Yesterday I started describing a trade book that I’m thinking about writing, tentatively called (in my head) “The Battle for the Bible.” Here is the next part of my self-reflections:
A major part of my book will deal with one of the great puzzles in the history of religion: Why does the Christian Bible even have an Old Testament? And how did the early Christians, most of them gentiles, manage – in their own minds — to wrest it from the Jews by and for whom it was originally written? If Christians chose not to keep the biblical laws and follow its customs, why did they retain the book?
In my experience, many Christians still wonder about that. I frequently hear Christians claim there are essential differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament and the religions based on them: Jews have a religion of laws and judgment, but Christians have a gospel of grace and mercy; Jews think they have to earn their way into heaven on their own merits, but Christians meekly accept the salvation of God as a gift; Jews are condemned for their disobedience, but Christians are saved by their faith. And then the most frequent claim of all: the Old Testament portrays a God of wrath; the New Testament a God of love.
These stereotypes can easily be shown to be wrong, just from the Bible itself. Anyone who wants to see a God of wrath need simply read the final book of the New Testament, the Revelation of John.
Why then do Christians assume a dichotomy between their faith (with their God) and the Jewish religion (and theirs)? The short answer is that …
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