SV: Sometimes as Christians, we don’t pay much attention to the Old Testament, or we have a tendency to think it is not as significant for us today? Why is the Old Testament important? Do the books of the Old Testament still have relevance for our lives today?
AV: The Old Testament is important because it is an integral part of the Christian canon, the primary source of authority and standard for Christian faith and conduct. The 39 books of the OT provide the foundation for the faith proclaimed in the New Testament. The OT also provides the historical and theological setting of the NT. Without the OT, the NT will be incomplete and incomprehensible. In other words, the NT is only one half of the whole. Moreover, there is nothing new in the NT except that it clarifies, interprets, and expands the message of the OT through the lens of Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection. Every doctrinal issue or teaching in the NT has its foundation in the OT. Every major event in the NT has some point of contact with the OT. Therefore, the OT is as relevant as the NT for the Christian church today.
The relevance of any book of the Bible is in the message it conveys to us, and not in particular customs, practices, or patterns of life found in it. It is important to distinguish between cultural issues and theological issues in both testaments. Every book of the Bible has a theological message; it tells us something significant about God. That message, the understanding it conveys about God and his relationship with the world, and particularly with humans, is what makes a particular book relevant for us today.
Some Christians think that some books of the OT are more relevant than others; this way of thinking reflects the view that some books are less canonical (less authoritative) than others. Some Christians think this way because of their lack of familiarity with the message each OT book conveys to us. Even the most difficult book in the OT has a message and that message is somehow tied to the message of salvation that is woven into the story of God in the Bible. By not paying attention to certain books, we deprive ourselves of the entirety of the message of salvation, and thus hear only part of the story of God. By picking and choosing what we want to read and hear, we keep the Bible under our authority (and control), and as a result, live by our own self-proclaimed authority over us, instead of the authoritative voice of God heard through the books of the Bible.
Alex Varughese earned his Ph.D in biblical studies from Drew University. He taught biblical literature at Mount Vernon Nazarene University for thirty years, and he is the author of several books including a commentary on Jeremiah in the New Beacon Bible Commentary Series.
Faith Colloquium : A Blog about Theology, Philosophy, Church, and Culture