In his question for this roundtable, Editor Scott Coleman asks why “so many Christians” consider some parts of the Old Testament to be “valid” and other parts “invalid”. There are quite a few Protestant Christians who make that sort of distinction, but, in Orthodox Christianity, we affirm the importance of the entire Old Testament.
After all, in St Matthew 5.17, Christ Jesus clearly states: “Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The Law and the Prophets are what we today call the Old Testament, so, according to our Lord and Master, that vast portion of Holy Scripture has not been canceled or otherwise rendered invalid; it has been “fulfilled”. In other words, it now has a new meaning.
It’s especially important for 21st century folks to understand that perspective, because we often think that we are the first people to be confused or offended by the Old Testament—and in that part of the Bible there is a whole lot of material that can be confusing or offensive. Let’s just take one dramatic example.
In the last line of Psalm 137, a blessing is pronounced on anyone who takes revenge upon the enemies of Israel by “dashing” their “infants against the rocks”. That’s a barbaric thought, but here’s how Origen, one of the early Church’s great scholars, described the new meaning of that thought: “the infants are those troublesome sinful thoughts, the early beginnings and promptings of evil; one subdues them by striking them against the firm and solid strength of truth”.
Origen wrote those words about the year 240 A.D. So Orthodox Christians have been reading the Old Testament in this way for a very long time. If you would like to learn more about how the Old Testament has been fulfilled—and how to read it that way—just send me a note or give me a call. I’d love to hear from you.