Discover the Old Testament to Understand the New
I think I’ve mentioned this quote from St. Augustine before, that the Old Testament is hidden in the New, and the New Testament is revealed in the Old. Excuse me, I did that backwards. The Old Testament is—let me get this right now, I’m going to get it all wrong. Not a good way to start the morning.
The New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New. That’s what he said. And what St. Augustine was getting at was that really we have to think of the Bible as kind of the collective whole of God’s story of revelation. That it isn’t just that this was kind of a warm-up, but doesn’t really mean much, and we don’t need to really pay attention to it, but rather the opposite. That if we really want to understand the New Testament, we have to understand the Old.
We have to see where the promises of God were first made to the Jewish people, and how ultimately Jesus becomes incarnate, becomes fully human, and that’s the fullness of God’s revelation. It’s the fulfillment of God’s revelation.
And we see an example of how important these things are in the first reading today. Paul is making the case that Jesus is the new Adam. So there was the old Adam, that was the Adam that sinned and fell short, and through him and his wife Eve, sin enters the world, not pleasant. In fact, we would have been rightly condemned if God was only a God of justice.
But because of God’s mercy, from that moment he develops a plan of fulfillment. And what we see then is Paul is constantly making these comparisons between the old Adam and Jesus, the new Adam. Sin enters the world through Adam. Jesus redeems and conquers sin through his death on the cross, and so forth.
The challenge, I think, is that sometimes we don’t know the Old Testament as well as we should, or we don’t read the Old Testament in a way that helps us to really understand the new. But there are many other instances where we can see connections between what happens in the Old Testament and what gets fulfilled in the new.
As a matter of fact, the writers of the sacred scriptures in the New Testament were well-versed in Jewish traditions. They knew the Jewish law. Nobody more than St. Paul, who has more books in the New Testament than any other author. Let us ask the Lord today to help us to become more familiar with the Old Testament so that we might not only see how it is fulfilled in the New Testament, but that we might encounter the presence of Jesus in our lives.
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