A valued, regular reader countered to the Jim Woodroof idea that we read and study the gospels more than anything else. (See prior post.)
He said, in part, “I think we (the modern church) have often neglected the old testament and other books in favor of the Gospels, and while obviously these hold core truths, to leave the rest behind is a folly in my opinion…. If it was good enough for Jesus to learn and quote from, then certainly we should do the same.”
In my experience, the gospels haven’t gotten nearly ENOUGH play! (It’s been Acts, at least until the last 10 years or so of my life, that’s been overworked.) In expressing my personal resolve, I didn’t meant to be suggesting that I don’t care about the other books. My fully “getting” the message of the gospels is central, and the rest is, by comparison, peripheral. The quote wasn’t “Read the gospels and never read the rest.” :-)
It is in the divinity and the person of Jesus that all the rest becomes clear. Maybe we could even say that the gospels hold the key to interpretation in general? All scripture is scripture, and as such, it’s from God, but that doesn’t mean He wants us to pay the same kind of attention to a prophecy meant for the ancient Chaldeans that we pay, for instance, to Jesus’ exhortation to be one as He and the Father are one. The history of an obscure king of the northern tribes may provide an interesting, or even indirectly applicable, factoid, but Jesus’ examples of single-minded focus and nonviolent suffering are of more import. The numbers and specifics of sacrifices under the Mosaic covenant are informative, and I appreciate knowing a good deal about them, but they are spiritually helpful in comparison to our covenant, a la the letter to the Hebrews.
All scripture is authoritative in some sense, but it’s not all equally important. I think it’ll be a long time before I intentionally read Leviticus in its entirety. The Psalms, yes. Genesis and Joshua and 1 Samuel, yes, sometimes. Ruth and Esther have their place, but not alongside John and Mark (and, next for me, such pieces as Romans and Galatians and Revelation and 1 John …).
If I had an infinite amount of time in this life, sure, I’d get immersed in Leviticus, and I’d be the better for it, but not as much the better as if I’d read Luke again, searching out deeply his portrait of the Christ, in order to understand and to drink deeply. Given the lack of time, I must opt for those things that are more central. (It’s analogous to the missions philosophy question that pits France against Irian Jaya or Kenya. If there were infinite numbers of people to send, sure, we can send some to France or Italy, because they might be .05% effective with hardened souls. But given limited resources, we opt first for 2nd- and 3rd-world regions where the receptivity is greater.)
I’ll offer a few more quotes from the Woodroof book Four Realities– this time, not out of my memory, but off the pages:
The central event (the cross) can be understood only in light of the central quality of Jesus’ life.
Jesus’ action toward the thief was, and still is, a perfect miniature of what he, at that very moment on the cross, was doing on a broader scale for the whole world.
More of the record (of the gospels) is spent describing those around the cross than Him on the cross.
There is no power in “believing we ought to believe.”
Acts and the Letters to the churches were not designed to provide power. They were designed, rather, to provide direction.
Though Christ can be communicated through the word alone, it is not the best way. We know this by witnessing how God revealed himself to the human race: He clothed the Word in human flesh.