Torah is Life

Posted: January 20, 2009 in Spirituality
Tags: ,

One of the blogs I enjoy following is that of Dr. Claude Mariottini, Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary. He provides a well educated commentary on a wide range of subjects. This morning he drew my attention to this video and so I present it to you.

It was interesting to me to hear people discussing Torah the same way Christians talk about the New Testament. What struck me about it is that when they talk about Torah they are referring to the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – what Christian scholars call the Pentateuch. For many Christians however, the Old Testament is considered dry and uninspiring, and so they focus mostly on the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. And yet here we have people discussing Leviticus in the same manner we talk about say, the gospel of John. I would suggest there are two things (at least) that we can learn from this observation.

First, the fact that two culturally diverse peoples can gain the same wisdom and learning from both the Old and New Testaments speaks to the universality of God. He is indeed the same yesterday, today and forever. He does not change and those who seek Him will find Him, no matter where they look. Or rather, if I may be so bold, those who seek Him will be found by Him, for He seeks us more fervently than we seek Him.

Second, we need to make sure we don’t neglect the Old Testament in our study of scripture. Many Christians do read the Old Testament, but as a background to the New Testament not necessarily as a guide to living in itself. This is often because there are many who perceive the teachings of Jesus as a replacement for the Old Testament. But this was never the case. Jesus said himself that he had not come to replace the law but to fulfill it. (Matt. 5:17)

So how then can we do this? I have a suggestion. Much Jewish study of the scriptures takes place in conjunction with the Talmud. The Talmud is not a different scripture as many non-Jews assume, rather it is a collection of commentaries that have been made by various rabbis of note down through the centuries. And so it is customary to read the Torah with the aid of these commentaries. Not unlike what Christians do in their Bible studies.

Here’s my suggestion then. Read the Torah, Genesis through Deuteronomy, using the teachings of Jesus, the gospels, as a commentary. That is, as you read the Old Testament, cross reference the teachings of Jesus as they pertain to each passage of scripture. Most good study Bibles will provide the cross references for you. As you read ask yourself these questions: How does Jesus’ teaching shape your reading of the Old Testament passage? How does the Torah passage retain it’s meaning in the light of Jesus’ teaching?

It’s not that profound an idea, I’ll admit, but this video caused me to wonder – we are quick to read the Bible with the aid of a modern teacher’s commentary, but how many of us have read it following the commentary of the greatest teacher of all time?

Until next time…

Shalom.

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