Dr. Heine's Texts Regarding the Centrality of the Old Testament

Topics: Old Testament

The Gravity of the Old Testament

In the Christian world, views on the Old Testament vary immensely. There is a dichotomy found between those who believe that the Old Testament tells the story of a hateful God and those who find unity between the God of the New Testament and the God of the Old. Thus, while some Christians rely only on New Testament Scriptures and others use the Old and New together, it seems to me that Christians rarely hold the Old Testament to have greater authority than the New Testament.

While this may be the case in the modern church, early Christian worldviews were not so swift to shy away from placing the Old Testament’s value above that of the New Testament. As Christianity emerged out of Judaism, the Septuagint text of Old Testament Scriptures was embraced as the most foundational text for Christian theology and personal belief.

Coming out of a Jewish tradition that was built on the authority of the Hebrew Bible, it is understandable that Christians’ Old Testament would be an important source of truth as Christianity emerged.

During Jesus’s ministry, he frequently made it clear that he was not coming to destroy the current Scripture but to add new depth and understanding. It makes sense, then, that Christians should embrace the Old Testament, attempting to grasp deeper apprehension from its words. Not only did Jesus endorse the Old Testament, but many of the early church fathers also remained firmly seated in that endorsement.

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From Ignatius to Polycarp, they frequently referenced the Old Testament’s texts as Scripture, but they rarely referenced any New Testament texts in the same fashion.

While it made sense that Christians used the Old Testament in developing doctrine, it also made sense that church authorities were reluctant to embrace New Testament texts as having the same validity.

Over time, the Gospels were accepted because they outlined the words of Jesus. Epistles and books without the direct words of Jesus took longer to be accepted and decided upon. Throughout the early centuries of the church, new epistles and gospels were constantly being written. Answering the questions of which were trustworthy and reliable enough for canonization took time and consideration, so it is understandable that New Testament texts were not accepted as willingly as Old Testament texts.

According to Dr. Heine, during the early centuries of church history, several ancient Old Testament texts formed the backbone of Christian theological interpretation. Primarily, Christians of the early church used the Greek Septuagint text as the basis for their teaching.

While other Greek, Latin, and Syriac texts were used, the majority of the church relied on the Septuagint to form their doctrine. In my mind, this reliance on the Septuagint allows for a deeper historical understanding of the Hebrew God. When Christianity emerged, the apostolic fathers did not think that they were forming a new religion. Rather, they appeared to hold the belief that Christianity was a deeper revelation of the same God they had always known. Operating from that mentality, it seems important that early Christians chose a Scriptural text that had not been translated after the divergence of Christianity and Judaism. For example, if one were to solely use the Latin Vulgate translation, one could end up having a theology formed from a Christian-tinted lens of Scripture. On the other side, if one were to mainly use Theodotion’s translation of the Old Testament, one could have a more Jewish-tinted interpretation of Scripture. In contrast with those texts translated after the divergence of Christianity and Judaism, it appears to me that the Septuagint speaks with a clearer voice on the original intent of ancient Biblical texts. Thus, by using the Septuagint text, we can develop a richer sense of God than is possible when using proselyte texts of later centuries.

Dr. Heine’s writing leads me to believe that this ancient Septuagint text created a clear-cut structure for the formation of the early church. Using this source as a springboard, the church was then able to peripherally consider other Latin and Syriac texts of the Old Testament as well as gospels and epistles of the first few centuries of the Common Era. Practically, I believe that this understanding of early church Scriptures should challenge us to probe deeper into the Old Testament. I frequently hear Christians say, “What if we had the faith of the New Testament church?” or “What happened to the Scriptural depth possessed by the apostles?” However, it seems to me that if we truly value the faith of church founders, we should be eager to view the Bible through their eyes-eyes that cared far more about the Old Testament than we often do. If the early church was so profoundly affected by the text of the Old Testament and its original context, perhaps we need to focus more intently on the Old Testament ourselves.

The text of Dr. Heine’s first chapter shows a clear focus on the centrality of the Old Testament, particularly when addressing the Septuagint translation. This translation was far more readily accepted than New Testament writings, and its pre-Christian origin allows us to find a pure portrayal of the Hebrew God. Considering the Septuagint’s role in the formation of the early church, we should be eager to study this text and discover the profundity of God within its pages.

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Dr. Heine's Texts Regarding the Centrality of the Old Testament. (2022, Jun 30). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/dr-heine-s-texts-regarding-the-centrality-of-the-old-testament/

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