to us, and I'm not even talking about Song of Songs.  Yes really.
  • This one took me a long time to figure out: the OT is like one long story about God, told in a lot of different parts.  Other characters enter and exit constantly, but God is the central character, the one that is involved with everything.  You want to know God?  Here's a big long book about him.
  • The OT was not just written for ancient Israel.  Do you suppose, when God inspired those texts, that he didn't see us coming?

Do you agree?  Disagree?  Wonder what the heck I'm going on about?  Leave a comment or question below!