Tabletalk Subscription
You have {{ remainingArticles }} free {{ counterWords }} remaining.You've accessed all your free articles.
Unlock the Archives for Free

Request your free, three-month trial to Tabletalk magazine. You’ll receive the print issue monthly and gain immediate digital access to decades of archives. This trial is risk-free. No credit card required.

Try Tabletalk Now

Already receive Tabletalk magazine every month?

Verify your email address to gain unlimited access.

{{ error }}Need help?

When you invite folks to dinner, there are certain rooms you hope they won’t see because there wasn’t enough time to clean everywhere. Similarly, for many Christians, the Old Testament is not a gem to show off but a closet of problems that we hope our unbelieving friends won’t see or ask us about. But what if the Old Testament is actually one of our greatest treasures? What if some of its most problematic parts are actually part of its glory? In this article, we will step through several objections to the Old Testament and show how these issues actually point us to the glory of Christ.

Common Objections to the OT

1. The God of the Old Testament is always angry and spiteful. This objection is based on ignorance. In Exodus 34:6–7, the Lord describes Himself as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (a text echoed repeatedly in the Old Testament). When provoked by His people’s sin, the keyword that keeps emerging is God’s compassion (Neh. 9:17, 19, 27, etc.). Some of the most soaring celebrations of God’s love are found in the Old Testament (e.g., Ps. 103).

But God is often angry in the Old Testament, and that anger is part of His glory. Far from being spiteful and compulsive, God is always angry for good reasons. He hates sin for how it offends His honor. Are you angry when people ignore God? Are you angry when the innocent are hurt? You should be. God is too.

In the gospel, God’s compassion and His righteous anger for our sins meet, for in God’s compassion He put forth His Son to bear the wrath that our sins deserved (Gal. 3:13). No wrath of God, no gospel.

2. The Old Testament encourages hatred toward enemies. What about the destruction of the Canaanites under Joshua? What about the spiteful prayers against enemies in the Psalms (e.g., Ps. 139:19–22)? These can be troubling texts for us.

Yet, these texts show that God’s glory matters more than anything else. Those who defy God must be judged, and God used Israel as an agent of His justice against the Canaanites. If these texts offend us, the NT must offend us even more. Revelation depicts perfected saints praying for judgment (Rev. 6:10) and Jesus leading a more severe conquest than Joshua when He returns in glory (Rev. 19:11–21). These Old Testament texts, far from being outdated, actually point forward to the final judgment.

In God’s mercy, He warns before He judges, giving an opportunity for repentance (e.g., Josh. 2:10–11; John 3:4). Our present time is a time of warning, when we love our enemies and call them to faith in Christ (Matt. 5:44).

3. The Old Testament has a low view of women. Actually, the Old Testament has a very high view of women, dignifying them as fellow image bearers with men (Gen. 1:27), as vital to God’s plan of redemption (3:15), and as heroic in faith and virtue (Ruth; Esther; Prov. 31:10–31).

In the gospel, God’s compassion and His righteous anger for our sins meet, for in God’s compassion He put forth His Son to bear the wrath that our sins deserved.

Perhaps the heart of this objection is that God gives authority to husbands and fathers over women (e.g., Num. 30), which many find oppressive. But this objection actually reflects a problematic view that assumes all authority is exploitative.

4. The Old Testament is unscientific and inaccurate. Many assume that science has decisively proven the Bible wrong. But we must privilege our unerring God over fallible humans. What is more, we must not assume that the Bible always relates facts about nature in the same manner required by our modern conventions. The Bible speaks poetically of the “windows of heaven” and the “pillars of the earth” (Gen. 7:11; 1 Sam. 2:8), not as misleading “primitive” talk but as glorious ways of revealing the beauty and stability of God’s creation. Also, the Bible does not promise to answer all our scientific questions—only the questions God wants to answer (Deut. 29:29). Many problems concerning the accuracy of the Bible disappear when we read it humbly on its own terms.

5. The Old Testament is hard work. A floating ax head. A basket with a woman inside, flying to Shinar. A donkey that talks. So much of the Old Testament is obscure and requires a lot of effort to understand. Is the Old Testament really worth the work?

The Old Testament responds that it is the glory of kings to search out His wisdom (Prov. 25:2). Our God wants us to think, to labor diligently in the mines of His Word (Prov. 23:12), and to receive the joy of discovering its treasure (Prov. 2:4).

Jesus’ View of the OT and Ours

Many of these objections are a problem of posture. We stand over the Old Testament, condemning it for not meeting our standards of what we feel Scripture ought to be. Instead, we should come humbly, recognizing that if we have a problem with the Bible, the problem lies with us and our demands.

When we let the New Testament shape our view of the Old, we discover Jesus and His Apostles saying the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35) and that the Old Testament is all about Christ and His glory (Luke 24:25). It has great power to instruct us in the love of God and love of neighbor (Matt. 22:37–40) and to encourage hope (Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16). In short, the Old Testament is Christian Scripture, an incomparable treasure for showing us Christ’s glory and for conforming us to His image. Indeed, it is part one of the great, epic story of redemption that climaxes in Jesus. Far from being irrelevant, the Old Testament gives us the key for knowing Jesus, our King, our Prophet, our Priest—categories we wouldn’t understand if it weren’t for the Old Testament.

We haven’t answered all the objections. But if we come trusting that God is good and He does good (Ps. 119:68), and if we come expecting great treasure in the Old Testament, then we will have the right posture for finding answers. Rather than as a messy closet we hope our guests won’t see, we should instead think of the Old Testament as a wise, aged relative whom we hope our guests will have the privilege of getting to know.

Church Family and Fellowship

Abortion: Ministering to Mother, Child, and Family

Keep Reading Covenant Theology

From the October 2020 Issue
Oct 2020 Issue