A lot of people today don’t seem to like the Old Testament. Even among Catholics, a pretty hostile attitude seems to hang around this sizable part of the Bible. In this course, Professor Paul V. Niskanen takes a closer look at the Old Testament and the God it reveals, clearing away a lot of the darkness and false rumors to find out what the text is actually saying, and why it’s so highly regarded in the Catholic tradition.
The Bible is not just a history book.
It’s important to remember that the Bible is not a history book. It contains history, but the Old Testament is not only concerned with relating literal historical events. Truth is conveyed in a lot of different ways. For example, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, you could ask if it really happened in that exact way—but is that really the point of the story? Of course not. Many genres exist in the Old Testament, including poetry, that are designed to make a point and teach a specific lesson. Truth—including transcendent truth—is not limited to the historical.
A much more important part of the Bible than we may think.
It might come as a bit of a surprise to us today, but the first Christian Bibles did not include the New Testament, and Paul wrote its first books as late as 50 AD. It goes to show you how important the Old Testament is, since the Church has never existed without it. The Church has always kept these ancient books in the official canon of Scriptures. Against popular belief, the Old Testament God and the New Testament God are not two different deities—many people today think that the Old God is full of anger, wrath, and vengeance, while the New God is all about love and warm feelings. It’s a common misconception, and one that Professor Niskanen addresses in this course.
Discontinuity or Continuity?
There are two main ways of looking at the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament, which are discontinuity and continuity.
- Discontinuity: the two Testaments have nothing to do with each other. - Continuity: The two works are compatible. This is the position that the Catholic Church holds.
Jesus himself emphasized the continuity of the two parts of the Bible in the Sermon on the Mount, when he affirmed that his mission was to fulfill the law and the prophets—not to abolish them. In fact, the phrase “God of the Old Testament” is a bit misleading, since the same God has revealed himself through both Testaments. Salvation history—the big picture—is only complete when you have all the pieces, and that’s why the Church has the Old and New Testaments together in one Bible.
Develop a proper understanding of the Old Testament.
Professor Niskanen will help you understand the Old Testament in the light of the Christian faith. In doing so, you will not only gain better knowledge of the Bible, from both historical and literary perspectives, but also grow deeper in your spiritual life as you come to know the truths that the Old Testament holds.
About the Author
Dr. Paul Niskanen received his Bachelor of Arts in French and Religious Studies from Seattle University, his S.T.B. from the Pontifical University Teresianum in Rome, and his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, California. He is currently an associate professor of Theology for the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. A few of Professor Niskanen's publications include, The Human and the Divine in History: Herodotus and the Book of Daniel, Yhwh as Father, and The Last Words of Jesus. He is also a professional member of the Catholic Biblical Association of America as well as the Society of Biblical Literature.
Item No: C304 (Grouped)
Publisher: Saint Benedict Press, LLC
Publication Date: 2013
Binding: DVD, CD, MP4 Video Download, MP3 Audio Download and Group Study Edition
8 Lectures (Approx. 30 min. each)
1. Ancient Wisdom within the Old Testament While the Old Testament may be old, it still reveals profound truth about God alongside the New Testament.
2. A Guide to Reading The Word of God There are many ways to read Scripture, but the best way is the one that respects it as the word of God in human words.
3. The Rich Theology in the Book of Genesis The beginning of Genesis begins encouraging us to ask two big questions: who is God, and who are we?
4. The Name of God Names are more important than we realize, and the name of God is more than just a practical reference point.
5. Understanding the Covenant Concept Understanding the concept of covenant is our key to understanding the God of the Old Testament.
6. God’s Fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant In their darkest nights, the Israelites would hold onto God’s promise of love—and he didn’t let them down. God fulfilled the Davidic covenant.
7. The Love of God within the Old Testament We can get a better idea of God’s passionate love through the prophetic writings of the Old Testament.
8. The Compassion of God within the Old Testament As we conclude our look at God in the Old Testament, the maternal and compassionate side of his love becomes more apparent.