“Written for Our Instruction”
“TO THE making of many books there is no end.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12) The glut of printed matter available today makes those words as true today as when they were written. How, then, can a discerning reader decide what deserves his attention?
When contemplating a book that they might read, many readers want to know something about the author. Publishers may insert a small paragraph that supplies the name of the writer’s hometown, his academic credentials, and a list of his published works. The identity of a writer is important, as seen in the fact that in earlier centuries, female authors often wrote under a male pseudonym so that would-be readers would not judge the book inferior merely because it was written by a woman.
Sadly, as noted in the preceding article, some ignore the Hebrew Scriptures because they believe that the God portrayed therein is a cruel deity who destroyed his enemies without mercy.* Let us consider what the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures themselves tell us about the Author of the Bible.
About the Author
According to the Hebrew Scriptures, God told the nation of Israel: “I am Jehovah; I have not changed.” (Malachi 3:6) Some 500 years later, the Bible writer James wrote of God: “With him there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow.” (James 1:17) Why, then, does it seem to some that the God revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures is different from the God of the Christian Greek Scriptures?
The answer is that different aspects of God’s personality are revealed in different parts of the Bible. In the book of Genesis alone, he is described as feeling “hurt at his heart,” as the “Producer of heaven and earth,” and as “the Judge of all the earth.” (Genesis 6:6; 14:22; 18:25) Do these differing descriptions refer to the same God? They certainly do.
To illustrate: A local judge may be best known by those who have faced him in court as a firm enforcer of the law. His children, on the other hand, may view him as the loving, generous father that he is. His close friends may find that he is an approachable man with a good sense of humor. The judge, the father, and the friend are all the same person. It is just that various aspects of his personality become apparent under different circumstances.
Similarly, the Hebrew Scriptures describe Jehovah as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” Yet, we also learn that “by no means will he give exemption from punishment.” (Exodus 34:6, 7) Those two aspects reflect the meaning of God’s name. “Jehovah” literally means “He Causes to Become.” That is, God becomes whatever is needed to fulfill his promises. (Exodus 3:13-15) But he remains the same God. Jesus stated: “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.”—Mark 12:29.
Have the Hebrew Scriptures Been Replaced?
It is not uncommon today for textbooks to be replaced when new research becomes available or when popular opinion changes. Did the Christian Greek Scriptures replace the Hebrew Scriptures in that way? No.
If Jesus had intended that the record of his ministry and the writings of his disciples replace the Hebrew Scriptures, he would surely have indicated this. However, regarding Jesus just before his ascension to heaven, Luke’s account states: “Commencing at Moses and all the Prophets [in the Hebrew Scriptures] he interpreted to [two of his disciples] things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures.” Later, Jesus appeared to his faithful apostles and others. The account continues: “He now said to them: ‘These are my words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you, that all the things written in the law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms about me must be fulfilled.’” (Luke 24:27, 44) Why would Jesus still be using the Hebrew Scriptures at the end of his earthly ministry if they were out-of-date?
After the Christian congregation was established, Jesus’ followers continued to use the Hebrew Scriptures to highlight prophecies that were yet to be fulfilled, principles from the Mosaic Law that taught valuable lessons, and accounts of ancient servants of God whose fine examples encourage Christians to remain faithful. (Acts 2:16-21; 1 Corinthians 9:9, 10; Hebrews 11:1–12:1) “All Scripture,” wrote the apostle Paul, “is inspired of God and beneficial.”* (2 Timothy 3:16) How do the Hebrew Scriptures prove to be beneficial today?
Advice for Daily Living
Consider the present-day problem of racial prejudice. In one Eastern European city, a 21-year-old Ethiopian man states: “If we want to go anywhere, we have to organize a group. Maybe in a group they won’t attack us.” He continues: “We can’t go out after 6 p.m., especially on the metro. When people look at us, they just see our colour.” Do the Hebrew Scriptures address this complex problem?
The ancient Israelites were told: “In case an alien resident resides with you as an alien in your land, you must not mistreat him. The alien resident who resides as an alien with you should become to you like a native of yours; and you must love him as yourself, for you became alien residents in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33, 34) Yes, in ancient Israel that law called for consideration for immigrants, or “alien residents,” and it is preserved in the Hebrew Scriptures. Would you not agree that the principles enshrined in that law could be the basis for ending racial prejudice today?
Although they do not give detailed financial advice, the Hebrew Scriptures contain practical guidelines for a wise approach to handling money. For example, at Proverbs 22:7, we read: “He who gets into debt is a servant to his creditor.” (The Bible in Basic English) Many financial advisers agree that buying unwisely on credit can lead to economic ruin.
In addition, the pursuit of wealth at all costs—so common in today’s materialistic world—was accurately described by one of the richest men in history, King Solomon. He wrote: “A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver, neither any lover of wealth with income. This too is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10) What a wise warning!
Hope for the Future
The entire Bible has but one theme: The Kingdom under Jesus Christ is the means by which the vindication of God’s sovereignty and the sanctification of His name will be accomplished.—Daniel 2:44; Revelation 11:15.
Through the Hebrew Scriptures, we learn details about life under God’s Kingdom that give us comfort and draw us closer to the Source of that comfort, Jehovah God. For example, the prophet Isaiah foretold that there would be peace between animals and humans: “The wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them.” (Isaiah 11:6-8) What a beautiful prospect!
And what of those disadvantaged by racial or ethnic prejudice, serious illness, or economic factors beyond their control? The Hebrew Scriptures prophetically say this about Christ Jesus: “He will deliver the poor one crying for help, also the afflicted one and whoever has no helper. He will feel sorry for the lowly one and the poor one, and the souls of the poor ones he will save.” (Psalm 72:12, 13) Such promises are practical because they enable those who put faith in them to face the future with hope and confidence.—Hebrews 11:6.
No wonder that the apostle Paul was inspired to write: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope”! (Romans 15:4) Yes, the Hebrew Scriptures are still an integral part of God’s inspired Word, the Bible. They have real value for us today. It is our hope that you will strive to learn more about what the entire Bible really teaches and thus draw closer to its Author, Jehovah God.—Psalm 119:111, 112.
In this article, we refer to the Old Testament as the Hebrew Scriptures. (See the box “Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures?” on page 6.) In a similar way, Jehovah’s Witnesses usually refer to the New Testament as the Christian Greek Scriptures.
The Hebrew Scriptures contain many principles of great value today. However, it should be noted that Christians are not under the Law that God gave through Moses to the nation of Israel.
[Box on page 6]
OLD TESTAMENT OR HEBREW SCRIPTURES?
The expression “old testament” is found at 2 Corinthians 3:14 in the King James Version. In that rendering, “testament” represents the Greek word di·a·theʹke. However, many modern translations, such as the New International Version, render di·a·theʹke as “covenant” rather than “testament.” Why?
Lexicographer Edward Robinson stated: “Since the ancient covenant is contained in the Mosaic books, [di·a·theʹke] is put for the book of the covenant, the Mosaic writings, i.e. the law.” At 2 Corinthians 3:14, the apostle Paul was referring to the Mosaic Law, which is only a part of the pre-Christian Scriptures.
What, then, is a more fitting term for the first 39 books of the Holy Bible? Rather than implying that this part of the Bible was outdated or old, Jesus Christ and his followers referred to these texts as “the Scriptures” and “the holy Scriptures.” (Matthew 21:42; Romans 1:2) Therefore, in harmony with these inspired utterances, Jehovah’s Witnesses refer to the Old Testament as the Hebrew Scriptures because that portion of the Bible was originally written mainly in Hebrew. Similarly, they refer to the so-called New Testament as the Greek Scriptures, for the Greek language was used by men who were inspired by God to write that part of the Bible.
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A man can be known as a firm judge, a loving father, and a friend
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Jesus used the Hebrew Scriptures throughout his ministry
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What Bible principles can help a person make right decisions?