#102–Why does the Christian Bible Contain the Old as well as the New Testament?

I think this one’s been bugging me since the day my mom told me–when I was doing research and reading the Bible–that I just needed to read the New Testament first.

It’s been so long ago I’m assuming she meant go back for the Old Testament later, but for all I know, maybe she said JUST the New and didn’t think I should go further. I’m tired and it’s been a damned long time since that conversation.

I bring this up because I learned that I’m definitely not the first one that’s been told to just read the New, that the New Covenant is in effect and the Old is gone. Only the New matters now.

There are plenty of Christian congregations that seem to gloss over Old Testament or cherry-pick it for all the “nice” parts, if they choose to acknowledge it at all.

There are two camps I’ve found (and am still researching, of course) regarding Christians and the Old Testament with these questions:

  1. Is the Old Testament relevant to Christians?
  2. Why aren’t all Christians subscribing to the Old Testament?

A quick Google search brings up all kinds of pages regarding the use of the Old Testament in Christian teachings. I have my own questions about it, because of the sheer number of contradictory viewpoints as far as how to treat the Old Testament.

Seriously, I’ve listened to radio shows and podcasts about religion, atheism, philosophy, etc. I’ve lost count the number of times someone brought up some contradictory thing about God in the Old Testament and the defender respond “well, that’s the Old and that doesn’t apply anymore” (but when said person’s asked about their positions regarding LGBTQ, women’s rights, abortion, etc., suddenly they run back to the Old Testament for rules to obey).

This cherry-picking drives me nuts. I lost count the number of people I’ve heard when I’ve asked (or on these shows) contort themselves into crazy pretzels trying to defend the Bible because of this viewpoint.

I’ve always wondered, if the Bible’s supposed to be about Christ and following Jesus, then why bother including the Old Testament? I mean, it’s strange because when Paul (or whatever’s been attributed to Paul) went beyond the Jewish people and began ministry to Gentiles, why does the Bible have a big chunk of Jewish laws as part of it’s makeup? Why do Gentiles need to know about that if they’re supposed to be following what Jesus said?

I just don’t get what the men who compiled the Bible were thinking in this regard.

So, if Christians are supposed to just follow Jesus, why is the Old Testament still a part of the Christian Bible?

The only thing that pops into my head is that Jesus said he had come to fulfill the law, not change the law, as in the Jewish laws that the leaders had let fall by the wayside. But once the four gospels are done, suddenly you have Paul and the debate about Gentiles being part of this world. That’s why I ask about why these Gentiles, not part of Jewish custom or law, must suddenly become affiliated with Jewish law if this is something totally different going on.

I guess the expectation of the followers drives me nuts. I keep losing count the number of ideas out there trying to reconcile all this stuff. I hate it, really, because it tells me one thing: there are as many Christianities out there as there are Christians.

Which is why questions and logical thinking aren’t getting me far when talking about religion to another human being. I hear so much of the same old same old that the next thing out of the person’s mouth is something like “well, you’re not reading it right” (why, am I supposed to turn the book upside down and read it backwards?) or “you should visit church XYZ” (in other words, you’re annoying me and I think you’re afflicted by the devil so go away).

There’s a reason I try very hard not to talk to religious people very much anymore, especially family members. It’s too akin to being pat on the head and told “don’t worry about it.”

I can’t switch that part of my brain off, not even for a million bucks.

I’d just love to know why the Old Testament is part of the Christian Bible if Christians are supposed to follow Jesus’ teachings.

Anyway, still researching, so I’ll see what I figure out.

But if you’ve got good resources, go ahead and share.

Floor’s yours…

13 thoughts on “#102–Why does the Christian Bible Contain the Old as well as the New Testament?

  1. bobcabkings says:

    The Bible as we know it was first codified at the Counsel of Nicea, convened by Emperor Constantine in 325 CE. The idea was to get the Christian Church organized with a clear hierarchy as an arm of the Empire, and establish a consistent theological orthodoxy. Several existing strands of Christian thought and doctrine (mainly Gnosticism) were declared to be heresies and forbidden, and some of the then current versions of The Gospel were declared false and not included in the standard Bible produced. That did include books of the Old Testament. I think the goal was to support the claim that the Christians were now the Chosen People, replacing the Jews in that role. There was an emphasis on parts of the Old Testament that were seen as prophecies of the coming of Jesus. The Counsel produced The Nicean Creed as the fundamental statement of Christian belief.


    Liked by 1 person

    • TheChattyIntrovert says:

      That certainly helps… I just wonder how different Christianity would be if they’d never kept the Old Testament and only worked with the New. Hmm… That’s what a lot of these contradictions seem to stem from, the ones that make me want to rip my hair out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • bobcabkings says:

        I wonder too. Much of the reported teaching of Jesus is either at odds with, or ignores a lot of the Law and preaching in The Torah. Christians tend to forget that Jesus did not set out to create a separate religion, that he was operating within the tradition of prophetic Judaism, and that his followers did initially insist that one could not be a Christian without formally converting to Judaism. It also helps to remember that people of all religious traditions can find in their scriptures sentences or whole paragraphs that will support whatever they want to say.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ally Bean says:

    And while you’re researching this what is the Apocrypha that is sometime included in what people call the Bible? I learned nothing about it in Sunday School yet some Roman Catholic friends mention it, quote from it. I’d love to know its relevance and place within Christian canon.

    As for Christians being hypocritical about the bits of the Bible they cling to, same as it ever was. Although this does remind me that I want to read Rachel Held Evan’s book about being a biblical woman. Need to get a copy of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TheChattyIntrovert says:

      I get what you mean. The Catholic Bible has either more or less books in it (don’t remember which) than the other versions on the shelves. Maybe the bit about Apocrypha’s in there if they have more books…after all, they’re the ones that started putting the Bible together in the first place. Maybe Protestants cast away a few books (or added some).
      Hmm… good question.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Suze says:

    when I was in seminary I asked the same question, and received the following response…take it for what you may, I certainly did, “the old testament is needed so that a scholer might understand the history of the jewish people and therefore understand why the coming of the Christ was so necessary in order for them to become a Godly people”…yea, it didn’t make any sense to me either…

    Liked by 1 person

    • TheChattyIntrovert says:

      wow–that’s interesting. So many confusing things in this world, you’d think they’d simplify something that concerns a possible afterlife of peace and joy or torment and pain. I hate the obstacle course that religion has become, just makes me weary.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Suze says:

        one thing that always annoyed me about seminary…they would tell you straight out about how and when the Bible as we know it was “created” then say it was “the word of God”…what? one does not create something then say god did it……..and the Jewish people didn’t really believe in an afterlife at all. They were born, lived and died in the Talmud, yet we took parts of the Talmud as our old testament…well that and a bit of the Kabbalah, and their history, added a bunch of stuff to it to validate a LOT of the new testament and called it good. After four seminary years I had completely lost my faith in anything “Christian”.

        Liked by 1 person

        • TheChattyIntrovert says:

          I get what you mean. I was puzzled at 8 years old when I saw “King James Version” on the front of my Bible, and at the same time was told that the Bible was the undisputed truth by which we should live, and it’s God’s word. But even then I had to go, “Wait a minute–if this is the absolute truth, then why is there a VERSION of it?” Did not compute, but as a good girl who was trying to puzzle it out, I kept my mouth shut and kept going to church. Oddly enough, other than singing a lot or memorizing Bible verses for candy, I can’t remember a single lesson I learned there… at least, nothing I can attribute directly to them. Huh.

          Liked by 1 person

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