Is the “Old Testament” Still Relevant?
IN 1786 a French physician published a book called Traité d’anatomie et de physiologie (A Discussion of Anatomy and Physiology). It is considered the most accurate neuroanatomical work of its time, and a rare copy recently sold for over 27 thousand dollars! Nevertheless, few patients today would trust a surgeon who relied on the book’s centuries-old medical research. The historical and literary value of such a book hardly makes it helpful to a sick person now.
Many feel the same way about the so-called Old Testament. They appreciate its account of Israel’s history and admire its beautiful poetry. Yet, they doubt that it is reasonable to follow guidance that is more than 2,400 years old. Scientific knowledge, commerce, and even family life are very different today from what they were when the Bible was written. Philip Yancey, a former editor of Christianity Today, writes in his book The Bible Jesus Read: “It doesn’t always make sense, and what sense it does make offends modern ears. For these and other reasons the Old Testament, three-fourths of the Bible, often goes unread.” That thinking is not new.
Less than 50 years after the apostle John’s death in about 100 C.E., a rich young man named Marcion publicly asserted that the Old Testament should be rejected by Christians. According to English historian Robin Lane Fox, Marcion argued that “‘God’ in the Old Testament was a ‘committed barbarian’ who favoured bandits and such terrorists as Israel’s King David. Christ, by contrast, was the new and separate revelation of an altogether higher God.” Fox writes that these beliefs “became ‘Marcionism’ and continued to attract followers, especially in the Syriac-speaking East, far into the fourth century.” Some of these ideas persist. As a result, over 1,600 years later, writes Philip Yancey, “knowledge of the Old Testament is fading fast among Christians and has virtually vanished in popular culture.”
Has the Old Testament been replaced? How can we reconcile “Jehovah of armies” in the Old Testament with “the God of love and of peace” in the New Testament? (Isaiah 13:13; 2 Corinthians 13:11) Can the Old Testament benefit you today?