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Importance of the OT

A talk for the Adult Confirmation program at St. Margaret Mary – 25 Feb 2019

Books/Division

Torah – 5 Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
Historical – Josue, Judges, 2 Books of Samuel, 2 Books of Kings, 2 Books of Chronicles, Tobit, Machabees
Doctrinal – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus
Prophetical – 4 greater prophets (Isaias, Jeremias, Ezekiel, and Daniel), and the 12 lesser

Why read the OT?

For starters, OT is part of the Bible; it’s part of the inspired word of God. The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation from the Second Vatican Council states clearly that “the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation.”

So the Church is telling us very clearly, that all scripture, including the OT, is important to read and pray with.

What claims does the church make about the significance of scripture?

The church maintains as an article of faith that in some way God presents the religious reflections found in the Bible as the way to our salvation. These reflections are not merely a chronicle of what happened in ancient Israel. We believe God stands behind these reflections, so much so that they offer us all that is necessary for our own salvation.

But the church does not authoritatively define the meaning of the books of the Bible. No one meaning is assigned to any text. The assumption is that there is always something new to be learned and something more to be probed. That’s why when Christians proclaim scripture in the context of the liturgy there is supposed to be a homily. The homily serves as a reflection of what the text means for us today.

The church doesn’t want to say, “Here are the 20 things to be learned from the Bible. Now write them down and toss your Bibles away.” Students would love for Bible study to be that simple. But it’s a much more involved process than that. To the great credit of our tradition, the church does not close off discussion, study, reflection, or investigation by defining texts left and right.

Tradition of Reading OT 

We’ve been reading the OT as Christians since the Church started 2,000 years ago, it’s part of our tradition.

  • Christ read the OT as part of his own formation as a child, why shouldn’t we?

In Liturgy 

We also use scripture from the OT in the Mass, in the Sacraments, and other devotional aspects of the Church (LotH).

  • LotH: Priests read the psalms from the OT every single day, the Church encourages the rest of us to do this as well.

The OT continues to speak to us today

Example of the way an Old Testament story still speaks to us today.

The story of Hosea’s marriage (Hos. 1-3) still speaks to people of betrayal, commitment, and love. The prophet’s experience of his failed marriage led him to empathize with God, whom ancient Israel had betrayed by worshiping Baal. His wife’s infidelities moved the prophet to speak to Israel with special passion when he criticized its unfaithfulness to God. Hosea’s own commitment to his unfaithful wife enabled him to see that God would not allow Israel’s infidelity to be the last word. In God’s name the prophet speaks, “. . .I will allure her … and speak tenderly to her. . . And in that day, says the Lord, you will call me ‘My husband’” (Hos. 2:16-18).

This story calls people of this century to fidelity to their commitments, both personal and religious. It is a stirring witness to the love of God: God’s love is powerful enough to overcome even our betrayal of that love. God will not allow our sin to frustrate the plans God has for us.

Important

One of the important reasons for reading OT is that the NT is hidden in the Old, and the Old is made manifest in the New.

  • Genesis 1 – John 1

Ultimately, why do we read the same Bible stories over and over?

Our assumption should be that there is always something new to be gleaned from the text. If we accept the Bible as a document of faith, then we must come to grips with the traditions of the Bible and accept them as our own. Eventually, we will begin to see our experiences reflected in the biblical texts. Sometimes the texts will support what we are doing; other times they will challenge us. At still other times, the Bible won’t seem to speak to our experience at all. Overall, though, the more we look to the Bible, the more we can develop. We can become the people God wants us to be through reading and studying the Bible.

As St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.” If we want to be at rest, if we want to find our home, we must change; Christ works through his Church, he works through the sacraments, and he speaks to us through Holy Scripture; telling us how to find him, how to change our lives to be more like him, so that we can find our rest, our peace; the same peace we search for throughout our entire lives.

Sources

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