For Christians, discomfort with the Old Testament is nothing new. During the second century, Marcion shunned what he saw as the wrathful God of Israel, instead embracing the compassionate figure of Jesus of Nazareth. In Bearing God’s Name: Why Sinai Still Matters, Prairie College Old Testament professor Carmen Joy Imes recovers the importance of God’s law for the church today, rejecting the popular heresy that we can dismiss the Old Testament in favor of the New. Writer Jen Pollock Michel spoke with Imes about the personal and communal dimensions of entering into the Sinai covenant through Jesus, the true Israelite.
As you envisioned this book, what level of Old Testament familiarity were you assuming on the part of your readers?
I was thinking of my students when I wrote it. Some of them know nothing about the Bible, while others have been in church all their lives. But even among the regular churchgoers, I find plenty of biblical illiteracy and some very simplistic ways of understanding Scripture. By and large, they read the Old Testament moralistically, looking for heroes, for people whose example they can follow. But it’s very frustrating and disappointing, because everyone they encounter is flawed.
When students arrive in my Torah class, I help them dig deeper into Scripture. There’s some excavating that needs to be done to help them read the Bible as it’s intended.
The temptation to unhitch ourselves from the Old Testament is quite old, but is there anything particularly new about the way that temptation expresses itself today?
There are the classic issues people have struggled with for centuries, but these may be more acute in our age. Nowadays, we encounter questions like: What about the ...1
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