Chesterton on the main characteristic of the Hebrew Bible

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gilbert-chestertonI am a great admirer of GK Chesterton, from his Father Brown mysteries (the new BBC series does little justice) to his theological ramblings. His output is prodigious and thus uneven, but always entertaining and enlightening. I have been reading his introduction to Job and found these comments thought provoking.

The central idea of the great part of the Old Testament may be called the idea of the loneliness of God. God is not the only chief character of the Old Testament; God is properly the only character in the Old Testament.


The saints of Christianity are supposed to be like God, to be, as it were, little statuettes of Him. The Old Testament hero is no more supposed to be of the same nature as God than a saw or a hammer is supposed to be of the same shape as the carpenter. This is the main key and characteristic of Hebrew scriptures as a whole.

I cannot say that I agree completely with the statements (and I imagine he probably wouldn’t either, after rereading them) but they do make one think. And there is some truth in them. Certainly the NT and OT have very different perspectives, as I have written about before. We are called “to be Christlike” by Paul and that often puts this incredible burden on Christians while at the same time can lead to incredible hubris. On the other hand, in Tanakh God’s people are called to be obedient and faithful, those who are held up as exemplars are those who have responded to God’s call and done as he has asked (prophet, king, and hero). Perhaps there is a re-balancing there that is worthwhile for Christians to ponder because while we are called to “imitators of Christ” and to walk as he walked (Eph. 5:1-2), which is not the same thing as being Christ. I think some miss that important distinction a little too often.

 

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