An Introduction to the Bible
Old Testament Themes
Poetry and Writings
Women in the Old Testament
What is the Bible?
The word Bible comes from the Greek, it is a plural noun, ‘ta biblia’ and means ‘the books’. When the word was taken over into Latin, it became singular, ‘the bible’.
The Bible is more than a book. It is a library, and in it you will find a number of very different works collected together in two large groupings, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word ‘Testament’ in Hebrew means ‘a covenant’.
What is its purpose?
So the Bible is a collection of books which tells of Gods covenant or agreement with Israel through Moses (the Old Covenant) and which God fulfilled through Jesus (the New Covenant).
The Old Testament is regarded as preparing the way for Jesus.
There are many themes which run through the Bible, too many to mention here but here are a few:-
Many of the themes are linked to people, places and actions. Reading the Old Testament stories and books helps us understand God’s love for us.
Methods of Biblical analysis
There are many ways to read the Scriptures.
The Old Testament as a ‘tool box.’
When reading or listening to a Biblical text, ask yourself these questions
What is the structure of the Old Testament?
The Old Testament has 39 books, some short and some long, but can be broken down into 4 broad categories.
The 5 books of the LAW or the Pentateuch
It is not clear when the Pentateuch was written, but these five books contain the essentials laws/ codes, which define Israel’s history. The books contain stories of how the world was created, and how God called specific people to take Israel on a journey. It contains the Ten Commandments, and three key personalities are introduced, Abraham, Jacob and Moses. In the Jewish faith, these five books are called the Torah.
The 12 HISTORICAL Books
These 12 books portrays the rise and fall of the Jewish nation. It describes their journey through to the land of Canaan, and how the region of Canaan was divided into two parts the north (ISRAEL) and south (JUDAH). It tells the story of the establishment of a monarchy and the reigns of great Kings. It tells stories of Prophets, Kings, people and key events in Israel’s history. The key personalities in the Historical books are Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha , Saul and Solomon .
The 5 Books of POETRY or WRITINGS
These books deal with the questions of ‘how wisdom can be found’. Job is probably the oldest booking the Bible and focuses on the questions why does God allow suffering? The Psalms are poems addressing God in times of persecution and suffering, love and praise. These writings also give a moral code and guidance of how to love each other and how God relates to the world, through love and action.
The 16 PROPHETS – 4 Major and 12 Minor
The use of ‘major’ and ‘minor’ does not imply any judgement about the importance of the prophets. It refers simply to the length of the books in question. God is speaking through specific people, to bring about reason, hope and warnings to the people of
The following works are regarded as Deutero -canonical Books. The 39 books are found in the Hebrew Bible, whilst these 7 books are found in the Latin and Greek Bibles. Nowadays, the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible has the Apocrypha included.
Why are there so few women in the Old Testament?
Men were the scribes, and wrote the books of the Bible. They used different names for God - Lord, Yahweh, and Eloheim. The Jewish Law decreed that, women were unclean in many ways, and many were also illiterate. Certain women have voices, (Rachel, Hannah, Ruth, Miriam, Esther, Deborah) however many are unnamed and were seen by men as ‘property’, and were treated as servants.
Rev Ruth Dillon