Thursday, May 18, 2017



Reading the Old Testament as a Christian Book

The Old Testament is the Hebrew Bible. At least taken by itself it is. But when the church added the New Testament to it, it became a Christian book. But what does that mean?  How does it effect the way we read it?

Herman likes to make a point of how much of it there is - way more than the New Testament. It must have some vital role to play in shaping Christian understanding if the church chose to put it together with the NT. That means we cannot ignore or neglect it as Christians started doing in the second century and in too many circles continue to do to this day. One has only to remember that this is what the Nazis did in Germany as part of their program of rebuilding the German nation of pure Aryan blood. We forget or neglect the Old Testament to our hurt!

So, how do we (Christians) read the Old Testament?

1. as part of the one story of God with his creation and creatures. It is chapter 1 of a 2 chapter story. The latter chapter is unintelligible without the first.

2. as Jesus put it, "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22). To experience salvation, then, means understanding it in light of what God did with the Jews and how all that is reconfigured (but not rejected!) in the light of Jesus.

3. the Old Testament is not Law to be contrasted and dismissed by the New Testament which is grace. The biblical pattern is not Law (OT) - Grace (NT) but rather Grace - Law - Grace with Law being a gift of grace to direct and illumine the people.

4. we read the OT forward to get its historical development as a Jewish text. We then read it backwards through the lens of the life/death/resurrection of Jesus to catch meanings and dimensions of the OT that could not be seen by its authors or heard apart from faith in Jesus.

5. to paraphrase St. Augustine, the NT is in the OT prefigured; the OT is in the NT transfigured.
Again, it is the eyes of faith that see the NT prefigure in the OT and the OT transfigured in the New in the light of Christ.

In sum, we value the OT as much as the New, find God's grace in it as well as in the NT, discover the foundation of the NT in the Old, and the ultimate meaning of the Old in the New.


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