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Misunderstanding The Old Testament


Once again I've been reminded that many Christians have a faulty understanding of what we call the "Old Testament".  I guess that's to be expected since on the title page of the first 39 books of our Bibles we see the words "Old Testament".  We thus conclude that's the name for those 39 books.  I know many of us don't like being Biblically technical in these post modern days, but technically speaking, I believe Jesus understood the Old Testament to mean something different than us.  Our misunderstanding on this issue has led many of us to favour what we call the New Testament over what we call the Old Testament.  That's not only a mistake but a sin that I've long since repented of.  


We might think the terms "Old Testament and New Testament" came into existence with the King James Bible, but that's not exactly so.  Jesus introduced the word "new" in reference to the word "testament" the night before His execution.  He said, " this cup is the new covenant (testament) in my blood " (Luke 22:20)  Our English word "covenant" is translated from the Greek word "diatheke".  A "diatheke" is an agreement between two or more people.  "Diatheke" can also be translated as, contract, covenant, or, testament.  On the night Jesus was betrayed, He took the cup and introduced a "new agreement", a "new testament", to His disciples.  The words "new covenant" as used by Jesus implies the existence of an "old covenant", an "old testament".  Herein lies our misunderstanding.  What is the covenant or testament that Jesus implied was old? 


The covenant or testament that Jesus implied was old is the agreement that Yahweh entered into with Israel.  It's called the Mosaic Covenant, or, the Law of Moses.  The  Old Covenant is not the period of history prior to Jesus' human birth.  It's also not the first 39 books of the Bible.  We're talking about covenant here, not history or books of the Bible.  I personally don't view history in terms of being old and new.  I view history in terms of God's continuous involvement in the affairs of men and nations. 


The New Covenant in Jesus' blood finds its roots as far back as Genesis 3.  There, God shed the blood of an innocent animal.  The skin of the dead animal covered Adam and Eve's nakedness.  The shedding of this animal's blood is the basis for the Adamic Covenant that God decreed to satan and all mankind.  This covenant was codified in the Mosaic Covenant.  So, if we don't understand the Old Mosaic Covenant, we won't really understand the New Jesus Covenant.  In order to understand both covenants as Jesus understood them we can't favour what we call the New Testament over the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  I'm sorry to say this, but as hard as these  books are to read, they contain the Mosaic Covenant and therefore are important if we want to understand the New Covenant.       


If you think the Old Testament refers to a period of history or the first 39 books of the Bible, I suggest you rip Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts chapter 1 from your Bible and stick them right after Malachi.  The gospel accounts are actually in what we call Old Testament times, a period when Israelis were under the rule of the Old Mosaic Covenant.  The era which we call New Testament times began in Acts 2 when the followers of Jesus received the Holy Spirit into their lives.  In one sense of the word, the words Old and New Testament that appear on the cover of our Bibles may be a bit misleading, at least for us today; maybe not for those in times past.  


If it were up to me, and you're probably glad it's not up to me, I'd name that which we call the Old Testament "the Law and the Prophets" because that's what Jesus called it. (Matthew 7:12, 11:13, 22:40, Luke 16:16, 24:24, John 1:45)  The first generation Christians also called these books "the Law and the Prophets". (Acts 13:15, 24:14, 28:23, Romans 3:21)   I'd then name what we call the New Testament "Jesus and the Apostles".  Then, I'd make sure everyone understood that the term Old Testament refers to the Old Mosaic Covenant and the term New Testament refers to the cross of Christ. 


When we think of the first 39 books of the Bible as the "Old" Testament, we tend to neglect them because we think they're old.  Each one of these 39 books is relevant to our understanding of who God is.  Without them we know little about the God we claim to serve.  They teach us much about the very essence of God.  They are prophetically important.  They contain historical records that show us how God interacts with individuals, nations, and with Israel. 


The apostle Paul tells us that we have lots to learn from these 39 books of the Bible. (Romans 15:4)  I suggest you do yourself a favour.  Study the "Law and the Prophets", for the pathway of salvation that leads us to the Lord Jesus Christ weaves its way through every page. 



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