An Introduction to the Old Testament
Old Testament Survey, Lesson 1 of 18
We are beginning a journey which will take us through the Old Testament. This will be
an exciting journey. We will become acquainted with some of the greatest men and women who
have ever lived. We will also learn about some of the most important events in the history
of the world. We will study about the creation of the universe and all things in it. We
will learn about the beginning of sin, and see the gradual unfolding of Gods plan to
save man from his sins.
Our journey will begin with the creation of the world. We will travel to the Garden of Eden and then on to the Great Flood which covered the whole earth. We will watch as God chooses a man from whom He will make a nation. This nation will be the means by which God sends His Son into the world. We will see this nation become slaves in Egypt. We will watch as God delivers them and leads them to His Promised Land. We will see Gods people when they are ruled by judges and later by kings. We will observe the chosen peoples division into two nations. We will learn about the good kings of the two kingdoms as well as the bad ones. We will also become acquainted with great men God sent to His people who are known as prophets. We will study their prophecies which told of the coming of Christ and His kingdom.
However, before we start on our journey, we need to learn about the make-up of this book called The Old Testament.
The Old Testament is the First Part of the Bible
The Bible is one book which is made up of sixty- six separate books. The Old Testament has thirty-nine books in it. The New Testament has twenty-seven. The Bible can be summarized by three statements concerning Jesus Christ, its chief character: (1) Someone is coming is the message of the Old Testament; (2) Someone has come is the message of the first four books of the New Testament; (3) Someone is coming again is the message of the rest of the New Testament.
The Old Testament can also be divided into five sections according to the content of the books. The first section is known as The Law. These are the five books from Genesis to Deuteronomy. They are also called The Pentateuch, which means five volumes. The Books of Law were written by Moses.
The next section of the Old Testament is called The Books of History. These twelve books begin with Israels conquest of the Promised Land. They tell about the judges, kings, priests, and prophets of Gods people. The Books of History are Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, First and Second Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther.
The next section of the Old Testament is known as Poetry. Sometimes it is also called Wisdom Literature because of the many wise sayings found in it. This section begins with the book of Job and includes Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. There are five books of Poetry and Wisdom Literature.
The last part of the Old Testament contains the inspired writings of prophets of God. There are seventeen books of prophecy. These are usually divided into two sections: (1) Five books known as Major Prophets; and (2) Twelve books known as Minor Prophets. The books of the Major Prophets are not more important than those of the Minor Prophets. They are simply greater in length.
The Old Testament is Inspired by God
The word inspired means God breathed. This shows that the Bible came from God not from men. The Holy Spirit revealed Gods word to men whom He had selected. These men wrote the books of the Old and New Testaments. God used thirty-two different men to write the books of the Old Testament. From Moses, who wrote the first book, to Malachi, who wrote the last book, was 1,000 years. Yet, all the books fit perfectly together. This shows there was one Source from which the message of all of them came.
The New Testament claims the Old Testament was given by inspiration (Please read 2 Timothy 3:16,17). The Apostle Peter wrote: knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20,21).
The Old Testament also claims it was given by inspiration of God. David, who wrote many of the Psalms, said: The Spirit of Jehovah spake by me, And his word was upon my tongue (2 Samuel 23:2). Jeremiah claimed that God gave him his message: Then Jehovah put forth his hand, and touched my mouth; and Jehovah said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth (Jeremiah 1:9).
Why Should We Study the Old Testament Today?
The Old Testament was Gods law for Israel. The New Testament is Gods law for all men today. In the Old Testament, God foretold the time when He would make a new covenant or testament ( Please read Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:6-13). The New Testament became Gods law following the death of Jesus Christ for our sins and the beginning of the church of Christ on Pentecost Day (Acts 2). Since we live under the New Testament today, some have wondered why we should study the Old Testament.
First, we should study the Old Testament because the New Testament is built upon its foundation. A man named Augustine said: The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. The promises and prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Testament. Neither one would be complete without the other.
Second, we should study the Old Testament because we can learn much about how God deals with men. We serve the same God the people of Israel served. His law has changed, but He is still the same (Malachi 3:6). We learn from the Old Testament that Gods spiritual blessings are only given to those who obey Him. We see that the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished. We learn that God is both just and merciful (Romans 11:22).
Third, we can be encouraged by the lives of the great men and women of faith. Paul said of the Old Testament: For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4). We will never understand fully the New Testament unless we understand the Old Testament.
Other Facts About the Old Testament
There are some other things about the Old Testament which are very helpful to know. First, the Old Testament was first written in the Hebrew language. Small portions were also written in Aramaic, a language which is similar to Hebrew.
Second, the Old Testament covers several thousand years of history. It begins with the creation of the world and ends with the prophet Malachi who lived about 400 years before Jesus.
Third, Gods revelation to man can be divided into three time periods: (1) The Patriarchal Age which lasted from creation to the giving of the Law of Moses to Israel at Mt. Sinai; (2) The Mosaic Age which lasted from the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross; (3) The Christian Age which began with the cross of Christ and will continue until the Lord comes again. The Old Testament covers the first two ages. The New Testament covers the last age.
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