So often I get asked, “Father what use is there in studying the Old Testament?” That was the wrong question to ask me, since I had chosen many of my electives in both College and Theology from Old Testament studies. I will grant you that the Old Testament is difficult to read. It has a large and diverse collection of ancient texts from a culture that is truly foreign to us today. The stories found in the Old Testament are many times frightening and even seem strange to us.
The Old Testament is the account of God the Father preparing His chosen people for the coming of the Messiah. It is God working among His people over thousands of years helping prepare them for a loving, merciful Messiah. The Second Vatican Council stated that the Old Testament is “a storehouse of sublime teaching on God, and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers” (Dei Verbum, No. 15)
It is important for us to read and study the Old Testament to help us understand who Jesus truly is and why He had to suffer and die. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies proclaimed and written by the Old Testament prophets. There are six Major Prophets and 12 Minor Prophets in the Old Testament. The rest of the books fall into these groups: The Pentateuch, 5 books, The Historical Books, 16 books, The Wisdom books, 7 books.
The Old Testament is filled with God shepherding His people as a liberator who delivers His people from famine, from slavery, from war. In the Old Testament we see God as active in all types of situations. He brings good out of bad and evil. He teaches hope and demands a personal response of friendship, loyalty and obedience. The Ten Commandments are the heart and soul of His laws. The Old Testament are the sacred scriptures that Jesus read and knew. He quoted them freely. If we are to understand His teachings, we need some understanding of the Old Testament.
As the Church grew after Pentecost, others began writing and those writings became the New Testament Scriptures. St. Paul wrote much of the New Testament and remember his background, he was a Jew. Paul was extremely knowledgeable in Jewish Law and in the Old Testament Scriptures. The other New Testament writers also had knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, thus you cannot divorce the parts of the Bible. To understand the New Testament and Jesus, you must study and understand the Old Testament, for the New Testament is built upon the Old Testament.