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  Is the Old Testament Inferior to the New Testament?

"I'm told that the whole Bible is inspired and the word of God. But if that's so, what about scripture from the Old Testament that seems outdated--like Exodus 23:19 which reads, 'You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk.' Isn't the Old Testament really inferior to the New Testament?"

This is exactly the kind of problem the church has been wrestling with since its inception--just how are the scriptures of old relevant to the New Testament church? The question has such profound ramifications that one of the reasons for the rise of the Nazi political party with its anti-Semitic bent can be traced to the work of the nineteenth century theologians, many of whom claimed the Old Testament was indeed inferior and was unnecessary for a people of faith. However this is not at all the case. To answer this question first we shall deal with the so-called inferiority of the Old Testament, then next week we'll look at the specific example cited above.

When the author of 1st Timothy penned his letter, the only scripture recognized by the church was that of the Old Testament. When the words were written, "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (1 Timothy 3:16) the statement was supportive of what we call the Old Testament and what was then known simply as "scripture." Paul, John, Matthew, Peter, Mark, and Luke, among others, were simply not aware they were writing anything more than letters, apologies, gospels, or polemics. The earliest church recognized only the writings of the Old Testament. However, as the rift between Jew and Christian widened during the late first century, the writings of the letters and books took a somewhat anti-Semitic tone, even though the importance of the Old Testament is clearly seen simply by the number of times it is quoted and referred to.

As time passed the church continued to place an emphasis on the New Testament (after all, Jesus Christ is the central theme of Christianity) and de-emphasized the Old until in the nineteenth century there was a move by some theologians to remove the Old Testament from the Christian Bible completely.

It is important to note that the Old Testament was certainly quoted by Jesus himself, making age-old words and commands relevant to his particular audience. Indeed, the two great commandments are quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5 (Love God) and Leviticus 19:34 (Love Neighbor). Though it is true that the sacrificial system is no longer relevant to the twentieth century, if for no other reason than there is no Temple, this certainly doesn't make the whole of the Old Testament irrelevant. Indeed, the whole of the Bible must be relevantized by each generation. When Paul wrote that women must be silent in church (1 Cor. 14:34) he spoke to a specific problem in a specific church. If we did not relaventize this verse today where would our choirs, our Sunday Schools, and so on be--indeed, if we did not relevantize it women couldn't even sing in the congregation (silence=no sound).

The Old Testament is truly a book for today, even as the New Testament is. The whole scripture is scripture and we must be wary of over emphasizing on any one part.

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