OT and NT: Quick thoughts and questions.

Today I read the following comment on a blog:

“… it’s clear that she doesn’t believe that the NT should be allowed to interpret the OT”.

Now that comment makes me ask:

On what authority do we apply any means of “interpreting” scripture? Does scripture tell us it needs to be interpreted?

And why shouldn’t we build our understanding of the “NT” upon the foundational revelation given in the “OT” and recognise that the New is fulfilment and culmination of the “Old” instead of doing that in reverse?

Why shouldn’t we address scripture in GOD’s order and not in a way determined by man?


8 thoughts on “OT and NT: Quick thoughts and questions.

  1. Increasingly there is a desire to act as if the OT is incidental to the story. Certainly the new covenant is better than the old, as Hebrews blatantly says, and we must recognize the distinctions. At the same time, without an understanding of the Old the New can be taken to mean any number of things that are inconsistent with the revealed character of God.

    It is impossible, in my opinion, to read Scripture without interpreting it. The problem is when we rely on interpretations over the actual words. Relying upon the Holy Spirit for understanding is a nice, happy notion, but it’s awful tough. And who’s to say in the end if I’m listening to Him or just to my fine thoughts?

    This is where we need to test the spirits. Watch the fruit of teaching to see what the result of applying interpretations is. Reality has a way of pointing things out. The difficulty is allowing the reality of fruit to lead us to plant better crops.

  2. The Bible is an interrelated document. You can’t really disconnect different phrases, verses, chapters, books as if they can stand all by themselves. Then again, the organization of the Bible as we have it was cobbled together by human beings. After all, it wasn’t written as books, chapters, and verses. In the original, ancient Hebrew and Greek didn’t even have punctuation. We don’t have “God’s order” for the Bible in any unfiltered sense.

    The fact that we have the Holy Spirit to help us interpret the Bible isn’t as helpful as you might think, since if you gather 100 believers in a room and ask them what a certain part of the scripture means, even with the Spirit present, you are likely to get 100 different answers (depending on the scripture of course).

    I found this quote in a book I’m reading that says it all:

    The fact that experienced readers of the New Testament come away with diametrically opposed interpretations of the same text is today perhaps one of the few universally recognized results of modern historical critical scholarship.

    -Joel Willitts
    “Chapter 23: The Bride of Messiah and the Israel-ness of the New Heavens and New Earth” (pg 245)
    Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Its Ecclesial Context and Biblical Foundations

  3. ” Relying upon the Holy Spirit for understanding is a nice, happy notion, but it’s awful tough. And who’s to say in the end if I’m listening to Him or just to my fine thoughts?”

    That’s where fellowship and interaction with other believers is essential – if we are all relying on the Holy Spirit and we are hearing from Him, then we won’t be hearing contradictory things. But mostly people start the wrong way around – seek out other Christians to teach them, then check what they say against scripture (usually checking only the few proof texts the teacher has given).

    I see this way has been more profitable: Turning to scripture first, asking for understanding from the Holy Spirit and THEN expecting confirmation or correction of what has been learned through interaction with other Spirit led believers.

  4. The Bible is a kind of history of God’s realtionship with mankind, covering a period from creation in the past through to a new creation in the future.

    Through scripture we see God’s unfolding revelation of Himself and His plans for His creation, especially in relationship to mankind. It was written without the chapter and verse divisions that were added quite recently. Those divisions have led people to look up individual convenient references instead of addressing the whole in context.

    I would see “God’s order” as the being the order in which revelation was given – those most obvious example being that Genesis comes first. And then clearly what is knonw as the “New Testament” came after the section known as the “Old Testament”.

    I would suggest that our understanding of the NT and of God Himself will be incomplete if we are ignorant of His revelation in the OT. I recently read someone describing the relationship of OT and NT as being like a two storey house in which you can’t build a second storey until the first has been built.

    The 100 believers with 100 different answers – to come up with so many different points of view it is clear that they are not trusting in the Holy Spirit to give them understanding, and it is likely that they are not searching the scriptures for themselves. They are most likely trying to address “a text” which is being viewed in isolation and out of context.

  5. Indeed. There is a danger in being a lone ranger, and yet being a lone ranger to begin with might be better, but not healthy if it goes too long. Knowing what the Word says before you hear anyone else would be a treat.

    I do believe that if 100 believers were dropped on a desert island with a Bible and then were reunited after 30 years, there would be unbelievable unity among them.

  6. Actually, I’m willing to take Joel Willitts at his word and believe that you can get a number of Christians of good faith and good character in the same room to discuss the Bible and even they will still not be able to agree 100% on what it says all the time. If the Holy Spirit was acting as a universal translator and can opener for the Bible, I think we’d all have only one way of reading it by now. Maybe it’s our humanity that’s getting in the way, but if that’s the case, then we are all guilty of misunderstanding, since we are all human.

  7. Ironically some of the more dangerous “lone rangers” are those who set off and establish their own fellowships. They may be involved with a large group of believers but they accept no accountability TO others and yet expect accountability FROM others. After all, THEY are the anointed leader…

    Sadly I’ve had some involvement with a man like that.

    As for the desert island situation, I don’t have the time or space to go into my own experience with “isolation” in a comments box, but I’ll look at writing a blog post about the value of time “away”.

  8. James, I don’t doubt the idea of 100 different opinions – but should that be seen as acceptable?

    We have to decide whether we take the word of man and see that as the final authority or the Word of God and see what possibilities are revealed in the Bible.

    What does scripture say about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the believer and how that realtionship comes about? What does scripture say about the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life?

    One of His important roles is that of teacher – but so few seem to allow Him to carry out that role instead choosing to be taught theological tradition by others.

    As I said earlier, there will be countless different opinions on meaning when people try to address isolated, out of context “texts”.

    People try to find insight in a tiny portion of scripture before they have any idea at all of the overall message of scripture.

    Most group bible study I’ve experienced can be described by a phrase I saw in a CS Lewis essay “Fernseed and Elephants”. He wrote something about people so intent on finding fernseed that they miss the elephant standing right in front of them.

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