In order to use some of the links on this page it is necessary to enable Javascript.

skip to main content, skip to site links, or skip to search

Links to Bible Verses or third party sites will open in a new window.

Jude Ministries Logo Header

Site Search

 

Related Studies

2 Timothy

Cults and World Religions

NeoTheism

The Bible

Contending For The Faith

Discipleship

Prophecy

 

Opens in a new window

 

 

 

Old Testament Survey

History in the Making



In the beginning God . . .

These are the first words of the Bible. These four simple words contain four important facts.

First and foremost, notice the existence of God is assumed. There is no effort made to prove the existence of God. No effort is made to convince us that God really has being. God is simply there!

Second, God not only exists, but He exists before all else. He is there “at the beginning.”

Third, if one were to investigate the original Hebrew words (the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew), one would find that the word for God, Elohim, is a plural word. This immediately hints at what Scripture will reveal, that God is Three Persons in One, a Holy Trinity.

Fourth, God has revealed all of these facts to us. God wants us to understand WHO HE IS and WHAT HE EXPECTS OF US. God has provided this revelation to us in the form of the written Bible, the Holy Scripture, the Word of God. As we commence this survey study of the Old Testament, we must remember that the purpose of this revelation is to teach us about the Person of God. We will learn Who He is, what His expectations are, how He deals with us, and how He expects us to deal with Him.

This last point might be translated into two statements which govern one’s entire perspective on Scripture. God wants us to learn:

HOW TO FIND HIM

HOW TO LIVE ONCE WE HAVE FOUND HIM

This is what the Bible is all about!

Structure of the Bible

It is important to have a basic understanding of the structure of the Bible before embarking upon a review of each individual book. By keeping this structure at the back of our minds, we are better able to fit a given piece of Scripture into the overall framework of the Bible. For, as one who may have some familiarity with Scripture will tell you, there is but one story in the Bible. It is the on-going story of man and God. It is a story which has many sub-plots, but only one true plot. That story is God’s efforts to bring sinful man back to Him. This is the story in which we live our individual lives.

The Bible is really a single book composed of sixty-six individual books. Thirty-nine of these books are in the Old Testament, with the remainder in the New Testament. In turn, one may divide the Old Testament (and the New) into divisions. In general, four such divisions may be used – the law, the history, the wisdom and poetry, and the prophets. This division is the one of Christianity. The Hebrew Bible had a different structure at time of Jesus. A chart of the basic information of both the Old and New Testaments will look like this:

The Classifications of the Books of Scripture
HEBREW CLASSIFICATION ENGLISH CLASSIFICATION
THE LAW

THE LAW

  • Genesis
  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Deuteronomy
  • THE FORMER PROPHETS HISTORY
  • Joshua
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Judges
  • 1 Samuel
  • Ruth
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Samuel
  • 2 Kings
  • 1 Kings
  • THE LATTER PROPHETS
  • 2 Kings
  • Isaiah
  • 1 Chronicles
  • Jeremiah
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezekiel
  • Ezra
  • Hosea
  • Nehemiah
  • Joel
  • Esther
  • Amos
  • WISDOM/POETRY
  • Obadiah
  • Job
  • Jonah
  • Psalms
  • Micah
  • Proverbs
  • Nahum
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Habakkuk
  • Song of Solomon
  • Zephaniah
  • MAJOR PROPHETS
  • Haggai
  • Isaiah
  • Zechariah
  • Jeremiah
  • Malachi
  • Lamentations
  • THE WRITINGS
  • Ezekiel
  • Psalms
  • Daniel
  • Job
  • MINOR PROPHETS
  • Proverbs
  • Hosea
  • Ruth
  • Joel
  • Song of Solomon
  • Amos
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Obadiah
  • Lamentations
  • Jonah
  • Esther
  • Micah
  • Daniel
  • Nahum
  • Ezra
  • Habakkuk
  • Nehemiah
  • Zephaniah
  • 1 Chronicles
  • Haggai
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Zechariah
  •  
  • Malachi
  • A careful review will show the exact same books in both Hebrew and English, although the order was different. It appears the original order involved other differences. The Samuels, Kings, and Chronicles were single books. In fact when they were first split, the Samuel/Kings combination were referred to as the “Kingdoms.” Ruth appears to have been a part of Judges or Samuel. Ezra and Nehemiah were a single book. And, Lamentations was a part of Jeremiah.

    Revelation and Dispensations

    God has revealed His plans and desires for man in a progressive fashion. Rather than telling us everything in a single dose, He has delivered His instruction over 1600 hundred years, in “bite sized” pieces that we might understand. Along the way, our gracious God has provided examples to us that we might understand the point of the teaching. There is a clear pattern to this revelation. In theological circles this pattern is referred to as dispensations.

    The term itself comes from the Greek word used in Ephesians 1:10.

    That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

    The Hebrew word for doctrine means “things received.” A doctrine then is nothing more than a statement of the revealed body of teaching from God used as a standard of orthodoxy. It may mean either the act or the content of the teaching. While the roots of most biblical doctrines arise in the Old Testament, they do not find their final form until the New Testament.

    As with many other concepts, not everyone agrees with the idea of dispensations. God’s Word is not a textbook where each doctrine or concept is systematically described. Rather, God deals out His wisdom in small bits and we must assemble these pieces of information and create an understandable and teachable doctrine. So, some do not agree with the idea of dispensations. Some base their theology on covenants alone. This difference explains, at least in part, why there are so many denominations within Christianity.

    A dispensation is a period of time whereby man is tested in respect of his obedience to a revealed set of principles.

    Each dispensation commences with God revealing to man certain “rules” of life. Man may live by these principles for a short time, but ultimately violates the rules. God delivers judgment upon man, ending the dispensation. God then reveals a new or modified set of principles beginning the next dispensation. Therefore, the

    While many will disagree on the number of dispensations, in general, this pattern may be identified in the following cycles:

    The Dispensations for Interpreting Scripture
    DISPENSATION COMMENCEMENT OF DISPENSATION JUDGMENT
    Innocence Genesis 1:28 Expelled from the Garden of Eden
    Moral Responsibility Genesis 3:7 The flood
    Human Government Genesis 8:15 Confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel
    Promise Genesis 12:1 As a test of stewardship, this dispensation was annulled at Mt Sinai with the giving of the law.
    Law Exodus 19:1 The rejection of Christ and the setting aside of the Nation of Israel
    Church (“Age of Grace”) Acts 2:1 The Great Tribulation
    Kingdom (“Millennium”) Rev 20:4 The release of Satan and the final battle and Great White Throne Judgment
    Eternity Rev 21:1 NONE – LIFE WITH GOD THE FATHER AND CHRIST!!!

    Covenant

    A “covenant” is nothing more than a contract or agreement between two parties. The Hebrew word translated as covenant means “to cut” or “to cut out.” This gives the sense of forming an agreement. The Greek word is frequently rendered “testament” rather than covenant. While the covenant may be a pact between men (Gen 21:32) in theology it normally refers to an agreement between God and man.

    In Scripture, the word is used with regard to God’s revelation of Himself in the way of promise or of favor toward men. The first true use of the concept comes with God’s promise to Noah after the Flood (Gen. 9). The major covenant between God and Israel is the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:1-3; 17). As we will see, this covenant establishes the faith relationship between God and this chosen people. It is expanded upon by what is called the Palestinian covenant, the Davidic covenant, and the New covenant.

    The marriage compact is called “the covenant of God” (Prov. 2:17).

    God also provides the covenant of the priesthood (Num. 25:12, 13; Deut. 33:9; Neh. 13:29), and of the covenant of Sinai, generally called the Mosaic covenant (Ex. 34:27, 28; Lev. 26:15). The covenants are frequently renewed at different times in the history of Israel (Deut. 29; Josh. 24; 2 Chr. 15; 23; 29; 34; Ezra 10; Neh. 9). The Sabbath, the rite of circumcision, and other similar events are also referred to as covenants. Some also see an implied covenant between God and Adam, God and Jesus, and God and nature.

    Canon of the Old Testament

    The modern church is being attacked on many sides, but the one noticeable difference is the actual attack on the Bible. The last two hundred or so years has seen a steady increase in “liberalism” which denies the accuracy of Scripture. While the nation of Israel frequently turned its back on God, disobeying His Word, no where in the Bible is it recorded that the Jewish nation denied that the Scriptures were the Word of God.

    The Hebrews Scriptures were most likely collected in stages. As we will learn, not all of the authors are known and there is uncertainty as to the date of writing for many of the books. What is clear is that in around 250 B.C. the Hebrew Scriptures were translated from Hebrew into Greek in Alexandria, Egypt. This translation is called the Septuagint.

    By the time of Jesus, the Old Testament canon looked much like it is today. Jesus refers to the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44). The section of the Hebrew Scriptures known as The Writings begins with the Psalms so Jesus could have been easily alluding to the entire section.

    “Canon” properly means “reed” or “measuring stick.” It has come to mean a “rule of faith.” Over time, this “rule of faith” became the “measuring rod” for the list of inspired books in the Bible.

    In A.D. 90, Jewish Rabbis met at Jamnia to “discuss” the make-up of the Old Testament. This event was most likely in response to the increase in popularity of Christianity. While some scholars view this as the approval meeting of the Hebrew Canon, it is clear that the Scriptures had been “locked” by use, tradition, and the Holy Spirit well before this council. In fact, this council actually questioned whether or not five of the books should remain in the Canon.

    Esther because the name of God is not mentioned in the book.

    Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) because it seemed erotic in nature.

    Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5 because they seemed contradictory.

    Ezekiel chapters 40-48 because they appeared to conflict with the Law.

    Ecclesiastes because it is pessimistic in its outlook.

    The Jewish nation showed a great reverence and respect for their Scriptures. As a copy would wear out, rather than keeping it, the Jews would make a new copy and destroy the old, tattered copy.

    Ezra is credited by Jewish tradition with having formed the “Great Synagogue,” a body of Jewish scholars in the 4th century B.C. This group collected and compiled what truly became the Jewish Bible.

    As such, very few ancient manuscripts remain. The oldest complete Old Testament manuscripts dated to about A.D. 1000. This is a copy of the Masorete manuscript. The Masoretes were a group of Rabbis formed around A.D. 400. Their task in life was to collect, collate, “correct,” and copy the Hebrew Scriptures in an effort to create a single accurate manuscript. Today, we would call their efforts a “critical manuscript.” These efforts toward accuracy included a complex system of marking and numbering which were recorded in the margins. By checking the copy against the marking system, one could determine if the copy were accurate. It took over 600 years for this group to “complete” its work.

    In 1947, a Bedoun sheepherder discovered a huge cache of manuscripts in the caves near Qumran at the Dead Sea. The scrolls have become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The manuscripts contained in these caves dated from around 250 B.C. to A.D. 68. There are fragments in these manuscripts of every book of the Old Testament except Esther. The prize is a complete manuscript of Isaiah which dates to near the time of Jesus. The importance of this discovery is that the Dead Sea Isaiah agrees in almost all detail with the Masoretes’ manuscript of A.D. 1000.

    “Septuagint” is Greek for “70.” The tradition is that 72 scholars translated the Scriptures in 72 days and this became the basis of the title.

    As was mentioned, the earliest translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was the Septuagint around 250 B.C.. During the period between the Septuagint and Christ, many of the Jews spoke Aramaic. During this period through around A.D. 200 several Aramaic paraphrases of the Old Testament were made. These are known as the Targums.

    Also, in about A.D. 404, Jerome translated the Bible into Latin. This version is called the Vulgate and until only recently was the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Early English translations existed before the King James Version. John Wycliffe translated the Scriptures into English (1380-1384), but his translation came from the Vulgate. Later, William Tyndale (1525) translated the Scriptures into English from the original languages. Many of Tyndale’s translations appear in the King James, which was translated in 1611.

    Older Hebrew Texts

    A listing of older Hebrew texts
    Text Significance Date Oldest Copy
    Masoretic Most reliable A.D. 100 A.D. 1000
    Samaritan Pentateuch Samaritan slant 200-100 B.C. A.D. 1100
    Dead Sea Scrolls Includes parts of every book but Esther. Confirms reliability of other manuscripts 200-100 B.C. 200-100 B.C.
    Septuagint (LXX) Important witness to early text 300-200 B.C. A.D. 300-500
    Targums Translation / paraphrase / commentary. Not as reliable A.D. 500-1000, but parts to 2nd-3rd century B.C. A.D. 150

     

    Top

     

    Bible Copyright Information

    This page printed from http://www.judeministries.org//details.phptableID=625&studyID=16.

    Copyright © 2001-2019 James G. Arthur and Jude Ministries
    Jude Ministries Website Privacy Statement
    Comments or Questions? Email Us
    December 9, 2019

    Powered by PHP

    Powered by MySQL

    Interested in web standards and compliance? You can validate this page at the links below,
    but see comments in the Blog (Topic - Web Site) about why some (most) pages will not validate.
    XHTML  508 UsableNet Approved (v. 1.2.1.1)    CSS