Do We Really Need the Old Testament?

If they had to answer that question, no doubt most evangelical Christians would argue that one can’t really do away with the thirty-nine books found prior to the gospel of Matthew—the first book of the New Testament in the Bible.

And yet, to borrow a phrase from one of my old seminary professors, those are the pages that tend to keep their gilded edges pristine.

So why read the Old Testament? Well, there are many reasons actually, but I’ll be content to point out just one in this post: familiarity with Old Testament narrative is crucially important in helping us have the proper understanding of the Savior we trust and follow. Please understand that I say this as one who was himself pleasantly surprised at one point to find out how much a deeper grasp of the Old Testament helpfully informed his perspective of Jesus.

The fact is, that the life and work of Jesus is the climactic chapter of God’s long and amazing story of redemption—a story that began in a garden and will end in glory that we can barely comprehend. To begin with the books of the New Testament is much like opening to the middle of a novel and hoping to get a good grasp of what’s going on.

If you’d like a resource to help you explore this idea, I’d highly recommend Christopher J. H. Wright’s Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament. Substantive yet readable, it’s one of the better biblical/theological books I’ve read. Here’s a blurb from the back cover:

Only as we come to understand Jesus as a man with a story—an Old Testament Story—will we come to know who Jesus truly is. To change that narrative is to deface our only reliable portrait of Jesus. Here is a book that traces out the face of Christ in the textual tapestry of the Old Testament. But it also outlines the pattern of God’s design for Israel as it is lived out in the story of Jesus.

Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament is also available near cost in The Crossing’s Bookstore on Sunday Mornings.

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