There was a Bible college professor who used to conduct a special ceremony on the first day of class, called “the tearing of the page”. His new students had to tear the dividing page out of their Bibles between the Old and the New Testaments, to symbolically reconnect the two testaments as one book.
The very name “Old Testament” gives the false impression that it has become invalid and replaced by the “New”. But God’s word is eternal! We dare not forget that every single one of the 66 books of the Bible was inspired by God, and is still living, active, and relevant to our lives today. Here’s how…
In Hebrew the Old Testament is called the “Tanach”, which is short for “Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim” – the Law, Prophets, and Writings. The traditional division between the Tanach and the New Testament has led some to assume that the Tanach is old, and of little value when compared with the new. One of the commonly used Scriptures to support this view is Hebrews 8:13 – where Paul says that “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete.. “ Did Paul really call all of the Hebrew Scripture, the Tanach, obsolete?
Well, if you don’t stop reading at verse 13 and continue into chapter 9, you will see that Paul is talking specifically about the Covenant given to Moses, and is referring to the Tabernacle where the high priest could only enter through the blood of the sacrificial animals. Indeed, animal sacrifices are obsolete today as Yeshua’s blood is sufficient. But the Mosaic Covenant, which is the commandments of the Law, was not canceled. It is still important for us, but it has been fulfilled in Yeshua. Paul is actually quoting the verse from the Old Testament, from Jer. 31, where God says, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts”. The Mosaic Covenant was written on the stone tablets but the verse in Jeremiah explains that it will be written on people’s hearts. Yeshua said in Matt. 5:17-18 – Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
The truth is that without the “old”, the “new” loses much of its meaning and is often not fully interpreted. Neither has a complete picture of salvation but both together give us God’s complete revelation. In fact, in the New Testament, when Yeshua and the apostles referred to the “scriptures”, they were referring to the Tenach. It was not the Old Testament to them. That was the only Bible they had.
Also, let’s keep in mind that the Tanach contains several covenants which still stand today and will never become obsolete. One of them is the covenant God made with Noah in Gen.chapter 8. It was neither conditional nor temporary. God did not say, “If you do this, then I will do that.” God simply promised to never destroy the earth again with a flood for as long as the earth remains. The rainbow is still up there and covenant God made with Noah is still in effect.
Or look at the covenant that God made with Abraham (Gen 17:7). It was not temporary either; it was called an everlasting covenant. In fact, the covenant God made with Abraham was very much “New Testament” in nature. Abraham believed God and his faith was credited to him as righteousness.
The Apostle Paul says that if you are “Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).That is a pretty amazing statement. If you are a follower of Yeshua, Paul explains, you are Abraham’s seed and an heir to the promises that God made to Abraham four thousand years ago. If you really want to fully understand what God has promised New Testament believers, you must know what God promised Abraham. In other words, you have to read the Tanach and recognize that it is not past its expiration date at all!
Here are some other great reasons to read the Tenach:
Learning the Names of God
The name of Jesus/Yeshua means “God saves” in Hebrew. But God also called Himself by other names at different times. Each imparted a special characteristic of God which was needed in a given situation. God sees, God hears, He protects and provides. In the Tanach there are 16 names God uses for Himself. It is truly a fascinating experience to study all of them in the right context so we can better understand the nature of God.
Learning the Treasures of the Feasts
One more example is the Biblical Feasts. Even if you do not celebrate any of them, they can still be a great learning tool for you. For instance, what does communion really mean? If you want to understand this significant event that regularly happens in church services – examine the Passover story and the meaning of this Feast. One of the purposes of the Biblical Feasts was to help the people of God keep the miracle stories alive and remembered.
Learning from Biblical examples
In 1 Cor 10:10, after listing some of the events of the Tanach, Paul says: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” The Tanach stories are examples for us. When we skip studying the the Tanach in depth we are missing out on so much that God has for us in His Word.
Learning about what is yet to come
Finally, the prophetic books of the Tanach are full of prophecies that we are being fulfilled today, especially concerning His people Israel.. God is preparing the earth for the return of the Messiah and it is so exciting to see that God is faithful to the prophecies of the Tanach and nothing is too old or obsolete in His Word. What He speaks He will surely bring to pass, and nothing can thwart any of His purposes.
So why study the Tanach? Because it is full of profound spiritual riches that are still very relevant to us today. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “All scripture was given by inspiration from God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, and correction” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
One of the challenges many English speakers face today is the fact that God’s revelation did not come in the English language, or through the Western culture. As a result, we may have to work harder to receive the message clearly. The more familiar you can become with the ancient Near Eastern culture, particularly that of Israel, the more barriers you can eliminate. It will require time and effort, but what an exciting and rewarding adventure it will be! We would like to challenge you to study the great works of the Lord that are recorded in the Tanach and learn to delight in them!
Dr. Eitan Bar’s speech in Norway on why Jesus will not return