The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is the Old Testament Out-of-Date?
◼ “The Old Testament preaches hate and vengeance, ‘eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ That has all been replaced by the New Testament, which teaches love and forgiveness.”
◼ “The Old Testament simply isn’t relevant to modern Christians, so it’s not necessary to read it anymore!”
HAVE you ever caught yourself repeating the above charges, or heard someone else do so? Is the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) actually dead, out-of-date, replaced by the New Testament (Christian Greek Scriptures)? What does the Bible itself say?
Interestingly, the New Testament does indicate that the Law covenant, a contract God made with ancient Israel, is obsolete and hence not binding on Christians. (Ephesians 2:15; Hebrews 8:13) This Law covenant is included in the Old Testament. But there is much more to the Old Testament than the Law covenant!
There are three components of the Old Testament that make it important to you. What are they? (1) Relevant history, (2) upbuilding poetry, and (3) faith-inspiring prophecy, all of immense value to modern-day Christians. Consider how this is so.
The first 17 books of the Old Testament, Genesis to Esther, embody a historical record of God’s dealings with man from his creation until the fifth century B.C.E. But this is no mere dead history! As the Christian apostle Paul wrote: “Now these things [described in the Old Testament] went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us [Christians] upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 Corinthians 10:11.
Why did Paul view this history as germane for Christians despite the passage of centuries? Quite simply because just as human nature has not changed over the years so God himself has not changed. (Malachi 3:6) The Christian disciple James said about Jehovah God: “With him there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow.” (James 1:17) The shadow cast by the sun varies from minimal at noon to stretched-out at sunset. But Jehovah is different; his personality is unchangeable.
Thus, we can learn much from the history of Jehovah’s dealings with the patriarchs, with Israel at the Red Sea and in the wilderness, and with many other people. For example, just as God was offended when the Israelites practiced idolatry or committed fornication so he is displeased when Christians engage in such conduct. (1 Corinthians 10:1-12) Even the Law covenant, though not binding on Christians, gives valuable insight into Jehovah’s personality through its underlying principles.
Bible Poetry and Prophecy
The next five books, from Job to The Song of Solomon, are the poetic books. But these books are more than just good literature, for their contents are spiritually uplifting and often based on historical events. Whose emotions have not been stirred by the Psalms? And who cannot see the practical counsel on honesty, jealousy, and other matters of human relations in the book of Proverbs? (Proverbs 11:1; 14:30) Without a doubt, these books are as beneficial today as when they were first written.
The last 17 books of the Old Testament, Isaiah to Malachi, are prophetic books. They contain the proclamations of the ancient Hebrew prophets and provide vivid descriptions of the earthly coming of the Messiah centuries in advance. The Gospel accounts in the New Testament show the fulfillment of dozens of these prophecies, even in minute detail. Surely, a consideration of the accuracy of these prophecies strengthens our faith in Jesus Christ as the one sent by God to deliver mankind!
But can the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament be reconciled? Let us illustrate: A father may discipline his two sons differently because each child has a distinct personality. Similarly, the tone of Jehovah’s counsel in the Old Testament to Israel, a nation of people dedicated to him by birth, would differ from the tone of the counsel found in the New Testament to the Christian congregation, a group of people devoted to him by choice.
Thus, a close examination of the Bible shows that these two sections are not contradictory, but, rather, they complement each other. Both parts are needed for ‘the man of God to be fully competent.’—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
For example, does the Old Testament actually allow for the taking of personal vengeance whereas the New Testament condemns this? Not at all! Both recommend love of one’s enemies, pointing out that vengeance is reserved for God. (Compare Deuteronomy 32:35, 41 and Proverbs 25:21, 22 with Romans 12:17-21.) In fact, when the Old Testament speaks of ‘eye for eye and tooth for tooth,’ it is not discussing personal retaliation but, rather, fair compensation as imposed by a duly authorized court of law.—Exodus 21:1, 22-25.
No, the Old Testament is not obsolete or contradictory. The Bible testifies that the Old Testament is just as alive and relevant for Christians today as the New Testament is. Remember the words of Jesus Christ: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.” And that includes not only the Christian Greek Scriptures but the Hebrew Scriptures as well.—Matthew 4:4; compare Deuteronomy 8:3.