“Ask a Priest: Is It OK to Disregard the Old Testament?”

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Q: Can I still be regarded as a good Christian if I disregard the Old Testament? There are many verses and passes that I morally do not agree with, and believe to be somewhat unlawful and barbaric. Personally, I agree more with the newer Testament and attempt to live my life via those particular rules and guide sets. – Kevin

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: The core of Christian living is charity and love and imitation of Christ. If you are making that your ideal in life, you are on the right path.

Part of Christian revelation – that is, what God revealed to help us reach salvation – is precisely the Bible. And the Bible comprises both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

A big reason the Church kept the Old Testament was because Jesus himself quoted from it. In the passage about the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), Jesus himself indicated that the Scriptures all pointed toward him. And Scriptures at that moment meant what we today call the Old Testament.

Without the Old Testament we couldn’t understand the significance of a lot of things in the New. Why was the temple important? Why was there a feast of Passover? What was so special about Jesus speaking in public with a Samaritan woman?

Without the Old Testament we would be reading the New in a vacuum.

Moreover, the passages from the Old continue to play a huge part in the prayers of the Church. The Liturgy of the Hours relies heavily on the psalms, an Old Testament staple. And the first readings at Mass are often from the Old Testament.

In that sense, to reject the Old Testament would be to reject a critical part of our faith.

The Old Testament is the inspired word of God. And God gave is to us for a reason. But like any text, it needs to be interpreted correctly.

Let’s turn to your concern. You consider parts of the Old Testament as somewhat unlawful and barbaric.

It is good to remember that God revealed himself slowly to the world. The ancient Hebrews/Israelites were a rough, simple, sometimes violent people. They, like others of the age, understood the strength of deities to be expressed in the power of the people who embraced this or that deity.

If the God of the Old Testament seems militaristic, it was in part because he was trying to make his message credible to a rough people. The OT shouldn’t be read as a simple handbook for how to live a morally upright life; it’s much more complex than that.

As time went on, God revealed more of himself and his plans. His ultimate revelation was Jesus Christ, who emphasized love and forgiveness and repentance.

And to repeat: Jesus himself quoted and revered the Old Testament, even as he came to fulfill it, and, in some ways, to supersede it. To follow Christ includes accepting what he accepted, including the Old Testament. (By the way, an early heresy, Marcionism, wanted to get rid of the OT. The Church rejected that.)

For in-depth reading you might want to look at “The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible.”

I hope some of this helps.


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