OT Summit: The relevance of the Old Testament today

OT Summit
Inner courtyard of the Tower of David in Jerusalem, Israel

On Pentecost Sunday 2022, a group gathered at Jerusalem’s Garden Tomb as the “first-fruits” of the movement to eliminate the Original Testament (OT) Gap. Known as the Jerusalem Declaration, these individuals are its original signatories. The OT Summit on 28 November at Wesley Methodist Church is the first of such events outside of Jerusalem, organised by the 4.2.20 Foundation to discuss the relevance of the Old Testament (which they refer to as the Original Testament), why an OT gap exists, and how it can be eliminated.

According to the OT Gap website, statistics show that of the 7,000+ global languages, only 10% have access to the full Bible. In other words, 90% of the world’s population have an incomplete understanding of God’s word. In Asia, only 54 of the 2,414 languages have the full Bible translated into the local language. It is the goal to see every person engage with the whole word of God in his/her own heart language that drives the work of 4.2.20 Foundation.

In his OT Summit opening address, 4.2.20 Foundation’s CEO, Rev Dr David Swarr, pointed out that one in every four verses in the New Testament refers directly to the Old Testament, and emphasised Jesus’ extensive use of the OT. When we consider the two primary directives God has for believers—that of the great commandment and the great commission—the relevance of the OT and how it is the bedrock for the New Testament becomes starkly evident.

Bishop Dr Gordon Wong of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) expounded on the OT relevance, stating that the OT was the Bible Jesus referred to. Matthew 5:17 reads, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law of the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

Bishop Dr Wong’s background as the Bishop William F. Oldham Professor of Old Testament at Trinity Theological College where he lectured on the Old Testament, Hebrew and Homiletics for 17 years, was brought to the fore as he shared why the promotion of the OT is necessary for historic, hermeneutical and holistic reasons. He interspersed his insights with personal anecdotes on how gaps in translation can affect one’s understanding of God’s word, and explained how the OT portrays God as the creator of all, and OT heroes were not restricted to Jews—think Job of OT fame.

Henry Tan, Vice Chairman of Alpha Singapore, moderated a discussion with panellists Rev Dr Swarr, Rev Stanley Chua, President of the Trinity Annual Conference of MCS and Kwan Poh Sun, Wycliffe Singapore’s Senior Bible Translation Consultant. This session yielded a greater appreciation for the cultural and geographical significance to Bible translation work, and as highlighted by Rev Chua, how Scripture is central to the Methodist theology by way of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

Read more about the Jerusalem Declaration to eliminate the Original Testament gap

Kathrynn Koh is the Communications Executive at MCS Communications Department.