The Old in the NewPosted: November 19, 2008
It’s bone-numbingly cold today. Boston is Sunny with a high of 29 (Sunny and any number below 60 shouldn’t be in the same sentence).
I think when God created the world, he didn’t intend it to be cold. I suspect cold weather is a consequence of the fall of man. I might be wrong, but it sure does feel right. 🙂
N.T. Wright, a notable New Testament scholar, was preaching at a Pastor’s Forum this week at GCTS. It was the first time I ever had a chance to hear him speak. I’ve read some books and articles by him, but never heard him speak before. So like a good seminarian, I was giddy to hear a leading scholarly voice expound the New Testament. His focus that day was on the Gospel of John. Now I won’t go in to the particulars of what he preached, but I mainly wanted to emphasize something he got into and what I am learning more and more these days about Scripture, especially regarding the New Testament.
The normative background of the New Testament is the Old Testament. You may even benefit from reading that again, due to its simplicity. As I learn more about how to interpret the Bible, I’m learning that the NT (New Testament) is inextricably linked to the OT (Old Testament). It makes perfect sense even on the surface.
Any good writer knows that you write about what you already know. Even fictional writers will write in light of what they have experienced in real life (even sci-fi has parallels to one’s own understanding of life). Why do guys talk about sports? Because they’re always watching Sportscenter. Why do girls always talk about boys? Because men are awesome (ok, I just threw that in there to see if you were paying attention). Think about it. What comes out of us has correlation with what’s already in us. Now, transplant yourself to the age of the NT writers. What was most prominent on their minds? Duh. The OT. Their religion was rooted in this text and they would’ve known it inside and out, as was customary of teachers and scribes. So in writing the inspired texts of the NT, what would’ve naturally come out? The OT scriptures. It’s that simple.
Why do I even bring this up? Well, because I think in all my studying of the Scripture, up until now, I saw the two testaments as somewhat mutually exclusive. Yes, I did notice that the OT was quoted here and there by several NT authors, but never did I think the relationship went beyond that. What I’m seeing now, as I reread the NT scriptures, is the overwhelming presence of the OT. And in seeing this undeniable link, I’m beginning to gain such a depth of understanding of what the NT writers are actually wanting to communicate through their writing. Amazing stuff that probably only interests me at the moment, but amazing nonetheless.
I’ll give you a small tidbit of what I’m talking about. Look at John 1 and Genesis 1 in parallel. From the get go, do you see something similar? “In the beginning…” Now, I don’t have time nor the scholarship to expound this adequately, but suffice it to say that John is undoubtedly repeating this phrase from the well-known beginning parts of the creation account in Genesis. In the first book of the Pentateuch, God created the earth by His Word. Man destroyed the earth in his sin. But what John is doing here is introducing a New Creation. By referring back to Genesis, John is saying that Jesus is the Word by which God will recreate and reestablish His creation into right order. Jesus is the dawn of the New Creation. What we managed to destroy, Jesus is coming to reclaim and renew. God doesn’t just throw His tainted creation away, as if to give up on it and start all over. But He chooses to restore us back to the way things ought to have been. He saves us. That’s the amazing Gospel! And all of that from just the first three words in John’s Gospel. Trust me, there’s more where that came from, just look.
I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to begin reading your New Testament through the lens of the Old Testament. It will blow your mind. (hint: use those cross-references that you always neglected)