The question of how to fit the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures with the New Testament has been a matter of discussion for centuries by biblical scholars teaching in academic faculties as well as church leaders who are tasked with preparing weekly sermons. Here are two current books that touch on this subject from very different angles.
Richard B. Hays served as Dean of Duke Divinity School and George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament. In his recent book, Reading Backwards, Hays demonstrates that it was Israel’s Scripture that taught the Gospel writers how to understand Jesus as the embodied presence of God and how those Scriptures provided the literary witness to the Church from its earliest days. Dr. Rosa Lee Richards offers a brief review of this important book.
A Review by Dr. Rosa Lee Richards
In Reading Backwards, Richard Hays discusses the relationship between the Hebrew Bible (OT), and the Christian New Testament. In Christianity the OT is often neglected, when, Hays contends, the NT should clarify and be clarified by it. But how to read the two Testaments together? His answer: by reading metaphorically, or figurally, from back (the NT) to front (the OT).
How can the Bible be read backwards, with the NT elucidating the Hebrew Bible, without disrespecting Jewish understandings and without turning the NT into an unseemly bed of weedy outgrowths? This is done by looking at OT figures that presage, without prophesying, Christ and determining how Christ’s life resonates with the OT lives. This technique, according to Hays, was first used by the Gospel authors. Hays describes the way in which each Gospel reads backwards from Christ to the ancestral figures of the OT. By seeing how each figure is related to Christ, their significance is enhanced and clarified and made relevant to the believer today, while Christ is seen from Eden to Resurrection.
Richard B. Hays, Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness (Waco, Texas: Baylor University, 2014). ISBN 978-1-4813-0232-6.
A World Without Jews
A Review by Dr. Theresa Newell
A second recent book, A World Without Jews, analyzes why in Nazi Germany the Jewish Bibles and synagogues were burned to ashes. What was it in these sacred writings and space that brought out anger, disrespect and a desire to dishonor the Biblical narrative given to the Jewish people?
Author Alon Confino, Professor of History at the University of Virginia and at Ben Gurion University, Israel, contends that the ideas which led to the burning of the Old Testament scriptures “fit within a broader theological debates about separating Christianity from Judaism, especially among Protestant theologians . . . already from the late nineteenth century [by] several leading German liberal Protestants [who] called for a full separation of Christianity from Judaism” (p 130). The extreme of this chilling assessment was the claim among some of both Protestant and Catholic leaders of 1930s Germany that Jesus was Aryan and that German Christianity must be rebuilt entirely without Jewish roots. The burning of Jewish books led inevitably to the burning of Jewish bodies. This book is a devastating reminder that ideas which evolve into idealogies change history – for good or for evil.
Alon Confino, A World Without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014). ISBN 978-0-300-21251-8 (pbk).
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