How does the Old Testament (more than 2/3 of our Bible) apply to people today? Gareth Cockerill’s recent book, Christian Faith in the Old Testament: the Bible of the Apostles (Thomas Nelson, 2014) sheds light on this important question. This book has been written by an established Evangelical Biblical scholar for pastors, teachers, missionaries, and lay people, for all believers everywhere who want to better understand the tension, interplay, and harmony between the Old and New Testaments.
- For posts that pertain to the continued relevance of the Old Testament click on the category entitled “Christian Faith in the Old Testament.”
Here is an imagined interview with the author of Christian Faith in the Old Testament:
Jim: Dr. Cockerill, your book has an interesting title, Christian Faith in the Old Testament: the Bible of the Apostles. Just what is the purpose of this book?
Cockerill: Thanks for asking that question, Jim. I wrote this book to help ordinary Christian lay people understand the Old Testament as a whole and the vital message of each part of the Old Testament. Modern Christians are often woefully ignorant of the Bible’s first thirty-nine books!
Jim: But why is it so important to understand the Old Testament? Doesn’t the New Testament give us all we need to know about Jesus?
Cockerill: To read the New Testament without the old is like reading only the last chapter of a novel. The New Testament claims that what it says about Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old. The Christ of the New Testament fulfills the promise of God to Abraham, the history of God’s Old Testament people, the longings of the Psalms, the message of the Prophets, and more (see, for instance, Luke 24:27 and Acts 17:2-3). In fact, the Old Testament was the only Bible that the first Christians had.
Jim: I see, that is the reason for your sub-title, The Bible of the Apostles.
Cockerill: Yes, the Apostles began preaching Jesus with no Scripture but the Old Testament.
Jim: What led you to write this book?
Cockerill: Jim, for more than thirty years I have been fascinated with the study of how the Bible fits together and especially with the role of the Old Testament. This passion began in the 1970’s when I was doing my Ph.D. at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. It was fueled by my study of the Book of Hebrews, which draws so heavily on the Old Testament, and nurtured by my teaching of the Bible, both at seminary level here in the United States and while I was serving in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I began to see how grasping the Bible as a whole enriched my understanding of each Biblical book and passage. I saw how comprehension of Scripture’s unity facilitated my students’ understanding. Most of all, I saw how God could use this grasp of the whole Bible to make us more godly.
Jim: I see that you are pretty passionate about the Bible and about its unity! What, exactly, will a lay person get by reading your book?
Cockerill: This book offers three important benefits: (1) The reader will grasp how the Bible as a whole fits together. (2) The reader will come to understand the contribution that each part of the Old Testament makes to the whole. (3) The person who reads this book will gain insight into how each part of the Old Testament applies to us today and helps us live the Christian life. Christian Faith in the Old Testament helps us to identify with God’s people throughout history and to be reshaped by the word of God.
Jim: There are a number of recent books on the meaning of the Old Testament. What makes your book stand out from others?
• First, this book is written for lay people. It is both understandable and engaging. I was blessed to have several pastors and lay people read the manuscript. Then I took out anything that they did not understand. My son-in-law, Carey Vinzant, who is an excellent stylist, helped me. Thomas Nelson provided excellent editorial service. Furthermore, very chapter has helpful charts and diagrams. My students know that I am very visual!
• Second, the reader can use this book to go straight through his or her Old Testament. Many books on the meaning of the Old Testament rearrange the books in some supposed historical order.
• Third, this book tells you not only how each part of the Old Testament fits into the whole, but how each part applies to us today.
Jim: Great, but is this book only for lay people? What about pastors and students?
Cockerill: This book was written with clarity and without technical jargon for the benefit of lay people. It was, however, written for intelligent people. Theological students and pastors will find it useful for themselves and for ministry. Steve Schellin, Senior Pastor of Southland Community Church, Greenwood, Indiana, has this to say: “As a pastor, Christian Faith in the Old Testament: the Bible of the Apostles really connects with me. I will use this well-written and informative book often in my reading, preaching, and teaching. In addition, I will encourage my congregation to read it! Dr. Cockerill helps everyone to grasp the wholeness of Scripture and provides aids to help us live an obedient life that reflects the full-scope of the bible’s teaching.”
Jim: Dr. Cockerill, just one more question. What about the difficulties that some people find in the Old Testament? Do you deal with them?
Cockerill: Jim, this is not a book about Old Testament “difficulties.” It is my conviction that we cannot deal with these “difficulties” until we have a grasp on the Old Testament’s unity and message. Only then do we have a context for deal with these questions. I have focused on helping people grasp this unity. Occasionally, however, when appropriate, I address problems some have raised about the Old Testament.
Jim: Thanks, Dr. Cockerill, for sharing with us about Christian Faith in the Old Testament: the Bible of the Apostles. We appreciate what you have done to help us deepen our knowledge of Scripture. I look forward to reading this book.
Cockerill: Thanks, Jim, for the encouragement. There is one more thing I would like to say. I have written with a sense of vocation and the conviction that God wanted me to share the insight he has given me with his people. He has confirmed this conviction with what appear to have been a series of miracles—getting the contract for the book in the first place, completing the book on time despite added responsibilities, and getting the fine endorsements for this book from so many people that I respect. It is a privilege to lay this book at the feet of Jesus to use as he wills.