A gracEmail reader asks, “What is the Old Testament and why is it in our Bibles?”
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When Jesus was born and before there were any Christians, God had worked already for 2,000 years through his chosen people the Jews. The Old Testament Scriptures were the collection of books which the Jews regarded as sacred. These holy writings told of the origins of the universe, of humankind, of sin and judgment and redemption. The 39 books from Genesis through Malachi reported, recorded, and reflected on God’s dealings with people from Adam until about 400 years before Christ.
The Old Testament Scriptures were the Bible of Jesus and the earliest believers in him, most of whom were Jews. As time progressed and the world did not end, some of the Apostles and some of their immediate followers wrote memoirs, letters, histories and prophecies as well. Eventually the Christian church came to regard as canonical 27 of those new writings (Matthew through Revelation) which we call the New Testament Scriptures. These new Scriptures presupposed the message of the Old Testament Scriptures, as viewed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We can no more cut off the Old Testament Scriptures and become mature Christians than a tree can cut its roots and continue to thrive. The Old Testament Scriptures are as important to Christians as the ground floor of a house is to the second floor above it.
According to New Testament writers, the Old Testament Scriptures prepared the way for the coming of Jesus (Luke 24:44-48). They give wisdom that leads to salvation through trusting Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:14-15). With Christ in mind, they equip the Christian teacher for all occasions and situations (2 Tim. 3:16-17). They give us examples of faithfulness and of disobedience (1 Cor. 10:11). They instruct and encourage us and provide hope (Rom. 15:4). They contribute the themes and concepts, the framework and structure, the vocabulary and motifs for reading and understanding the New Testament Scriptures. Jesus himself is the key to both Old and New Testament Scriptures, and that is the single most important truth of all.