The Importance of the Old Testament


It’s so very important for Christians to study the Old Testament. When learning the Scriptures, many people want to “skip to the good part” in their view. They want to go right to the end of the book, the New Testament, the part of the Bible that speaks directly of Jesus.

This view is shortsighted for several reasons.

First, the ultimate subject of all of Scripture is Jesus Christ. He is the living Word of God, after all. As St. Augustine so famously said, “The New Testament is in the Old, concealed; the Old Testament is in the New, revealed.”

Secondly, just because it’s called the “Old” Testament, doesn’t mean it’s old news.. Our society doesn’t like anything that’s labeled “old” – and sadly, this can refer to people as well as products. Marketers are always seeking to promote what is “new” and allegedly improved. This is why many now refer to the Old Testament as the “Hebrew Scriptures” instead. They may speak of events that happened long ago, but God still speaks to us in a fresh way, as relevant still to our time as this morning’s newspaper. Much more so, in fact, because it is a message from the Almighty.

Third, in order to understand the New Testament properly, we must have at least a basic understanding of the Old Testament. So many times in the New Testament, we read that Jesus came to “fulfill” Scripture. What is meant by that, obviously, are the Scriptures of the Old Covenant, more commonly known as the Old Testament (the word “covenant” means the same thing as “testament”; testamentum is the Latin translation of “covenant”). Just as in mathematics, one must understand basic calculus before moving on to trigonometry, one must understand the Old Testament before one can fully understand the New.

How to help Iraqi Christians

Following talks that I’ve given lately, I’ve fielded a lot of questions about the persecution of Iraqi Christians. All of us have been horrified by what we’ve heard; very often we’re at a loss about what to do. Josh Canning over at Canadian Catholic has penned a nice post offering three practical action steps:

1. Write your MP (Member of Parliament in Canada; American readers can contact their elected representatives at State and Federal levels):

  • Sometimes we plan to do this and procrastinate. Please do it now. It does influence policy, and I am posting a letter below that you can cut and paste if you like.

2. Give

  • CNEWA launched an emergency appeal to help fleeing families in Iraq. How much should you give? $100 is a good bold number to start with. Maybe you can’t give that much, maybe you can give more. Just make it sting a little. It helps! (Canadians give here or here; Americans can give here.

3. Pray

  • Let us, as a people of God, beg him daily for solutions to this crisis. Pray personally. Get together and pray in groups. Have Masses said for this intention. And fast from something.

When part of the body hurts the whole body feels it. Let’s ache with and for our suffering family, and be generous.

Sample Letter to an MP

Hon. MP _______,

As a member of your riding, I am writing to ask you to advocate for a greater government response to the tragic events happening right now in Iraq. There is a genocide taking place against Iraq’s Christian community. Along with the archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Cardinal Collins, I ask that all bureaucratic barriers be removed to accept Iraqi refugees who are being displaced, hunted down and murdered by the Islamic State (formerly ISIS).

The number of victims is vast and rapidly growing. Women, children and the elderly are dying of exposure. Please do what you can to ensure our government will do its part to urgently provide the humanitarian support needed.

Thank you,

(Your name)


Josh’s full post is well worth reading – and sharing.

Q and A on Trinity Sunday

Holy_TrinityQ. This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, and we Catholics are used to hearing about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. But some Australian priests got a bit “creative” with the liturgy a few years ago, and began opening the Mass in a different way. Instead of saying, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, they said this: “In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier”. They were severely reprimanded by their bishop. Why was this such a big deal to the Church?

A. What these priests did was wrong on many levels. The biggest problem was that creating, redeeming and sanctifying are things that God does, but they are not who he is. Yes, it is true that God created the cosmos, and that Jesus redeemed us, and that the Holy Spirit sanctifies us (makes us holy, provided we cooperate with God’s grace). But creating, redeeming, and sanctifying are God’s activities, not his identity. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 28:19).

Q. Why did God not reveal himself as a Trinity of Persons until the age of the New Covenant, in which we are now living?

A. God dealt with humanity as a wise parent deals with a child. This has often been called the “divine pedagogy”. A small child cannot understand trigonometry or quantum physics. One must start with simple concepts, like “2 + 2 = 4”, and build from there. More truth is added when the student is ready to handle it. In the same fashion, God gradually revealed truth about himself to human beings, culminating in the revelation of the Most Holy Trinity.

I actually think that the Trinity is all over the Old Testament as well – God creating the universe by his powerful “Word” in Genesis – the Word that later became flesh, Jesus Christ (John 1:14). God’s Spirit hovered over the waters of creation  – the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2). God said, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). All of this is less explicit than we might like it to be, but the doctrine is there. I believe that one reason God did not more clearly spell out the doctrine of the Trinity until later in salvation history was the problem of polytheism in the ancient Near East.

In the Old Testament period, God chose to reveal himself to the world gradually through the agency of his people, Israel. The ultimate plan was for all the nations (or “Gentiles”, ethnic groups) outside of Israel to join God’s family. This was promised to Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, when God promised him that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his “seed”  (Genesis 22:18). This finally happened in the age of the universal (the word “Catholic” means “universal”) Church of Jesus Christ, the son (descendant, or “seed”) of Abraham, according to the flesh (Matthew 1:1).

But, in the time of ancient Israel, God’s people lived among many other peoples who were polytheists (they believed in many “gods”). At that time, it was more important for Israel to reveal to the world that there is only one true God. The revelation that there are three persons in the one God would have to wait. If that truth had been fully proclaimed at that point, it may have confused non-Jews, who may have viewed the Trinity as three different “gods”, rather than three Divine Persons sharing one Divine nature.

Re: Anglicans to consider opening communion to unbaptized

Call it an Anglican communion confusion. Charles Lewis, writing in today’s National Post cover story, tells us that “Canadian Anglicans will hold discussions this spring about whether baptism is necessary for taking part in communion – questioning a requirement of Christianity that has existed for 2,000 years.”

The reason? Numbers are down! The Anglican communion in Canada has been bleeding members for years. According to the Post article, the organization is down to only 500,000 members, whereas it had 1.3 million only decades ago. The hope is that another attempted Anglican change of the rules of the game will attract more fans.

I’m reminded of the wise words of Peter Kreeft, who once noted that the Catholic Church is always being accused of trying to impose some sort of a draconian authority over its members, but the reality is that other Christian communities actually claim far, far more authority for themselves than does the Catholic Church.

How so? Kreeft says that these communities are constantly changing the teachings of Christ to suit their own needs and whims, but the Catholic Church does not – and cannot – do so. She simply doesn’t have the authority. She is not free to alter the teachings of her Lord. Kreeft says that “authority”, after all, means “author’s rights”. We are not the authors of Christ’s teaching, and we are not free to edit it – we’re only the mail carriers. Our job is simply to pass on the teaching of Christ intact to the next generation, unpopular though it may be.

But, even if Anglicans do open up their communion table to all, our Lord won’t be offended in the least. After all, Anglicans haven’t had valid Holy Orders for centuries. They may think they have a valid eucharist, but without validly ordained priests and bishops, it can never be the Eucharist – the true Body and Blood of Christ. Deep down, many Anglicans realize this, just as Cardinal John Henry Newman did before coming home to the Catholic Church. He noted that the leftover, and allegedly consecrated, communion elements from a service were summarily dumped in the trash. He realized that this could not possibly be the Eucharist the early Christians spoke of – no matter who gets to partake of it. And no amount of misguided marketing could ever change that fact.