The Theme of Justice in the Old and the New Testament

Table of Contents

Introduction: Tracing the Discrepancies between the Testaments

God’s decisions differ. This statement is often used to describe the content of two Testaments. The scholars of all times have been investigating the sources and the logical explanations of some discrepancies that put a strong line of demarcation between the Old and the New Testament.

However, the Bible transitions often seem unperceivable for a human mind. Thus, people tend to interpret separate issues from the Testaments in contrastive ways. The inconsistencies in both Testaments refer to such concepts as love, hatred, death, mercy, prophecy and many others. In this essay, the theme of justice is reviewed in the light of its depiction in the New American Bible.

Sources of Biblical Justice

Justice is a concept that determines whether something is right or wrong. Thus, to identify the sources of justice in the Bible, one has to understand the backbone of the decisions that are illustrated in each Testament. Throughout the history, various scientists approached an interpretation of Bible in different ways.

According to Joseph Fitzmyer, the only correct way of tracing the Holy Scripture’s patterns is a historical-critical method. Thus, the author states that Biblical themes need historical explanations on different levels: literal, spiritual and so on (13).

Following Fitzmyer’s approach, one can identify the sources of justice through the exploration of the issues that were judged in two Testaments. The Old Testament provides some judgment on the behavior of Adam and Eve, Achan, Sodom and Gomorrah as well as unscrupulous contemporaries of Noah. In the New Testament, one may find the critical evaluation of Jews and the corrupt churches.

The key difference between the judgments that are provided in two Testaments is the way in which they were sustained. While the first part of Holy Script demonstrates justice of punishment, the second one is rather an embodiment of justice of mercy. If one verifies the context of Noah times’ judgments against the judgments of Jews, one can deduce that there was a crucial difference between them.

The Bible criticizes Jews in context of Christianized world, while the corrupt society of Noah times is judged through a prism of governance and authority. Therefore, it may be concluded that a major source of justice in two Testaments is a status of religion in the world. While the Old Testament only establishes the rules of conversion to religion, the New Testament provides an overview of godly decisions that are sustained in religious society.

Justice in the Old Testament: Unjust Decisions of Just God

The foundation of the Old Testament justice is often characterized by the phrase “eye for an eye”, which predetermines the existence of punishment as a ruling law. The biggest part of justice guidelines of the Old Testament may be found in the third part of the New American Bible that is named “Leviticus”.

For instance, through Leviticus, God claims: “if someone commits a sin by inadvertently cheating in the Lord’s sacred dues, he shall bring to the Lord as his guilt offering an unblemished ram from the flock” (The New American Bible, Lev. 15-1).

The first part of Holy Script contains a lot of similar regulations. They are incomprehensible for modern Christians who profess godly mercy and benevolence. Nevertheless, while analyzing the Old Testament’s justice, one has to refer to the cruel conditions in which it was realized. Thus, God’s laws in a pre-Christian era should not be perceived as unjust decisions, but rather an eviction of God’s power and supremacy over the human race.

Judicature of the New Testament

In contrast to justice of punishment of the Old Testament, the second part of the Holy Scripture reveals a story of Messiah. The sufferings of Jesus in a Christianized world gave a rise to a new system of values and depicted God’s will as a never-ending mercy.

The new world’s justice is fully represented in Matthew’s gospels: “but I tell you, do not resist him who is evil, but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also” (The New American Bible, Matt. 5-39). According to Brown, Matthew’s gospels reveal the whole idea of Christianization and shape a standard of relationships between people (25).

Still, one should not perceive the Messiah’s deeds as a rebuttal of the Old Testament’s law: “do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (The New American Bible, Matt. 5-17). Thus, the New Testament does not authorize a new concept of justice, it rather underlines the chivalrous side of the Old Testament’s regulations.

Conclusion: The Unity of Two Testaments

To sum it up, despite the fact that the underlying concepts of justice in the Old and the New Testaments differ, they create an unbreakable unity. Therefore, the first part of the Holy Scripture represents the rules that establish the authority of God, while the second one determines the basics of human relationships under those rules.

Works Cited

Brown, Raymond. The Birth of the Messiah, New York: Doubleday, 1977. Print.

Fitzmyer, Joseph. The Interpretation of Scripture: In Defense of the Historical Critical Method, New York: Paulist, 2008. Print.

The New American Bible. Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2002. Print.

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