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Old Testament

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11th century manuscript of the Hebrew Bible with Targum.

The Old Testament, also called the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, consists of thirty-nine books. The books themselves were originally written in Hebrew, and later on in the Aramaic language of Palestine. The Bible reports the Creation of the universe including the stars, planets, plants, animals and man by God Genesis 1-2 (KJV). It describes further the major event of the Fall of man with all its still observable consequences like death and suffering. But already in Genesis 3:15-16 (KJV) and throughout the Old Testament a saving act of God, the sending of the Redeemer is prophesied.

The Greek language Old Testament was written after the conquest of Alexander the Great around 130 BC and is known as the Septuagint. This implies an even earlier date of an established Old Testament canon generally accepted to fall within the 5th century to 3rd century BC (400 to 200 BC).[1]

Contents

Textual Reliability

The oldest books of the Bible are certainly the five books of the Torah and Job. In I_Kings 6:1 , Solomon is stated to have begun building the Temple in the 480th year after the children of Israel were come up out of the land of Egypt. It had been established by scholars and historians that Solomon had begun building the Temple in the fourth year of his reign; this is variously thought to have taken place in 961 BC or 1015 BC, making the date of the Exodus under Moses to have been 1446 BC or 1491 BC. During the following forty years Moses wrote the Torah and Job, completing them before his death at Mt. Nebo about 1406 BC or 1451 BC. According to biblical scholar and historian Robert D. Wilson the Torah as it stands dates from the time of Moses, the five books constitute one continuous work, and was written by a single individual, Moses himself.[2]

The remaining books of the Old Testament were written at various times since the death of Moses, with Malachi, the last Old Testament book, being written about 455 BC. During this period each of the books was written and re-written on parchment or papyrus, with the editors taking great care in their work; a single biblical book hand-written today can take weeks to complete. The older scrolls were disposed of by burial or systematic destruction when worn from normal usage; as a result, the oldest surviving examples of biblical manuscripts are those which have been carefully preserved either by direct actions of people (such as monasteries), or by removal from forces of decay. Currently, the oldest surviving manuscripts are those found within the caves of Qumran in 1948 and known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating between 250 BC to AD 70; the complete Isaiah scroll of this collection dates to 150 BC

The Masoretic Text

Main Article: Masoretic text

The Masoretic text was completed in the 10th or 11th century AD. It is universally recognized as the authoritative and official version of the Tanakh and is used for the translation for the Old Testament in many Protestant Bibles.

The Septuagint

Main Article: Septuagint

Around 200 BC the Septuagint, a Greek-language version of the Old Testament, was completed. This was due to the Hellenization of large areas of the Middle East after the conquest of Alexander the Great, making Greek the de facto language for everyday communications and business. The Septuagint marks the first time in history that the Old Testament was translated into a language different from what was used to compose the original autographs.

The Septuagint (Latin: Interpretatio Septuaginta Virorum; Greek: Ἡ Μετάφρασις τῶν Ἑβδομήκοντα, Hē Metáphrasis tōn Hebdomēkonta; "Interpretation According to the Seventy", abbr. LXX or 𝔊) is the first translation of the Old Testament of the Bible into the classical Greek that was spoken shortly after the death of Alexander the Great.

The Septuagint contains some different features when compared to the Masoretic text for three reasons. Firstly, being completed around 130 BC, after several stages of development, would mean it was translated from even older Hebrew copies. Thus (2) motivation by Jewish scribes, and leaders to change the prophetic language about Christ within the Old Testament was not present because Christ was not known specifically. And (3) the New Testament authors quoted from the Septuagint for more than half of their OT quotes used within the NT.[3][4]

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Main article: Dead Sea scrolls
The Hosea Commentary scroll

The Dead Sea Scrolls are perhaps the most important archaeological find of the twentieth century. They confirm the reliability of the Old Testament and its prophecies as untainted by later church leaders. Furthermore, they have allowed modern man a glimpse into the era Jesus was born into, and the society that existed at the beginnings of Christianity.

They were discovered in the upper Dead Sea region of Qumran, 13 miles east of Jerusalem. In 1947, three local Bedouin shepherds happened upon seven jars in a cave while tossing rocks to entertain themselves. In those jars they found the first scrolls. They sold them to an antiquities dealer, who in turn sold three to Eleazar L. Sukenik of the Hebrew University and four to the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem. The Archbishop, Arthanasius Yeshue Samuel, took his scrolls to the American School of Oriental Research, making them known to the Western world. Other scrolls were found upon close examination of the caves in the Qumran region between 1947-1956. The importance of the scrolls soon became apparent, as they were recognized to be the oldest such manuscripts of Jewish texts; the Great Isaiah scroll, which contains the entire book of Isaiah, is at least 1,000 years older than any other known transcript.

Their age was especially significant because they are almost identical to the later transcripts. Once confirmed, through Carbon-14 dating in addition to paleographic and scribal dating, this fact silenced a lot of criticism aimed at discrediting the biblical texts as adapted or adjusted to fit into Christianity's theology. Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, all known copies of biblical texts were written long after the time of Christ. Apart from a few scribal errors, however, the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are identical to later corresponding transcripts.

Characteristics

Objective description of characters

A compelling element of the presentation of central figures within the Old Testament is that there are no heroes. The presentation is of real people struggling with real problems in life. Attempting to faithfully live by the will of God but battling with their flesh to be overcome by the Holy Spirit. For example the following five are prominent examples of the real-person feature of the Old Testament literature.

The five men are;

  • Noah was both "righteous in his generation" and a sloppy drunk;
  • Abraham was both praised by God as "a man of faith" and a coward who lied out of fear;
  • Moses was chosen to lead his people from Egypt, but was also meek, shy, and had a bad temper which ultimately kept him out of the promised land;
  • David was a "Man after God's own heart," an adulterer, and a murderer;
  • Solomon was the wisest man of his day, but married pagan wives and allowed them to set up temples opposed to God.

The objective style in which these men are described is inconsistent with hero-myths. Hero-myths build up characters into such flawless beings that they become flat and unbelievable to the modern mind. The Bible, on the other hand, describes its characters in such rich detail, both good and bad, that the characters strike us as historical and therefore real.

Books of the Old Testament

Melito, a bishop of Sardis in Lydia (in what is now Turkey), is said to have coined the phrase Old Testament about AD 170.[5] The Old Testament is divided in three parts (hence, "Tanakh") within the Jewish community: the Torah ("Law"), or Pentateuch, known as the five books of Moses; Nevi'im ("Prophets"), and Ketuvim ("Writings,” or Hagiographa). Here the arrangement of the books differs somewhat from the Old Testament as used by Christians, however the actual writing of each book remains the same.

Torah

The Five books of Moses, in their Hebrew and English names:

  • Bereshith (בראשית, “in the beginning”)—Genesis
  • Shemot (שמות, “names”)—Exodus
  • Vayikra (ויקרא, “and God called”)—Leviticus
  • Bamidbar (במדבר, “in the Wilderness”)—Numbers
  • Devarim (דברים, “words”)—Deuteronomy

The first eleven chapters of Genesis provide the account of the Creation, the history of God's early relationship with humanity, and the Deluge of Noah. The remaining thirty-nine chapters detail the account of God's covenant with the early Hebrew nation, led by the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (or Israel), and one of Jacob's children, Joseph. It tells the beginnings of God's chosen people, of how God commanded Abraham to leave his family and home to settle in the land of Canaan, and how the Children of Israel later moved to Egypt. The remainder of the Torah, beginning with Exodus, tells the story of the great Hebrew leader Moses, and of the Hebrews through their sojourn and slavery in Egypt, their escape from bondage, and their wanderings in the desert until they finally enter the Promised Land.

Nevi'im

The Nevi'im is the story of the rise toward, and ultimately reaching, the Hebrew monarchy; the sad period of anarchy and revolt leading to the division into the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel; and the prophets who judged the kings of both in God's name. It ends with the conquest of both kingdoms and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Minor Prophets are considered a single book in the Nevi'um; in Christianity they have been split into twelve separate books and named for their authors.

Ketuvim

The Ketuvim, or "Writings," contain lyrical poetry, philosophical reflections on life, and the writings of the prophets and other Jewish leaders during the exile in Babylon.

David is named as the author of many of the Psalms; Solomon is believed to have written Song of Songs in his youth, the Proverbs in his prime, and Ecclesiastes during his old age. The prophet Jeremiah is thought to have written the aptly-named Lamentations at the beginning of the exile in Babylon. The Book of Ruth is the only biblical book that centers entirely on a non-Jew, a Moabite who married a Jew and became an ancestor of both David and Jesus Christ. Esther is unique as it is the only book in the Bible not to mention God. Moses is considered to be the author of Job.

References

  1. Old Testament By Wikipedia
  2. Wilson, Robert D. A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament, Sunday School Times, Inc, Philadelphia, PA, 1926, p. 11.
  3. Craig A. Evans, Ancient Texts For New Testament Studies: A Guide To The Background Literature (Hendrickson Publishing 2005), pg. 2
  4. Historical Apologetics - Part 1 Dr. Phil Fernandes. Posted: Tue, 02 Dec 2008 22:58:15 +0000
  5. Melito's Canon By Wikipedia

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