Thursday, November 4, 2010

Telling the Old Testament Gospel Story

I am always moved by the reading of the seventh chapter of The Acts of the Apostles in which Stephen, newly elected deacon facing accusations of blasphemy, summarizes the Old Testament story in a 1300 word homily. Two thousand years later it is easy to forget that the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament, was the only “Holy Scripture” for the early church, maybe for as long as 300 years, until the New Testament Canon was agreed upon and added.

In his discourse, Stephen recounts the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David and then reminds his listeners that their ancestors had persecuted the prophets who had “foretold the coming of the Righteous One.” And then the crowd drags him out of the city and stones him to death as Saul, later to become a teller of the same story he has just heard, looks after the coats of the killers and, presumably, looks on approvingly as the blood of Stephen is splattered about. If you haven’t read it in a while, it’s worth five minutes of your time now.

A sampling of the 34 occurrences of the word “scripture” in the New Testament.

Luke 4:21 -Then he (Jesus) began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

John 2:22 - After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

John 7:42 - Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?"

Acts 1:16 - "Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus—

Acts 8:30-35 - So Philip ran up to it and heard him (Ethiopian eunuch) reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31 He replied, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth." 34 The eunuch asked Philip, "About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.

Galatians 3:8 - And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you."

2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.