The Old Testament: Should We Rip Out The Parts We Don’t Like?

[This is a part of The Most Important Book Ever Written Series.]

All of us have favorite parts of the bible. Even if we don’t realize it, each of us will tend towards one part or another. It seems that a lot of people like the New Testament the best.

Something I’ve discovered, and correct me if you think differently, is that on the whole the Old Testament tends to get a bit neglected. At best, certain portions of the Old Testament are read a lot, but the rest is ignored.

So what should we do with these bits we don’t read, rip them out?

I’ve thought a lot about this recently. (Not the ripping out, but the parts we don’t read). Obviously we can’t go ripping out sections of the bible. But, why is it then that we act like certain parts of the Old Testament don’t exist? Why do we figuratively rip them out? Is it because we find certain parts boring? Like all the laws of Leviticus, or the genealogies of Numbers? Or, is it because our belief is that we live in a New Covenant and that certain parts don’t apply? Or, is it that we just don’t understand certain parts, and that it’s easier to ignore them than to actually seek understanding?

The answers may be different for each of us. But whatever the reason, can we really ignore vast sections of the bible? Can we continue to act like some parts are more ‘Gods word’ than others? My feeling is that this isn’t an appropriate response for the people of God, towards the word of God. If we are in the pursuit of the ways of Jesus, then at the very least we need to investigate the way He and His followers read, used, and acted towards the Old Testament scriptures.

Wouldn’t you agree?

I’ve been as guilty as the next person when it comes to ignoring parts of Old Testament. This has mainly been because I’ve not been sure how to apply the things I’ve read. It’s one thing to understand the narrative and an entirely different thing to know how to apply correctly the things that are said.

My question has really been ‘how does the Old Testament inform our modern Christian behavior’?

So in order to grow in this area I’ve recently read a few books on how we should approach the Old Testament. This has been a huge help to me and I can honestly say that I’ve discovered a new love for the all of Old Testament.

I’ve already written about a couple of books that are helpful in approaching the bible as a whole, but as I’m sure I’m not alone in my actions towards the Old Testament, here’s a couple of the books I’ve found most instructive;

At home in a strange land1) At Home In A Strange Land – Andrew Sloane

In this book Sloane likens the Old Testament to a distant foreign land. A land that is exciting and exotic, but a bit unnerving, especially when it comes to ethical issues. This book is like a guidebook to the foreign land called the Old Testamant. It’s not too difficult a read and it’s full of valuable direction on how these ancient scriptures can inform our modern Christian behavior. It includes a really useful bibliography and suggested reading list for people who are wanting to take their adventure even further.

Old Testament Ethics For People God2) Old Testament ethics for the people of God – Christopher J. H. Wright

This is one epic book! It’s almost 500 pages long and therefore isn’t for the faint of heart. The reason I recommend it though, is because it really is the ‘go to’ book on approaching the Old Testament for Christian behavior (ethics).

The first section covers structure when it comes to Old Testament Ethics. The second section covers themes in Old Testament ethics.

Before you tell me that this sounds boring, have a look at the topics covered, they’re all very relevant to todays world;

Ecology and the earth
Economics and the poor
The land and Christian ethics
Politics and the nations
Justice and righteousness
Law and the legal system
Culture and family
The way of the individual

The third section is entitled ‘Studying Old Testament Ethics’. This is great for anyone wanting to go even further with their study and understanding of the Old Testament.

If your wanting a basic guide to how to read and apply the Old Testament then ‘At home in a strange land’ is a definite read. For anyone wanting to take their understanding and study to a deeper theological level then ‘Old testament ethics for the people of God’ is THE book.

Either way, my encouragement to you is to not ignore the Old Testament, or to treat it in anyway secondary to the New Testament. Definitely don’t rip any pages from your bible. It’s rich with value and life and has much to offer the diligent reader.

Question: Have you ignored the Old Testament, or do you feel you have a good handle on how to read and apply it? Have you read either of these books? Can you recommend another Old Testament guide book?