Did you know that we have Jesus’ own Old Testament? Yes, we do! It is worn and well-used, yellowed by age and much use. He must have memorized large portions of it for he thought and spoke in its very words and phrases. He found things in it that stood out and he marked these with a star. He read passages through which he heard God speak to him and he underlined them. He found other passages that encouraged him and he marked them with an asterisk. There were passages that raised questions for him and he marked these with a question mark. He found other passages that didn’t jive with some others and attempted to determine which passage best described the God he was experiencing.
There is little doubt that one of his favorite books was Deuteronomy. He quoted from it often (but only parts of it). When he was tempted each of his replies to the rebellious spirit were from that book. He often quoted from Hosea too, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” He often referenced a Psalm or something from Isaiah. He seemed to emphasize neglected passages that the religious people of his time overlooked just as we neglect them in our time. “You have learned that our forefathers were told” and then he lifts up those neglected texts and opened deaf ears to hear them: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, but what I tell you is this….”
Jesus’ Old Testament is found in our New Testament, in four little segments, written long after his death, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In these gospels, we find Jesus’ Old Testament—at least we find what he found to be the most important things in his Old Testament—those things he underlined, marked with a star, an asterisk, or a question mark and shared with those who would hear him.
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Thomas Jefferson read the four gospels and discovered meaningful passages which spoke to him. As he read, he underlined certain verses, marked some with a star, and others with an asterisk, or a question mark—then he sorted them out and using those most meaningful to him, wrote down his testament: The Jefferson Bible.
Through the years people have asked me how they are to read the Bible. My answer was and is: first, read it, then mark it. Underline what speaks to you, put a star alongside this verse, an asterisk along side another, a question mark by that verse, etc., and then sort the passages out and take the most meaningful to you and make that your testament. Jesus’ own Old Testament became the New Testament.