The first third of the first century A. The second third of the first century 4. The final third of the first century. Jews in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. The Gospel according to Matthew 2. The Gospel according to Mark 3. The Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles 4. The Gospel according to John 5. Jews in the undisputed Pauline Letters 2. Jews in the other Letters 3. Jews in the Book of Revelation. The internal unity of the Church's Bible, which comprises the Old and New Testaments, was a central theme in the theology of the Church Fathers.
That it was far from being a theoretical problem only is evident from dipping, so to speak, into the spiritual journey of one of the greatest teachers of Christendom, Saint Augustine of Hippo. In , the 19 year old Augustine already had his first decisive experience of conversion. His reading of one of the works of Cicero — Hortensius , since lost — brought about a profound transformation which he himself described later on as follows: I began to pick myself up to return to you For the young African who, as a child, had received the salt that made him a catechumen, it was clear that conversion to God entailed attachment to Christ; apart from Christ, he could not truly find God.
So he went from Cicero to the Bible and experienced a terrible disappointment: In the course of his search, he encountered certain people who proclaimed a new spiritual Christianity, one which understood the Old Testament as spiritually deficient and repugnant; a Christianity in which Christ had no need of the witness of the Hebrew prophets.
Those people promised him a Christianity of pure and simple reason, a Christianity in which Christ was the great illuminator, leading human beings to true self-knowledge. These were the Manicheans. The great promise of the Manicheans proved illusory, but the problem remained unresolved for all that. Augustine was unable to convert to the Christianity of the Catholic Church until he had learned, through Ambrose, an interpretation of the Old Testament that made transparent the relationship of Israel's Bible to Christ and thus revealed that Wisdom for which he searched.
What was overcome was not only the exterior obstacle of an unsatisfactory literary form of the Old Latin Bible, but above all the interior obstacle of a book that was no longer just a document of the religious history of a particular people, with all its strayings and mistakes. It revealed instead a Wisdom addressed to all and came from God. Through the transparency of Israel's long, slow historical journey, that reading of Israel's Bible identified Christ, the Word, eternal Wisdom. It was, therefore, of fundamental importance not only for Augustine's decision of faith; it was and is the basis for the faith decision of the Church as a whole.
But is all this true? Is it also demonstrable and tenable still today? From the viewpoint of historical-critical exegesis, it seems — at first glance, in any case — that exactly the opposite is true. It was in that the well-known liberal theologian Adolf Harnack formulated the following thesis: At first glance several things seem to point in that direction. The exegetical method of Ambrose did indeed open the way to the Church for Augustine, and in its basic orientation — allowing, of course, for a considerable measure of variance in the details — became the foundation of Augustine's faith in the biblical word of God, consisting of two parts, and nevertheless composing a unity.
But it is still possible to make the following objection: Ambrose had learned this exegesis from the school of Origen, who had been the first to develop its methodology. But Origen, it may be said, only applied to the Bible the allegorical method of interpretation which was practised in the Greek world, to explain the religious texts of antiquity — in particular, Homer — and not only produced a hellenization intrinsically foreign to the biblical word, but used a method that was unreliable, because, in the last analysis, it tried to preserve as something sacred what was, in fact, only a witness to a moribund culture.
Yet, it is not that simple. Much more than the Greek exegesis of Homer, Origen could build on the Old Testament interpretation which was born in a Jewish milieu, especially in Alexandria, beginning with Philo who sought in a totally appropriate way to introduce the Bible to Greeks who were long in search of the one biblical God beyond polytheism. And Origen had studied at the feet of the rabbis. He eventually developed specifically Christian principles: In whatever way one judges the detailed exegesis of Origen and Ambrose, its deepest basis was neither Hellenistic allegory, nor Philo nor rabbinic methods.
Strictly speaking, — leaving aside the details of interpretation — its basis was the New Testament itself. The Emmaus narrative also expresses this claim: From this viewpoint, the Fathers of the Church created nothing new when they gave a Christological interpretation to the Old Testament; they only developed and systematised what they themselves had already discovered in the New Testament. This fundamental synthesis for the Christian faith would become problematic when historical consciousness developed rules of interpretation that made Patristic exegesis appear non-historical and so objectively indefensible.
In the context of humanism, with its new-found historical awareness, but especially in the context of his doctrine of justification, Luther invented a new formula relating the two parts of the Christian Bible, one no longer based on the internal harmony of the Old and New Testaments, but on their essential dialectic linkage within an existential history of salvation, the antithesis between Law and Gospel. Bultmann modernised this approach when he said that the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ by foundering.
More radical is the proposition of Harnack mentioned above; as far as I can see, it was not generally accepted, but it was completely logical for an exegesis for which texts from the past could have no meaning other than that intended by the authors in their historical context. That the biblical authors in the centuries before Christ, writing in the Old Testament, intended to refer in advance to Christ and New Testament faith, looks to the modern historical consciousness as highly unlikely.
As a result, the triumph of historical-critical exegesis seemed to sound the death-knell for the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament initiated by the New Testament itself. It is not a question here of historical details, as we have seen, it is the very foundations of Christianity that are being questioned.
It is understandable then that nobody has since embraced Harnack's position and made the definitive break with the Old Testament that Marcion prematurely wished to accomplish. What would have remained, our New Testament, would itself be devoid of meaning. From this perspective, one can appreciate the enormous task the Pontifical Biblical Commission set for itself in deciding to tackle the theme of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. If the impasse presented by Harnack is to be overcome, the very concept of an interpretation of historical texts must be broadened and deepened enough to be tenable in today's liberal climate, and capable of application, especially to Biblical texts received in faith as the Word of God.
Important contributions have been made in this direction over recent decades. The recognition of the multidimensional nature of human language, not staying fixed to a particular moment in history, but having a hold on the future, is an aid that permits a greater understanding of how the Word of God can avail of the human word to confer on a history in progress a meaning that surpasses the present moment and yet brings out, precisely in this way, the unity of the whole. This is a conclusion, which seems to me to be of great importance for the pursuit of dialogue, but above all, for grounding the Christian faith.
In its work, the Biblical Commission could not ignore the contemporary context, where the shock of the Shoah has put the whole question under a new light. Two main problems are posed: Can Christians, after all that has happened, still claim in good conscience to be the legitimate heirs of Israel's Bible? Have they the right to propose a Christian interpretation of this Bible, or should they not instead, respectfully and humbly, renounce any claim that, in the light of what has happened, must look like a usurpation?
The second question follows from the first: In its presentation of the Jews and the Jewish people, has not the New Testament itself contributed to creating a hostility towards the Jewish people that provided a support for the ideology of those who wished to destroy Israel? The Commission set about addressing those two questions. It is clear that a Christian rejection of the Old Testament would not only put an end to Christianity itself as indicated above, but, in addition, would prevent the fostering of positive relations between Christians and Jews, precisely because they would lack common ground.
In the light of what has happened, what ought to emerge now is a new respect for the Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament. On this subject, the Document says two things. It adds that Christians can learn a great deal from a Jewish exegesis practised for more than years; in return, Christians may hope that Jews can profit from Christian exegetical research ibid.
I think this analysis will prove useful for the pursuit of Judeo-Christian dialogue, as well as for the interior formation of Christian consciousness. Here, I want only to underline an aspect which seems to me to be particularly important. The Document shows that the reproofs addressed to Jews in the New Testament are neither more frequent nor more virulent than the accusations against Israel in the Law and the Prophets, at the heart of the Old Testament itself no.
They belong to the prophetic language of the Old Testament and are, therefore, to be interpreted in the same way as the prophetic messages: To the members of the Biblical Commission, I wish to express gratitude and appreciation for their work. From their discussions, patiently pursued over several years, this Document has emerged which, I am convinced, can offer a precious aid to the study of one of the central questions of the Christian faith, as well as to the search so important for a new understanding between Christians and Jews.
Modern times have made Christians more aware of the close fraternal bonds that unite them to the Jewish people. During the second world war , tragic events, or more precisely, abominable crimes subjected the Jewish people to a terrible ordeal that threatened their very existence throughout most of Europe. In those circumstances, some Christians failed to exhibit the spiritual resistance to be expected from disciples of Christ, and did not take the appropriate initiatives to counter them.
Other Christians, though, did generously aid Jews in danger, often at the risk of their own lives. In the wake of such an enormous tragedy, Christians are faced with the need to reassess their relations with the Jewish people. Already considerable research and reflection has been done in this direction. The Pontifical Biblical Commission, insofar as it is competent, wishes to participate in this endeavour.
Since this obviously does not include addressing all the historical and contemporary aspects of the problem, the Commission confines itself to the current state of research in the field of biblical exegesis. The question which is asked is the following: What relations does the Christian Bible establish between Christians and the Jewish people? The general answer is clear: That an intimate relationship exists between them is undeniable. A closer examination, however, reveals that this is not a straightforward relationship, but a very complex one that ranges from perfect accord on some points to one of great tension on others.
A careful study is therefore necessary. The Biblical Commission has devoted the past few years to this study. The results, which make no claim of being exhaustive, are presented here in three chapters. The first chapter lays the foundations by demonstrating that the New Testament recognises the authority of the Old Testament as divine revelation and that the New Testament cannot be properly understood apart from the Old Testament and the Jewish tradition which transmits it.
The second chapter then examines analytically how the writings of the New Testament appropriate the rich content of the Old Testament by developing its basic themes in the light of Jesus Christ. Finally, the third chapter reviews the various attitudes which the New Testament writings express regarding the Jews, following, in this respect, the example of the Old Testament itself. In this way the Biblical Commission hopes to advance the dialogue between Christians and Jews with clarity and in a spirit of mutual esteem and affection.
It is above all by virtue of its historical origin that the Christian community discovers its links with the Jewish people. Indeed, the person in whom it puts its faith, Jesus of Nazareth, is himself a son of this people. In the beginning, the apostolic preaching was addressed only to the Jews and proselytes, pagans associated with the Jewish community cf. Christianity, then, came to birth in the bosom of first century Judaism.
A perennial manifestation of this link to their beginnings is the acceptance by Christians of the Sacred Scriptures of the Jewish people as the Word of God addressed to themselves as well. Indeed, the Church has accepted as inspired by God all the writings contained in the Hebrew Bible as well as those in the Greek Bible. Its scope has been extended, since the end of the second century, to include other Jewish writings in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The message announced that God intended to establish a new covenant. The Christian faith sees this promise fulfilled in the mystery of Christ Jesus with the institution of the Eucharist cf.
The New Testament writings were never presented as something entirely new. On the contrary, they attest their rootedness in the long religious experience of the people of Israel, an experience recorded in diverse forms in the sacred books which comprise the Jewish Scriptures. The New Testament recognises their divine authority. This recognition manifests itself in different ways, with different degrees of explicitness.
Implicit recognition of authority. Beginning from the less explicit, which nevertheless is revealing, we notice that the same language is used. The Greek of the New Testament is closely dependent on the Greek of the Septuagint, in grammatical turns of phrase which were influenced by the Hebrew, or in the vocabulary, of a religious nature in particular.
Without a knowledge of Septuagint Greek, it is impossible to ascertain the exact meaning of many important New Testament terms. This linguistic relationship extends to numerous expressions borrowed by the New Testament from the Jewish Scriptures, giving rise to frequent reminiscences and implicit quotations, that is, entire phrases found in the New Testament without any indication of origin. These reminiscences are numerous, but their identification often gives rise to discussion. To take an obvious example: The text is so steeped in the Old Testament that it is difficult to distinguish what is an allusion to it and what is not.
What is true of the Book of Revelation is true also — although to a lesser degree — of the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters. This recognition of authority takes different forms depending on the case. Scripture, the Lord or Christ. This gegraptai carries considerable weight.
End-Time Bible Prophecy a Powerful Reason to Believe in God
Jesus successfully counters the tempter in the first temptation by simply saying: Man does not live by bread alone It can also happen that a biblical text is not definitive and must give way to a new dispensation; in that case, the New Testament uses the Greek aorist tense, placing it in the past. Such is the case with the Law of Moses regarding divorce: Sometimes we find the expression: In his doctrinal arguments, the apostle Paul constantly relies on his people's Scriptures. To the arguments from Scripture he attributes an incontestable value. The New Testament recognises the definitive value of arguments based on the Jewish Scriptures.
This conviction is frequently evident.
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Two texts are particularly significant for this subject, since they speak of divine inspiration. Specifically referring to the prophetic oracles contained in the Old Testament, the Second Letter of Peter declares: These two texts not only affirm the authority of the Jewish Scriptures; they reveal the basis for this authority as divine inspiration. A twofold conviction is apparent in other texts: Necessity of fulfilling the Scriptures.
The clearest expression of this is found in the words addressed by the risen Christ to his disciples, in the Gospel of Luke: This is what Matthew often expresses in the infancy narrative, later on in Jesus' public life 16 and for the whole passion Mt Mark has a parallel to the last mentioned passage in a powerfully elliptic phrase: Luke does not use this expression but John has recourse to it almost as often as Matthew does. It is clearly understood that these events would be meaningless if they did not correspond to what the Scriptures say.
It would not be a question there of the realisation of God's plan. Conformity to the Scriptures. Other texts affirm that the whole mystery of Christ is in conformity with the Jewish Scriptures. The early Christian preaching is summarised in the kerygmatic formula recounted by Paul: The Christian faith, then, is not based solely on events, but on the conformity of these events to the revelation contained in the Jewish Scriptures. On his journey towards the passion, Jesus says: The New Testament shows by these declarations that it is indissolubly linked to the Jewish Scriptures. Some disputed points that need to be kept in mind may be mentioned here.
This theological affirmation is characteristic of Matthew and his community. It is in tension with other sayings of the Lord which relativises the Sabbath obvervance Mt The Fourth Gospel expresses a similar perspective: Jesus attributes to the writings of Moses an authority comparable to his own words, when he says to opponents: In the Acts of the Apostles, the kerygmatic discourses of the Church leaders — Peter, Paul and Barnabas, James — place the events of the Passion, Resurrection, Pentecost and the missionary outreach of the Church in perfect continuity with the Jewish Scriptures.
Although it never explicitly affirms the authority of the Jewish Scriptures, the Letter to the Hebrews clearly shows that it recognises this authority by repeatedly quoting texts to ground its teaching and exhortations. It contains numerous affirmations of conformity to prophetic revelation, but also affirmations of conformity that include aspects of non-conformity as well. This was already the case in the Pauline Letters. In the Letters to Galatians and Romans, the apostle argues from the Law to prove that faith in Christ has put an end to the Law's regime. He shows that the Law as revelation predicted its own end as an institution necessary for salvation.
In a similar way, the Letter to the Hebrews shows that the mystery of Christ fulfils the prophecies and what was prefigured in the Jewish Scriptures, but, at the same time, affirms non-conformity to the ancient institutions: The basic affirmation remains the same. The writings of the New Testament acknowledge that the Jewish Scriptures have a permanent value as divine revelation. They have a positive outlook towards them and regard them as the foundation on which they themselves rest.
Consequently, the Church has always held that the Jewish Scriptures form an integral part of the Christian Bible. In many religions there exists a tension between Scripture and Tradition. This is true of Oriental Religions Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. The written texts can never express the Tradition in an exhaustive manner. They have to be completed by additions and interpretations which are eventually written down but are subject to certain limitations.
This phenomenon can be seen in Christianity as well as in Judaism, with developments that are partly similar and partly different. A common trait is that both share a significant part of the same canon of Scripture. Scripture and Tradition in the Old Testament and Judaism. Tradition gives birth to Scripture. The origin of Old Testament texts and the history of the formation of the canon have been the subject of important works in the last few years.
A certain consensus has been reached according to which by the end of the first century of our era, the long process of the formation of the Hebrew Bible was practically completed. To determine the origin of the individual books is often a difficult task. In many cases, one must settle for hypotheses. These are, for the most part, based on results furnished by Form, Tradition and Redaction Criticism. It can be deduced from them that ancient precepts were assembled in collections which were gradually inserted in the books of the Pentateuch.
The older narratives were likewise committed to writing and arranged together. Collections of narrative texts and rules of conduct were combined. Prophetic messages were collected and compiled in books bearing the prophets' names. The sapiential texts, Psalms and didactic narratives were likewise collected much later. No written text can adequately express all the riches of a tradition.
Notwithstanding its authority, this interpretation by itself was not deemed adequate in later times, with the result that later rabbinic explanations were added. These additions were never granted the same authority as the Talmud, they served only as an aid to interpretation. Unresolved questions were submitted to the decisions of the Grand Rabbinate. In this manner, written texts gave rise to further developments. Between written texts and oral tradition a certain sustained tension is evident. The Limits of Tradition. When it was put into writing to be joined to Scripture, a normative Tradition, for all that, never enjoyed the same authority as Scripture.
The Mishna, the Tosepta and the Talmud have their place in the synagogue as texts to be studied, but they are not read in the liturgy. To it are added pericopes chosen from the Prophets. Conversely, Pharisaic and Rabbinic Judaism accept, alongside the written Law, an oral Law given simultaneously to Moses and enjoying the same authority. A tract in the Mishna states: Clearly, a striking diversity is apparent from the manner of conceiving the role of Tradition.
Scripture and Tradition in Early Christianity. In early Christianity, an evolution similar to that of Judaism can be observed with, however, an initial difference: The Gospel catechesis took shape only gradually. To better ensure their faithful transmission, the words of Jesus and the narratives were put in writing. Thus, the way was prepared for the redaction of the Gospels which took place some decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus. In addition, professions of faith were also composed, together with the liturgical hymns which are found in the New Testament Letters.
The Letters of Paul and the other apostles or leaders were first read in the church for which they were written cf. In this way, the canon of the New Testament was gradually formed within the apostolic Tradition. Christianity has in common with Judaism the conviction that God's revelation cannot be expressed in its entirety in written texts. This is clear from the ending of the Fourth Gospel where it is stated that the whole world would be unable to contain the books that could be written recounting the actions of Jesus Jn On the other hand, a vibrant tradition is indispensable to make Scripture come alive and maintain its relevance.
He will remind the disciples of all that Jesus said Jn As a result of the Spirit's action, the tradition remains alive and dynamic. The Limits of the additional contribution of Tradition. To what extent can there be in the Christian Church a tradition that is a material addition to the word of Scripture? This question has long been debated in the history of theology. It likewise rejected the idea of a tradition completely independent of Scripture.
On one point at least, the Council mentions an additional contribution made by Tradition, one of great importance: Here, the extent to which Scripture and Tradition are inseparable can be seen. Relationship between the two perspectives. As we have shown, there is a corresponding relationship between Scripture and Tradition in Judaism and Christianity.
From a hermeneutical viewpoint, however, perspectives differ. For all the currents within Judaism during the period corresponding to the formation of the canon, the Law was at the centre. Indeed, in it were to be found the essential institutions revealed by God himself governing the religious, moral, juridical and political life of the Jewish nation after the Exile. The prophetic corpus contains divinely inspired words, transmitted by the prophets and accepted as authentic, but it contained no laws capable of providing an institutional base.
From this point of view, the prophetic writings are of second rank. This hermeneutical perspective was not taken over by the Christian communities, with the exception, perhaps, of those in Judeo-Christian milieux linked to Pharisaic Judaism by their veneration of the Law. In the New Testament, the general tendency is to give more importance to the prophetic texts, understood as foretelling the mystery of Christ.
The apostle Paul and the Letter to the Hebrews do not hesitate to enter into polemics against the Law. Besides, early Christianity shared apocalyptic currents with the Zealots and with the Essenes apocalyptic messianic expectation; from Hellenistic Judaism it adopted a more extended, sapientially oriented body of Scripture capable of fostering intercultural relations.
What distinguishes early Christianity from all these other currents is the conviction that the eschatological prophetic promises are no longer considered simply as an object of future hope, since their fulfilment had already begun in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. It is about him that the Jewish Scriptures speak, in their whole extension, and it is in light of him that they are to be fully comprehended.
Judaism derived from the Scriptures its understanding of God and of the world, as well as of God's plans. The clearest expression of how Jesus' contemporaries interpreted the Scriptures are given in the Dead Sea Scrolls, manuscripts copied between the second century B. However, these documents express only one aspect of the Jewish tradition; they come from within a particular current and do not represent the whole tradition. Irrespective of whether this attribution is well founded or not, these seven middoth certainly represent a codification of contemporary methods of argument from Scripture, in particular for deducing rules of conduct.
Another method of using Scripture can be seen in first century historical writings, particularly Josephus, but it had already been employed in the Old Testament itself. It consists of using biblical terms to describe events in order to illuminate their meaning. Thus, the return from the Babylonian Exile is described in terms that evoke the liberation from Egyptian oppression at the time of the Exodus Is The final restoration of Zion is represented as a new Eden.
Exegesis at Qumran and in the New Testament. With regard to form and method, the New Testament, especially the Gospels, presents striking resemblances to Qumran in its use of Scripture. The formulae for introducing quotations are often the same, for example: The similarity in scriptural usage derives from an outlook common to both the Qumran community and that of the New Testament. Both were eschatological communities that saw biblical prophecies being fulfilled in their own time, in a manner surpassing the expectation and understanding of the Prophets who had originally spoken them. Exactly as in the Dead Sea Scrolls, certain biblical texts are used in the New Testament in their literal and historical sense, while others are applied in a more or less forced manner, to the contemporary situation.
Scripture was understood as containing the very words of God. Some interpretations, in both texts, take a word and separate it from its context and original meaning to give it a significance that does not correspond to the principles of modern exegesis. An important difference, however, should be noted. In the Qumran texts, the point of departure is Scripture. Certain texts — for example the pesher of Habakkuk — are an extended commentary on a biblical text, which is then applied, verse by verse, to a contemporary situation; others are collections of texts dealing with the same theme, for example, 11 Q Melchisedeq on the messianic era.
In the New Testament, in contrast, the point of departure is the Christ event. It does not apply Scripture to the present, but explains and comments on the Christ event in the light of Scripture. The only points in common are the techniques employed, often with a striking similarity, as in Rm Rabbinic Methods in the New Testament. Traditional Jewish methods of scriptural argumentation for the purpose of establishing rules of conduct — methods later codified by the rabbis — are frequently used in the words of Jesus transmitted in the Gospels and in the Epistles.
A particular trait is that the argument often revolves around the meaning of a single word. This meaning is established by its occurence in a certain context and is then applied, often in a very artificial manner, to another context. This technique has a strong resemblance to rabbinic midrash, with one characteristic difference: Paul in particular frequently uses these techniques especially in discussions with well-informed Jewish adversaries, whether Christian or not. Oftentimes he uses them to counter traditional positions in Judaism or to support important points in his own teaching.
Rabbinic argumentation is also found in the Letters to the Ephesians and Hebrews. It uses figures and examples in a verbal chain structure in conformity with Jewish scriptural exegesis. An particular form of Jewish exegesis found in the New Testament is the homily delivered in the synagogue. According to Jn 6: Its form closely corresponds to synagogal homilies of the first century: Traces of this model can perhaps also be found in the missionary discourses in the Acts of the Apostles, especially in Paul's homily in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch Ac The New Testament frequently uses allusions to biblical events as a means of bringing out the meaning of the events of Jesus' life.
The narratives of Jesus' infancy in the Gospel of Matthew do not disclose their full meaning unless read against the background of biblical and post-biblical narratives concerning Moses. The infancy gospel of Luke is more in the style of biblical allusions found in the first century Psalms of Solomon or in the Qumran Hymns; the Canticles of Mary, Zechariah and Simeon can be compared to Qumran hymns.
The reaction of listeners to Jesus' parables for example, the parable of the murderous tenants, Mt Among the Gospels, Matthew shows greatest familiarity with the Jewish techniques in utilising Scripture. After the manner of the Qumran pesharim , he often quotes Scripture; he makes wide use of juridical and symbolic argumentation similar to those which were common in later rabbinic writings.
More than the other Gospels, he uses midrashic stories in his narratives the infancy gospel, the episode of Judas' death, the intervention of Pilate's wife. The rabbinic style of argumentation frequently used, especially in the Pauline Letters and in the Letter to the Hebrews, undoubtedly attests that the New Testament emerged from the matrix of Judaism and that it is infused with the mentality of Jewish biblical commentators.
We are only concerned here with the formation of the canon of the Old Testament. The number 24 was often reduced to 22, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The numerical difference is explained by the fact that the Jews regarded as one book several writings that are distinct in the Christian canon, the writings of the Twelve Prophets, for example. Recent research and discoveries, however, have cast doubt on this opinion. It now seems more probable that at the time of Christianity's birth, closed collections of the Law and the Prophets existed in a textual form substantially identical with the Old Testament.
Towards the end of the first century A. Many of the books belonging to the third group of religious texts, not yet fixed, were regularly read in Jewish communities during the first century A. They were translated into Greek and circulated among Hellenistic Jews, both in Palestine and in the diaspora. Nevertheless, the writings of the New Testament suggest that a sacred literature wider than the Hebrew canon circulated in Christian communities. Generally, the authors of the New Testament manifest a knowledge of the deuterocanonical books and other non-canonical ones since the number of books cited in the New Testament exceeds not only the Hebrew canon, but also the so-called Alexandrian canon.
What the Church seems to have received was a body of Sacred Scripture which, within Judaism, was in the process of becoming canonical. When Judaism came to close its own canon, the Christian Church was sufficiently independent from Judaism not to be immediately affected. It was only at a later period that a closed Hebrew canon began to exert influence on how Christians viewed it. The Old Testament of the early Church took different shapes in different regions as the diverse lists from Patristic times show. The majority of Christian writings from the second century, as well as manuscripts of the Bible from the fourth century onwards, made use of or contain a great number of Jewish sacred books, including those which were not admitted into the Hebrew canon.
It was only after the Jews had defined their canon that the Church thought of closing its own Old Testament canon. But we are lacking information on the procedure adopted and the reasons given for the inclusion of this or that book in the canon. It is possible, nevertheless, to trace in a general way the evolution of the canon in the Church, both in the East and in the West. In the East from Origen's time c.
Origen himself knew of the existence of numerous textual differences, which were often considerable, between the Hebrew and the Greek Bible. To this was added the problem of different listings of books. The attempt to conform to the Hebrew text of the Hebrew canon did not prevent Christian authors in the East from utilising in their writings books that were never admitted into the Hebrew canon, or from following the Septuagint text. The notion that the Hebrew canon should be preferred by Christians does not seem to have produced in the Eastern Church either a profound or long-lasting impression.
In the West , the use of a larger collection of sacred books was common and was defended by Augustine. When it came to selecting books to be included in the canon, Augustine based his judgement on the constant practice of the Church. At the beginning of the fifth century, councils adopted his position in drawing up the Old Testament canon.
Although these councils were regional, the unanimity expressed in their lists represents Church usage in the West. As regards the textual differences between the Greek and the Hebrew Bible, Jerome based his translation on the Hebrew text. For the deuterocanonical books, he was generally content to correct the Old Latin translation. From this time on, the Church in the West recognised a twofold biblical tradition: Based on a time-honoured tradition, the Councils of Florence in and Trent in resolved for Catholics any doubts and uncertainties. Their list comprises 73 books, which were accepted as sacred and canonical because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, 46 for the Old Testament, 27 for the New.
To determine this canon, it based itself on the Church's constant usage. In adopting this canon, which is larger than the Hebrew, it has preserved an authentic memory of Christian origins, since, as we have seen, the more restricted Hebrew canon is later than the formation of the New Testament. A study of these relationships is indispensable for anyone who wishes to have a proper appreciation of the links between the Christian Church and the Jewish people. The understanding of these relationships has changed over time. The present chapter offers firstly an overview of these changes, followed by a more detailed study of the basic themes common to both Testaments.
Affirmation of a reciprocal relationship. Their first relationship is precisely that. At the beginning of the second century, when Marcion wished to discard the Old Testament, he met with vehement resistance from the post-apostolic Church.
The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible
Moreover, his rejection of the Old Testament led him to disregard a major portion of the New — he retained only the Gospel of Luke and some Pauline Letters — which clearly showed that his position was indefensible. It is in the light of the Old Testament that the New understands the life, death and glorification of Jesus cf. This relationship is also reciprocal: Re-reading the Old Testament in the light of Christ. The examples given show that different methods were used, taken from their cultural surroundings, as we have seen above.
These suggest a twofold manner of reading, in its original meaning at the time of writing, and a subsequent interpretation in the light of Christ. In Judaism, re-readings were commonplace. The Old Testament itself points the way. For example, in the episode of the manna, while not denying the original gift, the meaning is deepened to become a symbol of the Word through which God continually nourishes his people cf.
What is specific to the Christian re-reading is that it is done, as we have said, in the light of Christ. This new interpretation does not negate the original meaning. The Hellenistic world had different methods of which Christian exegesis made use as well. The Greeks often interpreted their classical texts by allegorising them.
Commenting on ancient poetry like the works of Homer, where the gods seem to act like capricious and vindictive humans, scholars explained this in a more religious and morally acceptable way by emphasising that the poet was expressing himself in an allegorical manner when he wished to describe only human psychological conflicts, the passions of the soul, using the fiction of war between the gods. In this case, a new and more spiritual meaning replaced the original one. Jews in the diaspora sometimes utilised this method, in particular to justify certain prescriptions of the Law which, taken literally, would appear nonsensical to the Hellenistic world.
Philo of Alexandria, who had been nurtured in Hellenistic culture, tended in this direction. He developed, often with a touch of genius, the original meaning, but at other times he adopted an allegorical reading that completely overshadowed it. As a result, his exegesis was not accepted in Judaism.
Another Pauline text uses allegory to interpret a detail of the Law 1 Co 9: The Fathers of the Church and the medieval authors, in contrast, make systematic use of it for the entire Bible, even to the least detail — both for the New Testament as well as for the Old — to give a contemporary interpretation capable of application to the Christian life.
For example, Origen sees the wood used by Moses to sweeten the bitter waters Ex Any detail capable of establishing contact between an Old Testament episode and Christian realities was exploited. In every page of the Old Testament, in addition, many direct and specific allusions to Christ and the Christian life were found, but there was a danger of detaching each detail from its context and severing the relationship between the biblical text and the concrete reality of salvation history. Interpretation then became arbitrary. Certainly, the proposed teaching had a certain value because it was animated by faith and guided by a comprehensive understanding of Scripture read in the Tradition.
But such teaching was not based on the commentated text. It was superimposed on it. It was inevitable, therefore, that at the moment of its greatest success, it went into irreversible decline. Thomas Aquinas saw clearly what underpinned allegorical exegesis: From this Thomas Aquinas drew the conclusion: Starting from the Middle Ages, the literal sense has been restored to a place of honour and has not ceased to prove its value. The critical study of the Old Testament has progressed steadily in that direction culminating in the supremacy of the historical-critical method.
And so an inverse process was set in motion: Today, there is the danger of going to the opposite extreme of denying outright, together with the excesses of the allegorical method, all Patristic exegesis and the very idea of a Christian and Christological reading of Old Testament texts. This gave rise in contemporary theology, without as yet any consensus, to different ways of re-establishing a Christian interpretation of the Old Testament that would avoid arbitrariness and respect the original meaning. The basic theological presupposition is that God's salvific plan which culminates in Christ cf.
Both the unity and the gradual realisation are important; likewise, continuity in certain points and discontinuity in others. From the outset, the action of God regarding human beings has tended towards final fulfilment and, consequently, certain aspects that remain constant began to appear: God reveals himself, calls, confers a mission, promises, liberates, makes a covenant. The first realisations, though provisional and imperfect, already give a glimpse of the final plenitude.
This is particularly evident in certain important themes which are developed throughout the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation: Beginning from a continuous re-reading of events and texts, the Old Testament itself progressively opens up a perspective of fulfilment that is final and definitive. The Exodus, the primordial experience of Israel's faith cf. Liberation from the Babylonian Exile and the prospect of an eschatological salvation are described as a new Exodus.
The notion of fulfilment is an extremely complex one, 42 one that could easily be distorted if there is a unilateral insistence either on continuity or discontinuity. Christian faith recognises the fulfilment, in Christ, of the Scriptures and the hopes of Israel, but it does not understand this fulfilment as a literal one. Such a conception would be reductionist. In reality, in the mystery of Christ crucified and risen, fulfilment is brought about in a manner unforeseen.
All the texts, including those which later were read as messianic prophecies, already had an immediate import and meaning for their contemporaries before attaining a fuller meaning for future hearers. The messiahship of Jesus has a meaning that is new and original. The original task of the prophet was to help his contemporaries understand the events and the times they lived in from God's viewpoint. Accordingly, excessive insistence, characteristic of a certain apologetic, on the probative value attributable to the fulfilment of prophecy must be discarded.
This insistence has contributed to harsh judgements by Christians of Jews and their reading of the Old Testament: Insistence on discontinuity between both Testaments and going beyond former perspectives should not, however, lead to a one-sided spiritualisation. What has already been accomplished in Christ must yet be accomplished in us and in the world. The definitive fulfilment will be at the end with the resurrection of the dead, a new heaven and a new earth.
Jewish messianic expectation is not in vain. It can become for us Christians a powerful stimulant to keep alive the eschatological dimension of our faith. Like them, we too live in expectation. The difference is that for us the One who is to come will have the traits of the Jesus who has already come and is already present and active among us. The Old Testament in itself has great value as the Word of God. To read the Old Testament as Christians then does not mean wishing to find everywhere direct reference to Jesus and to Christian realities.
True, for Christians, all the Old Testament economy is in movement towards Christ; if then the Old Testament is read in the light of Christ, one can, retrospectively, perceive something of this movement. But since it is a movement, a slow and difficult progression throughout the course of history, each event and each text is situated at a particular point along the way, at a greater or lesser distance from the end.
Retrospective re-readings through Christian eyes mean perceiving both the movement towards Christ and the distance from Christ, prefiguration and dissimilarity. Conversely, the New Testament cannot be fully understood except in the light of the Old Testament. The Christian interpretation of the Old Testament is then a differentiated one, depending on the different genres of texts. It does not blur the difference between Law and Gospel, but distinguishes carefully the successive phases of revelation and salvation history. It is a theological interpretation, but at the same time historically grounded.
Far from excluding historical-critical exegesis, it demands it. Although the Christian reader is aware that the internal dynamism of the Old Testament finds its goal in Jesus, this is a retrospective perception whose point of departure is not in the text as such, but in the events of the New Testament proclaimed by the apostolic preaching. It cannot be said, therefore, that Jews do not see what has been proclaimed in the text, but that the Christian, in the light of Christ and in the Spirit, discovers in the text an additional meaning that was hidden there.
The horror in the wake of the extermination of the Jews the Shoah during the Second World War has led all the Churches to rethink their relationship with Judaism and, as a result, to reconsider their interpretation of the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament. It may be asked whether Christians should be blamed for having monopolised the Jewish Bible and reading there what no Jew has found.
Should not Christians henceforth read the Bible as Jews do, in order to show proper respect for its Jewish origins? In answer to the last question, a negative response must be given for hermeneutical reasons. For to read the Bible as Judaism does necessarily involves an implicit acceptance of all its presuppositions, that is, the full acceptance of what Judaism is, in particular, the authority of its writings and rabbinic traditions, which exclude faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God.
As regards the first question, the situation is different, for Christians can and ought to admit that the Jewish reading of the Bible is a possible one, in continuity with the Jewish Sacred Scriptures from the Second Temple period, a reading analogous to the Christian reading which developed in parallel fashion. Both readings are bound up with the vision of their respective faiths, of which the readings are the result and expression.
Consequently, both are irreducible. On the practical level of exegesis, Christians can, nonetheless, learn much from Jewish exegesis practised for more than two thousand years, and, in fact, they have learned much in the course of history. A God who speaks to humans. The God of the Bible is one who enters into communication with human beings and speaks to them.
In different ways, the Bible describes the initiative taken by God to communicate with humanity in choosing the people of Israel. God makes his word heard either directly or though a spokesperson. The divine word takes the form of a promise made to Moses to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt Ex 3: After the departure from Egypt, God commits himself to his people by a covenant in which he twice takes the initiative Ex ; As bearer of the word of God, Moses is considered a prophet, 48 and even more than a prophet Nb Throughout the course of the people's history, prophets were conscious of transmitting the word of God.
The narratives of the prophetic call show how the word of God comes, forcefully imposes itself, and invites a response. Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezechiel perceive God's word as an event which changed their lives. Even though it meets with resistance because of human freedom, the word of God is efficacious: In the narrative of the creation of the world by God Gn 1 , we discover that, for God, to say is to do.
The New Testament prolongs this perspective and deepens it. For Jesus becomes the preacher of the word of God Lk 5: In the Fourth Gospel, the role of Jesus is distinguished from that of John the Baptist by opposing the earthly origin of the latter to the heavenly origin of the former: Jesus is not simply a messenger; he makes plain his intimacy with God. To understand Jesus' mission, is to know his divine status: The opening of the Letter to the Hebrews perfectly summarises the way that has been traversed: The strongest affirmation of the Jewish faith is that of Dt 6: The God who loves Israel is confessed as unique and calls each one to respond to that love by a love ever total.
Israel is called to acknowledge that the God who brought it out of Egypt is the only one who liberated it from slavery. This God alone has rescued Israel and Israel must express its faith in him by keeping the Law and through the cult. To express the Christian faith, Paul does not hesitate to divide into two the profession of Dt 6: God the Creator and providence.
The Bible opens with the words: In this opening text, the affirmation of the goodness of creation is repeated seven times, becoming one of the refrains Gn 1: In different formulations, in different contexts, the affirmation of God as Creator is constantly repeated. Thus in the narrative of the Exodus from Egypt, God exercises power over the wind and the sea Ex In Is , this creative action is the basis of hope for a salvation to come. The God who creates the world by his Word Gn 1 and gives human beings the breath of life Gn 2: Outside the Hebrew Bible, the text of 2 M 7: An interesting aspect of this text is that the creative action of God serves here to ground faith in the resurrection of the just.
The same is true of Rm 4: Faith in God the Creator, vanquisher of the cosmic forces and of evil, becomes inseparable from trust in him as Saviour of the Israelite people as well as of individuals. In the New Testament, the conviction that all existing things are the work of God comes straight from the Old Testament. It seems so obvious that no proof is needed and creation vocabulary is not prominent in the Gospels. Nevertheless, there is in Mt More generally, Mk In his preaching, Jesus frequently insists on the trust human beings should have in God on whom everything depends: Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap The Word came into the world, yet the world did not know him Jn 1: In spite of human obstacles, God's plan is clearly defined in Jn 3: Jesus witnesses to this love of God to the very end Jn Using a different vocabulary, the Book of Revelation offers a similar perspective.
The creator God Rv 4: In history, the victory over the forces of evil will go hand in hand with a new creation that will have God himself as light, 62 and a temple will no longer be needed, for the Almighty God and the Lamb will be the Temple of the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem Rv In the Pauline Letters, creation has an equally important place. The argument of Paul in Rm 1: So creation then may not be rejected as evil.
Developing this theme, the hymn of Col 1: We will take up this theme later after treating of the human condition. These terms are not found in the Old Testament to characterise the human condition, but equivalent expressions are encountered: These chapters set the tone for reading the entire Bible. Everyone is invited to recognise therein the essential traits of the human situation and the basis for the whole of salvation history.
Created in the image of God: The expression may have originated in the royal ideology of the nations surrounding Israel, especially in Egypt, where the Pharaoh was regarded as the living image of god, entrusted with the maintenance and renewal of the cosmos. But the Bible has made this metaphor into a fundamental category for defining every human person. Insofar as they are images of God and the Creator's stewards, human beings become recipients of his word and are called to be obedient to him Gn 2: Human beings exist as man and woman whose task is at the service of life.
Furthermore, human procreation is closely associated with the task of governing the earth, as the divine blessing of the first human couple shows: In this way, the likeness to God, the relationship of man and woman, and ruling over the world are intimately connected. The close relationship between being created in God's image and having authority over the earth has many consequences.
First of all, the universality of these characteristics excludes all superiority of one group or individual over another. All human beings are in the image of God and all are charged with furthering the Creator's work of ordering. Secondly, arrangements are made with a view to the harmonious co-existence of all living things in their search for the necessary means of subsistence: God provides for both humans and beasts Gn 1: As well as the rhythm of day and night, lunar months and solar years Gn 1: When they keep the sabbath observance Ex Human wretchedness finds its exemplary biblical expression in the story of the first sin and punishment in the garden of Eden.
The narrative of Gn 2: This prohibition implies that serving God and keeping his commandments are correlatives of the power to subdue the earth Gn 1: The man fulfils God's intentions first of all by naming the animals 2: In the temptation scene, in contrast, the human couple ceases to act in accordance with God's demands. The result is that they try to avoid a confrontation with God. But their attempt to hide themselves shows the folly of sin, because it leaves them in the very place where the voice of God can be heard 3: God's question which indicts the man: The man and the woman perceive that they are naked 3: By his sentence, God redefines the conditions of human living but not the relationship between him and the couple 3: On the other hand, the man is relieved of his particular task in the garden, but not of work 3: In other words, God continues to give human beings a task.
The relationship between man and wife deteriorates. When this prohibition is violated, access to the tree of life 2: Created in God's image and charged with cultivating the soil, the human couple have the great honour of being called to complete the creative action of God in taking care of his creatures Wi 9: By refusing to heed the voice of God and preferring that of creatures human freedom is brought into play; to suffer pain and death is the consequence of a choice made by the persons themselves.
The chapters following in Genesis show to what level the human race can sink in sin and wretchedness: The Old Testament reveals how this plan was realised through the ages, with alternating moments of wretchedness and greatness. Yet God was never resigned to leaving his people in wretchedness. He always reinstates them in the path of true greatness, for the benefit of the whole of humanity. To these fundamental traits, it may be added that the Old Testament is not unaware of either the deceptive aspects of human existence cf. Qo , the problem of innocent suffering cf.
But in every case, especially the last, far from being an obstacle to human greatness, the experience of wretchedness, paradoxically, served to enhance greatness. The anthropology of the New Testament is based on that of the Old. It bears witness to the grandeur of the human person created in God's image Gn 1: Greatness of the human person. In the Gospels the greatness of the human being stands out in the solicitude shown to him by God, more than that of the birds of heaven or the flowers of the fields Mt 6: Prophecy is one of the most interesting and intriguing subjects in the Holy Bible.
Jesus Christ fulfilled s of specific and detailed prophecies at his first coming and during his ministry on earth. The scriptures also give s of other detailed prophecies concerning the future second coming of Christ. The future of Christians and the future destiny of the world in-general are covered in these prophecies in amazing detail as well. This audiobook looks at prophecies in regard to the "Rapture" and "Second Coming of Christ", the "Great Tribulation" and Christ's future rule of the governments of the world Millennial Reign.
Also included is discussion on the future re-creation of the earth and God's future city, the "New Jerusalem" joining with earth, where God and his people will dwell together for eternity. Also included is discussion on why it makes sense to believe in God and in the Holy Bible as God's inspired word to mankind. Jim Lowrance - the author has 20 years experience in Christian Youth Ministry and is a graduate of theological studies, Liberty University - Opening the iTunes Store.