How to reconcile the old and new testaments?


#1

Hi All

I have fallen away from Christianity the past couple of years, and a lot of it is to do with the old testament.

For example I picked up my bible and read yesterday a story from Joshua 7

It says “So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.” “The Lord said to Joshua,”…Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him."

Joshua finds in his camp the man who had stole gold and silver. He is stoned to death,… along with “his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep”. They then heaped a pile of stones over them.

“Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger.”
biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+7

I know this issue comes up here. But I read kind of thing and think what kind of deity is it we worship?

How can you reconcile the old and new? I know its supposed to be the same God. But if thats the case, why is the God in the old testament so angry and vengeful?

Can you call this love?

Thanks and God bless :slight_smile:


#2

I am thinking the only way this can be reconciled is if it is man changing between the old and the new, but God staying the same. That the OT was written in a more primitive age than the NT, so reflected the violent and cruel nature of that society.

What is the official Catholic answer to this problem?


#3

I don’t know the official Catholic answer to your question; however, one of the Jewish responses (there are surely more than one) is that early Jewish writing was not concerned with defining the nature of G-d, proving His existence, or discussing where He came from. These endeavors came later during medieval times, both in Christianity and Judaism. The Hebrew Bible presents G-d as conflicted, sometimes all-merciful and other times given to anger and vengeance. This description means, for Judaism, that mankind can relate to G-d in human terms, dialogue and interact with Him, and even wrestle with Him, such as Abraham and Moses do, pleading to G-d to spare the lives of His people, whether Jewish or Gentile. Issues such as the omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and benevolence of G-d were not discussed until the Jewish philosopher Philo, who was influenced by Greek thought about the nature of G-d, as well as Maimonides. The important thing for Jews at this earlier period was the Oneness of G-d and the fact He is the Creator, Who shaped order out of chaos. Perhaps the multifaceted features of G-d, as portrayed in the Hebrew Bible, serve to illustrate that the exact nature of G-d is unknowable by mankind. The Talmud (Oral law) continues much of this tradition found in the Hebrew Bible; in fact, now the rabbis are the arbiters of truth as entrusted by G-d in the Torah (Written law).


#4

Partly it does seem to be a matter of humans understanding God better.

It’s not a sharp Old Testament/New Testament split, either. The prophets often speak of God’s mercy and His desire that we treat each other well. The book of Jonah seems to have been written to illustrate that God is the God of every nation, and desires the repentance of Israel’s enemies rather than their destruction.

That said, it is recorded that God issued harsh commands and mandated particularly unpleasant forms of capital punishment. There are a few ways to look at that.

First is to say that God didn’t really command those things, but rather the people were using God’s name to justify their own bad actions. That runs into the issue of flatly contradicting the claims of Scripture, though there is some basis to believe that happened, as when Jesus later credits the OT permission for divorce to Moses rather than God.

Second is to note that the Israelites of that time did not have a strong belief in reward and punishment in the afterlife. Thus God dealt with them in this-world terms, promising blessings of prosperity in return for obedience and commanding physical death for disobedience. But that was a temporary measure, a way of illustrating the more remote realities of Heaven and Hell.

You might also consult some of our Jewish members. I’ve heard it said that the death penalties prescribed by the Mosaic Law were rarely carried out in practice because of high evidentiary requirements, so that they served more as deterrents than as actual common punishments. Notably, when we see people stoned or nearly stoned in New Testament times (the woman caught in adultery, St. Stephen, St. Paul multiple times albeit non-fatally), it seems to be done by lynch mobs using the Law as justification rather than according to proper legal procedure.

Usagi


#5

I thought Rabbi meant teacher, not a “arbiter of truth”. i.e. a rabbi is simply somebody who imparts knowledge to the best of their ability.


#6

Hi Usagi, I agree with that group. In the sermon on the mount Jesus says “You have heard it said X”, “but I tell you Y”, which would imply he was taking a middle way between literalism and liberalism with respect to scripture.


#7

I reconcile the OT and NT like this.

I’ve heard it said that the OT is fulfilled in the NT.

  • Therefore - -

The NT expresses the covenant under which I am to operate.
All my instructions are there.
The OT is more like “source material” - not really something I need to be too concerned with in my daily walk.

This eliminates the kind of issues you are running into.

Peace
James


#8

:thumbsup: Well said!

Another way of looking at it: the OT is the history of the Chosen People, the long and winding road leading to the birth of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Just as His genealogy includes saints and sinners, that story is a story of God’s goodness and human sin and repentance.

The sacred books of the Old Testament are exclusively the word of God, and constitute a substantial part of his revelation; they are penetrated by a subdued light, harmonizing with the slow development of revelation, the dawn of the bright day of the redemption. As should be expected in historical and didactic books, they reflect in many particulars the imperfection, the weakness and sinfulness of man. But side by side with innumerable touches of greatness and nobleness, they also record the story of the chosen people, bearers of the Revelation and the Promise, repeatedly straying from God and turning to the world. Eyes not blinded by prejudice or passion will see in this prevarication, as reported by the Biblical history, the luminous splendor of the divine light revealing the saving plan which finally triumphs over every fault and sin. It is precisely in the twilight of this background that one perceives the striking perspective of the divine tutorship of salvation, as it warms, admonishes, strikes, raises and beautifies its elect.
(Pope Pius XI, encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge)


#9

Hey Dave, its a question most people wonder about.
The way I reconcile the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT) is based on the way God is teaching us. This may sound a little confusing, but, I believe many of the teachings of Jesus are meant to correct our misunderstanding of the OT (reflect on the readings at Matthew chapter 13, John chapter 12:49 & 50). I’m NOT saying the OT was incorrect, I’m saying our understanding of how it is written is incorrect. The OT is written using many parables, according to Jesus, this is the way the Father chooses to teach us. Many believe the stories in the OT are simply fact, I disagree with the “simply” part. Although they may have factual parts, the message is what is important. A prime example is Noah. Did he exist? Probably, but whether he existed or not, and if he did whether he built an arc or not is pretty irrelevant. What is relevant is the message God is teaching us, mankind departed from Him, there are consequences and the consequences are harsh. The consequences of disobedience from the Law of God is separation from God, or death, but it isn’t a physical death, it is spiritual death.
Some examples of the use of parables in Scriputre:
1 Kings 4:32
Solomon also spoke three thousand parables: and his poems were a thousand and five.;
Psalms 77:2
I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter propositions from the beginning.
Proverbs 1:1
The parables of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel.
Proverbs 25:1
These are also parables of Solomon, which the men of Ezechias king of Juda copied out.
Ecclesiastes 12:9
And whereas Ecclesiastes was very wise, he taught the people, and declared the things that he had done: and seeking out, he set forth many parables.
Ecclesiasticus 38:38
Upon the judges’ seat they shall not sit, and the ordinance of judgment they shall not understand, neither shall they declare discipline and judgment, and they shall not be found where parables are spoken:
Ecclesiasticus 39:2
He will keep the sayings of renowned men, and will enter withal into the subtilties of parables.
Ecclesiasticus 39:3
He will search out the hidden meanings of proverbs, and will be conversant in the secrets of parables.
Ecclesiasticus 47:17
And thou didst multiply riddles in parables: thy name went abroad to the islands far off, and thou wast beloved in thy peace.
Ecclesiasticus 47:18
The countries wondered at thee for thy canticles, and proverbs, and parables, and interpretations,
Ezechiel (Ezeckiel) 20:49
And I said: Ah, ah, ah, O Lord God: they say of me: Doth not this man speak by parables?
Matthew 13:3
And he spoke to them many things in parables, saying: Behold the sower went forth to sow.
Matthew 13:10
And his disciples came and said to him: Why speakest thou to them in parables?
Matthew 13:13
Therefore do I speak to them in parables: because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
Matthew 13:34
All these things Jesus spoke in parables to the multitudes: and without parables he did not speak to them.
Matthew 13:35
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.
Matthew 13:53
And it came to pass: when Jesus had finished these parables, he passed from thence.
Matthew 21:45
And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they knew that he spoke of them.
Matthew 22:1
And Jesus answering, spoke again in parables to them, saying:
Mark 3:23
And after he had called them together, he said to them in parables: How can Satan cast out Satan?
Mark 4:2
And he taught them many things in parables, and said unto them in his doctrine:
Mark 4:11
And he said to them: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but to them that are without, all things are done in parables:
Mark 4:13
And he saith to them: Are you ignorant of this parable? and how shall you know all parables?
Mark 4:33
And with many such parables, he spoke to them the word, according as they were able to hear.
Mark 12:1
And he began to speak to them in parables: A certain man planted a vineyard and made a hedge about it, and dug a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it to husbandmen; and went into a far country.
Luke 8:10
To whom he said: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to the rest in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearing may not understand.


#10

Thanks, James. Unfortunately I still have an issue with three quarters of the bible. I dont think anyone is able to defend the violent behaviour in the old testament, such as the murder of innocent children and animals which are claimed to be God-ordained.


#11

How do you know that you’re reading it correctly and interpreting it according to its proper context?


#12

I would suggest really researching this topic some more.

Here is a good link to some material about the “dark passages” of Scripture.

jimmyakin.com/2012/10/the-dark-passages-of-scripture.html


#13

Jesus wasn’t taking a middle way, He was enacting the New Testament, and actually He was raising the level of requirements. The NT has a higher standard of behavior than the OT.


#14

Thank you for posting this! I myself have struggled with this exact question and I’m curious to see the responses.


#15

You have to understand all this in context to be able to comprehend what is going on. God gave a promise to the Israelites that He would protect them, provide for them, and make a new homeland for them, and bless them. But with this, they had responsibilities they must keep. The most important is to love God, and love Him alone.

So God wanted to separate the Israelites, to make them a separate people, His own. He wanted them to act, live, look, and behave different from all the people surrounding them. One thing He required was that they not take on any of the things of the people around them, especially their gods and worship.

Look at what had happened just previously. God had given them victory over the city of Jericho, a victory that was completely monumental and awesome. The walls fell down and they routed the city, instead of the expected long, drawn-out battles normally expected of a seige of a city, with all its death and destruction. But God warned them explicitly not to keep the spoils of the city, especially the items dedicated to their gods.

Well Achan decided he wanted the gold from the dedicated items anyway. So he was willfully, and purposefully spitting in God’s eye. He had personally witnessed how God had given them a huge victory a little loss of life, and he didn’t care. He wanted the bounty, and stole some of it instead of giving it to God. And it wasn’t a small amount, it was 200 shekels plus a bar of gold. And they were living in tents, so everyone in his family probably knew about it.

Purposeful rejection of God is SERIOUS. He is the source of all life, He is the Creator. In this day and age of relativism we have lost the sense of ultimate right and wrong. We have no comprehension of how enormous our sins are.


#16

You are welcome.
Actually, many years ago, I went though this same thing.

Let me suggest this. Keep it simple.
Look at the Gospels and the Teachings of our Lord.
Is this not enough to keep you occupied? It is for me.

Personally - I find the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” to be pretty much a full time job.
Why should I trouble myself with matters that I can do nothing about - that took place in a time that I can never really understand?

Jesus teaches me a simple faith…and a simple life…Yet in that simple faith there is much to be explored and learn. To me, trying to understand the OT and issues such as you mention would be a distraction from what I need to be doing.

Just some thoughts

Peace
James


#17

An ordained rabbi is supposed to be righteous and learned in matters of halacha (Jewish law). In this sense, s/he is the arbiter of truth although not in any mystical way since a rabbi is an ordinary person. Unlike a priest, who can absolve a penitent from sin, a rabbi has no such power, nor is s/he necessary to lead a congregation in prayer even though this is customary.


#18

First, think of humanity as a living organism. Think of it as one body.

This body has been growing since Adam.
Remember this, there is no greater love than that a man lay down his life for another.

Adam sinned and fled God.
God loved Adam and sought him out and fixed his shame from his sin.

Cain killed his brother.
mankind was bad enough we started over…
Noah…
Melchizedek High Priest to God Most High, King of Peace/Salem.
Abe meets Mel.
They sacrifice in thanks to God Most High.
there is no law… there is no gentile… there is no jew… yet.

Abraham has babies,
Israel is announced…
judah is announced…
Moses comes along and records the history, and the laws.

Kings,
prophets
Maccabees<<<<<<< UP to here, we’ve had a cycle of up and down and up and down.

God made a holy people, out of all of the peoples. That holy people, will have the Holiest become manifest and identified.

That holiest will die, and that symbol of death will allow all MEN to realize they need not flee God and Hide from Him because of Sin.

They can come home like the prodigal son did.

Even though He was horrifically, ritually unclean, the father (God) embraced him. Even though that unclean he should have stayed away from camp until he was proven safe, he was taken in the house. He was bathed, and fed. Baptised, and mana/christ provided.

Christ died, so you could know how much God loved you.
1 John 4:16-18 says, when the love in us is perfected we no longer fear.

The whole plan is so you can come home, with clear conscience be confident you can be forgiven your sins, not judged and punished,

For the holy people to survive, there were cancers in the Human organism that was removed. You had a patriarchal system. If you have a fight and leave survivors, in 2 generations you have a blood bath coming back at you.

So in some battles, you killed them all then, remove a pound of flesh, so there isn’t a pound lost now, and later 6 pounds in the blood wars.

If you have issues with the OT deaths, and a life is worth a life, then 6 lives are worth more, right?

You reach a spot, where we now live to learn to love, where we are able to be in Him as Christ was in him.

We don’t’ live for this life. We live for another. Mourning the loss in this life, shows a distinctively uncaring, or unfaithful belief in the next one.

That’s as bullet pointy as I can do it. I wrote it out in a less than complete, but substantially more fleshed out version, with the scripture and stories and it was 84 pages or so. So I’ll start simple, let it be ignored, and flinch for putting in here. :slight_smile:


#19

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.