written May 5, 2008, from my second semester. I thought it would be cool to post something from the end of my first year here to see how i match up with it at the end of my last year. surprisingly, i still agree! enjoy!
Discussion Paper: What does the Old Testament have to offer the Church/Individual?
The Old Testament has much to offer the church and humanity in general. This paper will first define what the Old Testament is, make a modern parallel and then explain what it has to offer the modern reader.
The Old Testament is a collection of theological myths and stories from the Israelite nation. These are historical books but not histories. The writers of these stories are reflecting on their history and trying to find both reasons and God’s role in their events. What then could we compare this to? Surely nothing in our modern context would be like this as we’re concerned with facts, not myths!
But we are. I think my first book will be called, The Bible of America; Holy Myths and Fiction of American History. From George Washington chopping down a cherry tree, to the life of a cowboy, we are steeped in myth and urban legends. Stories like Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, John Henry, Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley are American myths. These characters are told to us in our childhood and teach us about what our country holds dear. These stories do have a historical basis, but the myths and folklore add to that basis and bring out what is true about America. We even have myths about our founding fathers! Stories of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams abound, even though we have their original letters that dispel many of these myths. The Old Testament does this same thing for the nation of the Israelites.
The stories we hold tell a lot about us. The fact that we hold stories shows that we’re not too far removed from our ancient brothers and sisters. We try to make sense of the world through stories. Reading the Old Testament this year has shown me that we have some very similar concerns and reactions to our day to day living. The concerns are the same: how to raise a family, how to live “right”, what concerns are worth having, what cultural identity means, will our culture be over run by another and such like. The expressions of those concerns are what separate us from our ancient brothers and sisters. There is also word choice (Bible is patriarchic and largely misogynist), context (we have the internet and are not farmers, etc), history (we Americans were the underdog but now are the empire, Israeli’s were largely the underdog), and other such matters that separate us as well, but the similarities are still amazing to behold.
Some look at the Old Testament and say it only supports the New. I can see the argument here but remind those supporters that the New was written with the Old in mind, not the other way around. Some look at it and see a culture rife with violence and sexism. Turning on American TV, I see the same thing. Our culture is just as violent as theirs, if not more so. Others would say that these people are barbaric and legalistic. I would counter that the complexities of our laws vastly out-weigh the TANAK’s "legalism." We are just as much victims of circumstance as they are. Some look at it and see a bunch of stories with no facts. I would say that the facts don’t always hold the truth. When we see the connection between our ancestors and our modern context, we are engaged in a holy activity. We recognize our connection to the past in hopes of figuring out our future. We are then able to see God’s work in both.