I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Scott Redd. Dr. Redd is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington D.C., as well as the Associate Professor of Old Testament. We talked specifically about why people should study the Old Testament.
Scott, I meet a lot of Christians who either don’t read the Old Testament, or they are afraid of it. Why is that?
That is a good question. One of the great joys of teaching at RTS is that I get to teach a part of the Bible that people don’t know much about. This means that I get to introduce them to it for the first time. The teachings of Christ are thick with Old Testament teachings. As a matter of a fact, the title “Christ” itself is not, as some people think, Jesus’ last name, but rather a title that refers to Jesus as the Messiah. We really don’t know what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah, to be the Christ unless we find out from the Old Testament. The Old Testament gives us the background. Not only the theological background but also the literary and the redemptive-historical background to the whole of the New Testament and the teaching, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When people read the Old Testament, they discover that its is full of gripping stories, powerful images, and moving poetry. But they also learn that it’s foundational for understanding New Testament theology. It introduces us to fundamental truths, such as—who is God, where do we come from, what is grace, what is law. We can’t fully understand our New Testaments without a grounding in the Old Testament, right?
It goes even beyond that. What is covenant? How is Jesus, our high priest? The author of Hebrews when he talks about Jesus being a high priest and the last and the final sacrifice that doesn’t need to be repeated, he is heavily quoting the Old Testament. The Old Testament was the scriptures for Jesus and the Apostles. When they opened their Bibles and did their quiet times, they were reading Psalms; they were reading the Pentateuch.
It’s important for Christians to realize that this was Jesus’ Bible! And if it was important to Jesus, it ought to be important to his followers. So, Scott, how should we understand the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament?
You know the image that I often use in class is that of a blueprint and a building. When you are building a building, you start with a blueprint. If someone says “what are you building?” you point at the blueprint. But once you have built the building, you don’t need to point to the blueprint anymore. Now you point at the building. However, you don’t get rid of the blueprint. You keep it around so that you can understand, where the pipe is laid, where the wires are run, where the elevators and stairways are. The Old Testament relates to the New Testament much the same way. It is in the Old Testament that we see the patterns and the structures of Christ’s redemptive work. Once Christ comes, he puts those things into action. He shows us why sacrifices are needed. Why there is a priest. Why we need a prophet and a king. We don’t understand those things unless we go back to the blueprint, the Old Testament, to see how Jesus fulfills these promises that God has made to us.
Even though there are two testaments, we can’t forget that it’s all one book. It’s all one story. So we simply pick and choose the testament we like the most, and ignore the other. There’s a fundamental unity to God’s Word that we can’t overlook.
That is absolutely right. It is one grand story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. We get to understand that when we read not only our New Testament but also the Old Testament, in which we find this whole wonderful redemptive-historical background. When you look at the apostle Paul, and he says to Timothy, read your Bible (2 Timothy 3:14-17), the word of God is inspired by God, it is useful for teaching, rebuking, training, and righteousness. When Paul says that, He is talking about the Old Testament. That is the scripture of Timothy’s day.
If we really want to have a mind for truth and a heart for God, then we have to make the reading and study of the Old Testament a priority. Thanks Scott for helping us see why the Hebrew Scriptures are so important.
Let me tell you about a great new resource to help get you started in your Old Testament studies, I encourage you to check out the forthcoming, A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised. Dr. Redd, as well as other Reformed Theological Seminary professors, have contributed to this fantastic work.
Also, if you want to study the Old Testament in depth, or sense God’s call to teach or preach, then consider enrolling as a student at RTS. Visit our website http://www.rts.edu/seminary/ or call and speak with one of our admissions counselors (407) 366-9493.