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The God of the Old Testament has been viewed by scholars as something different from that of the New Testament. This mischaracterization is often produced by placing emphasis in the Old Testament on the God’s insistence that infidels be dealt with in a bloody manner (Deuteronomy 9:4-5), whereas God in the New Testament appears to preach mercy and charity and turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-40). Yet what the scholars fail to appreciate is that God in the New Testament is just as insistent on due respect being shown to God: after all it is Christ who literally whips the money changers out of the Temple because they are disrespecting the sanctity of the place (John 2:15). It is therefore inaccurate to suppose that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament. The God of the Old Testament is just as merciful and insistent upon charity as is the God of the New Testament.[footnoteRef:2] The Psalms are filled with a sense of God’s love and mercy and protective nature. The story of Ruth and the story of Jonah sent to preach to the Ninevites are both examples of God showing a divine interest in supporting those who are not of the “chosen” people. This paper will further explain how God is the same God in both the Old and the New Testament. It will first provide contextual information, presenting arguments from both sides of the argument. Then it will look at the metaphysical attributes of God, the moral attributes of God, and provide an exegesis of Exodus 3:14-15 with particular focus on God being “I am Who am” and thus showing that God’s nature is unchanging and eternal. The findings of this research will show that God’s character has never changed from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelations: it is complete but complex.[footnoteRef:3] God is love and has created the world because of this, but He also demands submission to His will and does not force His grace upon those who reject Him and His ways. Whether it is Job’s friends questioning God’s reasons for sending suffering to the good Job, or whether it is the Jews questioning Christ about His divinity—those who reject Him are always the same: full of self-love and pride. [2: Baker, David L. Two Testaments, One Bible: The Theological Relationship between the Old and New Testaments. InterVarsity Press, 2010.] [3: Mathewson, Dave. "Reading Heb 6: 4-6 in light of the Old Testament." Westminster theological journal 61, no. 2 (1999): 209-226. ]
The argument of the scholars who claim that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament tend to argue that the Old Testament God is violent, wrathful, uncharitable, and persecuting.[footnoteRef:4] Wright contends, for instance, that the God of the Old Testament is embittered against His enemies and that the language used to describe Him reflects an adversarial tone common among the literature of the times.[footnoteRef:5] In other words, the writers of the Old Testament were not so much representing the character of God as they were their own animosity towards other tribes—such as is Wright’s argument. [4: Eric A. Seibert, Disturbing Divine Behavior: Troubling Old Testament Images of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2009), 213.] [5: Christopher J.H. Wright, The God I Don’t Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 88.]
The other side of the argument is that the skeptics are not realizing what God demands of humankind, which is respect, love and adoration. He is not a sappy, sentimental God. He is not a God of new age love and spirituality. God is realistic and knows full well the evil in the world, which is why Christ gave the example of fasting and praying in the desert as a means of resisting evil temptations. Paul Copan argues that those who see God’s attitude towards the Canaanites as problematic likely fail to see how they themselves might resemble the Canaanites in their attitude towards God.[footnoteRef:6] Craig likewise argues that God’s actions are always dictated by His love, no matter how harsh or cold they may seem to some.[footnoteRef:7] In short, it is not always given to man to know the mind of God; rather, man should trust that God has his best interests at heart, and moments of suffering or seeming cruelty can be a test of man’s faithfulness rather than a demonstration of God’s lack of love.[footnoteRef:8] [6: Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 160.] [7: William Lane Craig “#16 Slaughter of the Canaanites,” Reasonable Faith with William Lane Craig (blog), August 6, 2007, https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/slaughter-of-the-canaanites.] [8: Baah-Odoom, Dinah, and FrimpongWiafe. "The Importance Of The Old Testament To The Christian Spirituality." The International Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities Invention, Vol. 3.7, 2016]
Why the God of the Old Testament is the Same God of the New Testament
The best way to understand that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament is to look at God’s unchanging metaphysical attributes and moral attributes. One can see that in both the Old and the New Testament, God’s metaphysical and moral attributes are the same. This section will explain how this is so, taking each one a step at a time.
The Metaphysical Attributes of God
God is Eternal. First of all, God is eternal and that is made clear from Genesis on through to Revelations, in which John lays out the things that are to come at the end of time. Prior to recorded history (which did not begin until after man’s fall from grace), God existed outside of any time framework. He always was and always will be—and that is shown in Genesis, wherein mankind is told how God brought the world into existence out of nothing. Or, rather, the world was created out of God’s own loving, creative nature. Creation was an act of love. The fall of man was an act of rebellion against God. The ultimate expression of love was God’s desire to give man free will, i.e., the opportunity to love Him back or to choose himself. God then went on to show that He Himself would pay the ultimate price to redeem man and bring him back to Himself—and this would be the Incarnation and crucifixion in the New Testament. It is the same God who runs through the one to the other. God never changes but stays eternally the same. Beginning with Genesis and proceeding to the Fall, the Christian reader can see how the Incarnation serves as the answer to the problem posed in the Old Testament stories.[footnoteRef:9] [9: Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams, The Problem of Evil (Oxford University Press, 1990), 218.]
In the Old Testament it is stated, “The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). He commands His people and His enemies alike: He is Lord over all. Man cannot fathom His eternality, as stated in Job 36:26: “Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him; The number…
…Holy Spirit that they might not be without the spirit of God. [15: Towns, E. (2002). The Gospel of John: Believe and live. Canada: Scofield Ministries, 150.]
Exodus 3:14-15 explains that the God of the Old Testament is one God and that He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. There is no other God, and if there is no other God there cannot be a new God in the New Testament. It is the same God. The God of Exodus is the God Who cares for His people and wants them to live righteous lives; He punishes them even after delivering them because they revert back to worshiping false gods. This is one reason He gives the 10 Commandments, making the first commandment explicit in this regard: I am the Lord Thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before me. Exodus 3:14-15 is about establishing the identity of God in such a way that there can be no doubt as to Who He is and what His moral and metaphysical nature is.
Exodus 3:14-15 thus shows why it is important for men to humble themselves before they approach God and dare to judge Him. He was there before any men was ever born. It was out of God’s own love that man was created at all. Who then can honestly say that he is in a position to explain who God is? God Himself says all that needs to be said, when He tells Moses: “I am Who am.” He is the God of all things: all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, eternal; all-faithful and trustworthy; all righteous; all good. There is none like unto Him.
The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament, of that there can be no doubt. As Lamb notes, God can be seen in different ways by those who approach Him with different things in their heart.[footnoteRef:16] That is one reason God can seem cruel or unjust in the Old Testament and kind and loving in the New Testament. But man should be careful about how he goes about judging God, for he is not in any position to cast any such judgment. If one wants to be objective and seek to understand God’s nature, that is an altogether different matter. One can look at the Old and New Testaments objectively and see that God’s nature does not change from one to the other. Those who think it does are either not looking at God’s works from the perspective of God in His complete metaphysical and moral nature; or they are looking at God from hardened hearts. [16: Lamb, David T. God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?.InterVarsity Press, 2011.]
In God, one finds the source of all love and mercy—and this is seen in the Old Testament, from the way God forgives (though He also punishes) Adam and Eve, promising them that a redeemer will come, i.e., that they will not be exiled forever. This is a just God—a God Who is both righteous and merciful. He will not suffer forever the stubborn pride of the infidel. But He will also respond to those who seek His support. This is evident in the life of David and in the life of Christ in the New Testament. Seeing how God brings the Hebrews out of Egypt and declares Himself as “I am Who am” and seeing how Christ uses this same language to explain in more earthly terms what that…
Adams, Marilyn McCord and Robert Merrihew Adams. The Problem of Evil. Oxford University Press, 1990.
Baker, David L. Two Testaments, One Bible: The Theological Relationship between the Old and New Testaments. InterVarsity Press, 2010.
Baah-Odoom, Dinah, and FrimpongWiafe. "The Importance Of The Old Testament To The Christian Spirituality." The International Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities Invention, Vol. 3.7, 2016
Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011.
Craig, William Lane. “#16 Slaughter of the Canaanites,” Reasonable Faith with William
Lane Craig (blog), August 6, 2007, https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/slaughter-of-the-canaanites.
Kaiser, Walter C. The Messiah in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zandorvan, 1995.
Kitchen, Kenneth. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003.
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