I’m currently reading through Bruce Waltke’s magisterial book An Old Testament Theology and didn’t even make it through his preface without being blown away not only at Waltke’s brilliance but, more importantly, his highlighting of the critical importance of knowing the Old Testament. Waltke sounds the trumpet for Christians to dig into the books between Genesis and Malachi when he writes:
Only those who have journeyed through the Old Testament can appreciate the full splendor and glory of the New Testament and fully digest its fruit, and those who have not cannot. The consequence of a general ignorance about the Old Testament among the people of God is a pervasive reduction of the full message of the New Testament to a basic gospel of atonement and individual ethics. 1
I once heard one of my favorite preachers, when asked why he spent so little time preaching from the Old Testament, reply that he was a New Covenant believer which demanded he spend the majority of his time in the New Testament. Now, I don’t think he was trying to denigrate the Old Testament. His nationally-known ministry has demonstrated quite the opposite. Yet, I believe his remark was shortsighted at best and misleading at worst.
Waltke reminds us that so much of the language, ideas, and images of the New Covenant are fashioned from and fastened to the foundation of the Old Covenant. The truth is we handicap our understanding of the New Testament if we have an anemic grasp of the Old. The result is a sad deficiency not only in handling our Bibles but in growing our hearts, where “many Christians feel spiritual undernourished because they live out their lives on the basis of about ten biblical texts.” 2 May this not be so.
Remember, to plumb the depths of the New Testament you must be well-acquainted with the fullness of the Old.