9.8 -- The Discontinuity of the New Covenant
This is the scale of the disjunction between Old and New Testaments. Even though the Old presaged the New and pointed expectantly towards it, when the New came, the caretakers of the Old became its bitterest opponents. The Romans didn't care about these issues, so long as political peace was maintained. The Greeks were amused and interested in any new doctrines that came along. But the Jewish leaders were determined to stamp out this dangerous heresy, this upstart uncredentialed rabbi. To them, the teaching and the works of the New Covenant proclaimed in Jesus' ministry were incomprehensible. For all Jesus' claim that "till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law" (Mat 5:18), the leaders discerned in His words a threat -- to themselves, to institutional Judaism, and therefore to God Himself.
This conflict clearly shows us that the New Covenant, though derivative of the Old, does not resemble it in form or content. The holy society envisioned by the Sanhedrin bore no resemblance to the Kingdom of God among men which Jesus represented and founded. A mother gives birth to a child, yet the child is not an extension of the mother, even less a clone. The blood type may differ, the sex may differ, not to mention the character, talents, intelligence, and interests. The mother may not even love the child, and can perhaps disown it. Yet mother and child remain related in the deepest possible way. In the same way, the Old Covenant birthed the New, though the former disowned the latter.
This very problem has preoccupied the Church for 2000 years -- how much of the Old Covenant carries over into the New? Nearly all aspects of theology are involved in this -- soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology.... Our focus, though, is much narrower -- we are concerned only with how much of the racial teaching of the Old Testament is applicable to those who live under the rule of the New Covenant. This general question can itself be expressed in three specific inquiries:
1. what is the status of the Jewish people in the New Covenant?
2. how does the New Testament treat non-Jews?
3. how do New Testament believers relate to people of other races?
At this point, let us turn to the first 3 Gospels, the Synoptics, which we will study as a unit.