Just recently, I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about how Christians approach the Old Testament. He happened to pass this quote onto me by Richard B. Hays who says the following:
“Many “mainstream” Protestant churches today are in fact naively Marcionite in their theology and practice: in their worship services they have no OT reading, or if the OT is read it is rarely preached upon. Judaism is regarded as a legalistic foil from which [Jesus] has delivered us. (I once had a student say to me in class: “Judaism was a harsh religion that taught people to fear God’s judgment, but Jesus came to teach us to love God with all of our heart and soul and strength.”) This unconscious Marcionite bias has had a disastrous effect on the theological imagination of many Protestant churches, at least in the United States….” – Richard B. Hays, Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness (Waco: Baylor University, 2014), 5.
For the record, Marcion believed Jesus was the Son of God, but he rejected the Old Testament and the God of Israel. He also believed the God of the Old Testament was a wrathful God while the God of the New Testament was a God of love and forgiveness. To see more about Marcion, see here:
So is Hays correct? I think he is. So the question becomes how do we correct this? Well, the good news is that Walter Kaiser who is Old Testament scholar gives us some helpful tips. First, as Kaiser says:
The apostle Paul would have no part in a diminution of the Old Testament, for he instructed his youthful friend Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16 that, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. One must recall that the “Scripture” (Greek: graphe, “writing”) that was available to Timothy when Paul wrote was the Old Testament. All of it, the whole of the Old Testament, was “Godbreathed.” It came as a product of God. Therefore, if we are to have a balanced and full presentation of all of God’s truth, it is absolutely essential that we include the Old Testament in our teaching and preaching.
Second, he says:
” The Old Testament was the Bible of the early church. Yet one more objection can be heard from some detractors. “Now that we have the New Testament, should we not go to the New Testament first to form an understanding of the Bible’s teachings and then go backward into the Old Testament, interpreting it in the light of the New Testament?” This approach is advocated so frequently in the church today that it must be faced squarely. This whole approach is wrongheaded historically, logically, and biblically. As we have seen, the first New Testament believers tested what they had heard from Jesus and his disciples against what was written in the Old Testament. They had no other canon or source of help. How, then, were they able to get it right? Thus, from a methodological point of view, reading the Bible backward is incorrect historically as well as procedurally. What is more, the early church knew the Old Testament to be true; therefore, logically, they could not have tested what was established (and true) for them (possessing only the Old Testament) by what was being received as new (the New Testament)! That would be a reversal of the natural, historical, and logical orderof things.”
To read the entire article, see here. I hope Christians will see the Bible is one continuous story and not divorce the Testaments. I sometimes wonder why Christians tend to forget that the Testament Jesus and Paul were raised on was the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible.