The relevance and meaning of the Old Testament and its relation to the New Testament is the most important question in the field of hermeneutics. The answers we give to this question, determines the character of our faith. Do we think that we can build our faith only on the New Testament or are we convinced of the fact that true Christianity is unthinkable when we do not accept to Old Testament just as the New Testament as the permanent revelation of God?
In the thoroughly revised, updated and expanded version of Two Testaments, One Bible David L. Barker, Senior Lecturer in Old Testament at Trinity Theological College in Western Australia and formerly Deputy Warden of Tyndale House in Cambridge investigates the theological basis for the continual acceptance of the Old Testament through a study of its relationship to the New Testament.
Two Testaments, One Bible consists of four parts. In the first part the problem is stated and a quite extensive review of the different views in church history on the Old Testament and its explanation is given. In the second part four modern solutions on the relationship between the Old and New Testament are described and evaluated. In the third part the following important themes with regard to this relationship are handled; typology, promise and fulfilment, continuity and discontinuity and covenant. The last part consists of an evaluation.
In this part the author shows how Marcion in the second century rejected the Old Testament as the book of the inferior creator god whom he distinguished from to god of love of the New Testament. The Church affirmed that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the same as the Creator of heaven and earth. She retained the Old Testament not in the last place by using the allegorical method of explanation.
The difference between the typology we find in the New Testament itself and which as the author show is completely legitimate is that in the allegorical no justice is done to salvation history. The typological meaning is in distinction to allegory related to the historical meaning.
Both Luther and Calvin affirmed the authority of the Old Testament. They both rejected the apocryphal books being a part of the Old Testament. Luther did not equate completely the Old Testament with the law and the New Testament with the gospel but he went to a great degree in that direction. Calvin stressed the fundamental unity of the Old and New Testament.
Scheiermacher, the father of modern theology, saw the Old Testament as the book of a bypassed religion. In his often quoted work on Marcion (1921) Von Harnack stated: ‘To reject the Old Testament in the second century was a mistake which the church rightly rejected, to keep it in the sixteenth century was a fate which the Reformation could not yet avoid, but to retain it after the nineteenth century as a canonical document in Protestantism results from paralysis of religion and the church.’ From the nineteenth century and onwards not only conservative scholars but also scholars who accepted the historical-critical method stressed the abiding value of the Old Testament.
Speaking about modern solutions he reviews the views of four theologians. For the famous critical New Testament scholar Bultmann the New Testament was the essential Bible. According to Bultmann we need the Old Testament only as its presupposition that shows us the failure of Israel to be saved by the Mosaic covenant. Wilhelm Visscher, a scholar who influenced by the christomonism of Barth although being more conservative, stressed that’s Old and New Testament are equally Christian Scripture. We must read the Old Testament christologically.
For the Dutch theologian Van Ruler the Old Testament was the real Bible. The New Testament is only its interpretative glossary. According to Van Ruler the Old Testament shows us that the real issue of revelation is the creation and the kingdom of God in this world. The redemption wrought by Christ is only an emergency measure. The American Old Testament scholars Brueggemann and Goldingay each in their own way agree with Van Ruler in his view that the Old Testament is the real Bible of the church.
The last view, defended among others by the German Old Testament scholar Von Rad, is that Old and New Testament are connected to each other by the one history of salvation. He points to the fact that Von Rad does not see salvation history as real history but only as Israel perception of history in faith. The disagreement with this view ought to be formulated more strongly than the author does.
Baker especially criticizes the views of Bultmann and Von Ruler although acknowledging that there are elements of truth in it. Against Van Ruler he points to the fact that also the Old Testament takes human sin very seriously and its ultimate goal is communion with God and not enjoying this (redeemed) creation as such. He agrees with the view of Visscher, a view that has prevailed during the centuries, but points to the fact that is must be completed with the view that in salvation history the New Testament surpasses to Old.
This book is an important and well written book. Much can be learned form it. It is an academic and not a devotional book. The book would have been stronger when in the last chapter more emphasis was given to the importance of all what has been said for the worship of and devotion to the living God.
Although I can agree with the author that by understanding the Old Testament we must not limit ourselves to what the New Testament authors wrote about the Old Testament, as a Christian I am not altogether happy with the remark of the author that the New Testament authors are no norm for us in their exegesis of the Old Testament. Certainly they used for the contemporary methods of explanation, but also this aspect is part of God’s revelation.
David L. Baker, Two Testaments, One Bible: The Theological Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments, Third Edition (Downers Grove/Nottingham: IVP-USA/Apollos, 2010), paperback 376 pp., $22,35- (ISBN 9780830814213)