The New Testament writings teem with paraphrases and citations from Old Testament scriptures. Christians were not only to rely permanently on the canon of Jewish scriptures; they also were to learn methods of interpretation from scholars like Philo, and exegetical techniques from the traditions embodied in the Rabbinic schools. The first great Christian exegete, Origen, does not hide his borrowings, while Jerome follows Jewish predecessors in his work as translator. Both are said to have consulted learned Jewish rabbis in the course of their literary activity.
Old Testament scriptures continued to be part of Christian worship and patristic writers wrote as many commentaries on the Old Testament as they did on the distinctively Christian scripture, the New Testament.
Christians studied the history of ancient Israel, told and retold the stories of its holy men and women, set the lives of patriarchs and prophets before the eyes of fellow Christians as models to emulate, and sought within the Jewish scriptures signs pointing to Jesus as the Christ. Christian clergy and monks learned the Psalms by heart, and in Christian worship the Psalms became the Christian prayer book par excellence. Where Christians established churches, they carried with them the books of ancient Israel.
It could perhaps be argued that the two Christian schools of interpretation that were to be attached to the names of Alexandria and Antioch (see chapter 8) witness to an enduring influence of the Jewish methods of reading the Bible. Philo, living in a Gentile context, had exploited the allegorical interpretation in order to make the Jewish Bible understandable or acceptable. The Alexandrian school developed that form of exegesis along with its “high” Christology. In Palestine the sages were rather inclined to the sounding of the literal meaning; not only did Jewish-Christianity with its concern for the maintenance of the law take over that stance, it was also promulgated by the Antiochene school of interpretation with its emphasis on the literal sense, its dependence on Jewish haggadic literature, and its “low” Christology.In any event, by adding to the Hebrew corpus the twenty-sevenwritings of the New Testament as completing the scriptures considered inspired and authoritative, and by propounding an emphatic christological interpretation of the Old Testament, the church introduced an essential tension between the two canons that was to create both insight and resentment. Jews naturally take exception to having their scriptures (Tanakh) referred to as the “old” testament in opposition to the second part of the Christian Bible, the “new” testament. In using the name Old Testament then, it should be stressed that, though different in the order (and sometimes in the number) of the books, the Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible substantially overlap; but it cannot be ignored that that very overlapping is a cause of uneasiness on the Jewish side, the Christian use carrying with it the assumption of a superseding of their tradition.