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Digging deeper

Old Testament

In the Topics we considered that a key to understanding the Old Testament and taking it seriously was to see what Jesus thought about it. The Old Testament is often characterised as warlike, legalistic and mythic, whereas the New Testament is pacifist, easy-going and reasonable.

However if you start in on the Psalms you realise these poems/songs are powerful personal statements of encounter with an engaged and merciful God.  There is acknowledgement of weakness, sin and cries for justice against oppressors.

Working around that you can read the history of David, the author of many of these Psalms. You can see God's action before and after his time - how God looks for relationship and integrity with him, but instead sees rejection and corrupt leaders harming themselves and their people.

Further back we have the account of God calling Abraham away from his birthplace to establish a new people with a new mandate of relationship - being blessed and being a blessing to others. The agrarian lifestyle may be unfamiliar to those in the West but is a common experience of many in Africa and elsewhere to this day.

Abraham's grandson Jacob and family, travel to Egypt during a famine and thrive there until their freedoms are curtailed and they end up in forced labour. God moves to bring them out of Egypt and back to the land promised to Abraham, in actions that showed his presence. Many things have to be learned as, like us, the people were perverse and stubborn. The practicalities for living together and before God are recorded, centred around getting in a right relationship with him.

The older accounts are also added - the Creation - so different from the myths of Egypt or Babylon, with man and woman set in Eden, the rebellion, the Ark, the Tower of Babel, all-powerful archetypes of the nature of man and God's restoring response.

In the land promised to them the people fight external foes and each other - for a brief period achieving peace under David and Solomon before rebellion and exile to the empires of the north. A remnant returns and rebuilds Jerusalem, reestablishing a culture based on God's ways.

The last part of the Old Testament points to a new unfolding of rescue for fallen mankind - to the Messiah - Jesus.

What did Jesus think about the Old Testament?

  • It is inspired (Mt 4:4)
  • It is actual history (Mt 19:3-5)
  • It is reliable (Mt 26:54)
  • It is sufficient (Lk 16:31)
  • It is indestructible (Mt 5:17-18)
  • It is pointing to Christ (Lk 24:27)
  • It is inerrant (Mt 22:29)

Ref: Dustin Benge: New Testament References to Old Testament Scriptures


New Testament

The whole Middle-east region had been annexed by Alexander the Great's successors. They set themselves up in Syria and Egypt with Greek culture dominating. Rome then took political control, but the Jewish culture was jealously guarded in the promised land.

Into this mix, God comes in Jesus, "at the right time" to fulfil his purpose of providing a new and better way.  Jesus' life, death and legacy are recorded in Greek, from four perspectives, in the Gospels.  Jesus is revealed as the Messiah (or Anointed One) - in Greek 'Christ'. 

The growth of the fledgling church - which is not limited to a single ethnic group - is recorded in Acts and the letters of the church leaders along with a vision of the future in the Revelation.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Rom 5:6

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Cor. 5:17

It is amazing that this written account has survived thousands of years and stood up to barrages of scepticism. It has outlived its critics. Nothing in it has been contradicted by archaeology or by other historical records, but above all, it provides an account of God's relationship with mankind - his creation - and a source of encouragement, joy and worship.

The image below shows the huge number of references between the New Testament and the Old.

OT NT circle

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