By Susan E. Richardson
Christian Faith in the Old Testament brings to fruition more than 30 years of study and service for Dr. Gareth (Gary) Cockerill, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Biblical Interpretation and Theology at Wesley Biblical Seminary. Studying the book of Hebrews, with its emphasis on the Old Testament, began the process. Further study plus teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa, added to his passion for showing the unity of Scripture.
Missionary experience might seem a strange addition to the picture, but teaching with English as a second language for his students, many of whom had no Biblical background, forced him to consider ways to make the message understandable. He later found that he had trouble addressing either animistic or Muslim world views without a solid knowledge of how Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies.
For those of us who are already Christians, Dr. Cockerill says, “The thing I want people to grasp is the unity of the Bible and the continuing relevance of the Old Testament and of each of its parts. The whole setting emphasizes both the deep need for fellowship with God and the horrible separation that human rebellion has brought between us and God. To read the New Testament without the Old is like reading only the last chapter of a novel.”
His desire comes from a pastoral concern for others’ faith, not academic hairsplitting. When Christians neglect the Old Testament, he says that “we are likely to have a trivial idea of God, a superficial understanding of sin, and thus a very inadequate view of salvation.” He unfolds the full story for readers in Christian Faith in the Old Testament.
The book follows the Old Testament in order, showing how each piece lays a foundation for the next until finally everything comes together as Jesus fulfills the prophesies. Along the way he points out principles we can use for applying Old Testament stories today. For those who are more visual, the text includes many diagrams to help understand the material.
Not that the book is hard to read. Dr. Cockerill took care to make the book accessible to lay readers. As he says, “The book is dedicated to helping ordinary, intelligent, modern Christians establish their apostolic roots in the Old Testament, the Bible of the Apostles.”
If you count yourself among the group of “intelligent Christians,” this book makes a good choice for study. Any reader serious about grasping and applying Scripture more fully will benefit from the material offered.
Don’t plan to read quickly. The content is rich and requires thoughtful consideration. The meaning emerges more clearly as you unwrap and ponder each piece. Seeing how the Bible fits together in a single unifying message changes your perspective.
Pastors all along the Evangelical spectrum offer endorsements, making the book accessible across denominations. Christian Faith in the Old Testament is also perfect for a Sunday school class or a book group looking for something deeper.