Gentile Old Testaments

It is remarkable how the Apostles denied that Gentiles needed to follow the law of Moses, and put only a few restrictions on Gentile believers (Acts 15:28-29):

28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

In short, there was no need to follow the law of Moses but four practices would go a long way to smoothing relations between Jewish and Gentile believers. In the West we don’t think of the first three but the fourth is affirmed. So much for the rest of the Old Testament.

Certainly the Apostles weren’t jettisoning the Old Testament. But they weren’t affirming it much either. The Judaizers had it wrong: the Gentiles can become Christians right where they are. There’s no need to accept the Old Testament with its law of Moses, circumcision, rituals, and 613 commandments (according to Orthodox tradition).

When pagans converted to Christianity their pagan practices were reinterpreted as much as possible rather than banned outright. Yes, much behind Christmas is pagan — but it has been given new Christian meaning. The same is true with Easter. Even the pontifex maximus was transformed into the pope.

There is certainly a danger here that Christianity may be influenced by paganism rather than the other way around. But the alternative is a return to the law of Moses, and that has been ruled out. But then what is the tutor or guardian “to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith” if not the law of Moses? The best that paganism had to offer.

When the early Christians approached the pagans, they argued from the Bible but also from the greatest writings of the pagans. What were these? In Europe they were the classics, especially the writings of Plato and Aristotle. These writings, correctly understood, point to Christ in their own way.

Modern pagans today have their classic writings, and Christians need to show the from them why Christianity makes sense. As the Old Testament is not always clear on what it means, so Gentile classics do not always show a clear connection to the Gospel so it’s up to Christians to make it for them.