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The Importance Of The Old Testament To The Christian Spirituality

Authors:
  • Ghana Psychological Council

Abstract

Christian Spirituality draws heavily on the Old Testament which is essential to knowing the Lord God of Hosts, the creator of the universe and to having a true understanding of the Bible and God’s unfolding of the greatest love of human kind. The aim of the paper was to show that the Old Testament is an essential and enriching source for the development of a Christian concept of spiritual formation. The paper reviewed published literature and references in the Bible (Old and New Testaments), to show and establish the importance of Old Testament in Christian Spirituality. It followed the standard methodology for systematic reviews of published articles on “Old Testament and Christian spirituality”. The research revealed that the Old Testament narratives on Creation, Covenant, Community and role models in the Bible are an essential and enriching source for Christian spirituality. However, the concept is complete with the fulfilment of prophesies as stated in the New Testament.
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DOI: 10.18535/ijsshi/v3i7.7
The International Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities Invention
Volume 3 issue 7 2016 page no.2414-2425 ISSN: 2349-2031
Available Online At: http://valleyinternational.net/index.php/our-jou/theijsshi
The Importance Of The Old Testament To The Christian
Spirituality
1Dinah Baah-Odoom , 2Frimpong Wiafe
Abstract:
Christian Spirituality draws heavily on the Old Testament which is essential to knowing the Lord God
of Hosts, the creator of the universe and to having a true understanding of the Bible and God’s
unfolding of the greatest love of human kind. The aim of the paper was to show that the Old Testament
is an essential and enriching source for the development of a Christian concept of spiritual formation.
The paper reviewed published literature and references in the Bible (Old and New Testaments), to show
and establish the importance of Old Testament in Christian Spirituality. It followed the standard
methodology for systematic reviews of published articles on “Old Testament and Christian spirituality”.
The research revealed that the Old Testament narratives on Creation, Covenant, Community and role
models in the Bible are an essential and enriching source for Christian spirituality. However, the
concept is complete with the fulfilment of prophesies as stated in the New Testament.
Introduction
The term spirituality has been defined in various
ways for various purposes. For example, Weltzen
(2011) referred to spirituality ―as the lived
experiences of the early Christians‖. Downey
(1997) also defined ―Christian spirituality as the
Christian life‖. Schneiders (2000) defined
spirituality as ‗the experience of consciously
striving to integrate one‘s life in terms not of
isolation and self-absorption, but of self-
transcendence towards the ultimate value one
perceives‘. For the Christian believer, this
ultimate value is God. Craghan (1983) claim
Jewish belief claim that spirituality is too
encompassing to ever be properly captured in a
word or idea. Green (1986, p. 7) writes, "Where a
modern employs the term 'spirituality,' an ancient
Israelite employs `yir'at YHWH', (fear of
Yahweh), or “avodat YHWH' (service of
Yahweh).‖ To the Jew, the comprehensiveness
and mystery of spirituality are too great to be
analyzed or studied and so, it is more important to
affirm that spirituality is than to attempt to
describe it4.
For the purpose of this text Christian spirituality
can be generally described as a set of beliefs,
values, and way of life that reflect the teachings of
the Bible and the way in which Christians express
their faith. Christian spirituality is therefore
concerned with all of a person's life and how they
are connected to our relationship with God. The
definitions suggest an ongoing means by which a
meaningful relationship with God is established
and maintained.
Old Testament spirituality is important to
Christian spirituality today as it was in the past.
Yet some so called ―New Testament
Christians/Churches‖ claim the Old Testament is
outmoded or lacks Christian spirituality6&7.
Lombaard (2003) claims the Old Testament takes
on small role in the practice and study of
spirituality than the Bible suggests because those
New Testament Believers who hold such belief
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tend to draw infrequently from the Old Testament
for spiritual exercises or ignore the New
Testament‘s references to Old Testament texts;
and even when the Old Testament is referenced, it
is often done too briefly and in a more or less
metaphorical sense rather than exegetically or
theologically. Lombaard asserted that the ten
possible reasons used to explain why the Old
Testament takes on such a little role in the practice
and study of spirituality by the New Testament
Believers are: Textual complexity or critical
theological education or scholarship; Modern
popular pieties; The cultural gaps between the Old
Testament worlds and our worlds; Theological
difficulties and Christian sensibilities; Fear of
―boundary-less‖ interpretations; The reference to
Scripture by writers on spirituality; The notion of
progressive revelation; Theological diversity
within the Old Testament ―Law; versus New
Testament grace; and the actual textual elements
of the tests. The relevance of Christian spirituality
is not one side quest based on the New Testament.
Certainly the focus of Christianity is Christ. Jesus
was a Jew and so the Christian faith had its origins
in Judaism. It is impossible to separate the New
Testament from the Old without violating the
message of both. The Old Testament is relevant to
Christian Spirituality as much as the New
Testament. The Old Testament sets the contexts
for the New Testament8.
The Old Testament is an introduction to God
himself and his plans for mankind; and essential
to having a true understanding of the Bible and
God‘s unfolding love and therefore Christian
spirituality. The Old Testament, made up of the
five books of Moses, the History Books, Poetry
and Wisdom and the Prophets are filled with
many wonderful stories and characters and full of
prophecies that were either fulfilled in the Old or
the New Testament making the Old Testament so
important in Christian spirituality. For anyone
seeking to know the Lord God of Hosts and to
understand the creator of the universe, get answers
to the most fundamental questions of life and
death, the Old Testament helps to comprehend the
incomprehensible. Without the Old Testament, the
New Testament would be meaningless; as per the
Old Testament, spirituality is a life lived within
the framework defined by God's saving Acts in
history with his people. This sacred history is
reflected in the faith of the community and its
ritual, particularly its annual commemorations
such as Passover and centre place of the temple.
The books of the Old Testament were composed
over a period of approximately a thousand years
so technically speaking there is no Old Testament
spirituality but a series of Old Testament
spiritualities (that is ,the issue of the Old
Testament canonicity)9.The recognition of a
plurality of spiritualities must not be ignored in an
in-depth study of the subject10. However, the
Wesleyan view of canon maintains belief in the
"connectedness" among the books of the Old
Testament and so we could not legitimately speak
of one testament. Again, there is a real and
necessary sense in which the revelatory process
occurred in such a way that a larger unity was
produced in the midst of plurality. This is not only
true within the Old Testament, but also a
fundamental unity within the New Testament and
between the two Testaments themselves,
otherwise it makes no sense to talk of a Bible; and
so we can speak of an Old Testament
spirituality11. The Old Testament spirituality or
the ―the spirituality of Old Testament times‖ that
emphasizes the historical dimension and focus on
the faith and practices of ancient Israel. The text
also focuses on the spirituality which is informed
and nourished by the Old Testament. The
emphasis is on the contemporary and focuses on
the Old Testament's references in the New
Testament and its contribution to a sound
spirituality today12.
Rationale for study
The rationale is to write about Old Testament
spirituality under selected categories that describe
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the spiritualities associated with following areas:
Creation, Covenant, Community, spiritualities
reflected in the Psalms and Challenges. The topic
of Old Testament spirituality was also viewed as
present, essential and describable within the larger
flow of revelation, and the references to the Old
Testament made by Jesus and his followers.
Aim of study
The aim of the paper was to demonstrate that the
Old Testament is an essential and enriching source
of Christian spirituality.
Objectives
The text explored the key elements of Old
Testament spirituality
Some key Old Testament references in the
New Testament
Discuss the limitation of Old Testament
Spirituality
Method
This is a retrospective review on ―Old Testament
and Christian spirituality‖. The method followed
the standard methodology of systematic reviews
of published articles relevance to Old Testament
and Christian spirituality. To obtain the papers,
extensive search of the electronic databases e.g.
ALTA, HINARI, NEXIS, Web of Science, British
Humanities, and other relevant sources
(dissertation abstracts, Google Scholar) were
searched for paper published between 1980 and
2015. Key words used for the search included:
Old Testament, Christian and Spirituality.
Authors did not subscribe to most of these data
bases and so the texts quotes were mainly from
Google Scholar.
Findings
Creation
Spirituality rooted in the theology of creation is
essential starting point for Christian spirituality.
First, in the Old Testament God created the
universe and declares that every facet of creation
is good and purposeful. At the heart of creation is
Love. So it will be unwise to escape God‘s
goodness. Spiritual formation maintains that if we
look at the world through the perspective of the
Old Testament, we will conclude that God is
Love. The Creator God is so in love with the
creation that nothing can cause the love to end or
curb its redemptive power. It is this Love that
makes it possible to understand the importance of
Old Testament themes such as covenant,
prophecy, wisdom, and even eschatology
(Deuteronomy, 7:7-8). God formed man (Adam
and Eve) and had a relationship/fellowship with
them. This revelation of God forms the foundation
for the Old Testament call to worship
Yahweh13.Since God is holy, and the fact that man
is made in the image of God means that man has
holiness through creation. So the starting point in
life as created by God points to its ―Goodness,‖
―Rightness‖ and ―Holiness‖ (Ps 139:7-12). For
Christian spiritual formation, this means that the
first word in spirituality is ―Sacred‖14. Even after
the ―fall of man” it is possible to say "the heavens
declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim
the work of his hands" (Ps 19:1, NIV).
In Christian Spirituality, the world is the object of
God's love (John 3:16), and we are to glorify God
in our bodies and our substance (Romans 12: 1; I
Corinthians 6:19-20). So Christian spirituality
must be practiced in this world, which God made
good (Mark 7: 17) and which God is in the
process of redeeming (Romans 8: 18-25).
We also see that life is sacred so the murder of
Abel by Cain is cited as a serious violation of the
order of creation. This notion is further enforced
in the Ten Commandments‘ ―Thou shall not kill.
When one human being violates, abuses, or takes
the life of another human being, there is a loss of
the sacredness that God intends (Gen 9:6).
Similarly, there is an equal concern for the
sanctity of life when a person does violence to
another as in adultery or the seemingly lesser evil
of a falsification of weights and measures. All
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these find their source in a theology of creation
which declares that every person, thing and
activity is somehow infused with the divine. Only
integrity with this sacredness is acceptable to God.
The Old Testament plays a valuable role in the
formation of Christian spirituality by not allowing
us to forget or minimize the sacredness of life.
Second, from creation it can be deduced that there
is a general distinctiveness and individuality in the
creation of the various species. The value of life is
heightened as no person is a duplicate of anyone
else. This individuality and specificity is amplified
and given special attention in the creation of
Adam and Eve. Even down to the etchings of our
fingerprints, the work of creation bears witness to
the uniqueness of each human being.The process
of naming further amplifies this fact. Whereas
animals may be named by order, each human
being is given a name which differentiates them
from every other human being.
The uniqueness of self and the preciousness of
personality are indispensable elements of Old
Testament spirituality. This view of life forms the
basis for contrasts between the Israelites and
pagan cultures. It stands behind the ethical-
behavioral allowances and prohibitions of the
Law; and the foundation of the prophetic call to
justice and mercy for all persons in a society. This
view of sacredness makes it impossible to speak
of a hierarchy of value in creation. Differences in
role and function are inevitable, but an assessment
of value based on an attempted hierarchy is
unacceptable. There is no attempt to define
relative sacredness in relationship to race, sex, or
role. Here is at least one reason why the Old
Testament sounds a note of compassion for the
poor and the oppressed as a societal test of how
complete a view of human sacredness is in
operation. People are intended to live in peace
with one another and indeed with the rest of
creation. The Old Testament is filled with
passages that condemn the oppression of people
by other people. Whatever dominion may mean, it
does not mean domination or exploitation.
Morality, fairness and concern are the standards of
interpersonal relations15.
The idea of specificity as an element in Old
Testament spirituality also relates to sexuality.
The relationship between sexuality and spirituality
is presented in the creation story. The sexual
differential of human beings into males and
females is mystery of the highest order and stands
out in creation as a principle of divine
significance. Clearly, each man and each woman
are made in the image of God. Therefore Man can
experience intimacy in interpersonal relationships
because we are made in the image of God. This
intimacy is characterized by respect, service and
love.
Finally, our being made in the image of God has
implications for the rest of creation. To be made
in the image of God means that we are not merely
passive receptors of divine destiny, but active
participators in shaping that destiny. We are to
―have dominion‖ over creation in the sense of
stewardship. Adam and Eve, and their
descendants, are God's representatives on the
earth to order and care for it so that it can reflect
its own glory.The Hebrew concept is that of the
faithful discharge of duty. This unity between
humanity and the rest of creation is seen in
general by the way the creation narratives flow
from one stage to another. In a more specific
sense, the unity is seen through two specific acts:
that the "creeping things" and Adam are both
created on the sixth day; and that Adam is given
the duty of naming all the animals16. The creation
story reveals that God sets forth information about
allowances and limits for Adam and Eve, the
allowance for authentic choice, and the execution
of judgment after failure (judgment only makes
sense if responsibility is a reality). The fact that
we are created in the image of God means that we
are ―response-able.‖17
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In the Wesleyan tradition is seen a theology of
―natural conscience‖ as well as a reflection of
prevenient grace. Old Testament spirituality as
revealed in creation is that amazing and awesome
mixture of allowance and accountability, liberty
and limitation, freedom and fidelity. Thus our
very creation becomes a major element of our
spirituality. Such a spirituality saves us from any
notions of dualism18. Such a spirituality clearly
reveals the value and sacredness of life. Through
the spirituality of creation, we see our
interconnectedness, mutual dependency and moral
responsibility; and recognize that true life is being
sustained by an intimate relationship with God.
Covenant
At the core of Old Testament Spirituality was the
Covenants made between God and his chosen
people. The God who created man who share in
the imago dei cannot be satisfied with a
generalized relationship. Through the introduction
of covenant, the Old Testament reveals the
strengthening and the uniqueness of the divine-
human relationship. Through the covenant, we
learn important things about the spiritual life such
as the bond between God and those who accept
the covenant. "I will be their God, and they shall
be my people (e.g. Exodus 6:6-7; Leviticus
26:12). This bonding through covenant began in
Genesis 9:16 in the covenant between God and
Noah. It continues through the patriarchs,
climaxing in the national covenant with Israel.
The Major Covenants were:
The Covenant with Abraham, which is a
promise for a people and for a country
(Gen.15 and 17). The history of the Hebrews
therefore is based on promise and fulfilment
and can be seen in the Patriarchal stories of the
Book of Genesis
The Mosaic Covenant of the Law made at
Sinai with the whole people and directly
resulted in the Exodus (Ex. 24 & 34). For the
Jews this forms the basis of a spirituality that
is understood as being active in the present
and not in the past.
The Davidic Covenant of eternal Kingship that
provided the basis of the Messianic hope (2
Sam.7).
The Exilic Covenant of the Heart (Jer. 31 &
Ezek. 36). The loss of the Kingdom caused a
deep reflection by the Jews on the nature of
their spiritual relationship with God. The
people of Israel came to recognise that God
could not be at fault but that their own
spirituality had strayed from that which God
desired; and failed to keep to their side of the
Covenant commitments. The resultant effect is
the new spiritually that began to grow based
on love and proper inner dispositions as was
seen with the Pharisees. This type of f
spirituality was not universally adopted by the
people of Israel.
One can only conclude that the covenant is God's
invitation to ―come closer.‖ Through the
covenant, the ideas of closeness and intimacy are
amplified.This revelation of God in the Old
Testament is directed towards a perfect
communication of God to humanity. Images of
this covenantal bonding run through the Old
Testament: marriage intimacy as a symbol of
God's intimacy with Israel, a husband who cannot
abandon a whoring wife, a child nursing at a
mother's breast, a deliverer who releases captives
from bondage.
Another major aspect about Old Testament
spirituality is that God‘s revelation, and the
spirituality that accompanied it, developed and
changed over time as circumstances change.The
Psalms express the full range of Old Testament
Spiritualities but within the traditional contexts for
prayer of Praise, Petition, Thanksgiving and
Adoration. For example, ―He remembers his
covenant forever …‖ (Psalm105:6-15); is a hymn
of thanksgiving and praise to God for all his gifts
and benefits and is about the Abrahamic
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Covenant. Psalm78: 5-8 is about the Mosaic
Covenant - ―He established a testimony in Jacob,
and appointed a law in Israel, which He
commanded our fathers, that they should make it
known to their children‖. The Davidic Covenant
(Psalm 110) ―Royal dignity has been yours from
the day of your birth‖. Finally the Covenant of the
Heart (Ps.51:10) ―Create for me a clean heart, a
pure spirit within me‖ As in the Old Testament,
Christian spirituality does not imply that one is to
flee this world to find God, but that one must find
God and grow in grace and truth. The individual
appropriated this history and identity, especially in
individual prayer life (petitions, praise,
thanksgiving, and repentance), Intercession,
especially for the sins of a people, as Abraham
(Genesis 18:25; 20:7), Moses in Exodus (32:112-
12) Amos (Amos 7:1-7) arguing or persuading
God to grant their requests. Thus, the Old
Testament spirituality is as express in psalms is
essential to having a true understanding of the
character of God and God‘s unfolding love of man
and how one can become Christ-like.
The Psalms also suggest that the worshippers
assumed earthly advantages and protection from
enemies, either as individuals or for the nation as
a whole. So was a spirituality based on a notion of
God as Yahweh Sabaoth, God of Hosts, and
Victorious in battle. In Psalm 3 ―You strike all my
foes across the face ... on your people a blessing‖.
Psalm 84- ―He gives grace and glory and refuses
nothing good to those whose life is blameless‖.
Psalm 89 says ―Yours is a strong arm …you are
the flower of their strength, by your favour our
strength is triumphant‖; and Psalm 142 says ―I
pour out my worry in his presence …and you
rescue me from my persecutors‖ This reflects a
concept of God who is concerned about his
people's safety and other needs, angry at their sins,
and even open to a change of mind and enters into
a dialogical relationship with his people (Exodus
32: 7-14; Numbers 14: 13-25; I Samuel 8: 4-22).
The Shekinah is God's glorious presence with the
people which fills the heavens and the earth in a
general sense, but comes to reside specifically in
the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and later in
the Temple. It is important to note that this
presence is ―located‖ in that place where the
worship of God is conducted, where the Law is
read and interpreted, and where the people offer
their sacrifices and make their responses19. But
here, as in creation, God maintains intimacy
without destroying reverential distanceso that
the Creator-creature distinction is preserved. God
is not reduced in majesty, and humanity is not
absorbed into divinity20.
In the Old Testament Spirituality, God can be
absent from and silent to his people (Job 23: 8-9;
Psalm 30:7; Habakkuk 1: 2), or present to and
seen by his people (Psalm 42:2; 84; 7). God's
absence is painful to endure (Psalm 51:11).
Though God‘s presence was sometimes dreaded
and not always desired (e.g. Job 23:15-17; Psalm
51:9); life is to be lived in the consciousness of
God's presence as death (sheol) usually means the
loss of consciousness, the absence of God, and the
cessation of the praise of God (Psalm 6: 4-5; 88:
3-6; Ecclesiastes 9: 5-6 & 10). Those who truly
experience life were those who obeyed God and
were penitent and humble in God's presence
(Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119). For this
reason, obedience to the law is central in Hebrew
spirituality, for the law of God is virtually the
presence of God in his people's midst. The law
expresses the mind of God and his intentions for
his people, and one is to meditate on, study, and
keep the law (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ); by so doing,
the Hebrew was perhaps exercising the equivalent
of the Christian way of practicing the presence of
God.
This reverential distance is preserved in two
primary ways. First, the "vision of God" which
affects and enriches the nation is something
reserved for a relatively few people. The
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experience of Moses is an example. Moses is a
reminder of the nearness of God, but Moses is not
presented as a model of spirituality available for
any and every Jew. Such a universalizing of
intimacy, from the Old Testament perspective,
must await "the Day of the Lord" (e.g. Joel 2:28-
32). And second, Israel's closeness to God is never
seen as automatic and guaranteed. Individuals
(e.g. Samson) and the nation as a whole
experience the absence of God21. Thus, the bond
between God and Israel cannot be assumed or
presumed upon. It must be reverently received and
conscientiously maintained. In creation we are
given a picture of God's relationship with the
world. But in the covenant, there is something of a
narrowing of relationship. This is both frustrating
and revealing. It is frustrating because we are left
to wonder about the precise nature of the
relationship between God and other peoples and
nations.
Once Israel becomes the focus, the Bible never
again answers all the questions of God's general
relationship with the rest of the world. The
implications from a spiritual formation
perspective could be the qualitative difference
between Israel's knowledge of God and that of
other people and nations. A second implication of
the idea of boundary is that within the Judeo-
Christian tradition there is sufficient faith content
and experience to render unnecessary any
movement toward another religion. Therefore, the
task which should consume our time and energy is
the cultivation of our relationship with God
through Christ to its maximum potential.
Both Judaism and Christianity have realized that
God wants every human being to have a saving
relationship with Him. So, the Jews have
proselytized and the Christians have catechized.
The goal has been to incorporate as many as
possible into the covenant community. For the
Jews, land and law were two primary means to
remind themselves that God did not intend for
people to live as they please. Through the land,
Israel received a place to cultivate its spiritual
life22. Through the law, Israel received the
information and the perspective to live its life
before God23. Presence in or absence from the
land and obedience or disobedience to the law
become two concrete means of assessing the
nation's vitality, and the two are interrelated.
Finally, we see in the covenant the motif of
blessing, with its flip side of cursing. We state it
this way because it seems clear to us that the
primary intent of the covenant was to insure the
beatitude of Israel. The message of God's
judgment more technically belongs to life lived
outside the covenant than life lived within it. The
covenant itself is a medium of blessing. And it is
important to emphasize that even in the Old
Testament, the note of "blessedness" is contained
and valued. Traditional Christian spirituality has
seen such blessedness clearly in the Beatitudes24.
The same can be said of the Wesleyan tradition25.
It is helpful to see that the Old Testament idea of
covenant provides the necessary ingredients of
substance and accountability as it relates to the
blessed life. The Old Testament notion of
covenant helps us a great deal in seeing the
blessed life in a more proper perspective.
Fundamentally, the idea of covenant blessing is a
communal idea26. Thus, the blessed life is a life of
obedience to and participation in the community
of faith, especially in such things as worship,
sacrifice and prayer. The idea of blessing was
made tangible through the existence of sacred
sites, objects, seasons and leaders. The idea of
curse is therefore more nearly the result of
disobedience than it is an expression of any type
of negative emotion in God. God's wrath and
judgment follow Israel's breaking of the covenant.
In other words, something sacred must be broken
or violated if cursing is to result. To be sure,
original sin creates a primal rupture in the divine-
human relationship which only grace can restore.
But here again, the covenant as blessing offers
sinful humanity a place to be reconciled. And
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when that offer is accepted and lived out, blessing
becomes the norm27.
Community
Another important aspects of Old Testament
Spirituality which is closely related to creation
and covenant is Community. Even though the
covenants are made with individuals it was never
an individual spirituality but community
spirituality. The Old Testament knows nothing of
authentic spirituality apart from community and
several Old Testament theologies make
"community" the central concern of the Old
Testament28. Maturity and mission are conceived
of only in relation to the community of
faith29.Here again, we note a significant contrast
with contemporary culture and aberrant
spiritualities30. The Old Testament helps us to set
true spirituality in its proper perspective. Both the
law and the prophets are instructions for the
people. Spiritual leaders are those who have the
nation in their hearts. Private spiritual
advancement is not even a minor theme in the Old
Testament31. The patriarchs, matriarchs, seers,
judges, priests, prophets and kings are all people
for others. Stepping outside the community to
embrace a private experience or a "foreign" entity
is anathema. So also is living within the
community in ways that violate its ethos. No
matter where you are, you are a Jew. Nothing can
change that. There is no understanding of faith
and life or authentic existence apart from this
community perspective. An examination of the
Old Testament shows that Israel had to contend
with tribalism and sectarianism. But when the
nation was at its best, the tribes and sects saw
themselves as part of something far bigger - part
of a fellowship and a community. As Jews, they
were grounded in the revelation of God as
Yahweh (one God), the law (one standard), and
the nation (one people).
In this emphasis on community, we see several
important aspects of spirituality. First, we see the
formation of identity. Such identity is fueled by a
strong sense of national consciousness, which is
itself integrally related to sacred actions, sites,
objects and seasons32. It is an identity which
begins in the family and moves outward to
embrace the entire nationand in time, even
those in dispersion who live outside the
boundaries of the nation. This identity is
maintained as the people remember the mighty
acts of God, and the certainty of such past acts
becomes the grounds for hope.
There is also interdependence. The Old Testament
reveals close connections between the king, the
priests, prophets and people. A breakdown
anywhere along the line causes the whole nation
to suffer. And there are times (e.g. Hos 5-7) when
nothing short of national repentance will bring
healing to the sickness. The theme that
"righteousness exalts a nation" is sounded time
and again; it is a righteousness which can only be
achieved by mutual faithfulness. Holiness exists
only where all segments of the nation live
properly before God and each other. This helps to
explain why immorality, injustice and oppression
cannot be tolerated in the community33.
The community is sustained and challenged by a
divine intuitiona discernment of the word and
will of God that comes frequently through the
message of Israel's prophets. This word is by no
means limited to the prophets. All of Israel's
leaders are to be those who walk close to God.
And so at various times we see judges, priests and
kings expressing the word of God to the people.
But when they are not obedient, God raises up
prophets so that the people are not without the
truth of God in their midst. There can be no
genuine community without a sensitivity to God's
will and a determination to carry it out. Without
this, community is destroyed34.
In contemporary spiritual formation, we learn the
necessity of community through the witness of the
Old Testament. Even by itself, the Old Testament
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supplies us with all the evidence we need to stand
over against the erosion of community in our
society. When this biblical revelation is coupled
with the witness of the New Testament and the
ensuing Christian tradition, we are left with no
room to erect any notion of the spiritual life which
omits or minimizes community. Community is an
essential ingredient for every Christian, regardless
of status, maturity, or experience. It is at one and
the same time a provider of an essential element in
spirituality, and a protector against excesses and
pitfalls.
Challenge
All of this culminates in a grand challenge. Old
Testament spirituality is never finished. On the
one hand, it is a challenge to bring each new
generation into the experience of God. And on the
other hand, it is a challenge to hold the present
generation in a faithful relationship to God.
And finally, the spirituality of the Old Testament
is one which ultimately looks beyond itself to the
coming of the Messiah and the flowering of the
People of God.
Christian spirituality therefore draws heavily on
the Old Testament. However, the pragmatic
concerns of the spirituality were for the present, as
there was no appreciation of an afterlife in most of
the Old Testament. Much of Old Testament
spirituality focuses on God's presence in this life.
For the Hebrews, Israelites and Jews, obeying and
worshipping God would result in material
blessings and benefits here on earth. There was no
emphasis or belief in an afterlife except that
mentioned in the Book of Daniel (Daniel, 12).
Jesus, Peter and Paul, Matthew and John, and
numerous others in the New Testament, frequently
quote from the Old Testament. The Old Testament
is so important that one would not be able to
prove Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ, the
Messiah, the Son of God, our Saviour, without
using the Old Testament. Jesus Christ preached
the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and He did it
altogether out of the Old Testament. They all
based their teachings on the Old Testament. So,
the Old Testament has a tone of expectationa
forward look. This tone of challenge is an
invitation.
Christians believe that the Old Testamentbecame
fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ. This is
because all Old Testament spirituality lead to
him.The scriptures that Jesus quoted were all from
the Old Testament. For example, Jesus read a
prophecy from the book of Isaiah (Luke 4:16-21)
in the synagogue, and explained that part of that
prophecy was being fulfilled as He spoke. Isaiah 7
also prophesied about the virgin‘s birth. Jesus also
said in John 5:45-47 and Luke 24:25-27 that
Moses wrote about him and that what Moses
wrote was part of the scriptures.
Israel is invited to embrace the world as God's
creation, themselves as being made in God's
image, the covenant as God's bond of love, the
leaders as God's appointed servants. The
comprehensiveness of the invitation is
astonishing. The essence of the challenge is an
increasing closeness and intimacy between God
and Israel. Nowhere is this seen any better in the
Old Testament than in the Song of Songs.
Scholars have given this book a number of
different interpretations, but one thing is
commonthe lover is inviting the beloved, and
the beloved is responding to the lover. The result
is increasing intimacy. In the process, the Old
Testament celebrates such things as spontaneity,
longing, fidelity, union, joy and the beauty of
nature. In fact, this book has been considered by
some to capture the major themes of Old
Testament spirituality35.
The problem is that the people do not always
respond as they are intended. The glorious
invitation to intimacy is ignored and/or rejected.
And so we see the repeated cycle of
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repentance/reconciliation. As far back as Adam
and Eve, we see the breaking of relationship with
God and the need to restore fellowship. The law,
with its elaborate system of worship and sacrifice,
is one means of restoring the nation to God. The
prophets are another way through which God
seeks to heal the brokenness. The Old Testament
does not shield us from a picture of God's ideal
intention for all creation
And once again, at the center of the challenge to
intimacy (even in the face of brokenness) is God's
inestimable love. The God we meet in the Old
Testament has made an indestructible
commitment to keep faith with Israel. Nothing can
cause God to pull out of that relationship. God's
absolute faithfulness is the foundation for
everything in the Old Testament. The psalter
focuses upon it37.These are some of many
scriptures that were fulfilled in the New
Testament to show how God had a plan from the
beginning to unfold His Holy love for us. He told
us what would happen in the Old Testament and
He did, indeed, see His work finished and fulfilled
in the New Testament.
Paul explains how the New Testament Church
was ―built on the foundation of the apostles [the
New Testament] and prophets [the Old
Testament], Jesus Christ Himself being the chief
cornerstone‖ (Ephesians 2:20). Christ was sent
from God the Father as the messenger of the New
Covenantyet He preached that message entirely
out of the Old Testament Scriptures.
The models provided in the Old Testament that
Christians strive to be like. For example, Joseph
showed great forgiveness when he forgave his
brothers who sold him (Genesis 45:5 & 15). Noah
trusted God‘s word and built an ark to escape the
raging flood (Genesis 6 & 7); Abraham had a faith
in God to the extent of sacrificing his own son
Isaac (Genesis 22); David had faith enough to face
the giant Goliath. (1 Samuel 17) and Elijah
showed complete confidence in God when he
defeated the prophets of Baal. (1 Kings 18:20-40).
Godly men, like Shadrach, Meshach and
Abednego, and Daniel also provide us with
examples of how to walk with God.
Gospel of John also made use of significant
characters, themes and imagery, all taken from the
Torah. In doing so, he created new spiritualities
amongst the readers of the Gospel of John to
endorse the identity, reality and a certain image
and experience of the unseen God (John 1:18) of
the Old Testament through Jesus Christ. The
spirituality in the Gospel of John is bound up with
a real God interacting with real people in real
situations38.
Conclusion
These major categories of Old Testament theology
provide us with numerous insights regarding the
nature of spirituality. In creation we are invited to
the richness of the cosmos and the sacredness of
life made in the image of God. Through the
covenant we are encouraged to bond ourselves to
the living God, which necessarily calls us into
community with all other persons who have done
the same. Thus formed, we are challenged to
deepen our intimacy with God and to direct our
energies toward the service of others.
To be sure, there are many other aspects of Old
Testament spirituality which could have been
included, and they would have increased our
appreciation for the importance of the Old
Testament in shaping a biblical spirituality. But
these four will serve as irrefutable evidence that a
truly spiritual life is informed and formed through
the revelation of God as found in the Old
Testament. They serve as a reminder that we have
not done ourselves or others a service by omitting
or minimizing this part of the Story from our
theology and experience of the spiritual life.
Reference
1. Weltzen, H., 2011, ‗Exegetical analyses and
spiritual readings of the story of the
annunciation (Luke 1:26–38)‘, in P.G.R. de
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Villiers & L.K. Pietersen (guest eds.), The
Spirit that inspires: Perspectives on Biblical
Spirituality, pp. 2136, SUN MeDIA,
Bloemfontein. (Acta Theologica,
Supplementum 15).
2. Downey, M 1997. Understanding Christian
spirituality. New York: Paulist Press.
3. Schneiders, S.M., 2000, ‗Spirituality in the
academy‘, in K.J. Collins (ed.), Exploring
Christian spirituality. An ecumenical reader,
pp. 249270, Baker Books, Grand Rapids.
4. Green, A. (1986) Jewish Spirituality: From
the Bible through the Middle Ages,(New York:
Crossroads
5. Craghan, J. F. (1983). Love and Thunder: A
Spirituality of the Old Testament(Collegeville,
MN: Liturgical Press,), p. ix.
6. Cunningham, L S & Egan, K J 1996.
Christian spirituality: Themes from the
tradition. New York: Paulist Press.
7. King, U 1989. Women and spirituality: Voices
of protest and promise. London: Macmillan
Education Ltd.
8. Lombaard, C. (2003) The Old Testament in
Christian spirituality: Perspectives on the
undervaluation of the Old Testament in
Christian spirituality, HTS, 59(2)
9. Craghan, J. F. (1983). Love and Thunder: A
Spirituality of the Old Testament(Collegeville,
MN: Liturgical Press,), p. ix.
10. Harper, J. S. (1987). Old Testament
Spirituality, The Asbury Theological Journal,
VoL. 42 No. 2
11. Harper, J. S. (1987). Old Testament
Spirituality, The Asbury Theological Journal,
VoL. 42 No. 2
12. Jones, Cheslyn Wainright Geoffrey &
Yarnold, Edward eds., The Study of
Spirituality (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1986), p. 48. 49
13. Green, A. (1986) Jewish Spirituality: From
the Bible through the Middle Ages,(New York:
Crossroads
14. Harper, J. S. (1987). Old Testament
Spirituality, The Asbury Theological Journal,
VoL. 42 No. 2
15. Harper, J. S. (1987). Old Testament
Spirituality, The Asbury Theological Journal,
VoL. 42 No. 2
16. Craghan, Love and Thunder, pp. 23 - 25
17. Harper, J. S. (1987). Old Testament
Spirituality, The Asbury Theological Journal,
VoL. 42 No. 2
18. Harper, J. S. (1987). Old Testament
Spirituality, The Asbury Theological Journal,
VoL. 42 No. 2
19. Urban T. Holmes, A History of Christian
Spirituality (New York: Seabury Press, 1980),
pp. 14-
20. Blue, Lionel (1983). "Judaism" in The
Westminster Dictionary of Christian
Spirituality, ed. by Gordon Wakefield
(Philadelphia: Westminster Press), p. 226 -
227.
21. Jones, Cheslyn Wainright Geoffrey &
Yarnold, Edward eds., The Study of
Spirituality (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1986), p. 48. 49
22. Chauncey Holmes, Christian Spirituality in
Geologic Perspective (Philadelphia: Dourance
& Company, 1975).
23. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, vol.
I, pp. 101-176.
24. Mercer Dr. Jerry has recently written an
excellent book on the Beatitudes, Cry Joy!
(Wheaton: Victor Books, 1987).
25. John Wesley's estimate of the Beatitudes can
be found in his Explanatory Notes Upon the
New Testament (Naperville, IL: Alec R.
Allenson, 1966), pp. 28-29, and in Forty Four
Sermons, Sermons XVIXVIII, (London:
Epworth Press, 1967), pp. 185-234.
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26. Eichrodt spends hundreds of pages detailing
the role of the Law for Israel. See Theology of
the Old Testament. Especially vol. I, pp. 70-
178 and vol. II, pp. 231-496.
27. Blue, Lionel (1983). "Judaism" in The
Westminster Dictionary of Christian
Spirituality, ed. by Gordon Wakefield
(Philadelphia: Westminster Press), p. 226 -
227.
28. Vriezen, T. C. An Outline of Old Testament
Theology, 2nd rev. English ed. (Newton,
Mass.: C. T. Branford, 1970). Dr. Gene
Carpenter, associate professor of Old
Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary,
defines the central concern of the Old
Testament as, "God's creation of a people in
His image, in relationship to Him and to one
another, in an appropriate environment."
29. Craghan, Love and Thunder, p. x
30. Willimon William, "Answering Pilate: Truth
and the Postliberal Church" in The Christian
Century, 28 Jan. 1987, 83. Willimon
challenges the highly individualistic character
of American Christianity and the society's
emphasis on self-fulfillment.
31. Jones, Cheslyn Wainright Geoffrey &
Yarnold, Edward eds., The Study of
Spirituality (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1986), p. 48. 49
32. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, vol.
I, pp. 98-177. Note especially pp. 173-174.
33. Craghan, Love and Thunder, pp. 215-220.
34. The importance of prophecy for Israel is
developed in Walter Brueggemann'sThe
Prophetic Imagination (Philadelphia: Fortress
Press, 1978), Martin Buber's The Prophetic
Faith (New York: Mamillan, 1949), and
Abraham Heschel's The Prophets (New York:
Harper & Row, 1962).
35. Craghan, Love and Thunder, pp. 215-220.
36. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, vol.
II, pp. 457-471.
37. Westermann, Claus The Praise of God in the
Psalms (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1965),
pp. 81-116. Also, Bernard W. Anderson, Out
of the Depths: The Psalms Speak for Us Today
(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1974
38. Van der Merwe, D.G. ( 2014), ‗Old Testament
spirituality in the gospel of John‘, Verbum et
Ecclesia 35(1), Art. #837, 9 pages.
http://dx.doi. org/10.4102/ve.v35i1.837
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
The majority of early Christian documents are saturated with Jewish thought. Although Second-Temple Judaism did include a certain amount of diversity, when the Gospel of John was written in different phases during the latter half of the 1st century, the written Torah was a fixed part of Jewish Scripture. In this research, I endeavour to point out how Torah themes saturate the Prologue of the Gospel of John and also how these themes create a certain spirituality amongst its readers. A positive feature of Old Testament imagery and themes is that they are polysemantic, which made it easy for the writers of New Testament documents to reinterpret the Old Testament in the light of Jesus Christ. The author of the Gospel of John also made use of significant characters, themes and imagery, all taken from the Torah. In doing so, he created new spiritualities amongst the readers of the Gospel of John to endorse the identity, reality and a certain image and experience of the unseen God (1:18) of the Old Testament through Jesus Christ. The spirituality in the Gospel of John is bound up with a real God interacting with real people in real situations.
Article
Full-text available
Christian spirituality draws strongly on the Bible. Yet, it is the New Testament that almost without exception features most prominently. Ten possible reasons are offered why the Old Testament takes on such a disproportionately diminutive role in the practice and study of spirituality: Textual complexity/critical scholarship/theological educa-tion; Modern popular pieties; The cultural gaps between the Old Testament worlds and our worlds; Theological difficulties/Christian sensibilities; Fear of “boundary-less” interpretations; The reference to Scripture by writers on spirituality; The notion of progressive revelation; Theological diversity within the Old Testament; OT : NT = law : grace; The long and the short of textual units.
A History of Christian Spirituality
  • T Urban
  • Holmes
Urban T. Holmes, A History of Christian Spirituality (New York: Seabury Press, 1980), pp.
Judaism" in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality
  • Lionel Blue
Blue, Lionel (1983). "Judaism" in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, ed. by Gordon Wakefield (Philadelphia: Westminster Press), p. 226 - 227.
and in Forty Four Sermons, Sermons XVIXVIII
  • Allenson
Allenson, 1966), pp. 28-29, and in Forty Four Sermons, Sermons XVIXVIII, (London: Epworth Press, 1967), pp. 185-234.
Love and Thunder: A Spirituality of the Old Testament
  • J F Craghan
Craghan, J. F. (1983). Love and Thunder: A Spirituality of the Old Testament(Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press,), p. ix.
Women and spirituality: Voices of protest and promise
  • U King
King, U 1989. Women and spirituality: Voices of protest and promise. London: Macmillan Education Ltd.
Understanding Christian spirituality
  • M Downey
Downey, M 1997. Understanding Christian spirituality. New York: Paulist Press.