Have you read your Old Testament lately?

In roughly this order, Luke 24:25-27 and 44-47, taking a year of Hebrew during my time at seminary, working through most of An Old Testament Theology by Bruce Waltke, and reading through the Bible (including the Old Testament!) in 2006 and 2009 using this schedule have given me a deeper appreciation for what we today call the Old Testament.  This year I was seriously thinking about doing an in-depth study of the Gospel according to John, but after a week into 2010 I was really starting to miss the Old Testament and so I started the now-familiar reading schedule once again.

A book I do not yet own, but plan to one of these days is The Meaning of the Pentateuch by John Sailhamer.  Collin Hansen interviewed Sailhamer about the book and that interview is on Christianity Today’s website at this address.  The following quotes are from that interview:

How do you explain the meaning of the Pentateuch to evangelicals who revere these foundational books but do not see their relevance?

The old theologians used to speak of “the love for Scripture” as a sign of true faith in Christ. They would say, “We should read the Old Testament as if it were written with the blood of Christ.” For them, the Old Testament and the Pentateuch in particular was a Christian book, a book about Christ. For most evangelical Christians today it is a book about archaeology and ancient history.

Here we have to be careful because, to be sure, the Old Testament is about ancient history. But that is not its meaning. Its meaning is Christ. Saying that also calls for a great deal of caution. In my book, I take the view that the whole of the Pentateuch is about Christ, but that doesn’t mean that Christ is in the whole Pentateuch. Finding Christ in the Pentateuch means learning to see him when he is there rather than trying to see when he is not there. I like to tell my students that we don’t need to spiritualize the Old Testament to find Christ, but we do need to read it with spiritual eyes.

What is the trickiest problem with discerning the meaning of the Pentateuch?

The problem can be a simple one. Christians just don’t really believe the Old Testament is their Bible in the same way the New Testament is. For them the Old Testament teaches the law and the New Testament the gospel. The Old Testament is about Israel and the New Testament is about the church. They may not say it in so many words, but it’s there, especially on those rare occasions when the preacher asks them to turn to an Old Testament passage. For them it’s like reading someone else’s mail. They feel they need to ask permission to obey its laws. Remember this: What we call the “Old Testament” today was the only “New Testament” Jesus and Paul ever had. All the evangelism we read about in the book of Acts was the result of the gospel they proclaimed from the pages of the “Old Testament.”

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