by Fr. John A. Peck
There are many good reasons to want to read the entire Old Testament, but to actually do it requires a certain commitment.
I’d like to list a few of the reasons in this post. This is for your average reader.
If you are a clergyman, see this article for reasons why you should not only do it, but encourage others publicly to do it.
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, but I’ll try to hit the important highlights.
1. Bragging rights
“Oh sure, we all thought about it, but I had the guts to do it!”
Do I need to say more?
It’s not bragging if you can do it. I say – “do it.”
2. The lifting of moral confusion
There is no shortage of moral confusion in our world, and while some may prefer it to any stable understanding of morality, the truth is that the a powerful and consistent theme in the Old Testament is righteousness – learning to recognize and accomplish what is right in the sight of the Lord. It is not always obvious. A thorough background of Old Testament reading about the interaction of God and mankind erases a great deal of this moral confusion, especially if it is brought into high relief by repetition (lots of that in the OT) and comparison with the pagan cultures which surrounded it. Yes, they were very different, and their morality was an abomination to the one True God.
3. Recognizing the Big Picture
It’s very easy, when we read the Bible in tiny segments to miss the forest for the trees. Recognizing the big picture requires us to see a broader canvas, things at work in many places, at many times, on many levels. The only way to do this is to read the other 85% of the Bible, preferrably on one big activity. If, for example, you see in some other things you’ve read, that the Church interprets the Old Testament from the following perspectives;
wouldn’t you like to know why that is? And see it in action so it could be understood? Once those things are recognized in the text, over and over again, they are impossible to miss in the future, and in other readings.
Allow me to say, as a priest, that I get very tired of pointing out (mostly to people who have never seriously read the Old Testament) that the God of the Old Testament IS the God of the New Testament, and the revelation isn’t of a mean, vengeful God to a nice, happy God. Nor is it simply a matter of perspective or a certain ‘point of view’ (with apologies to George Lucas and Obi Wan Kenobi). The themes in the Old Testament which often are appointed to exterior, ritual accomplishment are transfigured in the New Testament into interior righteousness. All of the OT accoutrements have antitypes in the interior life, and the Old Testament itself points to this in blatant, plain and unmistakable ways.
The revelation of Jesus Christ throughout the Holy Scriptures is easy to misjudge in tiny segments, usually out of context. You’ll never realize just how tiny a segment, just how little you know, of the Old Testament until you read it all.
You don’t have to be a clergyman to do it. You don’t have to want to go to seminary to do it (though if you do, you’d better get started sooner than later – you’ll never have time in seminary).
You just have to want to be a better disciple than you are today. I often tell newcomers that we, in the Orthodox church, expect nothing of our people more than was expected out of Christians in the New Testament.
Guess what Scriptures they read?