A New Love for the Old

The Pilgrim’s Pensieve #26

Yesterday I suddenly realised that I love the Old Testament. Even when I say it out loud it is sound a little weird but it is true. Being a part of the Bible I have always thought of it as important and in the last two years it has grown even greater in significance for me. Yesterday however, I realised that I had come to have an energy and a passion for it that I formerly did not have.

I have really enjoyed the New Testament (NT) for more than a decade now. It was hearing an exposition of Ephesians that made me fall in love with the Bible and from there I made the Sacred Scriptures my lifelong project. My recent renaissance in my study of scripture was squarely focused on the New Testament starting with the resurrection of Jesus, then to historical Jesus studies, Christian origins and second Temple Judaism. I did not forget the Old Testament (OT) in that period but rather it became unavoidable because without it could not understand the New.

Now some parts of the Former Writings really caught my attention, that is, Genesis 1 and 2, for other reasons than the unity of scripture. I have shared a lot on the creation narratives on this platform. Looking back that study of Genesis as an ancient Near Eastern text is what got me unwittingly hooked. What became a niche interest to address particular questions opened to me a whole new world to explore in the scriptures in the same way fully recognizing Jesus’ Jewishness did for my view of the New Testament. There were various things which I could catalogue that dragged me deeper and further into the OT but I will focus on the epiphany I had yesterday. It was really a culmination and a reflection on a week’s worth of new insights and realisations.

I noticed how interested I now was in OT scholarship. I have not gone deep but I saw I now had the same appetite for it as I do for the NT. I have talked about the need for Christians to be Bible geeks, going way above and beyond a casual reading of the text because of singular devotion to it. This week I went on a very deep dive into the OT, plumbing its mysterious depths and I really liked it. Relished the challenge of making sense of this sophisticated collection of texts. Recognising in myself this genuine geek level enthusiasm for the OT is when I knew I was in love. In retrospect I had been moving in this direction for a quite a while, as can be evidenced by my blog postings this year, but it was very important to fully appreciate the growth I had made.

There are many varied factors why a Bible Geek like myself still did not have the love for the OT that I had for the new. One of the reasons I think was the sheer size, diversity and complexity made a serious engagement with it very daunting. I think dipping my toes in Genesis helped give me the confidence that it was something I could explore in depth in spite of the volume. The other thing that was helpful was the New Testament itself. If you take it seriously it always sends you back to the Old. The New Testament is a reading of the Old Testament that climaxes in Jesus. Once you find the metanarrative map of scripture it is much easier to survey and explore. Also getting used to one form of biblical scholarship, which in my case was New Testament scholarship, makes it much easier to get involved with the other form of biblical scholarship, that is Old Testament.

I am still a lay person and I do not claim to be an expert but nothing stops me from being a Bible nerd. Again, I must say we are very privileged to live on this side of Google. We have the excellent resources made accessible at a popular level which allows us to appreciate scripture at a level almost every other generation of Christians before us never reached. We truly have an embarrassment of riches and there is more still to come. The Old Testament is certainly great treasure worth mining and the tools are available to strike gold.

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