From Bill Sutter’s Desk May/Jun 2003
Many Jewish people assume that, as Bible-believing Christians, we direct our attention to the New Testament to the exclusion of the Old Testament. They are unaware that our keen interest in studying the Bible begins with the first verse of Genesis and continues throughout all sixty-six books of the Bible. They think of the Hebrew Scriptures as their book—the Jewish book—and view the New Testament as the Christian book.
Although Jewish people know that the Old Testament writers were Jewish, they usually are unfamiliar with the Jewish background of the New Testament and are surprised to learn that almost all of the New Testament writers were Jewish too. The only exception was Luke, a proselyte to Judaism, who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.
An interesting case-in-point of this perception occurred when my wife and I were invited to join two Jewish couples in our neighborhood for dinner. In the course of the evening we mentioned that the pastor of our church was teaching a series on the Tabernacle. They seemed surprised, and one neighbor quickly responded, “That’s different!”
Of course, it isn’t at all unusual for Christians to study the Old Testament or Jewish subjects, such as the Tabernacle. But it seemed unusual to them because so many Jewish people do not know we believe that every verse of Hebrew Scripture is God’s Word, as is every verse of the New Testament.
Why this misunderstanding? Unfortunately, it may be due in part to our Christian terminology. When Jewish people hear us refer to the thirty-nine books from Genesis to Malachi as the “Old” Testament, they have reason to think that we consider the Hebrew Scriptures something whose time has passed. Many have concluded that Christians view the New Testament as a replacement for the Old.
This misconception becomes even more understandable in view of the historical teaching of many church denominations—that the church has replaced Israel as the recipient of God’s ancient promises to His Chosen People. Of course, such teaching is completely untrue. Yet our choice of words can often convey concepts that actually contradict what we believe and intend: The “New” Testament replaces the “Old,” and the word church replaces Israel. To some, it may all seem logical. Yet it is all wrong!
That’s why we at The Friends of Israel urge Christians to use terms that accurately communicate what we believe and encourage relationships rather than stifle them. For example, we often use the term Hebrew Scriptures or Tanachrather than Old Testament. By doing so, we better communicate our understanding and utmost respect for the Scriptures God gave to mankind in Hebrew.
With this issue of Israel My Glory magazine, we focus on the book of Jonah, the ancient account of how God used a Jewish prophet to speak to the pagan Ninevites—to preach salvation through repentance and faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The story is found in the Hebrew Scriptures. Also found in the Hebrew Scriptures are these words from King David of Israel: “Kiss the Son, . . . Blessed are all they who put their trust in him” (Ps. 2:12).