The Old Testament has taken a lot of hits in recent years. And it’s understandable when all people see are harsh rules and religious wars. It can seem so unenlightened if not downright wrong.
Let’s admit it. The Old Testament is a foreign country. Even when translated it can seem like it’s in a different language. We also find strange customs that often don’t make sense, and odd names that are hard to keep straight.
The solution, of course, is not to dump the Old Testament but to work to understand it, to learn more about those customs, that ancient history, how their literary genres are different from ours. But why? Why is it worth all that effort?
Because rooted in the Old Testament is our Christian understanding of mercy, justice, compassion, peace, faithfulness, forgiveness, creation, holiness, truth, and more. Without all that, our Christian faith is gutted.
Fleming Rutledge quotes a radio preacher who said, “If you want to know what went on in Jesus’ mind, read the Old Testament.” And then she goes on to say, “There are many things that we do not know about Jesus, but of this we can be sure: his mind and heart were shaped by intimate, continuous interaction with the Scriptures. If we are to have ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:16), we need to know the Old Testament.”*
Did Jesus say we should avoid the Old Testament? Minimize it? Take scissors and paste to it? What he said was this:
- The Old Testament is about him (John 5:39).
- We can avoid error by knowing the Old Testament (Mark 12:24).
- Through the Old Testament we know why the Messiah had to suffer and then enter his glory (Luke 24:26)
It’s simple, though it is not easy. It takes some work. That’s one reason I wrote Mark Through Old Testament Eyes. We need to immerse ourselves in the Old Testament for its own sake, just as Jesus did. But it is also true that if we want to know Jesus better, we have to know his Bible.
*Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), p. 107.