A vision for a New Old Testament

no angry godI have recently been thinking about what Thomas Paine called the Bible, what we call the Old Testament.

The church would be better off if it simply deleted most of the stuff in the Bible before the time of Christ because it is in there that most of the very weird and objectionable stuff resides and causes so much trouble with its violence and pettiness and just plain general disagreement with the teachings of Jesus, the life, death and resurrection of whom is what the Christian Church is all about.

We could have an Old Testament that needs no defense, no excuses, no explaining how God is a God of love no matter how infantile and destructive and vindictive and jealous and petty He was in the Old Testament. We would have in the scripture a picture of the God of Christianity as most these days believe and we would eliminate those really horrible passages that give fuel to those looking to tear down the Church because of what is in its Book of the Infallible Word of God, which most have never read, or if they have glossed over or tried to forget.

We would lose the background! they exclaim. Without the Old Testament, we could not understand the customs of the Jews and why Jesus was the fulfillment of prophesy. Yeah and sure. Like we do after reading the Old Testament.

Yeah, we need to understand the whys and wherefores of Cities of Refuge, we need to know why Jephthah, a mighty warrior and leader of Israel, made a human sacrifice of his daughter when returning from a glorious victory. And we really need to know the atrocities committed by the Israelites when they took back Canaan, acts of degradation and inhumanity far exceeding anything done in Vietnam and approaching what was done by the Nazis.

If you want to learn about Jewish life at and before the time of Christ, there are better and more cogent books.  Alfred Edersheim’s The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah may be the best. You will learn more by perusing this book than is possible with untold hours in the Old Testament.

I think we ought to keep some parts of it.

The mythological settings in Genesis should be kept. I am ambivalent about the Joseph cycle and Exodus. The rest of the Torah has no place in modern Christianity and is almost universally ignored until someone wants to explain why they hate gays—excuse me, why God hates gays, not them because what they hate is not the sinner but the sin—or we need some good-old-fashioned accusatory verses to whip up a fire and brimstone sermon.

All the history books should be banned for their pornographic displays of cruelty, injustice and intolerance.  The shards of humanity and wisdom and learning in them are buried under a series of crimes against humanity that render Lt William Calley’s crimes at My Lai just a little school-yard rough-housing.

The major and minor prophets should also go. Yeah, I know, they are the places that foretell things fulfilled in Jesus, except they don’t, not when you learn what they were really talking about and the words they really used. All of  which were twisted into support of the Messiah and the developing theologies by the writers of the Gospels (whomever they were) and Paul, Peter, James and John.

Keep the so-called Wisdom Books, but add Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom, which are in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles but not in the Protestant.

Ruth (classified as history)  and Jonah ( short morality tale grouped with the prophets are both good stories and serious thought should be given to keeping them.

The Old Testament would look like this in the end:

Origin Stories

Genesis

Exodus

Poetry and Wisdom

Psalms

Proverbs

Ecclesiastes

Song of Songs

Ecclesiasticus

Wisdom

Morality tales

Job

Jonah

Ruth

See the grouping of the books of the Old Testament here

I have a friend who had never read the Bible until he was well into his 50’s.  He started at the beginning, with Genesis and enjoyed it, and liked The Exodus, but after slogging through the Law Books and starting with the invasion of Canaan, became appalled at the nature of the writings and declared that if God was in those acts, he wanted no part of it.

The older I get, the more I tend to agree.

If you disagree with me, fine, but do not use the following verse to do so because all it does is refer to The Revelation

Revelation 22: 18 – 19—I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

2 thoughts on “A vision for a New Old Testament

  1. I have no use for Old Testament. It is the Jewish Bible, their relationship with God, the history, the songs,the wisdom. Ain’t got nothing to do with me as I observe the New Covenant of the New Testament. Almost all clerics with whom I have discussed the matter have declared me a heretic and insisted that we must take the Bible as its whole and we cannot surgically remove the Jewish aspect of Jesus. Well there is some validity in that but I don’t want anything to do with a God that aids and abets and directs His “people” to murder the surrounding tribes as mine enemies. The Koran contains over 100 verses about murdering non believers and the Old Testament preaches the same nonsense. And how do we respect the claim that the Old Testament is the word of God because of a bunch of books that the Hebrews wrote to legitimatize themselves as the children of God? They wrote the book for themselves and why to we accept that it is true or relevant ? Paul teaches that ALL people are the children of God. I would certainly ditch the Book of Job. In times of distress so many people relate that God is testing them with the horrible things that they may suffer. Who needs to be connected with a God that tests us? I want a Father that helps, fortifies and assures us. Now it is the Devil or Evil that tests us every moment not God.

    1. I tend to agree, but in the books I would propose keeping, there is stuff that helps us live and speaks to us today (well, except for Genesis and Exodus, and I just like the stories there)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s