The Bible Jesus Read

Why Should We Read the Old Testament? Some feel like the Old Testament is outdated and irrelevant to our experiences today. Phillip Yancey, in his book The Bible Jesus Read challenges the idea that the New Testament is more important than the Old, and illustrates how it contains countless lessons for us.


The OT contains stories of love and hate, extreme violence, rape, slaves and wars. The Hebrews lived in wild, barbaric times and even though we feel their laws may seem harsh, we must remember as we look back on a time of revenge, slavery, and polygamy, that God had to work with people’s morals where they were at that point in time.

We learn from the OT that God works slowly and unpredictably, as the first 11 chapters of Genesis describe a number of human failures, which God seeks to remedy in Genesis 12 by establishing one particular family, a tribe known as the Hebrews (later called the Jews). God arranges a detour for the Israelites into Egypt, where they must wait four centuries until Moses arrives to lead them to the Promised Land — a long and painful journey that takes 40 years instead of the expected 2 weeks. God operates on a different timetable. But it is through the Hebrews that God establishes the lineage of David, eventually leading to Jesus.

The Old Testament lays the foundations for the teachings and events found in the New Testament, and it can be argued that one can only understand the New Testament when we know of the themes, laws, covenants and people of the OT. If we did not know of the Jewish customs that are mentioned in the OT, we would not understand the burden of the “oral traditions” imposed by the elders and Jesus words, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Nor would we understand why Jesus was so upset at the Temple, or where Jesus got the words He used in His many replies to his opponents.

Over time, God gradually moved his people toward a different way. Jesus came to introduce a “New Covenant”, and through the words of the Apostle Paul we look back on the OT as a time of preparation. However, the NT on its own, is insufficient for understanding God. So many of the words we use daily—freedom, justice, time, faith, spirit, revolution — are derived from the OT. We cannot understand the NT apart from the Old: try understanding Hebrews, Jude or Revelation without reference to OT allusion or concepts. Paul constantly spoke of themes from the OT. What is a relationship with God really like? We get different answers to that question from Abraham, Isaiah, Moses, Job, Jacob, and David, as each had completely different experiences with God, and we can learn from those encounters.

Jesus quoted from the OT to settle controversies with the Pharisees, Sadducees & Satan himself. The images — lamb of God, shepherd, stone which the builders rejected — that Jesus used to define himself came right from the pages of the OT. As Yancey stated so clearly, we read the bible that Jesus read and used when we study the OT. There are prayers Jesus prayed, the poems learned, the songs he sung, and the prophesies he pondered. The better we understand the OT, the better we understand Jesus.

TEMC has offered this study under its Small Groups program. If you're interested, join the study and come to read and understand the themes of the Bible Jesus Read. 

For more information, contact: David McMaster / -- 416.925.8494, ext. 222