Master Sermon List
The Two Testaments
by F. F. Bruce
If someone who was previously quite unacquainted with the Bible were suddenly introduced to an ordinary copy of the English Bible and looked rapidly through it in an attempt to size up its character and contents, he would soon discover that it falls into two unequal parts, called respectively 'The Old Testament' and 'The New Testament'. But he might be at a loss to discover just why these two parts are called 'Testaments'.
The natural sense in which we use the word 'testament' in English is when we refer to someone's 'last will and testament'; but there is not much about the two parts of the Bible that bears any relation to 'testament' in this sense. It is, in fact, unfortunate that the word 'testament' was ever applied to the two parts into which the Bible is divided, especially as there is a much more suitable English word which might be used, and a perfectly familiar word at that-the word 'covenant'.
We have derived the English word 'testament' from Latin testamentum, which also has the sense of a 'last will and testament. In the standard Latin version of the Bible, the two parts are called respectively Vetus Testamentum and Novum Testamentum. This word testamentum was chosen as a translation of the Greek word diatheke; which is similarly used in copies of the Greek Bible, where Part I is called he palaia diatheke (the old diadieke) and Part II is called he kaine diatheke (the new diatheke). So we have to consider this Greek word diatheke; It is, we discover, a word which can bear more meanings than one. It may mean 'testament' (in the sense of 'last will and testament'), but it may also mean covenant'. It is used frequently in the Greek Bible, both in the Greek (Septuagint) translation of the Old Testament and in the original Greek of the New Testament, and its regular Biblical meaning is 'covenant'.
There was, indeed, another Greek word, syntheke; which the Septuagint translators might have used to render the Hebrew word for 'covenant' (berith); but they avoided it' because it might bave suggested that a covenant between God and men was concluded as an agreement between equals, whereas diatheke is better suited to the Biblical idea of a covenant or 'settlement' which God initiates by His saving grace and freely bestows upon His people. In the Authorized Version, unfortunately, diatheke is often translated 'testament' in the New Testament, but this has the effect of obscuring its real force. For example,in Heb. 9:20 the Authorized Version says that when Moses had delivered the original summary of the law to Israel he sacrificed various animals and sprinkled their blood and said: 'this is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you'.
But of course, Moses said something rather different, as we can see even in the Authorized Version by turning up the passage quoted, Exod. 24:8, where we are told that Moses said: 'Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words'. The fault does not lie with the writer to the Hebrews, who used the Greek word diatheke quite properly in its sense of 'covenant' (as he found it used in the Greek Septuagint version of Exod. 24:8); the mistake lies with the English translation 'testament', following the Latin translation testamentum.
In the earlier days of Latin speaking Christianity, indeed, another word than testamentum was frequently used to represent Greek diatheke; This was the Latin word instrumentum, which in this connection was much more suitable. If the use of instrumentum had prevailed, and its English derivative 'instrument' had been employed in the titles of the two parts of the Bible, it would bave been more satisfactory, for 'instrument' can be used in the sense of 'agreement'. So far as English is concerned, however, 'covenant' is an even better word than 'instrument', for 'covenant' is a perfectly well-known word meaning a particularly solemn and binding form of agreement. Indeed, the special Bible sense of 'covenant' goes still farther: it conveys the idea of mutual 'belonging', of incorporation into the family, of a marriage-bond, solemnly ratiiied by the shedding of blood (whence the Hebrew term for making a covenant literally means 'cutting a covenant').
We may, therefore, replace the word 'Testament' by the word 'Covenant' in the titles of the two parts of the Bible, and call them respectively, 'The Books of the Old Covenant,' and 'The Books of the New Covenant'. If we think of the Bible as comprising these two collections, we shall be well on our way to understanding what the Bible is and what it contains.
To take the second and smaller collection first: in what sense may we call the New Testament books 'The Books of the New Covenant'? What is this New Covenant? For the answer to that we must remind ourselves of the solemn act performed by Jesus in the Upper Room at Jerusalem on the evening before His death. We remember how He instituted the Holy Communion, in which, afier giving His disciples bread as the token of His body, He gave them the cup of wine, saying: 'This is my blood of the (new) covenant, which isshed for many'. To one who remembers the Old Testament background, the significance of these words is immediately evident. As we have just mentioned, it was Moses who, when he gave the law to the people of Israel, offered sacrificial victims and sprinkled their blood, saying: 'This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD hath made with you'. By that act and these words Moses, acting as mediator, solemnized the covenant between Jehovah and Israel, by which He undertook to be their God and they promised to be His people. Now Jesus takes upon His lips words reminiscent of those used by Moses so long before, and, acting as Mediator, inaugurates a new covenant between God and men, a covenant to be ratified by the blood of no ordinary sacrificial victims, but by His own:
A sacrifice of nobler name
And richer blood than they.
But why was a new covenant necessary? Why did not the Mosaic covenant remain in force? Because the Mosaic covenant was defective. It was an undertaking solemnly entered into by Jehovah and Israel; its continued validity depended upon both sides honouring, their agreement. There was no doubt about this on Jehovah's part, of course; but what about the people? They intended to keep the covenant, it is true. When they listened to Moses reading the divine law, 'the book of the covenant', they said: 'All that the LORD hath spoken will we do, and be obedient' (Exod. 24:7). But, when they were put to the test, they found it difficult, and indeed impossible, to keep their agreement. There lay the defect. But although the people of Israel failed to keep their side of the covenant, the God of Israel continued to keep His. And the first covenant, inadequate though it was, was used by Him to prepare the way for another covenant which should replace the first and succeed where it failed. So we go on to the time of Jeremiah, roughly midway between Moses and Jesus, and hear him announcing the purpose of God:
'Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the LORD; I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people; and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more' (Jer. 31:31-34).
The significance of our Lord's words, then, is that in Him the new covenant, predicted by Jeremiah, became effective. The implications of His inaugurating the new covenant to take the place of the old are drawn out in particular by the writer to the Hebrews in the eighth and ninth chapters of his epistle. The same teaching is emphasized, though in different language, by the Apostle Paul when he describes how the purpose of the sacrifice of Christ was 'that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit' (Rom. 8.4). For the superiority of the New Covenant lies partly in this, that those who enter into it receive into their own lives the life of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, a life which knows and desires the will of God and a power which is able to do it.
The Books of the Old Covenant then, tell how God made the necessary preparation for the sending of His Son to inaugurate the New Covenant. The books of the New Covenant tell how the Son of God came to do this and set forth the implications of this New Covenant. Both collections alike speak of Christ; it is He who gives unity to each and to both together. The former collection looks forward with hope to His appearance and work; the latter tells how that hope was fulfilled.
The books of the Old Covenant open with a summary of the early days of men in Western Asia which forms an introduction to the story of Israel, the people whom God chose for Himself and with whom He entered into covenan–relationship. God's choice of Israel was no act of favouritism, He is no respecter of persons (or of nations, either), but He selected this particular nation in order that the knowledge of Himself and of His will, revealed to them, might be communicated by them to other nations; and He chose them most of all in order that they might be prepared as the nation in which, when God's time was ready, the Saviour of the world might be born.
The history of this preparation is the chief concern of the books of the Old Covenant. God prepared this nation to be the vehicle of His purpose by revealing Himself to them in mighty works and by the words of His spokesman the prophets. Through out this period prophets and righteous men in Israel looked forward to the accomplishment of God's purpose in the promotion of which they played their allotted parts, and they 'died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar' (Heb. 11:13). The promise was carried out and the period of fulllment dawned when Christ came. So He could say to His disciples: 'Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not (Matt. 13:16,17). The books of the New Covenant tell how the divinely, implanted hopes and aspirations of these ancient men of God were realized in Christ.
A question which naturally arises here is this. Since the New Covenant fulfilled and, indeed, superseded the Old, and since we now have in our hands the books of the New Covenant, why should we trouble any more about the books of the Old Covenant? Does not the New Testament render the Old obsolete? As it introduces a covenant of grace and not a covenant of works, does it not, indeed, contradict the Old Testament? Why, then, does the Christian Church continue to include the Old Testament among her sacred books?
The general belief of the Christian Church is expressed in the opening words of Article VII (in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England) :
'The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises . . .'
From time to time, however, men have risen in the Church to argue that the Old Testament is so thoroughly superseded by the New that it should no longer be ranked among the canonical writings of the Church. One of the earliest of these was Marcion, who flourished in the second century A.D. Marcion, a native of Sinope in Asia Minor, came to Rome about A.D. 140, and there founded a sect which persisted for many years. His distinctive doctrine was that the Old Testament was inferior to the New and had been rendered obsolete by Christ. Marcion stressed the contrast between the two Testaments so far as to say that the God revealed in the one was quite a different being from the God revealed in the other. The righteous God, the Creator, Israel's Jehovah, revealed in the Old Testament was a different and inferior deity to the good God revealed by Jesus under the name 'Father'; This, Marcion thought, was rendered sufficiently obvious by the fact that it was the worshippers of the righteous God of the Old Testament who sent the Revealer of the good God to His death. Marcion, therefore, repudiated the authority of the Old Testament, and defined the Christian canon as consisting of one Gospel and a collection of ten Pauline epistles. (We shall have more to say about Marcion's canon in Chapter VIII.) Paul, to Marcion's way of thinking, was the only real apostle of Christ, who had remained true to His mind and revelation. The Church, as a whole, he maintained, had followed in the error of the Judaizers, among whom the original apostles of Christ were to be reckoned-Peter, John and the rest. Marcion stated his view of the opposition between the two Testaments in a work called the Antitheses, where he collected a number of contrasts between the revelation of the Old Testament and that of the New.
Marcion's dualism between the righteous God and the good God has often been reproduced, though not usually in such a thorough, going form. We still find people drawing a contrast between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New, although they do not, like Marcion, regard the God of the Old Testament as having an independent existence, but regard Him as a developing idea in the minds of His worshippers, which reached full growth when it attained the measure of the stature of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Others make the contrast between the attributes of God, His righteousness and His mercy, as though the former were characteristic of the Old Testament revelation and the latter of the New Testament revelation, whereas in fact both coexist in harmony throughout the whole Bible.
One illustrious Marcionite of comparatively recent times was the great German church historian Adolf von Harnack, who was himself no mean authority on Marcion. 'The rejection of the Old Testament in the second century,' said Harnack, 'was a mistake which the Great Church rightly refused to make; the retention of it in the sixteenth century was a fate which the Reformation was not yet able to avoid; but that Protestantism since the nineteenth century should continue to treasure it as a canonical document is the result of a paralysis which affects both religion and the Church'.
Practical difficulties in the use of the Old Testament arise in various places and times, but these difficulties are to be surmounted by further teaching about the preparatory character of the Old Testament revelation, not burked by throwing the Old Testament overboard. Gibbon
reports that when Ulfilas, the apostle to the Goths, translated the Bible into the Gothic language about A.D. 360, 'he prudently suppressed the four books of Kings, as they might tend to irritate the fierce and sanguinary spirit of the Barbarians'. Whether this was so or not, we are told that similar difficulties arise in Africa, where converts to Christianity find in the Old Testament too much that reminds them of their ancestral practices and beliefs, too much, for example, to confirm them in their polygamous customs. How far this representation is exaggerated can be ascertained from missionaries.
On the other hand, the contrary difficulty is experienced in India, one hears, where the Old Testament is uncongenial to the intellectual heritage of educated Hindus. Hindu thought is abstract, impersonal and static, whereas the Old Testament outlook is concrete, personal and dynamic. The Indian sometimes says that the Old Testament reflects a morality and a conception of God which is lower than that of the best Indian religion, and asks why the ancient literature of his own people should not play for him the role of Gospel–preparation which the Old Testament plays for others. A cursory comparison of even the earliest and purest literary monuments of Indian religion with the Old Testament may well fill one with surprise that such an idea could ever be entertained; but it certainly has been and still is entertained, and not by Indians only. Perhaps it all depends on what one means by 'morality' and 'religion'.
The sect of 'German Christians' 'which flourished in Germany under the Hitler regime urged a similar argument. Why should Nordic Christians cherish a volume of Jewish religion and history when they had the sagas and beliefs of their own pre–Christian ancestors? These latter should serve as the proper introduction to 'German Christianity' as they understood it, instead of the Hebrew Scriptures. An adapted edition of the book of Psalms appeared in these circles during the thirties of the present century, entitled Divine Songs for Germans, where the historical and personal references in the Psalms were replaced by others drawn from Germanic and Indo–European history and mythology: for example the place names of Psa. 87 were replaced by the geographical landmarks of Indo–European migrations from the Ganges to Scandinavia.
In the early days of the Church difficulties were felt in connection with the Old Testament even among those who repudiated Marcionism and maintained the apostolic faith. The Greek Fathers, especially those of Alexandria, found the concrete realism of the Old Testament uncongenial to their heritage of Greek philosophic thought, and they had large recourse to the method of allegorization. In this they had a predecessor in the Jewish scholar, Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 B.C.-A.D. so), who himself followed the pagan scholars who applied similar methods to the poems of Homer and Greek mythology in general. The allegorical treatment was carried to absurd lengths but the Alexandrian Fathers held, as some Christiatis do even to–day, that where the literal sense is plainly impossible (that is to say, impossible in their eyes), the text must be interpreted allegorically. The fact of the matter is that very little indeed of the Old Testament was originally intended to be understood allegorically.
The fact that books are still published professing to deal with Moral Difficlties of the Old Testament suggests that some readers even to–day find difficulties in the acceptance of the Old Testament as part of the Church's canon.
Yet we must ever bear in mind that the Old Testament was the Bible of our Lord and His apostles, and its authority was fully acknowledged by them. That some of its provisions were of the nature of a temporary accommodation was recognized; Jesus, for example, said that the provision which the Mosaic law made for divorce and remarriage was introduced because of the men s 'hardness of heart'; but it was from the Old Testament that he took the fundamental and abiding principle in the light of which the Mosaic provision was seen in its true character. 'Have ye not read, that He which made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh? So that they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunderMoses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so' (Matt. 19.4-8).
The Old and New Testaments, in fact, cannot be dissociated; while on the one hand we cannot understand the preparatory revelation of the Old apart from its fulfilment in the New, it is also true, on the other hand, that we cannot understand the New apart from the Old. The Old Testament is to the New as the root is to the fruit. It is a grave mistake to think that the fruit of the Spirit in Christianity will grow and ripen better if the plant is severed from its roots in the Old Covenant.
A few years ago Professor A. M. Hunter wrote an excellent little book called The Unity of the New Testament. He found the unity of the New Testament to lie in its presentation of the history of salvation, a history which is like a cord made up of three strands-the Bringer of salvation; the way of salvation; the saved people. We might say very much the same thing in terms of the covenant idea if we speak of the three strands as being: the Mediator of the covenant; the basis of the covenant; the covenan–people. In the New Testament, of course, the Bringer of salvation or the Mediator of the Covenant is our Lord Jesus Christ; the way of salvation or the basis of the covenant is 'by grace alone through faith alone'; the heirs of salvation or the covenant–people are the Church. But what Professor Hunter says of the New Testament is equally true of the Bible (as he would be the frrst to agree). The Bible-Old Testament and New Testament together-has a unity of its own; and that unity is to be found in the fact that the Bible tells the story of salvation-the story of God's covenant–mercy. This explains what the Bible is. It is the record of God's revelation of Himself as a righteous God and a Saviour.
This record has a threefold theme. As for the first strand, it is God Himself who is the Saviour of His people; it is He who keeps covenant and mercy for ever. All through the Old Testament He points His people forward to a day when He will vindicate His character, establish His covenant, set up His kingdom, and bring near His salvation. We turn the page into the New Testament, and find Him doing just this, in the person of Jesus Christ His Son.
This Bringer of salvation, the Son of God, does not appear suddenly in the New Testament as a visitant on earth from another realm, having no connection with the course of prior events down here. As touching His eternal relationship with the Father, He is 'without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life'; but as touching His Manhood, He is indissolubly bound up with all previous history. Marcion, in editing Luke's Gospel to make it a suitable Gospel for his Canon, cut out the genealogy of Christ which we find in Luke 3.23–38; but the genealogy is there of right, as is also the companion genealogy in the first chapter of Matthew's Gospel. In Matthew, Christ is introduced as a true son of Abraham and heir to the throne of David; in Luke, He appears as a true son of man, the Saviour of mankind. But both genealogies emphasize the link binding Christ and the New Covenant to the age of the Old Covenant. The genealogy of Christ is the culmination and explanation of the many genealogies which almost seem to form the skeleton round which Old Testament history is built up. The words of Mr. Robert Rendall express this truth illuminatingly :
'It is in retrospect from Christ that the common genealogies reveal their primary spirital value. When being written, the exact course and issue of the divine purpose could not have been foreseen. True, here and there, a particular branch was singled out for special notice, and, as time passed, a main interest developed, but in general no one could say certainly from which line the Messiah would come. The documents were a plain straightforward transcription of genealogical data: it was only afterwards that God's action therein began to be seen. Thus the genealogy of Christ was not isolated as such from the common genealogical tables, but was embedded in the general register of names. This accounts for the seeming irrelevance of a large mass of names in these genealogies, and proves beyond question that the Messianic element is there, not through human foresight, but through a dispensation of divine providence. This hidden development in the long succession of Hebrew generations is that from which old Testament history derives its substance and completeness'.
This means that the Saviour is bound up with His people, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. So we may take this strand next in the history of salvation, the people of God, the elect community, as one which runs through the whole Bible. This continuity is obscured for us in the English Bible because it uses for this community in the New Testament a word which it does not use in the Old Testament-the word 'church'. But in the Bible of the early Christians, the Greek Bible, the continuity was plain, for the Greek New Testament word ekklesia, which is translated 'church' in the English Bible, is also used in the Greek (Septuagint) translation of the Old Testament to denote Israel as the community ('assembly' or 'congregation') of Jehovah. Indeed, we find it used twice in this sense in the New Testament: in Stephen's speech in Acts 7:38, where he says that Moses 'was with the church in the wilderness' (where the whole people of Israel is meant), and in a quotation from Psa. 22:22 in Heb. 2:12: 'in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee' (where a particular local community of Israelites appears to be meant).
The Christian Church was, of course, a new beginning: Christ used the future tense when He said: 'upon this rock I will build My church' (Matt. 16.18). But the very word that He used for His new community (ekklesia) pointed to its connection with the ekklesia of Old Testament times. For He Himself forms the organic link between the two and embodies the continuity of both. He is the Messiah-Saviour to whom the old community, the ancient covenant-people, looked forward; He is Saviour and head over all things to His Church, the new covenant, people. He belongs to both and both belong to Him, and in Him they are not two but one. Abraham had the Gospel proclaimed to him and is the spiritual father of all believers; Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. Of these and all other believrs under the Old Covenant it is written that 'these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect'. The first followers of Christ were at one and the same time the last believing remnant of the old community and the first believing nucleus of the new. The New Jerusalem has the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel written on its gates and the names of 'the twelve apostles of the Lamb' inscribed on the foundation stones of its wall.
Neither in the old Testament nor in the New is solitary salvation envisaged : the salvation of God is enjoyed in the menibership of the saved community. When we consider the third strand, the way of salvation, too, is a theme common to both Testaments. In both salvation results from the exercise of God's free electing love. God chose Abraham that he might be the father of many nations, that through his seed blessing might be brought to all the families of the earth. He set His love on Abraham's descendants when they were slaves in the land of Egypt and wrought their deliverance that they might come to know Him as their God and spread that knowledge to others. And the New Testament believers are taught to regard themselves as having been chosen in Christ before the world's foundation that they should be holy and blameless before Him, It is of grace alone, that it might be of faith alone.
Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness, and thus he became the father of all who by similar faith receive God's righteousness. The covenant at Sinai might be a covenant of works so far as Israel's undertaking was concerned; but it was a covenant of grace so far as God's fulfilling it was concerned, for He continued to treat Israel as His people even when Israel forgot that He was their God. Paul's insistence on justification by faith is no innovation in Biblical doctrine; he turns to the Old Testament to confirm and illustrate it. In the New Testament the focus of our faith and the declaration of God's grace is the self-offering of Christ upon the cross; but when Christ Himself wished to make plain the significance of His death He did so in language drawn from the Old Testament-in particular from the picture of the obedient Servant of Jehovah in Isa. 53, whose suffering is endured for the sake of others, whose sin He bears Himself. 'The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many' (Mark 10:45).
Apart from the organic unity of the Old Testament with the New, which makes it an indispensable part of the Christian canon, the Old Testament makes in various ways its own distinctive contribution to the volume of revelation.
The supreme religious value of the Old Testament is the way in which it presents God as the Living God, One who is dynamically alive and active in self-revelation, not simply the Prime Mover or Pure Actuality of certain schools of philosophy, nor yet merely the Self-Existent Being. He is that, of course, but He is much more. He is the God of creation, providence, and redemption; He is the God who makes Himself known in the mighty acts with which He breaks into the course of history. And this picture of God in the Old Testament prepares us for the supremely redemptive mighty act which He wrought in sending His Son into the world for our deliverance and in raising Him from the dead. The God of the Old Testament is not aloof from the world, which He created and maintains; He is not disinterested in His creatures, but satisfies their need. Nor is He partial; He has no 'respect of persons'.
The nation to which He reveals Himself and with which He enters into covenant-relationship cannot presume on that privilege; if it abuses His goodness, His judgment is all the more severe on it just hecause it is peculiarly His nation. 'You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities' (Amos 3:2). True, His providence is not restricted to Israel: He brought up the Syrians from Kir in the desert and the Philistines from Crete just as He had brought up the Israelites from Egypt, but He had not revealed Himself to those others as He had to Israel, and therefore Israelis more responsible than the Syrians and Philistines. How different this God is from such a nature-deity as Chemosh, the god of the Moabites! Chemosh had no independent existence; his fortunes rose and fell with the fortunes of Moab, and when Moab disappeared, so did Chemosh. Unlike Chemosh and all gods of that order, Jehovah is the living God, who freely chooses His people and makes ethical demands on them; He is 'a God with a character', and that character of holiness and truth, righteousness and mercy, He desires to see reproduced in His people.
This brings us to the ethical value of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is introduced by the Books of the Law, in which the holy requirements of God's will are made known. 'The law', says Paul, 'was our custodian until Christ came' (Gal. 3:24, R.s.v.). The law is the preparation for the Gospel; the Gospel offers forgiveness of sins, but the law makes us conscious of our sinfulness and of our need for forgiveness. Above the religions of the nations which surrounded Israel the Old Testament revelation towers high in its insistence that God, who is Himself holy, requires holiness in His people. 'Ye shall be holy: for I, Jehovah your God, am holy' (Lev. 19:2; cf. I Peter 1:16). Thus we are prepared for the supreme demand made by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount:
'Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect' (Matt. 5:48). And if; in face of such an uncompromising ethic, we feel utterly unable even to begin to attain it, we are ready to hear the Gospel note: 'What the law could not do...God has done, by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin,...in order that the law's righteous requirement might be fulfilled in us who do not order our lives according to the flesh but according to the Spirit' (Rom. 8:3,4, free translation).
And the Old Testament is distinctive in its presentation of the historical process. This process is not illusion, as it is to certain phases of Indian thought; it is not an indefinite series of cycles, as some Greek schools held; it is the steady unfolding of God's one increasing purpose. We have to await the New Testament record of the coming of Christ to see the consummation of that purpose in Him, but the broad view of its outworking is found in the Old Testament. The Old Testament writers had a philosophy of history long before Herodotus, who among secular historians is rightly hailed as the father of history. They were not mere annalists, as their contemporaries in Egypt and Assyria were for the most part: they selected and presented the facts which they recorded in accordance with a guiding principle which we find fully embodied in Christ. The Old Testament has been compared by Dr. Ernil Brunner to the first part of a sentence and the New Testament to its second and concluding part. This comparison is all the more forceful if we think of a complex sentence in Dr. Brunner's native German tongue, where the sense of the whole caunot be comprehended until the last word is spoken. So God, to the fathers through the prophets, spoke the first part of His salvation-bringing sentence; but the last word, completely revealing and redeeming, was spoken in His Son.
That is why the old Testament prophets did not know clearly the full import of their words: they 'searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory' (1 Peter 1:10,11, R.s.v.). But the apostles, in whose days Christ Himself came, had no such questionings: taught by their Master, they knew that He was the One of whom Moses and the prophets had spoken, and that it was to their own days that those men of old had looked forward. 'This is that which was spoken by the prophet', Peter claimed when interpreting the strange events of the first Christian Pentecost. For Christ was the key to the problem and the answer to the questionings of the prophets. The New Testament, as Augustine declared, lies hidden in the Old; the Old Testament is revealed in the New.