In Daniel 9:2 appears the oldest name with which the Scriptures are known: ספרים(books). This term refers to the Jewish scriptures that were inherited as a Greek edition by Christianity at the beginning of the early Church as the authentic Word of God (Jn 10:35; Acts 9:2; 16: 17; 18:25-26; 19:8-9; Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:11). To these sacred writings, the early Christians added some other Scriptures to that expressed their faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Therefore the Christian corpus of sacred scriptures became a composition of two collections of books: those which were considered already as authoritative scriptures by many before the death of Jesus (2 Mac 8:23; Rom 1:2; 2 Tim 3:15-16) and those which were written after his glorification (Acts 1:1-2; 2 Pet 3:15-16).
Christianity understood that between these two sets of written works there is an intrinsic relationship (cf. Lk 24:13-27), as Augustine of Hippo perceived: “The New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is manifest in the New.” (Quaestiones in Heptateuchum, 2, 73: PL 34, 623). This statement represents what the Church believed since her inception: that the Christian bible is composed of two “Covenants” (testaments). With this assertion as the background and as the principal hermeneutical key, biblical scholars, theologians and pastors have acknowledged the authority of the Hebrew bible along the centuries. However, in different historical moments, circumstances have tried to change the understanding of this relationship, either rejecting completely the Old Testament, like Marcion (c.140 CE) or focusing in the literal reading of the Hebrew Scriptures as some fundamentalist Christian denominations still defend.
|Pope St Gregory the Great (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)|
For Christians the relationship between the Old and the New Testament is interdependent and reciprocal. As the New Testament claims to be read in the light of the Old, a re-reading of the Jewish scriptures in the light of Christ and the salvific event becomes necessary and essential (Lk 24:25). As the origins of the Christian faith are found in the Old Testament, Christianity is always being shaped by this heritage (Lk 24:44-48). However, this relationship is maintained by aspects of continuity, discontinuity and fulfillment: “What the Old Testament promised, the New Testament made visible; what the former announces in a hidden way, the latter openly proclaims as present. Therefore the Old Testament is a prophecy of the New Testament; and the best commentary on the Old Testament is the New Testament.” (Gregory the Great, Homiliae in Ezechielem, I, VI, 15; PL 76, 836B)
These reflections should highlight the key importance and essential value of the Old Testament for Christians, while at the same time bringing out the newness of its Christological interpretation. (VD, 41)