Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | April 12, 2008

What to do with the Old Testament?

The Culture from which the Church emerges (Lesson 2: Part 7)

 As we conclude our assessment of the influence that Judaism exerted over the early formation of the Church, we want to address an issue that continues to be disputed even in our day.   Today this issue is debated amongst different versions of the Christian faith, most notably between the Dispensational and the Reformed/Covenantal view.  Moreover, there are even several differences amongst Reformed Christians over aspects of continuity within the covenantal view.  Although, we do not have the time to go into detail over the contemporary debates, we belabor the point to emphasize that this is not a simple subject.  Thus, as we consider our period of interest we recognize that amongst all the challenges the Church faced with Judaism, the most significant challenge theologically was what to do with the Old Testament.  Over the centuries as the Church became increasingly Gentile, the Old Testament seemed to become more and more problematic.  Obviously, the Church made great use of the Psalms in worship and great use of the prophecies in Isaiah in preaching and apologetics.  However, there are parts in the Old Testament that were intrinsically difficult to appeal to, particularly as the Church lost its sense of being the true Israel of God. 

Thus, the struggle revolves upon what to do with all of those passages that talk about the temple, the priesthood and the sacrifices.  Moreover, what do we do with all of those chapters that discuss the history of Israel’s kings?  The legal parts and the historical parts of the Old Testament emerged as those that presented significant problems for the Church, which had to figure out what to do with them.  They accepted them as Scripture and believed them to be true, but wrestled with how to discern their spiritual relevance. The solution that was developed by the Church during this period, we will find was to employ a “spiritualizing” exegesis of these texts that appeared to have lost their relevance.  Some begin to argue that the real meaning of these texts is not on the surface, but below the surface.  Therefore, you can really find a “spiritual” meaning that is spiritually profitable for the Church with allegorical method.  The problem with this exegetical method is that it begins to divorce you from the literal meaning of the text, which will become a problem for the Church.  Thus, we find that allegorical method employed in the early Church comes to fruition as a solution to deal with the dilemma of the how to use the Old Testament. As we progress in our study we will discuss in more detail the individuals who promoted this exegetical method.

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