Old Testament

The Old Testament either refers to the 39 canonical books of the Hebrew Scriptures written prior to the coming of Christ, or to the time period before Christ came, when God's people belonged to the nation of Israel. A better translation for "Old Testament" would probably be "Old Covenant", while some also prefer "First Testament."


Books of the Old Testament


The Pentateuch was written by Moses after the Exodus. Its revelation of God by means of the history and regulations of early Israel forms a foundation for the rest of the Bible.

See main page: Pentateuch - Genesis - Exodus - Leviticus - Numbers - Deuteronomy

Historical books

The Historical Books were written by numerous authors, some unknown. They chronicle the goodness and long-suffering of God to Israel amidst Israel's repeated and worsening failures. The historical books are not written as a scientific textbook of history, although they are absolutely historically accurate; they focus on individual characters of importance to the rise and fall of Israel, especially the true, covenanted God Jehovah (more accurately transliterated Yahweh). Of immense significance to Israel's history is the covenant made with David the king, recorded in 2 Samuel 7 (In Matthew 1:17, Jesus' disciple Matthew implies that David the King is a major milestone in the genealogy of Matthew).

_See main page: Historical Books -_ Joshua - Judges - Ruth - 1 Samuel - 2 Samuel - 1 Kings - 2 Kings - 1 Chronicles - 2 Chronicles - Ezra - Nehemiah - Esther

Poetical books

The poetical books describe wisdom and worship in the days of Israel. There is much poetry in other books of Scripture —indeed, the prophet Haggai stands almost alone among the prophets as not containing any poetry. However, the books of poetry are either composed entirely of poetry or contain immense sections of poetry. Some would include the Book of Lamentations with the books of poetry since this book is entirely composed of poetry.

_See main page: Books of Poetry -_ Job - Psalms - Proverbs - Ecclesiastes - Song of Solomon


The prophets applied the Pentateuch to the daily lives of the people, in particular revealing how blessing or destruction would come to God's people as a reward for their obedience/disobedience.

See main page: [Prophets (canonical division)](index.php?title=Prophets(canonicaldivision)&action=edit&redlink=1)

Major prophets

Minor prophets


  • Creation
  • Fall
  • Flood
  • Tower of Babel
  • Patriarchs
  • Sojourn
  • Exodus
  • Wilderness
  • Conquest
  • Judges
  • United Kingdom
  • Divided Kingdom
  • Exile
  • Return

Historicity of the Old Testament

The study of the historicity of the Old Testament seeks to establish the historical trustworthiness of the Old Testament. This is based on two factors: the reliability of the Old Testament manuscripts, and the reliability of those who were involved with writing and putting the OT together.

_See main article: Historicity of the Old Testament_

Relationship with surrounding ancient cultures

G. K. Beale writes,

"[T]he Old Testament describes the cosmos in various ways and that there are three possible interpretations of these descriptions: (1) they are phenomenological, i.e., what appears to the naked eye; (2) they are mythological, that is, borrowed from ANE [Ancient Near Eastern] mythologies about the cosmos; (3) they are theological in that many of the descriptions portray the universe as part of a big temple in which God dwells." G. K. Beale. The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority [Crossway, 2008], pp. 193-194

Beale rejects the second of the three, and later writes,

"There are, at least, five different ways that the conceptions and literature of the ancient cultures around Israel relate to the Old Testament writers, including the ancient pagan conceptions of temples that do, in fact, exhibit parallels with descriptions of Israel's temple.

"(1) The presence of similarities to ANE myth are sometimes due to polemical intentions or to direct repudiation of pagan religious beliefs and practices.

"(2) Others are due to a reflection of general revelation by both pagan and biblical writers, and only rightly interpreted by the latter; the recognition of a cultural bridge does not rule out the providential activity of God within those cultures.

"3) In addition, still others have attributed purported ANE mythical parallels in the Old Testament to a common reflection of ancient tradition, the sources of which precede both the pagan and biblical writers, and the historicity of which has no independent human verification, like creation in Genesis 1. Ultimately the parallels spring from an earlier, ancient, divinely pristine revelation that became garbled in the pagan context but was reliably witnessed to by the scriptural writer.

"4) Another view is that revelation did not always counter ancient Near Eastern concepts but often used them in productive ways, though still revised in a significant manner by special revelation. Ancient Near Eastern concepts may have contributed to the theology of sacred space in the building of Israel’s tabernacle and temple. Examples include the eastward orientation, the placement of important cultic objects, the designation of areas of increasing holiness, and the rules for access to the Holy Place and Holy of Holies. Accordingly, God often used existing institutions and transformed them to his theological purposes, for example, circumcision and sacrificial offerings, though these examples could also be given for categories 2 and 3 above. "In all four categories, it is common to find similarities at the surface but differences at the conceptual level, and vice versa, especially as divine revelation comes into play in producing different understandings of these surface-level differences." (ibid)

Further reading

  • John Walton and Andrew E. Hill, The Old Testament Today: A Journey from Original Meaning to Contemporary Significance. Zondervan, 2004. ISBN 0310238269
  • Tremper Longman and Raymond D. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd edition. Zondervan, 2006. ISBN 0310263417
  • Andrew Hill and John Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 3rd edition. Zondervan, 2009. ISBN 9780310280958
  • Martens, E. A. God's Design, 2nd edition. Baker, 1994. ISBN 0801063167
  • David W. Baker and Bill T. Arnold, The Face of Old Testament Studies: A Survey of Contemporary Approaches. Baker Academic, 2004. ISBN 080102871X

See also