The Old Testament is the Bible of the Hebrews and their Jewish descendants down to the present. In its general framework, the Old Testament is the account of God’s dealing with the Jews as his chosen people, customs, and ceremonies. The term Old Testament was devised by a Christian, Melito of Sardis, around 170 C.E to distinguish this part of the Bible from the New Testament. The names given to the Old Testament in the writings of the New Testament are; “The Scriptures” (Mathew;21:42), “Scripture” (2Peter;1:20), “The Holy Scriptures” (Roman;s1:2), “the Law” (John;12:34), “The Law of Moses, The Prophets, and The Psalms” (Luke;24:44), “The Law And The Prophets” (Mathew; 5:17), “The Old Covenant” (2Corinthians;3:14). Jewish Bible includes only the books known to Christians as the Old Testament.
Thirty Nine Books:
The Old Testament consists of thirty-nine books, concerned with the Hebrew God, Yahweh, and purports to be a history of the early Israelites. The arrangements of the Jewish and Christian canons differ considerably. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions of the Old Testament are slightly larger. The Protestant and Roman Catholic versions of the Old Testament place the books in the same sequence, but the Protestant version includes only those books found in the Bible of Judaism. The content of the Old Testament varies according to religious tradition, the Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Protestant canons all differing from each other as to which books they include.
According to the Hebrew canon the Old Testament, has 24 books; the first six books narrate how the Israelites became a people and settled in the Promised Land. The following seven books continue their story in the Promised Land, describing the establishment and development of the monarchy and the messages of the prophets. The last 11 books contain poetry, theology, and some additional historical works. Throughout the Old Testament, the Jews’ historical relation to God is conceived in reference to the ultimate redemption of all humanity. The Old Testament’s profoundly monotheistic interpretation of human life and the universe as creations of God provides the basic structure of ideas in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
History of Writing & Compilation:
Except for a few passages in Aramaic, the Old Testament was written originally in Hebrew. The composition of the various books of The Old Testament began in about 1000 B.C. and continued for more than a thousand years. Much oral material was included. This was repeated from father to son, revised over and over again, and then put into written form by various editors in different languages, under different circumstances; writers of almost every social rank, statesmen and peasants, kings, herdsmen, fishermen, priests, tax-gatherers, tentmakers; educated and uneducated, Jews and Gentiles; most of them unknown to each other, and writing at various periods during the space of about 1600 years. There is a break of 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The writers and editors often worked in different locales and in different time periods and were usually unaware of each other. Their work was primarily intended for local use and it is unlikely that any author foresaw that his work would be included in a “Bible.” No original manuscripts exist. There is probably not one book which survives in anything like its original form. There are hundreds of differences between the oldest manuscripts of any one book. These differences indicate that numerous additions and alterations were made to the originals by various copyists and editors. The Old Testament as adopted by Christianity numbers more works because: Firstly the Roman Catholic canon, derived initially from the Greek-language Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible, absorbed a number of books that Jews and Protestants later determined were not canonical; Secondly Christians divided some of the original Hebrew works into two or more parts, specifically, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles (two parts each), Ezra-Nehemiah (two separate books), and the Minor Prophets (12 separate books).
Subdivisions of Hebrew Canon:
The recognized subdivisions of three main divisions of the Hebrew canon are: (1) The Torah; or Pentateuch, contains narratives combined with rules and instructions in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Pentateuch, together with the book of Joshua (hence the name Hexateuch) can be seen as the account of how Israel became a nation and of how it possessed the Promised Land. (2) The Nevi’im, or Prophets, continues the story of Israel in the Promised Land, describing the establishment and development of the monarchy and presenting the messages of the prophets to the people. Prophets is subdivided into the Former Prophets, with anecdotes about major Hebrew persons in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, and stories of the Latter Prophets exhorting Israel to return to God in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets. (3) The Ketuvim, or Writings, include speculation on the place of evil and death in the scheme of things (Job and Ecclesiastes), the devotional and erotic aspects, theology and some additional historical books. The poetical works and drama to be found in Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles. In the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, various types of literature are represented; the purpose of the Apocrypha seems to have been to fill in some of the gaps left by the indisputably canonical books and to carry the history of Israel to the 2nd century B.C. Torah and Talmud have special signifcance in the Jewish faith.
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