Something Old, Something New: Appreciating the Old Testament

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Little Rock Connections: The Good News for Today
August 2017


Something Old, Something New
Appreciating the Old Testament

Clifford Yeary

In the first decades following the resurrection of Jesus, the early church knew how to preach the Gospel, and when they quoted Scripture, which was always part of preaching the Gospel, they quoted the Old Testament. In the early church, what we call the Old Testament was the only Sacred Scripture they had. It and it alone was the written word of God. They were certain that the Sacred Scriptures of the Jewish people, also known as the Law, the Prophets and the Writings, proclaimed in a hidden fashion the Good News of Jesus Christ. The apostles had been assured of that by the risen Christ himself:

He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:44-47)

Far from setting aside the Old Testament in anticipation of a New Testament, Jesus assured his followers of its timeless value even as he proclaimed the new dimensions of faith to be opened up by following him and his words:

“[E]very scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (Matt 13:52)

Today, when we read and study the Old Testament, we also need to have our minds opened to exploring its riches with faith and understanding. Christians have had the New Testament for many centuries now, and it is to the Gospels and its many other sacred texts that we turn most often for many of our encounters with Christ. This fact, however, actually allows the Old Testament to speak to us more freely of the faithfulness of God to Israel in and through the unbreakable covenant sealed with them on Mount Sinai.

As Christians, we will never cease to see in the Old Testament the handiwork of God in shaping and preparing a people for the advent of his Son. But, even as we do so, we are also to reflect in awe on the moral rectitude, holy wisdom, and mighty deeds of God revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures to the Jewish people today. In opening the minds of the apostles to discover Christ revealed in the Old Testament, Jesus also revealed to his Church the timeless value of the Hebrew Scriptures in offering a path into the heart of God for anyone who cherishes its teachings.

Our respect for the profound revelation of God in the Old Testament can only grow as we carefully study the New Testament, especially the Gospels. There is nothing to be found in the New Testament for which there were not seeds planted and watered in the Old Testament. Interest in the historical nature of the Gospels has led many scholars to appreciate the intimate connection between Jesus and his Jewish culture. Nothing that Jesus did or taught can be fully appreciated if we ignore the Jewish context of his deeds and words. If we want to know Jesus better, we need to know both the Old Testament and Judaism better.

Clifford M. Yeary is the associate director of Little Rock Scripture Study, for which he writes and revises study materials and presents wrap-up lectures. He is the author of Pilgrim People: A Scriptural Commentary, and Welcome to the Feast: The Story of the Eucharist in Scripture, published by Liturgical Press. He is also a contributor to The Bible Today.

June 15-17, 2018
Little Rock, Arkansas
“A Lively Sense of God”:
Treasuring the Old Testament Witness to God
Brother John Barker, OFM

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