Thursday, May 28, 2009

How Relevant is the Old Testament? Part 2

When I was thinking about the ideas for my last post, I was impressed with how radically Christianity has departed from Judaism.  While Jesus was a Jewish man, living in a Jewish culture, conforming himself to Jewish law, he really upset the entire system of Jewish worship.

I contended that that's why the Pharisees and Sadducees hated him so much.  His teachings undermined the religious system that had developed over hundreds of years.  Not only did his teachings undermine the religious system, but the authority with which Jesus taught sent a clear message as to how Jesus viewed his legitimacy and his ability to refine the sacred texts of Israel.

Jesus spoke with certainty and confidence.  He taught the people truths about God without the approval of the religious leaders.  Even the common people noticed this.
Matthew 7:28-29
8When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
"By whose authority do you do these things?" the Pharisees often asked.
Matthew 21:23-27
23Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. "By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you this authority?"
24Jesus replied, "I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25John's baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?"

They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' 26But if we say, 'From men'—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet."

27So they answered Jesus, "We don't know."
Then he said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
The religious leaders, who described themselves as disciples of Moses, could never authoritatively alter the Law. They could only parse and debate its meaning, attempting to fit it into their current circumstances.  They couldn't relate a higher standard than what they already had in the Law, because to do so would imply that the Law was insufficient....which is exactly what the New Testament teaches.
Galatians 3:19-25
19What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. 20A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.

21Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

23Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
Ephesians 2:14-15a
14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.
Hebrews 10:1
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

To put all of this together we need to understand that the story of Scripture is an evolving revelation of humans interacting with the Divine.  The Israelites under Moses had more experience with the Divine than they did before Moses.  The Israelites hundreds of years after Moses had further experiences which informed their views about God.  It is a progressive accumulation and refinement of how a particular people understood God and his relationship with people.

To say that maybe not everything in the Mosaic code was straight from God is not to denigrate it. Instead, by understanding it in terms of a path eventually leading to Jesus, we affirm Jesus' message. We affirm that God works on purifying His people from the inside out, through his indwelling  Spirit, rather than through external actions.  

This is what is meant by John 4:23:
23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
Admitting the human dynamic in the formation of Scripture does not subtract from God, but instead affirms that He is higher than we limited beings are capable of expressing adequately. 


Buz said...

I guess there are three ways to look at it (borrowing from "Goldielocks and the Three Bears") ... it's too big, too small, or just right.

(1) God, working through men, allowed them to put extraneous and irrelevant stuff in the Bible. (I don't really care if you wear wool and cotton, but Moses wanted to put it in.)

(2) God, working through men, allowed them to skip important stuff that SHOULD have been in there. (There were actually 12 commandments, #11 was "Thou shalt not have slaves, and #12 was Thou shalt listen to thy wife, but Moses thought that those weren't important, so he left them out.)

(3) God, working through men, had them put in exactly what he wanted. No more, no less.

Choose wisely.


Anonymous said...

Buz, there are many more possibilities than you imagine.

For example, the books could be written by men, reflecting the beliefs of a certain group of people at a certain point in time. Nothing more or less.

That would explain why God is so different from era to era. In the early days he was anthromorphized, very emotional and quick to act. As time went on, he became more distant and mellowed out and focused on love rather than avenging petty grievances.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Or God was the same, but that was what was understood of Him. And for some reason that gradualism, which we find abhorrent, didn't bother Him so much.

Buz said...


Since, I believe, Terri is looking for answers that hold to the belief that God is the inspiration behind the writers, I left out the fourth and fifth options which leave out God ... (4) God had nothing to do with it, it was written by a bunch of guys who wanted to impose their will on the rest of the world, (5) God had nothing to do with it, it was written by a bunch of guys who were a couple of cheeseburgers short of a happy meal or smoking mushrooms and just THOUGHT they were hearing from God.

Those are basically the only five options. All the rest will boil down to those when you cut through the nice sounding words.


Anonymous said...

John Calvin encountered these same problems when he and other reformers created a new religion. They somehow had to be able to justify war, killings, and control in lieu of the teachings of Christ. Simply put, when Jesus's teachings get in the way of man's ambitions, we will go to the default god of the OT to gain our justification...afterall, the OT is as relevant as the NT. In other words, the gospel in one hand and a sword (ot) behind our backs for back-up). Easy way to annihilate races of people by identifying with Joshua, no guilt. American Indians experienced this phenomonom. From friends to savages within a hundred years. They had what God ordained us to have, so lets turn them into heathens and destroy them and purge our new Jerasalem in the name of God. So lets just disregard: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life", when we want to covet possessions of others...whether it be countries, wive/husbands, etc. As for me, " live is Christ and to die is gain".

Anonymous said...

Christ is the transparency of God. You want to know God the Father? Then live by the teachings of Christ. Christ is the final authority on all matters pertaining to man on how we ought to be and interaction with all man kind.

Yoda said...

I am very new to this old blog but it tugs at my spiritual heartstrings bcuz so many professed, "Bible-believing" Christians, really don't believe the Bible nor do they want to be governed by it. I like the way Paul, INSPIRED of God/Jesus Christ, said it in 1 John 2:3-6 (3)"and hereby we do know that we know him (Christ), if we keep His commandments, (4)He that saith, "I know him and keepeth not His commandments, is a LIAR and the truth is not in Him, (5) But WHOSO keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God (Christ) perfected; hereby we know we that are in Him. (6) He that saith He abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as HE walked."

Once we stop cherry picking and "making assumptions" for God...(pretty stupid considering He is ALL-Knowing) and let the Scripture speak for itself, we can get on with living the life the Lord MEANT for us to live, Holy and blessed, in spite of trials and tribulations. We are always going to have stubborn folk who nit-pick the Scripture, "we don't practice slavery anymore so how can the Law apply or we don't STONE people for adultery".....SIGH....yet God KNEW people would do this very thing which is why He said in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 "for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but after their OWN lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears, And they shall turn away their ears from the TRUTH and shall be turned unto fables."

So, Scripture shall remain standing as SPOKEN by GOD....

"Let God be TRUE and EVERYMAY a liar..."

I side with GOD...

nuff said