My first Bible was given to me by Pastor Damian Zamfir in the winter of 1972. Pastor Zamfir, the man who led my first steps on the path to Christ, invited me to visit him in the parish house of the Adventist church on Rodnei Street in Targoviste.
After a brief introduction in a low voice, he headed for one of the dimly lit corners of the house, from where he returned holding the Book. It was a small, new but slightly dusty Bible. As he tried to “bring it to the light”, he looked at me, and his eyes, which were often crying, turned red and were filled with tears. I thank God that the emotion I experienced when I reached out to take the Book is alive today and fills my soul with a holy turmoil every time I walk into this “garden” and listen to His voice.
When I first read the Bible, I had an experience that many would consider mystical. I admired, watched, feared, rejoiced, and lived in the overwhelming light of this monumental book, each time my journey reached the last of its 1223 pages.
I always thought I was alone in the garden until I first heard a voice in the garden. Since then, the meeting with the garden has given way to my meeting with the Gardener.
As my life progressed from the stage of “child” to a “mature” state in Christ, the monologue in the midst of the garden turned into a dialogue with the Gardener, and from my dialogue with Him I understood the purpose of the garden and its message: “It speaks of Me”. There is no flower, no layer, no weed, or thorn in this testifying garden, as it is often called, in the Book of Books, that would serve any purpose other than to testify about the great Gardener.
I understood that the life of the garden is the Gardener, and that without Him there is no life: “Whoever has the Son has life”. I understood that the price of the garden is not given by what it is as such, but by the Treasure hidden in its soil. It is the presence of this Treasure that justifies man’s instinctive interest and attraction to the Scriptures.
A perceived or real rupture?
I continued to read the Bible for many years, and, without exception, moving from the book of the prophet Malachi, the last book of Old Testament, to that of the evangelist Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, it was always impossible for me not to notice the general change in temperature, light, and environment. In time, I realized that it was not just a change of environment, but I felt a rock wall rising there, vertical and dizzying. Climbing this rock wall leaves no hope for the rational and realistic human.
Precisely because the problem is so visible, many of the attempts to reconcile the New Testament with the Old Testament have been and are based on questionable arguments that do nothing but deepen the disappointment the irreconcilable nature of the two Testaments carries.
At the same time, a wonderful horizon opens up for the man of faith, who prays: “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I”. The man of faith-filled prayer receives the promise of the Spirit of God, who will lead them to the whole truth concerning Jesus.
Undoubtedly, in the transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament, the devoted reader of the Bible experiences a moment of disorientation. Here, at this incomparable spiritual bridge in life, every reader of the Scriptures must ask themselves: What is the Scripture of the Old and New Testament, after all? What is the nature of the relationship between the two Testaments? What should I understand from the tension I perceive and cannot ignore?
From many points of view—psychological, pedagogical and, last but not least, spiritual—the difference and divergence between the Old and the New Testament does nothing but highlight the Subject, precisely through the contrast and tension they create. What intrigues and provokes is the dogma of continuity and immutability inside the Trinity, which is often wrongly applied. This dogma of continuity is fundamentally biblical: He “does not change like shifting shadows”. Or, “I, the Lord, do not change”.
As for the eternal truth of God’s continuity and immutability, there are many other revelations in the Scriptures and in other sources that testify about God (nature, human experience, history) that are waiting to be explored. Continuity and immutability never apply to something, only to Someone.
Regarding everything but God, the Bible says in the Epistle to the Hebrews, quoting Psalm 102: “He also says ‘In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end’”. Or: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”.
In other words, the doctrine of continuity and immutability cannot be applied to anything and anyone but God, who is Love: “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away”.
Regarding the immutability and continuity that exists in God, we must guard against another potential slip or misunderstanding, which has produced much turmoil and bitterness in the souls of many people. His eternal immutability refers to His character of love, not to circumstantial and conditioned statements. Love is eternal, and so it will remain forever. Everything else is subject to change and is undergoing a process of development in grace and knowledge: “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained’”.
Returning to the problem faced by most Christians, but also by most non-Christians, namely the apparent difference and rupture between the Old and the New Testament, I believe that this problem is caused by the misapplication of the sense of continuity and immutability to the Scriptures, by their misuse, and by the confusion of the texts of the Scriptures with the God they speak of.
Scripture is not God, it speaks of God. Scripture is not eternal; eternal is the One of whom it speaks, and eternal also are the truths concerning the eternity of His love, truths manifested throughout history, be they sacred or secular: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
If we attribute continuity and immutability to the One to whom these qualities rightfully belong, namely, to God, not to the forms that testify of Him—nature, Scripture, history, the testimony of the mind, and any other form of testimony breathed into us by the Holy Spirit—then, and only then, will we have no trouble making the transition from Malachi to Matthew, because He remains the same. What is different are the testimony and the witness. Each testimony bears the imprint of the witness, and this is universally applicable.
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” A testimony has qualitative degrees and there are criteria for its validation according to different parameters. The text speaks of the supremacy and heavenly nature of Jesus’s testimony.
Every testimony inevitably bears the imprint of the witness who gives it, and these texts tell us about the testimony of the Son of God as one which is part of a completely different order—a heavenly one. The text accomplishes this by contrasting the figure of Jesus with the prophets, angels, and nature.
He cannot be included in any of these categories of witnesses, because His testimony comes from another world (“I know where I came from and where I am going”) and the food He offers remains unknown to us. All other testimonies and all other witnesses must be measured against, and appreciated through, the lens of His testimony.
He is not one of the prophets, nor is He the greatest prophet, as we sometimes wrongly claim. He is the God of the prophets, He is the One about whom they prophesy: He “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”. The same verse mentions that He is not part of creation, but that He is “sustaining all things by his powerful word”.
He is not a priest among priests, not even the High Priest anointed according to the specific order, because He is not anointed a priest either by an earthly law or by inheritance, but by the “power of an indestructible life”. He is not an “Aaronic” or a Levitical priest, but a priest “in the order of Melchizedek”. He is not priest for a limited time, but a “high priest forever”. He does not pray for the cleansing of sins, as the priests do, but performs the cleansing of sins.
He did not sit behind a stone altar or a wooden pulpit, but “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven”. He is neither an angel nor an archangel, for He is the Creator of all angels—for all that has been done has been done through Him—“So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs”. The same verse mentions: “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father?’ Or again, ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son?’”.
The difference between Him and the angels leaves no room for comparison. There is a rock wall between Christ and the angels that cannot be climbed unless God Himself helps the climber ascend. He is not the greatest among angels, but the God of angels, whom they are called to worship: “And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’”.
The ministry and the beautiful work of the angels cannot be compared to His, but are contrasted with the work of the Son, for He is above them: “In speaking of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire’”, “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom’”.
A little later the same chapter mentions: “He also says, ‘In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end’”.
In view of the relationship between the testimony of the Son and any other testimony, no fair question arises as to the difference between the Old and the New Testament. It is clear that we are facing the same testimony, the testimony about the Father, which came to us in two very different ways, each witness leaving their mark on their own words.
The Old Testament testimony regarding the Father comes from what the holy and inspired people have seen and understood about God. It is their direct testimony, the testimony of inspired people, which does not make them less human: “prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”.
Jesus’s testimony, on the other hand, is of a completely different nature. Not only did He speak of the Father, not only did He do what He saw the Father do, but He embodied the Father, and identified with the Father:
“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us’. Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves’”.
The inspired people and the prophets, along with their testimonies, are not in a relationship of superiority-inferiority with Jesus’s testimony, but in a human-divine relationship, of creation-Creator: “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.
“Jesus has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honour than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. ‘Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house’ bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory”.
In the Gospel of John we can find the text of Jesus’s personal statement regarding the relationship between His testimony and the testimony of John the Baptist: “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me”.
In turn, John the Baptist speaks of the relationship between himself and Jesus: “He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie”. Or, as John further testifies: “To this John replied ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him’’”.
In simple, straightforward words that leave no room for confusion, John the Baptist expresses the contrasting relationship between himself and the church of God, on the one hand, and the same relationship between Jesus and His church on the other: “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete”.
The knowledge of the greatness of God and of the Saviour produced a profound state of humility in John: “He must become greater; I must become less”. The greatest man born of a woman, as Jesus Christ Himself said of John, never loses sight of the fact that Jesus is heavenly and he is earthly: “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all”.
The testimony of the true witness will always lead man to the testimony of Jesus, the Bridegroom of the church, the heavenly One. Such a witness does not and will not show any form of jealousy or evil envy. Jesus’s testimony is the very burden of His mission: “He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful”. The admiration and worship of the true witness before the majesty of Heaven is boundless: “For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit”.
Love and worship give witness to the power which only the Holy Spirit can give, to penetrate into the heart of God. Jesus sees the heart of God in the light of His own heart: “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands”. His call is filled with the highest desire to see the name of God glorified and to see mankind happy and saved: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them”.
For the greatest man born of a woman, for the prophet to whom the highest calling was given and to whom the highest mission was entrusted, the distinction between the earthly and the heavenly, between the Old and the New Testament, was as clear as it is for all who receive the Son’s testimony of the Father.
The Scriptures, through the eyes of the One who is one with the Father
Our pattern of approaching the Scriptures and teaching them comes from Jesus. He does not repeat the Scriptures “like the heathen”, but judges by righteousness. We will consider the case of the controversial “certificate of divorce” in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and Matthew 19:1-12. The theologians of Jesus’s day were divided on this subject—while some condemned the “certificate of divorce”, others accepted and justified it. Jesus puts everything in a completely different perspective, the only true perspective: He does not deny the validity of the “certificate of divorce”, nor does He approve or disapprove of its contents.
This was the concern of the earthly. The Heavenly One sets before us a completely different pattern of thinking. What is the origin of such a divorce certificate? It is true that Moses was taught by God to use such an act, but to whom should it be attributed? People then, and some even today, would equate the “certificate of divorce” with God’s directive.
Not only does Jesus not equate the “certificate of divorce” with God’s word, but He contrasts this certificate that was attributed to Him with the truth about the Family Builder: “‘Haven’t you read’, he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate’ ‘Why then’, they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning’”.
Therefore, God was not the “cause” of this “certificate of divorce” but their hardened hearts were. Other scriptures fall into the same category, such as the election of King Saul or the time when David and his men ate of the bread of the Presence in the Temple. The thing that God agrees to is not always necessarily God’s will, intention, and plan.
Jesus shows us that it is always necessary to research two essential things: 1. What is the cause, the root, the source of what is written, and what are we told to do and not do?; and 2. What is the relationship between man’s doing and God’s desire, will, and plan?
It is vital that we always consider God’s intention, desire, and will. Where God’s intention is different from the human will we have a choice. A doctor asked me whether or not to go and take care of the sick on the Sabbath. I told him that when it comes to caring for the sick on the Sabbath, he could follow the example of either Jesus, who once spent the Sabbath at Bethesda, or the Pharisees, who made the people keep the Sabbath with unclean spirits in them, bringing them to Him after sunset. Jesus contrasts the Builder’s intention with “letters” written by humans and often attributed to God.
What does God’s “letter” look like? The two are one body and what God has joined together, let no one separate. This is the true letter of God. Anything different from this does not come from Him.