“Therefore, put on the whole armor of God…” Ephesians 6:11
The total plan of Bible translation is to give the whole Word to all people groups in their heart languages. It is God’s dream that all people groups will be able to know and understand Him fully through reading the Bible and every Bible translation agency has received this dream of God as their own. Many already have access to the whole Word, however many more are yet to get access to the whole Word.
A friend of mine once said that having the New Testament alone is like wearing a coat without pants. This statement speaks volumes on the importance of having the whole Word of God. A person walking just in a coat is considered naked, for the lower part of the body is exposed. A person is considered fully dressed only when the upper body and the lower body are covered. So, just as we need to put on a coat and pants to be fully covered and dressed, we need both the New Testament and the Old Testament to fully understand God’s Word and to know God’s purpose.
Here are some reasons why there is a need for every language group to have access to the Old Testament:
The creation story (Genesis 1) is foundational to the entire Biblical message and the gospel, God’s plan of salvation through Christ. Therefore, the redemption event in the New Testament must be understood within the larger story of creation.
The Bible is a unified book; the Old Testament is the foundation and the New Testament is built on it. The prophecies and promises in the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Testament. The Old Testament validates the events in the New Testament. Luke 24:53 “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself”.
The Bible is a complete story, starting from the creation and the fall, continuing on to God's plan for Israel, how Jesus came to save us, and how it will be when Jesus returns. Genesis to Revelation tells us one story, the story of our restoration and relationship with God.
God reveals Himself in the Old Testament; we need the OT to know and understand God deeply. For example, God reveals His character through the mighty acts of delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians (Exodus). We are missing out richly on God’s revelations about who He is if we don’t have the Old Testament.
The Old Testament makes up ¾ of the Bible, so we are missing out about 75% of the Word of God if we don’t have the Old Testament. Romans 4:23,24 “The words “it was credited to him” were not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness…”
Jesus Himself read and taught from the Old Testament; to understand better what Jesus was teaching, we need to read the OT.
Without the Old Testament, we will not understand the cross; we will not understand the problems to which Jesus is the solution. (Genesis 3) We will not understand Jesus fully without the Old Testament. We will be missing out on the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah and the understanding of the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53) if we do not read the Old Testament.
The Old Testament gives coherent answers that stood the test of time to questions that have been asked about the Judeo-Christian worldview: where did I come from, who is God, where do I go after I die, etc. The Judeo-Christian worldview is largely built on the story of creation as found in Genesis 1:1-2:3.
In the New Testament, we find hundreds of OT quotations; to understand them fully, we need to go back to the OT.
We need the Old Testament to fully grasp the meaning of key Biblical teachings. For example, to understand the new covenant made in Jesus, we need to know the old covenant that God made with Moses.
The Old Testament and the New Testament together give us a complete story.
To some cultures, the poetry in the Old Testament will fit very well, and it will be a great bridge to these people to reach them with the Psalms and the Proverbs.
Many of the cultures we work with are oral cultures that learn through stories. The Old Testament is full of stories that teach us about trusting God and about the consequences of sin. Teaching these stories to the people will be a great benefit.
“Having the New Testament is like rooting a plant in a glass of fresh water and having the Old Testament is like transferring the rooted plant in the glass of fresh water to the ground where it belongs for the full growth of the plant.” - Keren (TWFTW, Consultant in Training)
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