In answer to a question from an interviewer, author John Goldingay responded, “When we talk about something being ‘old’ in our culture, we typically mean that it’s out of date. It goes along with the idea that what’s new is what counts.” The context of the exchange was about a new translation of the Old Testament by Goldingay entitled The First Testament and Glenn Paauw was asking about the title. Goldingay thinks Old Testament “inhibits people from reading it” and he hopes “that changing the name can get people’s attention.”
I don’t know if he is right or not about the Old Testament versus The First Testament, but I am interested in his general observation about old and new in our culture. And I think most of us would agree with his assessment about our culture (even if we don’t agree with our culture).
When I take cheese out of our refrigerator when making a sandwich I check the expiration date. I no longer can play 8-track or cassette tapes in my car. Very few people wear bell bottom pants like we did when I was in high school and college. And don’t you want to laugh when you see the short pants on basketball players when watching videos from years ago?
There is much that is old and out of date in our culture. However, just because something is old does not make it out of date. Neither is something bad just because it is old.
Flipping through the channels on our TV a few weeks ago I discovered we had the MeTV channel. They were advertising a summer series of John Wayne movies and since then I have watched and enjoyed four old movies. I’ve also been watching and enjoying old Andy Griffith, Bonanza, and Columbo shows. (Most of us would say the same thing about music.)
What about the idea that in our culture “what’s new is what counts?” With some things it’s true, especially with regard to technology and medical advancements; but it’s not always true with everything for everyone. In my experience, understandably and in general, the older among us are less enthusiastic about the new and the younger among us are more enthusiastic.
A lot of what is new is what counts. Yet, just because something is new does not necessarily make it better or good.
I hope it is obvious why I take interest in Goldingay’s stimulating comment about something being old in our culture and what’s new. It opens the door for a lot of meaningful and passionate discussion about many things–especially with Christians and the church. I encourage such discussion, but challenge those who engage in it to keep in mind that there is much more to it than just something being old or new. I also hope the discussion would be carried out with openness and mutual respect.
By the way, I like the idea of calling the Old Testament the First Testament, but I don’t need another translation, nor do I think the new name will gain a great deal of traction.
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