Why Read the Old Testament?

Image: Josh Applegate


A recent discussion with a loved one set me thinking. He asks, why read the Old Testament? It’s supposedly filled with confusing passages, lots of violence, not much that could be applied to daily life, unlike the New Testament. I begged to differ, hence this post.

  1. Jesus (hence the New Testament) is the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Old Testament. We need to read the Old Testament to fully appreciate the New Testament, and vice versa.
  2. Jesus Himself read the Old Testament and quoted and taught from it! The Old Testament was Jesus’ Bible! If He found it important to refer to it frequently, surely we need to investigate further why the OT is important to us too.
  3. To understand salvation history, OUR salvation history, we need to understand our origins and the origins of our faith. Just as when we watch a movie we don’t skip the beginning and fast forward to when the hero saves the day. We want the backstory. The Old Testament is that backstory.
  4. The Psalms give us great examples of how to not only praise the Lord, but how to talk to Him, plead with Him, open our hearts to Him, in good times and bad. The Psalms demonstrate how to CLING to our Creator and Father no matter what happens. Psalm 95, the Invitatory Psalm when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours; it sets the tone for the day. It reminds us of who we are, and Who is our Source.Come let us sing to the Lord and shout with joy to the Rock Who saves us.
    Let us approach Him with praise and thanksgiving and sing joyful songs to the Lord.
    Today, listen to the voice of the Lord:
    Do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did in the wilderness,
    when at Meriba and Massah they challenged me and provoked me,
    Although they had seen all of my works.
  5. The Proverbs, The Book of Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, give us practical guidelines on how to live our lives, how to think, how to weigh things. Not to mention some OT stories and passages are just funny and interesting and provide great material for discussion at the dinner table. Family bonding time, anyone?
  6. Esther, Jacob and Rachel, Noah, Ruth and Boaz, Abraham and Isaac, Tobit and Sarah, Elijah, Samuel, David, Joseph, Judas Maccabeus, Moses, Solomon, and so much more: these are such interesting stories! Even kids love them! There must be a reason why. The Song of Songs = Theology of the Body. It’s beautiful imagery of God’s design for marriage, as well as His relationship with us.
  7. I could go on, but my #1 reason for reading the Old Testament is because I’m a “big picture” type of reader/person. Whatever violence or anger that we find in the Old Testament, to me they are ECLIPSED by story after story after story of God’s mercy and compassion. The OT to me is about REPENTANCE (not much different from the message of the NT, is it?)…. and FORGIVENESS/REDEMPTION. Over and over the OT is about God RESCUING his people either from their own stupidity (and stupid mistakes) or others’. Sounds hopeful for OUR time, don’t you think?

One resource I’d suggest for anyone wanting to understand the OT better — along with the NT — is Jeff Cavins’ The Great Bible Adventure. I’m linking to the Adult Study but they have versions for teens and young kids as well. Our family gives the program fourteen (14) enthusiastic thumbs up!





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