If you, like many who read this website, are discerning a vocation to the priesthood or the diaconate, I’d like to invite you to participate in the 2017 Preachers Institute Old Testament Challenge. It starts on Sept. 15th. There is still time to join up and get started!
There are many good reasons to want to read the entire Orthodox canon of the Old Testament, but to actually do it requires a certain commitment. Yes, every book of the Orthodox Old Testament, word for word, in 100 days. We start Sept. 15th and end Dec. 24th. Are you in?
I’d like to list a few of the reasons in this post.
Why An Old Testament Challenge?
As previous stated, the Old Testament is 85% of the Bible. That is an ocean of context lost to the average Bible reader every time they read the Gospels, epistles or even the book of Revelation. No, not everyone has to become a Biblical scholar to learn the Bible better, and even become expert in its content. Yes – there is value to becoming expert in Bible content. St. John Chrysostom gives great wisdom about the Scriptures and knowing them well, and warns about what proceeds from ignorance of them.
“From this it is that countless evils have arisen – from ignorance of the Scriptures; from this it is that the plague of heresies has broken out; from this it is that there are negligent lives; from this there are labors without advantage.” (Homily On Romans)
All the Books of the Orthodox Bible
This is the only reading schedule of its kind – one that includes all the OT books of the Orthodox Bible, and all in 100 days, with days off for rest or catching up. There is simply no better time to prepare and take this challenge.
If you are a clergyman, see this article for reasons why you should not only do it, but encourage others publicly to do it.
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, but I’ll try to hit the important highlights.
1. Bragging rights
“Oh sure, we all thought about it, but I had the guts to do it!”
Do I need to say more?
It’s not bragging if you can do it. I say – “do it.” Also, there aren’t many opportunities in life to read the entire Old Testament with others together. Getter done!
2. The lifting of moral confusion
There is no shortage of moral confusion in our world, and while some may prefer it to any stable understanding of morality, the truth is that the a powerful and consistent theme in the Old Testament is righteousness – learning to recognize and accomplish what is right in the sight of the Lord. It is not always obvious. A thorough background of Old Testament reading about the interaction of God and mankind erases a great deal of this moral confusion, especially if it is brought into high relief by repetition (lots of that in the OT) and comparison with the pagan cultures which surrounded it. Yes, they were very different, and their morality was an abomination to the one True God.
3. Recognizing the Big Picture
It’s very easy, when we read the Bible in tiny segments to miss the forest for the trees. Recognizing the big picture requires us to see a broader canvas, things at work in many places, at many times, on many levels. The only way to do this is to read the other 85% of the Bible, preferrably on one big activity. If, for example, you see in some other things you’ve read, that the Church interprets the Old Testament from the following perspectives;
wouldn’t you like to know why that is? And see it in action so it could be understood? Once those things are recognized in the text, over and over again, they are impossible to miss in the future, and in other readings.
Allow me to say, as a priest, that I get very tired of pointing out (mostly to people who have never seriously read the Old Testament) that the God of the Old Testament IS the God of the New Testament, and the revelation isn’t of a mean, vengeful God to a nice, happy God. Nor is it simply a matter of perspective or a certain ‘point of view’ (with apologies to George Lucas and Obi Wan Kenobi). The themes in the Old Testament which often are appointed to exterior, ritual accomplishment are transfigured in the New Testament into interior righteousness. All of the OT accoutrements have antitypes in the interior life, and the Old Testament itself points to this in blatant, plain and unmistakable ways.
The revelation of Jesus Christ throughout the Holy Scriptures is easy to misjudge in tiny segments, usually out of context. You’ll never realize just how tiny a segment, just how little you know, of the Old Testament until you read it all.
You don’t have to be a clergyman to do it. You don’t have to want to go to seminary to do it (though if you do, you’d better get started sooner than later – you’ll never have time in seminary).
You just have to want to be a better disciple than you are today. I often tell newcomers that we, in the Orthodox church, expect nothing of our people more than was expected out of Christians in the New Testament.
Guess what Scriptures they read?
What you need
You’ll need a copy of the Ebook Learning the Old Testament the Orthodox Way. Why? Because the password to the reading schedule is contained within. You can get it at the Preachers Institute Online Store or at Amazon for your Kindle.