The God of the Old Testament: An Analysis of Wrath, Justice, Mercy and Love
Paul V. Niskanen, Ph.D.
Item No. C30401
Imprint: Catholic Courses
Publication Date: 2013
The “unpopular” part of the Bible.
A lot of people today don’t seem to like the Old Testament. Even among Catholics, a pretty hostile attitude seems to hang around this sizable part of the Bible. In this course, Professor Paul V. Niskanen takes a closer look at the Old Testament and the God it reveals, clearing away a lot of the darkness and false rumors to find out what the text is actually saying, and why it’s so highly regarded in the Catholic tradition.
The Bible is not just a history book.
to remember that the Bible is not a history book. It contains history, but
the Old Testament is not only concerned with relating literal historical events.
Truth is conveyed in a lot of different ways. For example, in the parable
of the Prodigal Son, you could ask if it really happened in that exact way—but
is that really the point of the story? Of course not. Many genres exist in
the Old Testament, including poetry, that are designed to make a point and
teach a specific lesson. Truth—including transcendent truth—is
not limited to the historical.
A much more important part of the Bible than we may think.
It might come as a bit of a surprise to us today, but the first Christian Catholic Bibles did not include the New Testament, and Paul wrote its first books as late as 50 AD. It goes to show you how important the Old Testament is, since the Church has never existed without it. The Church has always kept these ancient books in the official canon of Scriptures. Against popular belief, the Old Testament God and the New Testament God are not two different deities—many people today think that the Old God is full of anger, wrath, and vengeance, while the New God is all about love and warm feelings. It’s a common misconception, and one that Professor Niskanen addresses in this course.
Discontinuity or Continuity?
There are two main ways of looking at the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament, which are discontinuity and continuity.
the two Testaments have nothing to do with each other.
- Continuity: The two works are compatible. This is the position that the Catholic Church holds.
Jesus himself emphasized the continuity of the two parts of the Bible in the Sermon on the Mount, when he affirmed that his mission was to fulfill the law and the prophets—not to abolish them. In fact, the phrase “God of the Old Testament” is a bit misleading, since the same God has revealed himself through both Testaments. Salvation history—the big picture—is only complete when you have all the pieces, and that’s why the Church has the Old and New Testaments together in one Bible
Develop a proper understanding of the Old Testament.
Professor Niskanen will help you understand the Old Testament in the light of the Christian faith. In doing so, you will not only gain better knowledge of the Bible, from both a historical and literary perspective, but also grow deeper in your spiritual life as you come to know the truths that the Old Testament holds.
About The Author
Dr. Paul Niskanen received his Bachelor of Arts in French and Religious Studies from Seattle University, his S.T.B. from the Pontifical University Teresianum in Rome, and his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, California. He is currently an associate professor of Theology for the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. A few of Professor Niskanen's publications include, The Human and the Divine in History: Herodotus and the Book of Daniel, Yhwh as Father, and The Last Words of Jesus. He is also a professional member of the Catholic Biblical Association of America as well as the Society of Biblical Literature.
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