Back in April a tweet from John Cleese sparked some interesting questions with the ‘Impasse’ group.
The tweet read: “You see… Evangelism is defined as spreading the word of the Gospel. The Gospel – the teaching of Christ and the apostles – is to be found in the NEW Testament. There is no Gospel in the Old Testament, so why are ‘Evangelists’ so keen to spread the word of the OLD Testament?”
If we were to think about taking these words to heart, we would need to ask ourselves what then is the Old Testament (OT)? Is it ‘lesser’ than the New Testament (NT)? Are we in danger of ignoring it then?
These questions aligned with topics I was heavily pondering at the time regarding the Bible and I felt inspired to respond to these questions and explain some of my understanding. I would like to share with you my response:
“It would depend on how you mean lesser. They are very different books with distinctly different purposes and this needs to be more widely understood.
Vaguely similar to the differences between a prequel and the main title in a book series, they need to be read and understood in a different light to one another.
However to separate them would do a disservice to not only their contents and message, but also the world’s understanding of Jesus’ message.
The NT is the record of Jesus’ teachings and later the acts of his apostles and the early church. (To simplify: it is the book of ‘Christianity’)
But when Jesus taught he did not only present his own, radical, societal shifting ideas, actions and message: he taught often using the OT, referencing the history, prophecies and laws. (The OT is the book that describes the context that is sorely lacking in today’s world, when someone tries to understand Jesus’ teachings in a vacuum or even without leaving their own societal context at the door. The Israelite view of the world has been lost in this modern age).
Jesus stands as the fulfilment of the Old Testament not it’s abolisher and teaches his New Testament not in isolation but in relation with what came before.
Why then would we abandon the OT? When he was tempted in the desert Jesus argued with Satan (and won) using the OT as his foundation so there is still power and importance in its stories and message. The key is understanding what that is and remembering that it is Jesus who we follow. None lesser ”