It is a very big mistake to think that the “God of the Old Testament” is a different God from the “God of the New Testament” — even though that is a common view among Christians who want to insist that unlike the OT God of wrath, their God is a God of love. Not only does that smack of rather unsubtle anti-Judaism (that “harsh religion of a vengeful God” as opposed to “our God who loves each and every one of us and is merciful instead of judgmental”), it simply is not at all the view of the authors of the New Testament, let alone Jesus himself.
Jesus understood himself as a teacher of the Jewish Scriptures. He didn’t have another God. Moreover throughout the entire NT the OT is quoted, up and down the line, all over the place, in complete affirmation of its message. Jesus and his followers may have had their own interpretations of the OT (they had different interpretations even among themselves), but they would have been shocked and offended if anyone suggested their God was anything other than the God of the Jews who created the world, chose Israel to be his people, promised to be with them as their divine protector, guided them on their journey, and punished them when they went astray.
This God was indeed a God of wrath, not simply love. When people misbehaved, he punished them. Sometimes severely. Sometimes ruthlessly. We may not appreciate the picture, but you will find it both the both OT and NT.
BUT, having said that, the Bible is not internally consistent in HOW it portrays God’s anger and his judgment. This will be a major theme of my book on Revelation. I will be arguing that the view of God’s wrath in Revelation is NOT the view you find in Jesus. Both views are found throughout the Bible, but they are different views. To demonstrate this point I’m going to spend a few posts talking about different authors/passages of the Bible and their portrayals of God’s wrath.
We don’t know how old the oldest parts of the Bible are. Scholars have heated debates the oldest sections of the Pentateuch — 10th century BCE? 6th century BCE? (certainly not going back to Moses himself). But we do begin to get dated authors when we come to the prophets, the oldest of which is probably Amos Tekoa, who was writing in the 8th c. BCE, at a time when the nation of Israel (the northern part of the kingdom, with Judah in the south) was being threatened by the international military power of Assyria.
For Amos, the days of Israel were numbered. The reason: the leaders and elite of Israel had disobeyed God, not lived as he demanded, and not listened when he tried to warn them by bringing horrible suffering on them (drought, plague, famine, etc.). Because they were recalcitrant, God was going to wipe them off the map. Revelation – the last book of the NT – will pick up on many of these themes, so it is important to see how they play out in the earliest parts of the OT.
Here is how I discuss Amos in my textbook on the Bible (The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction: Oxford University Press, 2nd edition 2017).
To make sense of the NT, you have to know something about the OT. The prophets of the OT are rarely read and even more rarely understood by readers today — but starting with Amos, they are compelling and intriguing. Want to learn more? Join the blog !<a href=”/register/”>Click here for membership options </a>