When we discuss the over-arching biblical storyline in class, I regularly tell my students that God’s creation of Israel and his gift to them of Torah was meant to be the solution to the problem of human sin and it should have worked. Of course, this sparks lively discussion about the place of Jesus in the story, the presumed absence of the Holy Spirit in the OT and his presumed inhabitation of believers after Jesus’ ascension, the sacrificial system as merely a “shadow” of the reality, and a host of other inherited assumptions.
Many Christians tend to see what we call “the Old Testament” as crude, inherently ineffective and deficient, and probably best left neglected. And Israel’s deity, while we’re sure there are some hints of grace here and there, is mostly a vindictive, finger-wagging, error-noting, over-reacting God of wrath.
Now, many of these misconceptions can be dispelled by simply reading Israel’s Scriptures, and that’s a great place to start. But I’m very happy to see John Goldingay’s new work, Do We Need the New Testament? Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself.
He tackles in readable prose many of the issues that afflict popular Christian imagination about the relation of Israel’s Scriptures to the church’s faith.
The First Testament story is not merely the history of our distant spiritual ancestors, a history of a period so different from ours that it hardly relates to our life now that the end of the ages has come. It is the history of a people like us in a position not so different from ours. Our pretense that things are otherwise puts us into potentially fatal jeopardy (p. 17).
This looks like the ideal book to which to point people who are wondering how to relate the two parts of Christian Scripture to one another, and how the first can be read as something more than a preface to the main work.