It’s too bad the label “Old Testament” has become attached to the Scriptures of Israel, which constitute the first section of the Christian Bible. The reason I say this, and I speak as a Christian, is that the adjective “old”—especially when juxtaposed to “new”—usually suggests something that lacks freshness and vitality. In our society, the law of obsolescence insists that we discard the old and turn to the new.
Many people are tempted to look at the Old Testament this way. When I began to teach the Bible back in 1946—lo, forty years ago, it was customary to understand the religious development in the Scriptures in evolutionary terms. An upward line was traced from the naive notions of Moses’ and Joshua’s time, through the ethical teaching of the prophets, to the lofty view of God’s universal love and of human solidarity found in the New Testament. Scholars no longer support that view of unilinear evolution or “growth” regarding the idea of God and moral values in the Bible. Nevertheless, many people still downgrade the Old Testament in one way or another. There are still many Christian churches in which preaching and teaching is based exclusively on the New Testament. Sometimes the Old Testament is regarded as pre-Christian and therefore as literature that has been superseded with the coming of Jesus Christ.