The Old Testament is emphatic in our understanding of God and our entire existence. The ideology that God in the Old Testament is somehow a different god than in the New Testament has it’s roots in Marcionism and Gnosticism. Such a distorted subversion of the truth has lead to this mindset as more and more commonplace today. The Old Testament is vital to the essence of Christianity, I seek to dispel this erroneous notion of different gods, refute frequent arguments for it, and show how God’s love is throughout the Old Testament and not just the New Testament. May God aid this to be edifying and beneficial to all who read it. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Marcionism was based upon the teachings of Marcion of Sinope, the son of a bishop in Pontus, that were refuted by St. Ireneaus of Lyons among other early church fathers. He attested the Old Testament was not authoritative nor important for Christians as the god of this testament is different from the god of the New Testament. He purported a form of dualism with the evil god of the Old Testament clashing against the benevolent god of the New Testament. He taught Jesus Christ did not actually come in the flesh, but only appeared to do so – which is a heresy known as Docetism.
Marcion took his beliefs further into the New Testament believing that Paul was the only legitimate apostle. He would even remove passages that identified the Father as the God of the Old Testament. Something which he clearly knew self-implodes his position, and something which I will also use in proving our case. We know all of these blasphemies by the great St. Ireneaus, who writes the following:
“Marcion of Pontus succeeded him, and developed his doctrine. In so doing, he advanced the most daring blasphemy against Him who is proclaimed as God by the law and the prophets, declaring Him to be the author of evils, to take delight in war, to be infirm of purpose, and even to be contrary to Himself. But Jesus being derived from that father who is above the God that made the world, and coming into Judæa in the times of Pontius Pilate the governor, who was the procurator of Tiberius Cæsar, was manifested in the form of a man to those who were in Judæa, abolishing the prophets and the law, and all the works of that God who made the world, whom also he calls Cosmocrator. Besides this, he mutilates the Gospel which is according to Luke, removing all that is written respecting the generation of the Lord, and setting aside a great deal of the teaching of the Lord, in which the Lord is recorded as most dearly confessing that the Maker of this universe is His Father. He likewise persuaded his disciples that he himself was more worthy of credit than are those apostles who have handed down the Gospel to us, furnishing them not with the Gospel, but merely a fragment of it. In like manner, too, he dismembered the Epistles of Paul, removing all that is said by the apostle respecting that God who made the world, to the effect that He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also those passages from the prophetical writings which the apostle quotes, in order to teach us that they announced beforehand the coming of the Lord.” – St. Ireneaus Against Heresies
Connecting Old & New
Atheists alike will attempt to argue the savagery and barbarity of the Old Testament does not align with the love shown in the New Testament therefore ‘proving’ an inconsistency with Christianity and the Bible. However, the love of God is found throughout the Old Testament just as God’s wrath is found in the New Testament too, but wrath/judgment is a rejection of love. Here are a few verses in the Old Testament that speak of God’s love, and conversely, New Testament verses that speak of God’s judgment. He is paradoxically both, from Genesis to Revelation, this is why the Pantocrator Icon of Jesus Christ has two slightly different eyes, symbolizing the fear of God and the love of God concomitantly.
Old Testament Love:
The book of Exodus tells us God is, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6–7). Psalm 86:5, “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” Deuteronomy 4:31, “For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.” Jeremiah 31:20, Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore My heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,” declares the Lord.”
New Testament Judgment:
John 5:22, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son…” Luke 3:7, “ John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”
Several more examples could be cited but plainly we see God is unchanging throughout both testaments. The argument that God isn’t consistent with love or judgement is dispelled simply by reading the Bible. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). God loves us from the “beginning” and to the “end” of our lives. Just as God Himself is love from the beginning and end of the Bible and will forever be love. Rejecting the Old Testament closes us off to almost 3/4 of the Bible and the integral truth within it.
Joel 2:32 says whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved, Romans 10:13 and Acts 2:21 both assert the same in Jesus Christ. Isaiah 40:3 speaks of preparing the way of the Lord, paralleling Mark 1:3 of John preparing the way of Christ. Isaiah 44:6, God says He is the first and the last, the same utterance of Christ in Revelation 1:8. Jesus Himself references the Old Testament scriptures many times in His sermon on the Mount. Our adversary Marcion, sought to remove all of these proofs in order to prop up his error.
On the contrary, one could say the New Testament is even more ‘strict’ than the Old Testament. For example, what was once do not commit adultery in the Old Testament is now do not even look at a woman lustfully or you’ve committed adultery in the New Testament. This is the same revelation of the same God, only understood at a deeper level with the help of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Old Testament Apologetic
Still those will linger who refuse to acknowledge God is God throughout both testaments, consistently the same and in perfect truth. They are froth with the same commentary out of context to support their position, and will then parrot various verses to endeavor to exhibit that God in the Old Testament (or in general) is an unloving, immoral, or cruel God. “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” – 1 Peter 3:15. Here is my defense.
1. Deuteronomy 20, “In the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them — the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites — as the LORD your God has commanded you.”
Why would God endorse the extermination of an entire people? The destruction of the Canaanites is not an attack on innocent people, it is God’s judgement against sin. The abominations the Canaanites were known for practicing were things such as child sacrifice (Deuteronomy 18:10), taboo sexual acts, worship of demonic idols, etc. Those who complain God does not act to rid evil of the world then complain that God orders Israel to rid evil of the world in this passage.
The offer of peace before battle is extended to all enemies, as evidence of Deuteronomy 20 which lays instructions for warfare. Joshua 11:19 proves that only the Hivites of the nations previously listed accepted terms of peace. We could also point to literary idioms in cultures (or figurative language) in these points as not literally every person is to be killed, for example: as Joshua 10 tells us a city has no survivors then Joshua 15 speaks of survivors. Idioms are used across the biblical text.
2. Colossians 4:1, “Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” The argument is that God condones slavery and therefore God must be evil. In context the Bible was written at a time when slavery was accepted, and so it treats slavery as a fact of life, because it was a fact of life at that time. Slavery in the Bible is distinct from the modern thought-process when hearing the word slavery.
In biblical times, slavery was based off of economics; it was a matter of social status. People became slaves when they could not pay their debts or provide for their families. The slavery of the last few centuries was based primarily on skin color with the stealing and selling of human beings; this is condemned in the Old Testament law (Exodus 21:16). The maximum length of time for debt-slavery was also six years (Exodus 21:2), albeit slavery in Israelite law could entered into voluntarily, ended voluntarily, or made permanent at the choice of the slave (Exodus 21:5-6). The point being that the slavery the Bible (also as a product of the time) allowed does not resemble the racial slavery most people today infer it as. The Old Testament did allow for economic-based slavery, not forced labor.
3. Genesis 19:30-33, “Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave. Now the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.”
Opponents point to this verse saying God is immorally condoning incest, but this verse does not imply anything of the sort. God does not impose on the free will of humanity, it was Lot’s daughter’s choices to plot to get him drunk to fornicate with him. As the passage indicates this was unbeknownst to Lot, there was no endorsement of incest, Lot was raped. The actions of his daughters show how morally corrupt the city of Sodom & Gomorrah had become leaving influence still on his daughters even after it’s destruction.
4. 2 Kings 2:23-24, “And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.”
This story of Elisha and the 42 ‘children’ can be confusing to those without context, and those who take solely a literal interpretation to scripture. Killing 42 children because they insulted one of God’s prophets? However, “children” in this verse (depending which translation you’re using) also refers to the immaturity of men. Evidence of this is seen throughout the Bible such as in 1 Kings 11:17 referring to Hadad the Edomite as a little child, 1 Kings 3:7 with Solomon referring to himself as a child too. We know both of these men are not actually children.
“Na’ar” is the word used which also describes Isaac in Genesis 22 and Joseph in Genesis 37, both of which we know are older than children. At the end of the story they’re referred to as “yeladim,” in 1 Kings 12:8 Rehoboam refers to “yeladim” he had grown up with. Considering Rehoboam was in his 40’s, it’s safe to assume these “children” were well above the adolescent age as well.
5. Genesis 22, “After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Why does God demand Abraham sacrifice his son Isaac? This is another statement of those who attest God is bloodthirsty and cruel. But again, what is the context? This is one of the most prominent foreshadowing and instructive moments in the entire scripture. It is foreshadowing God sacrificing His only Son for the world, as well as instructing us to put total faith in God. Abraham was promised a lineage of descendants and then is told to kill his only son, this is paradoxical making little sense in the human perspective but God is above our understanding. He wants us to lean on Him and not ourselves.
Just as Abraham is about to do it, God intervenes and stops him. If God were really cruelly bloodthirsty, He would’ve let Abraham continue on with the sacrifice. Instead of halting him. Abraham’s willingness parallels God’s willingness to help us, and it illustrates Abraham’s fear of God. This doesn’t necessarily always imply fear of punishment, but fear of God is tied into humility (Proverbs 22:4). “He must increase, I must decrease.” – John 3:30
Bonus: Additionally we have David collecting 200 foreskins in 1 Samuel 18:27, why is there such depravity? Some factors to consider are that this was not David’s idea it was King Saul’s who we know is afflicted and/or possessed by demons at this time in 1 Samuel 16. David went along with this in order to keep his quest of becoming king, but it does not indicate that God instructed him to go along with this. This does not excuse David, who fell at a couple instances in life just as we all do, God still extends his mercy to men like David, Paul, etc to become renewed and transformed in Him.