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Why is the Old Testament still important as Sacred Scripture?

May 4, 2011

I completed my Intro to Sacred Scripture class last week. We had a take home exam that had two essay questions, plus some multiple choice questions. I’d like to share them with you.


All of Sacred Scripture is from God. It is his story, our salvation history, and while it is a beautiful hope filled story, it is also very frustrating.  As Pope Benedict XVI says in his book, In the Beginning…: “The Bible is thus the story of God’s struggle with human beings to make himself understandable to them over the course of time; but it is also the story of their struggle to seize hold of God over the course of time.” None of the events and stories in the Bible are stand alone. We must journey through the entire Bible to find our way in this life, and ultimately to heaven.

The Old Testament teaches us about this journey through stories, proverbs, poetry and prophecy. Initially God chose the Israelites to be his people, but over time, the prophets kept hinting that “all nations serve him” and “all the nations regard him as favored” (Psalm 72). So God’s teachings apply to all nations, to all the people of the world.  God even uses the hardships of the Jews to make himself known to other nations. Such as in Psalm 137, the Babylonians wanted to hear songs of Zion from their captives. While the passage states that the Jews didn’t think they could sing to their God in a foreign land, they had already impacted some of the Babylonians who wanted to hear more about their God. A passage from Jeremiah (29:4-7) seems to line up with the above Psalm, where the prophet tells the people in exile to live for the benefit of the city they are in. Don’t decrease but increase and be a good example to your captors. In an Advent address that Pope Benedict XVI gave in 2005 on this Psalm, he quotes St. Augustine: “If we are citizens of Jerusalem … and we have to live on this earth, in the confusion of the present world, in the present Babylon, where we do not live as citizens but are prisoners, it is necessary that we not only sing what the Psalm says, but that we live it: This is achieved with a profound aspiration of the heart, fully and religiously desirous of the Eternal City.” As “prisoners” in the world today we also need to live a life that works for the well-being of the world around us and strive to be perfect.

As we hear in the Old Testament readings of the Easter Vigil Mass, God instructs us on the creation of the world, on being faithful and obedient, on his mercy and salvation, and on his wisdom. God tells us his story, who he is, and how we should behave to live with him forever. But being a thick-headed people, just like our Jewish spiritual ancestors, we keep falling into sin; hence Christ came into the world to give us a human example of obedience.

The Easter Vigil readings take us on an Old Testament journey from creation to the foretelling of baptism in Christ. The act of creation shows us how to live and worship, six days to care for God’s creation and one day to give to God in worship (Gn 1:1-2:2). God gave us the freedom to do good, to choose the right path, but most of early man choose not to do good. God then turned to Abraham, who was faithful and obedient to God, and God blessed him with many descendants (Gn 22:1-18). Several hundred years later those descendants needed saving from their oppressors, and so began the cycle of the chosen people falling away from God, repenting of their sins, and God saving them, beginning with the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 14:15-15-1). In Isaiah 54 and 55, God may forsake us when we sin, but he will always take us back if we return to him. He offers renewal to those who will seek him, explaining that his ways are not man’s ways. Man must strive to do God’s will. In seeking to do God’s will, Baruch 3 tells us to learn prudence and wisdom as these are pleasing to God. Finally, in Ezekiel 36, God’s fury against his people had scattered them over foreign lands, but he relented. Not only did God bring his people back to their land but he also cleansed them of their sins. There is a lot to be learned by the Christian in just these seven passages of the Old Testament. We too have exactly the same failings as the chosen people. Will we take the time to learn God’s ways?

Not only is the Old Testament God’s instruction manual, it is also referred to many times in the New Testament. One of my favorites is in Luke chapter 4 where Jesus goes back to Nazareth right at the beginning of his ministry. On the Sabbath he goes to the synagogue and reads from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah chapter 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Here Jesus himself makes the Old Testament important; he states he is fulfilling this passage. Studying the Bible isn’t a cover to cover reading exercise; rather it is for growing in the understanding of our Creator.

So the Old and New Testaments are intricately connected. Together they are the word of God. We are better able to find and understand God if we journey with them as a whole.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Babatunde adewale george permalink
    June 12, 2013 12:59 am

    Because it comprises the history,creation.

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