“The Christian community has a divided mind about its textbook”—John Wenham
Most people are aware that the Bible is composed of written material presented in two sections, traditionally labeled the Old Testament and the New Testament. In some respects this terminology is misleading because it has subtly led some to reject large parts of God’s revelation. The Old Testament is judged to be of less value or even obsolete by some theologians and religious leaders because it is older.
Many are the misconceptions concerning the Hebrew Bible. British author and Bible scholar John Wenham wrote: “We have had so much erroneous teaching for so many years that even intelligent people often really believe that the two Testaments represent two irreconcilably opposed points of view; the Old Testament being a God of wrath and the New Testament a God of love” (Christ and the Bible, p. 19).
Some conclude that the Old Testament was old—and thus obsolete or worn out—and it therefore has been replaced by the New Testament. The designations “Old Testament” and “New Testament” are found in a few places in some Bible translations, but the word translated “testament” is also the word for “covenant.” These scriptures talk about the Old and New Covenants (to be fully explained in a later lesson)—not about the books of the Bible.
If you had lived 2,000 years ago and had asked the apostles Peter, Paul and John about the “Old Testament” or the “New Testament,” they would have had no idea what you were talking about. These terms were coined by men long after the biblical books were written. The first use of “New Testament” for the Greek Scriptures is not found until a century or more after the deaths of the apostles.
So much of the Bible consists of the Old Testament. In fact, the vast majority of God’s Word is made up of those Hebrew Scriptures—nearly 80 percent of the Bible’s 773,000 words. Moreover, the New Testament contains some 600 quotations from and references or allusions to the Old.
In that light, does it make sense for much of the modern Christian world to view the Old Testament’s contents as somehow inferior or conflicting with the New? Is it logical to disregard the history of God’s revelation, His revealed way of life and the promises these Hebrew Scriptures contain?
As Walter Kaiser says in his book Towards Discovering the Old Testament, “the church spurns three-fourths of God’s inscripturated revelation—a massive amount of biblical teaching—if she persists in constructing all of her theology from the NT, while shamefully neglecting the OT. It is this practice that will leave . . . imbalances in her teaching ministry. She must return to the profitable, didactic usage of the OT” (p. 29).