By H.G. Dr Geevarghese Mar Osthathios
It is very unfortunate that such a question is asked. The O. T. is the Bible of three major religions of the world namely the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims. For the Jews it is their only Scripture. For the Christians it is the historical and theological background of the N.T. and so forms an integral part of the Holy Bible containing the O. T. and the N. T.
Our Lord has quoted from it even hanging on the Cross 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me' (Ps. 22: 1). He defeated the temptations of Satan by quoting the passages from the Bible esp. the Book of Deuteronomy. (See Dt. 9: 9; 8:3; 6: 13; 1 Kings 19: 8 Ps. 118). St. Mathew quotes profusely from the O. T. to show that Jesus was the expected Messiah. When Our Lord. read the Bible in the Synagogue at Nazareth he was reading Is. 61: 1. St. Paul's whole theology of justification by faith is based on the faith of Abraham and the very phrase, "the righteous shall live by his faith" is from Habakkuk 2: 4. The Epistle to the Hebrews can never be understood without a thorough study of O. T. priesthood, the Tabernacle, the priesthood of Melchizedak etc. (See Ex. 25-40 for Heb. 9: 1-28).
Creation of man in the image of God is basic for any Christian anthropology. The ten commandments is only fulfilled by Christ in the deeper version of it in the Sermon on the Mount and not abrogated. Those who say that the O. T. must be replaced by the Vedas and the Upanishads for the Indian Bible are not giving due value to the simple fact that Christianity is a historical religion unlike Hinduism and the Hebrew Christian Revelation has unique continuity in spite of the discontinuity. To say that Christ is the final answer for the quest of all ages and all religions is true, but there is a unique validity for the claim that the Messianic prophecies of the O. T. are fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
Is not the devotional reading of the Psalter practiced in all the branches of Christendom to this very day? Is not the 23rd Psalm the most favorite passage of the whole Bible next to the Lord's prayer? Are not the stories of the O. T. more interesting to the Sunday school students than the stories of the N. T? As the very God of very God became very man in the form of a Jew, how can we understand Him and his life and teaching without a study of the Jewish Bible?
It seems to me that those who do ignore the O. T. are trying to draw a picture without a black-board or trying to plant a tree without any roots. The O. T. gives the necessary background for the understanding of the New Israel, its sacraments and priesthood in relation to the sacrifices and priesthood of the Old Israel. It can easily be shown that if we do not read the O. T. our reading of the N. T. is partial and incomplete and even unintelligible. The lack of interest of many modern Christians in the O. T. will ultimately lead them to a lack of interest in the N. T. also. Even the phrase 'Christ our paschal lamb' (I Cor. 5: 7) is unintelligible without a study of the original paschal lamb of Ex. 12.
As Jesus Christ stands between B. C. and A. D. as the center of history. He stands hidden in the O. T. and revealed in the N. T., as expected Messiah in the O. T. and as revealed Messiah in the N. T. and the whole Bible is history only as His Story. Therefore let us study the O. T. with a deep sense of dedication and expectation.
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