Does God’s Character Change from the Old Testament to the New Testament?

Is Jehovah of the Old Testament a polar opposite of Jesus in the New Testament?  The antithesis can be framed by setting forth that God the Father is constantly angry, quick-tempered, and ready to zealously carry out judgment toward sinners in the Old Testament whereas God the Son is consistently loving, patient, and merciful toward sinners in the New Testament.  In order to briefly consider this apparent contrast one must consider Exodus 34:6-7 as a full-orbed look at Jehovah in the Old Testament which describes Him as one “who will by no means clear the guilty” but also depicts Him as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”.  More importantly, Jesus made the Father known (exegesato, literally, “exegeted him”; NASB: “explained him”) according to John 1:18 (cf. John 14:8-9).  Paul Benware aptly summarizes,

What is seen in the character of Christ is exactly the same as the character of God of the Old Testament: One who is holy and righteous and yet is slow to anger and loyal in His love (Paul Benware, Survey of the Old Testament [Chicago: Moody, 1993], 236). 

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4 thoughts on “Does God’s Character Change from the Old Testament to the New Testament?

  1. There is only one thing wrong with Paul Benware’s statement – it’s a load of rubbish. It’s a desperate attempt to join the Old and New Testaments when in fact they were written for different religions (Judaism and Christianity). John’s Gospel shows us how much God loves us as people, He truly comes over as ‘The God of Love’, whereas in the Old Testament however he comes over as a slow-witted, vindictive bully always quick to blame others for his mistakes. Also in the New Testament God is the God of all mankind, and not just of one small segment.

    Hardline bible-bashers won’t agree, but there you go.

  2. Tim,

    You fail to take into account progressive revelation and you have entirely disregarded John 1:18 and the words of Christ Himself in John 14:9.

    Your criticism of the God in the OT echoes the blasphemous words of militant atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens as well as others. It is also dead wrong. Read Exodus 34:6-7 as only one example of a full-orbed view of God. Not the God you describe and apparently despise.

    Hardline God-haters won’t agree, but there you go.

    Tim, the God you so ardently repudiate loves you and will forgive you of your blasphemy because of Jesus’ death on the cross and ressurection if you will only repent of your sins (blasheming Him among them) and place your trust in Christ (Romans 5:8; 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9).

    • I don’t know where progressive revelations means anything. Truth has one standard. You don’t start with God telling His own people to kill each other because they could not follow a command, then later change it up by asking us to love our enemies instead. One standard is clearly true, the other is not.

  3. If only the world was an neat and tidy as you describe it. It’s just not. I’m not sure if you believe in God or in the Bible as divine revelation to man so I will not take the time to reply based on assumptions about your views. I will simply say that the historical developments from one testament to the next need to be considered on their own merits. I don’t think the dilemma you raise is inherently contradictory anymore than my instruction to my sons on the one hand that they should not punch another kid while on the other hand that they should take any measures necessary to defend themselves is inherently conflicting.

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