Q&A with coauthor of They Spoke of Me: How Jesus Unlocks the Old Testament
Many Christians avoid the Old Testament in their Bible reading. Even pastors often stay in the New Testament during the sermons.
Brandon Smith and Everett Berry hope to change that with their new book, They Spoke of Me. While they say the book shouldn’t be considered “revolutionary or novel,” they do hope it helps people understand how the Old Testament fits into the larger story of Scripture.
Facts & Trends asked Smith, who works with the Christian Standard Bible, about approaching the Old Testament and how their book gives readers a different perspective.
F&T: Why do you think Christians gravitate toward the New Testament almost exclusively and what do we miss if we do that?
For the average Christian, Ephesians seems more immediately understandable and applicable than, say, Judges. And this is understandable! But we miss a few important things when we focus on the New Testament.
First, we make ourselves New Testament or Jesus-only Christians, when God meant for us to be whole Bible Christians.
An ancient heretic named Marcion made this mistake in the most glaring of ways. He cut the Old Testament out of his Bible because he preferred Jesus over the God of the Old Testament.
This leads to the second thing we miss: Jesus’s story is a continuation of God’s plan of redemption, which was told all throughout the Old Testament.
Our book tries to highlight this point in particular. Jesus was constantly talking about how he was fulfilling “the Scriptures,” which for him was the Old Testament.
Jesus quoted the Old Testament regularly and admonished those who didn’t understand it. To be a follower of Christ means to take the Old Testament as seriously as he did.
Finally, and related to the other points, 10 percent of the New Testament is made up of Old Testament quotes or allusions, and much more of the New Testament depends heavily on Old Testament themes.
We simply wouldn’t have a New Testament without the Old. And we most certainly wouldn’t know Jesus truly is the Son of God and the Messiah if we didn’t have an Old Testament to show us the proof.
What is the biggest mistake people make when reading the Old Testament?
People often assume the Old Testament just an old rule book the New Testament seeks to update or upgrade.
For example, many people find Leviticus unhelpful or irrelevant because it contains so many rituals, codes, and talk of sacrifices that Jesus fulfilled or set us free from. This is true in a sense, but not entirely.
The laws and codes in a place like Leviticus reveal to us the history of God wanting a people who are set apart from others, who trust in him for provision and wisdom, and who take their sin seriously.
On top of this, we wouldn’t know how far Jesus went to meet the demands of the Law if we didn’t have the Old Testament to show us the proof.
How should a pastor or teacher approach an Old Testament text?
Don’t be afraid of the Old Testament.
Don’t assume that people will be bored by it. Your ignoring of the Old Testament gives your people the cue that they should also ignore it.
Instead, show them that the Old Testament is key to understanding the New Testament in general and Jesus and the gospel in particular.
Help them see how all of Scripture tells the story of the triune God’s mission to redeem all things.
What do you mean when you say “take the Old Testament on Jesus’ terms”?
In short, we mean that Jesus taught the Old Testament in the highest regard and as the highest authority. He didn’t look at the Old Testament as something his Dad wrote a long time ago that embarrassed him.
Instead, he said (paraphrasing), “You would know I’m the Messiah if you read the Scriptures” and “You don’t understand my words because you don’t understand your Old Testament.”
Learn your Old Testament because you want to learn about the gospel of Christ.