Discussion: Lynch Pins of the Old Testament

Biblical Minimalism, as I understand it, essentially denies the historical value of the Old Testament. I’ve been thinking – not always a good thing – but what if the biblical minimalists are right on some level? (I do not hold their views) Is there a stopping point to biblical minimalism.

Let’s say that David and Goliath are a shared hero myth from Palestine. Or that Isaiah was written by various authors, come to rest in it’s final form just centuries before the birth of Christ. Let’s say that Moses really led the children of Israel, a bunch of lepers and religious rebels, across the Reed Sea. But, do we have ‘must believes’ in the Old Testament?

I was discussing this with my wife this morning, voicing what I have been thinking for a while. While I believe the things made by God, untouched by human hands is every bit as perfect as the Creator Himself, let’s say that God was unable to completely hold His word together over the centuries – or perhaps used legends, shared cultural memory and myths to create a situation for the birth of the Son. I believe that we still have a series of must haves from the Old Testament to validate the New.

We must first have a literal Adam (see here for a non-related discussion on King Adam). Why? Because it is through Adam which we find the necessity of Christ. Adam was the first to bring sin upon us, to usher in death; Christ restored to humanity the ability to once again walk with God. If there was no Adam, and humanity was always in sin, then Christ as a restoration of Adam is false. There are ways around a literal Adam, I would guess, perhaps in seeing Adam as a figurative head of a small group of people. But the fact remains that we must have had a first sin and sinner who chose to disobey God for the need of Christ to be realized.

Above all, the central character, second only to God, in the bible is Abraham. It is from in Abraham whom we first received the promises of Christ. It is in the person of Abraham in which we first meet God’s faithfulness as well as the first time we see the faith in God. We learn of the sacrifice ready to be given by Abraham which is a shadow of the great Sacrifice to come. We learn of the uniqueness of Abraham’s race, and blessings to be bestowed upon the world through him. Abraham is our typesetter for faithfulness, used by Paul as a measurement of faith without works.

Is Moses a lynch pin? Must we have a Moses for us to have a New Testament? Yes – can he be aggrandized out of his original standing? Of course. While Moses is a minor lynch pen, he is necessary to show that one person can stand high on God’s mountain, in front of and angry God and a disobedient people, and taking from God the Law that would bring about a system of repentance.

Like Moses, David must be a lynch pin as well, although like Moses, a lesser one, who serves as the progenitor of Christ Himself, not just genetically but spiritually as well. Reading some of the Psalms, either composed by David or in his memory, we find that David foreshadows Christ in his sufferings and his obedience towards God’s people.

While I believe that the Old Testament is of great historical and spiritual value, I realize that some do not – yet, if you give up too much of the historical value, then you begin to loose Christ.

Am I wrong? Do you know of other ‘must believes?’ (It would be too easy to say all of it! For an excellent blog with a historical view of the OT, check out Biblical Paths.)

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

8 thoughts on “Discussion: Lynch Pins of the Old Testament

  1. “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets…So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and toward men.” ( St. Paul speaking, Acts 24:14-16, RSV)
    Fr. R.

  2. I would say, Fr. Robert, that that answers the idea of biblical minimalists! I cannot understand how people can deny the historical truth of the OT but accept the NT. The OT is our Schoolmaster, the oracles of the utterances of God, and yet, people who purport to believe in Christ could easily dismiss it as (his)story. I’ll stand with Paul – I may not understand all of it, or ‘get it’ but I believe the words which promised us Christ.

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