The basic understanding between Jews and Christians is that the OC (Old Covenant, or Tanakh) is for Jews and the NC (New Covenant/Testament) is for Christians. One is the Jewish Bible and the other is the Christian Bible.
I do not believe this to be true, but from a certain viewpoint the NC was written for Christians.
Before I explain why I say this, let me first identify the four different types of writings that are found in the bible:
- Divinely Dictated: these are writings of what God said written exactly as he said it. The best example is the 10 Commandments, written “with the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:13);
- Divinely Inspired: these are writings by people of what God told them to write down or repeat. Examples are the Torah and the writings of the Prophets;
- Divinely Based: these are writings by people to people explaining the meaning of the divinely dictated or inspired writings. The letters of the Apostles are examples of this type of writing; and
- Narratives: these are writings that give us a historical accounting. Examples would be the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles and the Book of Acts.
The Tanakh (OC) was written by Jews to Jews but it is for everyone in the world. God has no religion: he has his rules for how to worship him and how to treat each other. He choose Abraham’s’ descendant’s as his chosen people because of the faith of Abraham; later that faith was tested when God told Moses the children of Israel would be a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6.) It is generally said God gave the Torah to the Jews, but I prefer to say God entrusted it to the Jews. It was entrusted to Jews not for their use only, but for them to learn it and live it, then teach the rest of the world how to do the same. The fact that the Torah is for everyone is undeniable because God said the Jews were to be a nation of priests: a Rabbi doesn’t teach his congregation how to be Catholic and a Priest doesn’t teach his congregation how to be Buddhists. If the Jews are God’s chosen priests to the world, and he gave them the Torah to live by, then it is clear that God wants the world to live by the Torah, too.
This is further confirmed when we read that God said those who sojourn with the Jewish people (meaning choose to live with them and adopt their lifestyle) would have the same rights as a natural born Jewish person (Lev. 24:22; Lev. 19:33), meaning not only were they legally the same but spiritually the same. As the New Covenant puts it, “adopted sons and daughters of Abraham” (Gal 3:29.) Again, if they are adopted children they are subject to the same rules of the household that the natural born children are.
The NC is different. As in the Tanakh there are some writings by Jews to Jews, and these include the books of James, Hebrews, Peter, John and Jude. However, most of the NC (about 2/3) is composed of the letters written by Shaul, and although these were written by a Jew, they were not written to Jews- they were written to Gentiles who were learning how to be Jewish. So, as I said above, from a certain viewpoint we could make an argument that the NC is a “Christian” bible because the majority of it was written to Christians.
Both the OC and NC were written by Jews. Originally each was written to a specific group but they both are for the entire world. What went wrong was that the NC writings were difficult for the Gentiles to understand because they were written by Jews very well versed in Torah and who had a Jewish “mindset.” There were many more Gentiles that came to accept Messiah than Jews, and as the Jews that wrote these letters died off, Gentiles who did not know the Torah and had never lived a Jewish lifestyle didn’t recognize implied meanings (which Jews would understand) in these letters. Consequently, they began to interpret them incorrectly. This pollution of the original meanings culminated with Constantine and the Christian Canon he devised, which completed the separation into two religions: one that worshiped God and obeyed Torah waiting for their Messiah and one that worshiped God and accepted his Messiah but ignored the Torah.
For the record, the letters from Shaul (Paul) were instructions to Gentiles becoming Jewish advising them of the difference between legalistic Torah observance and faithful Torah obedience. The former is a Pharisaical teaching based on complete legal performance of Torah laws as the path to salvation; the latter is based on understanding that we are saved by faith and the Torah should be obeyed because it is God’s instructions to help us live a better and holier life.
There is a big difference between obeying God just to obey and obeying God as a result of faithful trust in him.
For me the Tanakh and the NC are one book: it starts with Genesis and ends with Revelation. It is the story of God and his relationship with the world, how he honored Abraham’s faith by choosing his descendants to be entrusted with the Torah so they could teach the world God’s laws and rulings that lead to eternal life (Deut. 30:15-19; Ezekiel 18:23.) The first part of the bible brings us from creation to the dispersion of the Jewish people and their hope in Messiah. The rest of the book tells us of the coming of Messiah and the spreading of God’s salvation to all people, finishing with a vision of the Olam Haba (world to come.)
One day people will recognize the OC and NC are one book for everyone. Until then each one of us must practice good exegesis; that means to read the bible remembering the four types of writings and considering what was written to whom and why. We need to maintain proper context, using hermeneutics and the culturally correct definition of words and phrases for that time. And we must read the entire bible- Genesis through Revelation. It is only when you have an understanding and knowledge of the Old Covenant that you will realize there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant.