Why read the Old Testament?


There is an essay at usccb.org about why we should read the Old Testament.


Detroit radio priest Fr. John Riccardo points out (to expand one of the points in this USCCB essay) that St. Jerome said “ignorance of the scripture is ignorance of Christ” while he was working on the OT book of Isaiah.

There is an extremely insightful document from the Pontifical Biblical Institute on “the Hebrew Scriptures” here


Cardinal Ratzinger says there that the New Testament doesn’t make sense without the Old Testament.

this document begins to explain why there are OT laws that do not apply to us today.

Marcion was held a heretical view that the Old Testament should be taken out of the Bible along with several books of the New Testament. He didn’t like the “god” of the Old Testament. He said it was a different god than the god of the New Testament. “Reformer” Martin Luther reclassified several books of the OT as not inspired, so his view was heretical, but for two different reasons: 1) Luther only translated into German the books of the Bible from the OT for which he could find Hebrew originals. sadly, he was outsmarted by history, because those Hebrew originals were not discovered until the Dead Sea Scrolls were located. 2) Luther wanted to suppress books of the Bible that were “too Catholic” like Maccabees, which suggested praying for the dead.

One of my personal reasons for reading the OT is, as the late Mother Angelica said, that’s how we find out God’s will for us. Now that I want to quote it, I can’t find the verse that I wanted to use here – We’re not supposed to even mention the name of false gods. Today, I think we know the name of the god of Islam – we should not even say it. (I think that keeps us out of a lot of trouble, too.)


Why not read it?


Well, if it was good enough for Jesus . . . . .


Really? Equating Allah with gods like Molech, Baal, Astarte, Asherah, Chemosh, Zeus, Minerva, Apollo and Bel?

“Allah” is simply the Arabic word for “God”, and comes from the same etymology as the Hebrew “El”. Even Arabic-speaking Catholics refer to God as “Allah” in their Arabic liturgies.

And just for kicks, I also mentioned a whole list of real pagan gods too, just to prove a point that merely mentioning them objectively is harmless.


You have to know & understand the old before you can learn the new. That’s what we teach in CCD.


The first word I learned in Arabic is EnShallah which means God willing.
It is used by Christians and Muslims alike.
Living in a Muslim country, the Catholic priest said to take advantage of the Muslim call to prayers in order to help develop a personal prayer life for those struggling to make time.
The prayer times almost coincide with the Liturgy of the Hours.

CCC841The Church’s relationship with the Muslims.“The plan of salvation also includes who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst, whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the same faith as Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

As descendants of Abraham, Muslims are part of the Covenant of Circumcision as was Ismael. See the Book of Genesis. While the Promise was given to Isaac, God promised Abraham that Ismael would would also be blessed.

We read the Old Testament in order to better understand the New Testament. Likewise, the New Testament sheds light on the wisdom contained in the Old Testament, including the tendency of the Hebrew people to become complacent, fall into sin which leads to captivity, redemption and rescue upon repentance and returning back to God. As long as the Hebrew people placed God first, nobody could touch them.


Well, for starters, in the historical books, especially the Samuels, the Kings, and the Chronicles, there are a lot of lessons on how not to do things, both on a personal and on a national level.


I don’t think anyone can really understand either the Eucharist or the Cross without reading and understanding Exodus (at least as far as the giving of the law).

The insights gained from a careful reading of this text are enormous

  • The reasons for the instituting of the Eucharist
  • The metaphor “Lamb of God”, used both in the NT and in the Mass and the significance of this term
  • The history of redemption and salvation
  • The role of law, rules and obedience in the Christian faith
  • The relationship between the Christian and Jewish faiths

Reading Genesis will also help you to gain a lot of background and understand a lot of references in the NT and in the Mass (for instance that phrase in EPI “the sacrifice that your high priest Melchizedek offered”).

The Psalms are of course a wonderful devotional resource.

Understanding the history of Israel including the exile and return from captivity is also very important in understanding the context in which Jesus teachings were given.

The bottom line is the NT was written against the background of the OT. Starting at Matthew and ignoring everything before would be like starting at part 2 of a two part TV special. Sure you may be able to pick up the story, but you will not fully understand it.


St. Paul tells Timothy to hold fast to the traditions in which he had been steeped since youth, including scripture, the Old Testament. He uses examples from the Old Testament, as do all the apostles in explaining its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Our Lord, Himself used the Old Testament when teaching.
The New Testament is full of references to the Old Testament.


My area of interest is the first three amazing chapters at the very beginning of Sacred Scripture. I am still learning from them.

The human person is worthy of profound respect.


Take heed to all that I have said to you; and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let such be heard out of your mouth. (Exodus 23:13)

Similar sentiments can be found in Joshua 23:6-8 and Psalm 16:4 and probably other places.


In the OP, I was stating why we should read the OT, although some above seem to have understood it otherwise. Although I’ve read the OT at least two times, I was struck by that verse in Exodus (I thought it was in Lev) about not even mentioning the names of other gods – thanks.

The mindset of the earliest Christians was sure the Jewish scriptures. Personally I think that background is needed to best understand the NT, as Card. Ratzinger said.

There are so many questions that seem to come up about OT practices, that it’s worth pointing out what the Church says about them.


As to reading the OT, our Lord is perhaps most clearly foreshadowed in the Deuterocanonical books. I consider them to be the ‘anticipatory books’ of Christ. 1 & 2 Maccabees tell of the restoration of Judaism to Israel, in time for Christ to be “born under the law” (Galatians 4:4) - which had been banned under penalty of death by the invading Seluecid kings. 1 Maccabees also describes the first Hanukkah in a scripture which even the Jews do not have. Judith, a type of Mary, tells of the single handed decision of a Jewish woman (“Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth” Judith 13:18) to serve God - which ultimately delivered and saved Israel from death at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar’s army. The messianic aspects of the fish in Book of Tobit and the most clear and precise prophecy of Christ in Wisdom 2:10-20 are but a few examples.

God was indeed not silent between Malachi and the Incarnation, as many claim today.


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