Amazingly, I get this question quite a lot from my students–either explicitly or implicitly–and I teach at a Christian seminary. Most students at least grudgingly or guiltily think that the Old Testament is worth passing attention; it is still in the church’s book after all. However, most need to be persuaded that they should give the OT equal attention as the NT.
There are many answers that one could give to the question, “Why should we study the Old Testament?” but Richard Bauckham provides one of the better ones:
We should never forget that the New Testament was never meant to be an independent collection of Christian Scriptures. The New Testament writers themselves assume the Old Testament as given, and the process of collecting and authorizing their writings to form the New Testament canon was understood by the church as a matter of supplementing the Old Testament, which already formed a canon of Scriptures recognised as authoritative for the Church. So it is not surprising that what is already well established in the Old Testament is not repeated in the New.1
In other words, if you only study the New Testament you will, at best, only gain a partial understanding of biblical perspectives. At most, you might misunderstand certain themes entirely.
- The Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation (Sarum Theological Lectures; Waco: Baylor, 2010), 141. [back]