by Pat Marvenko Smith

In an Old Testament Theology Seminar I was asked to come up with a “central theme” for the Old Testament, that could carry over into the New Testament. It’s what Biblical Theologians call a center, or a mitte. In thinking about that I looked at Deuteronomy 26. The first 11 verses function as a sort of summary of the exodus event, a summary which would be read in Passover celebrations later (and today). It seems to me that this statement is like something that NT theologians identify as a kerygma, a central summary gospel, which the rest of the NT expands upon. In our case in Deuteronomy 26, the Old Testament’s gospel (that is what Christian interpreters call the Exodus tongue in cheek) is presented in summary form. What I find greatly interesting is that verses 17-20 end the section with a sort of call to live for God. It says,

17 Today you have obtained the LORD’s agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him. 18 Today the LORD has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments; 19 for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor; and for you to be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.

This seems much like a NT call to follow Christ. It’s followed by a promissory statement that if one does so, they will inherit eternal life. Of course the terms are different, using Old Testament imagery which is later (2nd temple era) re-interpreted as the NT presents. I find it significant that when Christ is asked what the most important commandment is, what he says lines up with Dt 26:17 (not exactly, he’s quoting the shema). Those who follow God become the holy ones, which in the NT gets translated as saints.

When we studied this in our small group, we talked about how this story describes on a corporate level, something similar to what happens in the NT picture of Christ. I think this is because the Hebrew way of viewing history is that it is cyclical (some would call it typological). Israel went through a struggle, cried out to God, who saved them. Later, God saved them (and us gentiles) in Christ. It was something on a grander scale. One reason I think I’m on track here is that in Deuteronomy, God is called “I AM”, the Hebrew YHWH. John’s Gospel presents Christ in this manner, becoming the passover lamb, who takes away the sin of the world, and makes it possible for God to tabernacle with humanity, and restore humanity to the intended state of eternity with God (in our death).

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