The Three Major Themes Of The Old Testament -- By: James L. Kelso

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 082:326 (Apr 1925)
Article: The Three Major Themes Of The Old Testament
Author: James L. Kelso


The Three Major Themes Of The Old Testament

James L. Kelso

The Old Testament deals with three outstanding subjects—man, men, and God. Or to put the same thought in allied terms, the three major themes of the Old Testament are Biography, History, and Theology.

The Old Testament is heavy with biography, for, like Jesus Christ, the Old Testament is more interested in people than in any other creation of God. Something of this prominent place of biography in Old Testament study is witnessed by the fact that three-fifths of the books in our English translation of the Old Testament bear as their titles the name of some man or woman, and yet this long list does not include such pre-eminent persons as Abraham, Moses, or David.

Furthermore, the Old Testament presents a peculiar type of biography, for it insists that the key factor in human life is a man’s relationship to his God. Again, like Jesus Christ, the Old Testament teaches that the highest goal in human experience consist of “love for God as expressed through a life obedient to His will.” Yea, the first and great commandment of both Christ and the Old Testament is (Deut. 6:5):

“And thou shalt love Jehovah thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

Thus Old Testament biography might almost be termed “doctrinal teaching by human example.” Here we see faith being interpreted into life, as Noah “moved with godly fear prepared an ark to the saving of his house,” or as Abraham, when he was called of God, hastened on to the land of promise. Here meekness becomes a reality in the personality of Moses, and here wisdom finds a salient example in Solomon. In short, it will be found that in the Old Testament doctrine is taught in large part by the biographies of those persons who observed some particular doctrine or doctrines with unusual care.

And yet the Old Testament never makes these “human doctrinal examples” to be perfect. With open frankness it shows that at times Abraham is faithless, Moses becomes the antithesis of meekness, and Solomon plays the fool. Indeed, by failure to measure up to spiritual ideals, as well as by success in those attainments, is doctrine taught; for thus both spiritual life and spiritual death are presented from the common ground of human experience.

But beyond these fallible examples of the spiritual life the Old Testament always looks onward and upward toward one who shall be more faithful than Abraham, more meek than Moses, and wiser than Solomon. It looks toward a sinless man, a perfect man, toward the Messiah. And in the glorious depicting of t...

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