The Eclipse of the Old Testament

This week in my Hebrews class we were studying chapter 7, focusing on how the author of Hebrews uses the Old Testament (specifically the story of Melchizedek) to make Christological point. I asked the students the following question:

How do we understand the importance of the Old Testament even though in one sense it has been eclipsed by the full revelation of God found in Christ?

Let me share a quote with you from systematic theologian, T.F. Torrance, that I has shaped my own answer to that question.

There are structures of Biblical thought and speech found in the Old Testament which have permanent value both for the New Testament and the Christian Church…they provide the New Testament revelation with the basic structures which is used in the articulation of the Gospel, although the structures it derived from Israel were taken up and transformed by Christ.

Among these permanent structures let me refer to the Word and Name of God, to revelation, mercy, truth, holiness, to messiah, saviour, to prophet, priest and king, father, son , servant, to covenant, sacrifice, forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, atonement, and those basic patterns of worship which we find set out in the ancient liturgy or in the Psalms. It was indeed in the course of the Old Testament revelation that nearly all the basic concepts we Christians use were hammered out by the Word of God on the anvil of Israel. They constitute the essential furniture of our knowledge of God even in and through Jesus.

All that to say that it is only through the Old Testament that we come to understand the full significance of who Jesus Christ is and what his life, death, and Resurrection mean for us. Without the Old Testament we would have to try to understand Christ through the patterns of our own cultures. The result would be a Jesus who who is not tied to any permanent and authoritative pattern of understanding. It would be a Jesus who isn’t grounded in history.

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