Saturday, January 15, 2011

Week One: Why would some people call the New Testament the Christian or the Second Testament? Which do you prefer?

        Some people refer to the New Testament as the Christian or Second Testament because they believe it is a more accurate description of the truth contained in its pages. These new titles for the New Testament have surfaced recently; they depict the separation of the New Testament from the Hebrew Bible, which is a new concept brought about by the modern Christian notion of separation between Judaism and Christianity (Van Voorst 8). The title Christian Testament emphasizes the life and ministry of Christ, which is positive, but it is also “misleading because [it suggests] that the Jewish Bible is not a part of the Christian scriptures” (Van Voorst 8). Second Testament also runs the risk of these misconceptions, and it also seems to me that it would carry an inferior or negative connotation of not being “first.” Both Christian and Second Testament also fall short of the traditional title New Testament, as “they suggest that…early Christianity can be understood apart from Judaism” (Van Voorst 8). This is an unfair assumption in light of the context in which the New Testament texts were written; in the time of early Christianity, the life and ministry of Jesus was understood as “a continuation and fulfillment” of God’s relationship with God’s people as portrayed in the Hebrew Bible (Van Voorst 4). In fact, the title New Testament was meant to depict God’s “fresh, definitive” action in the life of Christ (Van Voorst 4). Jesus himself described his life and ministry in relation to the Hebrew Bible, saying, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matt 5.17 NRSV). Christ came not to establish a new set of Scripture, but to be the living, breathing representation (and reinterpretation) of the existing Scripture—the Old Testament. Thus, to describe the New Testament in a way that separates it from Old Testament is to separate Christ from his context.
        Personally, I have a strong preference for the traditional title New Testament. I understand how even this title could be misinterpreted, especially in relation to the Old Testament. However, given the choices of New, Christian, or Second Testament, only New Testament conveys the sense of excitement that God was, is, and will continue to be acting in new ways through Christ.

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