September 19, 2019

A Tale of Two Testaments

“The Bible is the world’s most influential book. But books, like people, can be influential because of what they say, or because of what they are thought to have said. With a book as huge as the Bible, readers need some kind of key that will provide a way of understanding the whole work.

Where the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible is concerned, ecumenically-minded people like to stress that Christians and Jews at least have these texts in common, even though Christians also acknowledge the New Testament and Jews do not. But the interpretative keys that each community brings to the texts are so different that it is almost as though they recognized two different Bibles.

Christians think that the Old Testament tells a story, which goes on to find its completion in the New Testament. The Old Testament story is about a disaster and a planned rescue mission, Paradise lost and Paradise regained. It tells of the loss of innocence in the Garden of Eden, a consequent history of human disobedience throughout the stories related in the narrative books, and a promise of coming redemption and salvation in the books of the prophets, leading naturally into the New Testament, where we learn how God’s planned rescue of the human race came to effect in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To anyone who has grown up in a Christian-dominated culture this way of reading the Old Testament seems simply obvious. It is the “natural” way of understanding the Bible.”

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