Bobby Valentine, who writes the excellent blog Stoned-Campbell Disciple, is in the midst of a fascinating series called The Renewed Perspective on the Old Testament. In it he explores long-standing approaches to the Old Testament in Christian biblical theology, which have colored academic biblical studies and Christian preaching for generations, which see the Jewish scripture largely in terms of a legalistic manifesto aimed at mapping a path for humans to earn divine favor, as opposed to the Christian scripture, which celebrates the freely given grace and love of God.
In a highly relevant and credible historical survey, Mr. Valentine shows how this vision very much misses the arc of the converging pre-Christian Hebrew theologies we find in the Bible. In the era of the Reformation, Luther and his fellow Reformers, rightly denouncing how corruptions in the institutional Western Church had obfuscated the message of grace through self-serving ecclesiastical systems, projected their battle with Rome onto the Pauline struggle with those who opposed opening covenantal love to the nations. In short, the Reformers read all of medieval Christianity as a battle between grace and legalism and projected that same battle onto Paul. Our perception of the Old Testament as a graceless, loveless rulebook is the result in large part of these dual unfair projections.*
(*If I may be permitted one friendly quibble, Mr. Valentine’s language doesn’t always make clear that the first projection was also painting with far too wide a brush. There was much vibrant, grace-driven, love-focused life in the medieval Catholic Church and in Scholastic theology, as real as the corruptions the Reformers opposed were. Can I get a high-five from my fellow Campbellite Thomists? Anybody?)
Through the series, Mr. Valentine explores how Torah means so much more than just law, and how the Old Testament is steeped in celebrations of grace and love.