The Word of God: The Foundation of Knowledge

Lesson 2, Part 4

5/11

God's Knowledge Revealed in Two Parts

"The Christian community has a divided mind about its textbook”

John Wenham

Most people are aware that the Bible is composed of written material presented in two sections, traditionally labeled the Old Testament and the New Testament. In some respects this terminology is misleading because it has subtly led some to reject large parts of God’s revelation. The Old Testament is judged to be of less value or even obsolete by some theologians and religious leaders because it is older.

Many are the misconceptions concerning the Hebrew Bible. British author and Bible scholar John Wenham wrote:

“We have had so much erroneous teaching for so many years that even intelligent people often really believe that the two Testaments represent two irreconcilably opposed points of view; the Old Testament being a God of wrath and the New Testament a God of love” (Christ and the Bible, p. 19).

Some conclude that the Old Testament was old—and thus obsolete or worn out—and it therefore has been replaced by the New Testament. The designations “Old Testament” and “New Testament” are found in a few places in some Bible translations, but the word translated “testament” is also the word for “covenant.” These scriptures talk about the Old and New Covenants (to be fully explained in a later lesson)—not about the books of the Bible.

If you had lived 2,000 years ago and had asked the apostles Peter, Paul and John about the “Old Testament” or the “New Testament,” they would have had no idea what you were talking about. These terms were coined by men long after the biblical books were written. The first use of “New Testament” for the Greek Scriptures is not found until a century or more after the deaths of the apostles.

MalachiMalachi

So much of the Bible consists of the Old Testament. In fact, the vast majority of God’s Word is made up of those Hebrew Scriptures—nearly 80 percent of the Bible’s 773,000 words. Moreover, the New Testament contains some 600 quotations from and references or allusions to the Old.

In that light, does it make sense for much of the modern Christian world to view the Old Testament’s contents as somehow inferior or conflicting with the New? Is it logical to disregard the history of God’s revelation, His revealed way of life and the promises these Hebrew Scriptures contain?

As Walter Kaiser says in his book Towards Discovering the Old Testament , “the church spurns three-fourths of God’s inscripturated revelation—a massive amount of biblical teaching—if she persists in constructing all of her theology from the NT, while shamefully neglecting the OT. It is this practice that will leave . . . imbalances in her teaching ministry. She must return to the profitable, didactic usage of the OT (p. 29).

The Transition from the Prophets to the Gospels

 

These two parts of God’s Word join seamlessly to provide God’s complete revelation to mankind. Even though the period between the testaments was more than 400 years, the writings of the Hebrew prophets precede the apostolic writings in a manner that emphasizes their basic unity.

Consider how the closing words of the Old Testament prophets flow smoothly into those that open the New Testament. Malachi, generally considered to be the last of the Hebrew prophets, foretells an “Elijah who is to come”—John the Baptist (Matthew 11:13-14; Malachi 4:5-6).

Mark, considered by many to have been the first of the Gospel writers, begins right where Malachi left off—citing prophecies from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 of a messenger who would precede the Messiah. Then John the Baptist (the Elijah to come prophesied by Malachi) is introduced as the appointed forerunner of Jesus Christ, establishing the way for His first coming. (It is interesting to note that the context of the final chapter of Malachi also implies the appearance of still another prophet “in the spirit and power of Elijah” who will precede Christ’s second coming.)

Matthew similarly begins his Gospel as a continuation of the Old Testament, giving a genealogy of the Hebrew patriarchal and kingly lines leading to the birth of Jesus Christ. The specific purpose in Matthew 1 is summed up in Matthew 1:18: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows . . .”

Yet 17 vital verses precede this statement. Why? These boldly declare Jesus Christ’s Israelite ancestry back to King David and, even earlier, to Abraham. These words of Matthew validate the importance of the earlier books of the Hebrew Bible and demonstrate how he was building on their foundation.

Why does the New Testament begin with a genealogy?

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers . . . David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah . . . Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they [the peoples of Judah] were carried away to Babylon . . .

“So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations”  Matthew 1:1-17

Matthew Matthew

These 17 verses may be viewed as a brief summary of the sacred history of Israel and Judah. They send a powerful message at the beginning of the New Testament that we must give the Old Testament due consideration.

Matthew’s historical introduction is designed to show Christ’s legal genealogy—that He is the fulfillment of promises made to Abraham (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18; etc.) and to King David (compare 2 Samuel 7:16; Acts 13:22-23; Luke 1:32). Matthew’s Gospel is built upon the foundation of the Hebrew Scriptures and contains many quotations from them. Thus both Matthew and Mark link the two testaments as a complete and whole revelation.

Glossary

Apostle: An exclusive ecclesiastical role historically held by very few; literally “one sent,” but for a particular purpose: to deliver a message. In the New Testament this refers to a special envoy or messenger of the gospel; a special messenger from God (Luke 11:49; Revelation 18:20); more specifically the original 12 (Peter, John, Andrew, etc.) plus Paul, Barnabas and a few others. Jesus Christ is called the Apostle (Hebrews 3:1).

Gospel: The good news of God’s everlasting kingdom to be established on earth after Christ’s return and how we may be a part of that kingdom. This message was central to the teaching of Jesus Christ and the apostles. The term is used about 100 times in the New Testament.

Knowledge: The broad range of information held by a person; an attribute of God (Romans 11:33); what we need to know about God (Hosea 4:6).

Latter Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel; called “latter” to distinguish these three and their respective books from the books of the “former” prophets: Samuel and Kings.

Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel; called “major” to distinguish these three and their respective books from the 12 “minor” prophets. Major is used in the sense of longer books and minor in the sense of shorter.

Pentateuch: The Greek term for the first five books of the Bible, the five books of Moses (penta means “five”). This term came into use when the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) began to be translated into Greek about 300 B.C.

Recorder: An enumerator, secretary or archivist; the king’s official secretary (2 Samuel 8:16). In the ancient world a recorder was a member of a professional class of literate men who were trained for official service in royal administration.

Revelation: The disclosure of God’s Word and plan to mankind. In the Bible this refers to making obscure things clear; bringing hidden matters to light; causing especially called individuals to see, hear, perceive, know and understand the things of God; the unveiling of biblical mysteries (Romans 16:25).

Scribe: A copyist of official manuscripts (notably the Hebrew Bible); an archivist or keeper of records; a member of a professional class of secretaries who transcribed legal documents and who were experts in the study of the law (or Torah). Ezra was a skilled scribe (Ezra 7:6). Jesus commended the profession itself (Matthew 13:52) but often took exception to the way the scribes used their office and influence, frequently misinterpreting the Scriptures.

Torah: A Hebrew expression that refers specifi- cally to “the law,” meaning the five books of Moses. In a much broader sense it means spiritual instruction or teaching.

Understanding: The quality of having insight or good judgment in general matters; an insightful power of abstract thought; the ability to logically follow through or trace a line of thought.

Wisdom: Having experience, knowledge and understanding together with the power of applying all three with prudence, practicality, discretion and common sense; the heart and center of proper moral and intellectual judgment; an attribute that God imparts to His people (Matthew 12:42) as they study His Word; personified in the book of Proverbs.

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