If the New Testament is the story of a Man, then the Old Testament is the story of a people. If the New Testament is personal and intimate, then the Old Testament is communal and expansive. If the New Testament is a sonata, then the Old Testament is a symphony.
"Old" and "New." Progenitor and progeny. The family resemblance is striking. Both are majestic and eternal, yet also commonplace and temporal. They share so much. The Holy Spirit. God the Father. God the Redeemer. God the Savior. The Holiness of God. The Mightiness of God. The Word of God. The Call to Righteousness. The Book of Life. Human Sin. Divine Justice and Mercy. Heaven and Hell. Revelations. Apocalypse. The Well of Living Water. The Way of Truth.
These realities, and so many others, are found in both books. Two books with a shared heritage. One book with two distinct parts.
For the Jewish people, whom God addressed and called apart, who safeguarded these Holy Scriptures for a millennium, and then shared them with the world, their Ta'na'kh (Tanach) is the early record of their nation, the remembrance of things past, the prophecies of things to come, but most importantly, the recounting of their unique relationship with Almighty God.
For Christians, the Old Testament sets the cosmic and temporal contexts for the New Testament. It is "Part One" of a unique two-part epic. Jesus, Peter and Paul, Matthew and John, and numerous others in the New Testament, frequently quote from the Old Testament. Without the Old, the New would be adrift, cut off from its life-giving roots. And as we all know, any living organism cut off from its roots will soon wither and die.
But the reach and relevance of the Old Testament, its importance and significance, far exceed these already substantial achievements.
On the temporal plane, that is life here and now, the Old Testament is essential for anyone seeking to understand the human condition and humankind, for anyone seeking the answers to the most fundamental questions of life and death. In other words, the Old Testament is as relevant as today's newspaper.
On the eternal plane, that is the infinite and forever, the Old Testament is nothing less than a formal introduction to God himself. And so it is for anyone seeking a relationship with him. Its supreme significance, its inestimable value, its ultimate purpose, is that it enables all of us, each and every one of us, if we so desire, the opportunity to begin to comprehend the Incomprehensible. For anyone seeking to come to know the Lord their God, the Lord God of Hosts, the Creator of the Universe, the Old Testament is, in a word, indispensable.
Who needs the Old Testament? Everyone.
Terry Noble studied at the University of British Columbia and the Vancouver School of Theology. His books include The Sculpture of Elek Imredy (1993), Wycliffe's New Testament (2001), Wycliffe's Old Testament (2001, 2010), the revised Wycliffe's New Testament (2011) and Wycliffe's Bible (2012). This article was excerpted from Wycliffe's Bible, which is available in paperback or in e-book format.
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