Christians love their New Testament, and for good reason. I mean, the revelation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, through whom God has made known His plans for His people and world is not only a brilliant message, but an exciting one. And there are few things more warming to the soul than to hear animated conversation come from the lips of fellow believers about what they’ve read in Scripture and how it’s shaping their lives. The pages of the Book of Philippians or of the Gospel of John are preached prolifically, and they hold deeply compelling messages. Commentaries on the New Testament fly off the shelves at Christian bookstores (alright, maybe they don’t fly off the racks per se, but you get my idea).
But mention the Old Testament and suddenly you come face-to-face with lethargic expressions or polite feigned interest (thanks guys – it never costs to be polite). Of course, sometimes you’re met with that happy chance of a fellow who’s done their Hebrew homework for the semester, and they’ll sit and chat about the brilliant theology behind the Book of Ruth, or the Christian ethics of the Decalogue. But of course, they are the exception that proves the rule. The point is that generally, people fall into one of three camps: they either (1) haven’t read the Old Testament; or (2) haven’t understood the Old Testament; or (3) don’t see the relevance of the Old Testament. What does that make people like me? Lonely campers.
But forgetting the banter for a minute, why is that for so many Christians the Old Testament seems to exude an aura of unapproachable hostility? The Hebrew Bible is not only a trove of theological profundity, but beautifully written, and has just as much to say (if not more) as the New Testament when it comes to matters of Christian ethic. In fact, Jesus came not to abolish the law and render it abortive, but to fulfil it (vide. Matt 5:17, which is a beautiful example of a triple entendre: Jesus came to πληρῶσαι ‘fulfil’ the Law: (1) through obedience; (2) to bring to its full measure; and (3) to bring to completion).
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand: reading the Old Testament is daunting enough as it is, let alone trying to know it. Joining the dots from one chapter of the Hebrew Bible to the next is a mental challenge akin to recollecting the name of that really great phở joint in Cabramatta (Tan Viet? Pho Viet? Pho Tau Bay? Bau Truong? Or was it in Bankstown?). Reading the Old Testament is kind of like that. You need to make a real concerted effort to actually find the right places, but even when you do, you can’t make seem to make any sense of what they’ve placed in front of you, and the writing on the wall doesn’t help either.
This is all to bring it to the conception of Theology Wednesdays here at The Reformation of Manners. What better way to get over the hump of the working week than by looking at the character of God? But reading the Old Testament shouldn’t make for a poor second choice to flesh out the character of God, and so I’ll do my best to kill two birds with one stone (or two turtledoves with one sacrifice if you’re poor). If you didn’t get the joke in the brackets, that’s a sure sign you should subscribe and drop a line to me. Stay tuned.