Introduction to Old Testament Studies Part 1

Introduction to Old Testament Studies  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:18:08
1 rating
“The Painter who Draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies all the things placed in front of it without being conscious of their existence”.
Leonardo Da Vinci
So is it with someone who doesn’t know why and what they believe.

What is the Old Testament?

How did you come across the Old Testament? What does the OT mean to you?
The Old Testament is, first and foremost, the Hebrew Bible. This is the scriptures that Jesus would have studied, read, and known.
It is a product of over 1000 yrs of Life. 1200 B.C. or B.C.E – 200 B.C.E.
Written in Hebrew and some in Aramaic. The language Jesus would have Spoke
In which God has shown himself to us through action and through deed. These Stories were passed along orally and then written down by men and women of faith throughout time.
It is sacred for two religions. Christianity and Judaism. It is esteemed by the Islam.
There are two different names for the Old Testament other than OT.
Hebrew Bible
The First Covenant
This is the covenant that was in place before Jesus Christ.

What Value does this have on our lives today? Why Study the Old Testament?

If we are going to be people of the Bible, then we must study the Old Testament. It compromises the majority of the Bible; 39 Books.
The Old Testament influenced the writings of the New Testament. Some 300 times the Old Testament is quoted in the New Testament.
The Old Testament shows us how God has actively pursued us with his love; Redemption.
The Old Testament provides
MIRRORS of identity Not MODELS for morality

The Hebrew Canon

When we refer to canon we are not referring to the loud gun that you see on a battle field or ship, but to a rule or a measuring rod. In this particular case it is the literature that is held sacred by a group, the Hebrews. This is discussing what books made it into the Canon and which ones were left out.
Which books were left out and which were left in. Which books met the standard of being divinely inspired. We see this being discussed as early as 400 BC.
2 Maccabees 2:13–15 RSV
The same things are reported in the records and in the memoirs of Nehemiah, and also that he founded a library and collected the books about the kings and prophets, and the writings of David, and letters of kings about votive offerings. In the same way Judas also collected all the books that had been lost on account of the war which had come upon us, and they are in our possession. So if you have need of them, send people to get them for you.
This is usually determined by common use and the test of time. But many councils and discussions and prayer goes into this process.
We as Bible readers often develop our own canons by avoiding Certain books of the Bible
Think about your own reading habits what does you canon look like?
Optional Homework: Write out what your cannon looks like. In the Bible, film, music etc.

The Hebrew Bible Vs the Protestant Bible

Hebrew bible is Divided up in to 3 Parts


Torah (Law / Instruction) - 5 Books
Nevi’im (Prophets) - 8 Books
Kethu’bim (Writings) - 11 books
There are 24 books all together.

Protestant Bible

The Protestant Bible is divided up into 4 Parts
Pentateuch - 5 Books
History - 12 Books
Poetry and Wisdom - 5 Books
Prophets - 17 Books
There are 39 Books in all. The difference comes from things like Kings is just Kings not 1 and 2 Kings
Luke 24:44–47 LEB
44 And he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything that is written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Law of Moses, Prophets and the Psalms. Jesus would have thought about the Hebrew Scriptures in this way. Based on the literary Scroll Design.
Luke 11:51 LEB
51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation!
Abel was murdered by Cain in Genesis 4, and Zechariah son of Jehoiadah was murdered by Joab in 2 Chronicles 24, which corresponds to the TaNaK order.

Dead Sea Scrolls

As we talk about what is in the canon we must stop and mention the most important Archeological Find dealing with The Old Testament. That is the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Helps to answer why some books are in the Canon and why are not.
1947 a Shepherd boy came across a cave with scrolls sealed in clay pots. In it were the books of the Old Testament
Qumran an Essene community
Optional Homework:

Council of Jamnia – A.D. 90

Meet to set up a cannon for an official Hebrew Old Testament. They did this because of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, destroyed by Romans. In other words they no longer had a religious center. They also did this because of the Rise of Christianity. A sect of Judaism is on the rise and writing a new work, the New Testament. But it wasn’t just this it was also because other Jewish writings were coming out. What books are the word of God. They needed to unify.

Septuagint – LXX (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible)

The Septuagint is another important book we must talk about before we end the idea of Old testament Canon. 70 priest are reported to get together in 70 days and translate the Hebrew to Greek. The language of the people at the time. This takes place in 250 B.C.
Before the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) were found this was the most important book for textual research on the Old Testament.
Our best Hebrew Bible dates to AD 1000 and It contains 15 extra books added on to the Kethu’bim. Which is called the Apocrypha “Hidden”. It does seem that the people who wrote the New Testament new about these other Writings. The Book of Jude refers to the book of Enoch. These books though not part of our Bible did play a role in the understand in the minds of the Biblical authors. Thes books can be found in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles. The 1611 KJV had the Apocrypha in it. But it was later removed for various reasons.
Optional Homework Watch: - Old Testament Apocrypha
Optional Homework Watch: - The Canon through history - 3 videos

The Old Testament Story

Development of Story

Event - Something happens
Story develops - Interpretation of what happens
Telling it to others
Re-interpretation of the Story - Looking back on it after time has passed. Things are always clearer with 20/20 vision.
Origins of the Bible
If we want to reconstruct the way a that group of texts like the Hebrew Bible would come into existence, and we're using the Bible as our guide, we're using other ancient Near Eastern input about scribes and texts, we would get a story that something like this.
 A very rough outline. Created by Tim Mackie.
We begin with stuff happens.  Abraham, the life of Abraham, the exodus happens, the wilderness wanderings, Mount Sinai
 And people who underwent those and experienced those events remembered.
How do people remember in the ancient world in preliterate or mostly nonliterate societies?
In ancient Israel and in the ancient Near East, sociologists and historians who do... It's actually really boring work. But they survey all the existing texts, all the archaeological data. We are talking like... It's under 5% of most of these societies of people who learned how to write and learned how to read. And just because you've learned how to read doesn't mean you know how to write because writing requires access to the materials of writing. But, of course, people were remembering their stories for a long time before that. And so, we have to imagine ourselves into cultures that do their history through oral composition. They retell and remember through means of oral history. 
Don't think of the game of telephone you played as a kid, where it's like you whisper in someone's ear, and then you whisper, and you whisper. This is much more like when mom and dad retell the story of how they met and got married, and how the family started. They have told and retold the story for decades. The moment that dad makes something up and reintroduces it, you're like, "Dad, that didn't happen that way. You've heard this before, and I've heard Aunt Zelda tell me about how you told the story before I was born."
 It's a community oral history. They've never written it down, but they were there. 
This is the origin story. Different cultures have fixed mechanisms and practices for how they preserve the traditions. Long before anything is getting written...
Who's the first writer of the Bible mentioned in the Bible? Moses.
Does Moses appear on page one of the Bible? No, of course, not.So oral history is where most of this is beginning life.
However, at some point, those oral traditions take a written form—what you could call early written traditions.
Here we get into the realm of where the biblical authors actually start naming their sources. The sources from which they got their earlier materials. 
Joshua 10:13 LEB
13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on its enemies. Is it not written in the scroll of Jashar? The sun stood still in the middle of the heaven and was not in haste to set for about a full day.
There are a few of these that are actually mentioned. Here's one in the book of Joshua. The Book of Joshua chapter 10, there's a famous battle, and something crazy happened with the weather and the sky that day. There's a little quotation of a poem about how as they were fighting the battle, the sun stood still to give them enough time to win the battle because if it had gone dark, they would have had to stop and they probably wouldn't have won. There's a little quotation of a poem about what happened on the day of the battle.And then look in the middle of verse 13."Dear reader, if you want to know where I got this little excerpt of a poem, it's from the book of poetry called the Scroll of Yashar." The scroll of Yashar. Yashar is most likely ancient Hebrew form of the word "to sing."
Here's another part of the puzzle, is that the most ancient forms of writing that come from the ancient Near East are either receipts and deeds of sale for land or marriages or poetic narratives that retell foundational events in the life of the people. But they are songs. They are songs and they're in poetic form. When we get these little quotes here from early Israelite poetry, that's telling us something. That's telling us that the oldest form of Israelite narrative traditions were in poetic form. And these epic ancient poetic narratives have been found in Babylonian literature in Canaanite literature, and we get quotes of it here. 
 In Numbers, we hear about the Scroll of the Wars of Yahweh. That's intense. 
When you're reading the book of Kings, and you're reading the history of the monarchy in Israel, the authors tell you at the depth of every king, "Listen, I didn't include everything. Go look in the scrolls of the archives of the kings of Israel and Judah and you can get the full story." 
Your oral traditions get written down, those get brought into collections, collections get brought into collections.
Proto-editions of biblical books get created Listed are some examples
Eventually the Tanak Editions of the Book
This can be kind of scary. because if it wasn’t written by one person or by golden tablets from the sky then it makes us afraid that somehow it is losing the authority. When it is zapped from the sky its like “OK, this is from God”, but when so many people are involved...
I think we're so used to in our culture, look at the news today, how quickly a story spins out of control. And so for us to imagine that people cared enough to preserve it as best possible and when adding things in be careful about what they're adding in or taking out, making sure that it stays true to the story, I think it's really hard for us to imagine anyone not pushing their agenda to try and twist it to what they want it to say. 
And as story develops and we interpret events we get what we call History. There is no such thing as pure History. We all have our biases. We all have the lens that we see the world through, our background, our culture, ethnicity, our socio-economic status, our education. The Old Testament is an interpreted History. It is interpreted in the light of God’s Salvation. Heilsgechicte - German “A Healing Story” or Salvation History.
When we look back on this History we look back with the light of Jesus Christ. The Primary Bias of The Old Testament is that it is Inspired by God. It is a Holy and Theological work not what we would call a “pure” history. But we have already established that there is no such thing as a pure history.
2 Timothy 3:15–16 CSB
and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,
All Scripture is inspired by God for
What is right (Teach)
What is Wrong (reproof)
How to Get Right (Correction)
How to Stay Right (Training in Righteousness)

Inspiration – “God Breathed”

How were the Scriptures written?
This is a question that has been asked by many a scholar and layperson alike. There are three primary theories of God breathed Scriptures
Verbal dictation theory. God dictated word for word. Initiative is totally on God
Natural theory - People at a state of heightened awareness wrote the scriptures. Human initiative
Dynamic theory - Takes the best of both. The author through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote down the words of God but allowed for the author to write it down in his words. Meaning that it will have the air of the author. This is the one that I am going with. Image of God working in partnership with Spirit to inspire the scripture
Optional Homework: Watch video
As we look a the Scripture as a whole we or canon of the Hebrew Biblle we often look at it as a collection of potted plants. Each book is a self-contained entity that was formed in basic isolation from the others, and there was a long process of pots/books being moved in or out of garden, until one day the gardener decides to put up a fence and lock the gate so that no more movement can take place.
A view of the Canon informed by both historical and textual date found within the Hebrew Bible is more similar to a grove of aspen trees. There is an oldest root complex underground that branches out and grows new treas that are distinct above ground. But underground they are interconnected and share the same genetic code, so that they grow symbiotically and mutually until they all reach maturity together.
I find this very helpful.


As we look at the Old Testament Story we are going to be making Observation, interpretation and application. How to read the Hebrew Bible
We are going to be doing some hermeneutics. Taking the Scriptures and where we are and bringing them together. We are going to looking at criticism of the Bible, though being introduction not deeply.
Author, human and spirit, where is “meaning” located? At first in the mind of an author. But in the case of ancient authors, we no longer have access to their mind, apart from the text. The text is the literary embodiment of an author’s purposed communication.
It is designed to be read and reread.
“Encyclopedia of production” and “encyclopedia of reception” [cf. Stefan Alkier, Reading the Bible Intertextually, 3-21]
• Our “encyclopedia” is the mental storehouse of words, ideas, images, and stories that we are gathering and storing in our memories from our first waking moments. Every text we read will be interpreted and understood in light of our current operating “encyclopedia.” Authors have their encyclopedias from which they produce texts, and readers have encyclopedias by means of which they process and understand texts.
• The model reader who wants to understand an author on their own terms will adapt their encyclopedia of reception by learning about the author’s encyclopedia of production.
This is one of the most difficult things, can I set my agenda aside or what can I do with them but how can I hear the words for what they are. Which means loving your ancient neighbor enough to learn about their “encyclopedia”.
One of the great challenges in reading the Bible is that it takes work to…
1. …become aware of our own modern encyclopedias of reception that we (unknowingly) impose upon the biblical author:
• Like when we impose modern cosmology onto the ancient cosmology of Genesis 1;
• Or when we attribute much later doctrinal ideas/debates to the biblical authors: debates about Calvinism vs. Arminianism, divine sovereignty and human free will, etc. Not that these are not important but if we want to learn what the bible really says we must first learn the encyclopedia of the biblical authors
2. …discover the encyclopedia of production assumed by the author as they communicate.
• Historical and cultural: Learning something about Hebrew, ancient near eastern worldviews, ancient Israelite history and culture.
• Textual: The biblical authors assume a high degree of familiarity with the TaNaK, because it was first produced and read within a small community that was immersed in its textual world. It is a highly “hyperlinked” set of texts, whose puzzles and ambiguities become more clear after repeated re-reading over a lifetime.


Criticism, “to look at closely”. There are two main types of Criticism
Lower Criticism - Attempt to establish the best text possible
Higher Criticism - Seeks to ask question and understanding of the text
Inside of those two types of Criticism there are different forms.

Lower Criticism

Lower Criticism is mostly textual criticism which looks at variations among the text. Only 5% of all the variations among the text actually has and great theological significance. As I say that we need to pause there and ask
Why was their variation of Scripture?
Gutenberg Bible was the first Bible ever to be printed in AD 1400. Before that everything had to be copied by hand. Scribes had two methods one is where the Head Scribe would read and the others would write it down and the other One scribe would sit and copy from another copy. As you do this some problems can accrue.
Dittography - To copy. Write the same word or letter twice
Haplography - Forget to put a letter or word in
Once a mistake was made it would be copied over and over again Because once the word was written the text was not changed. There was no Backspace button
Language changes every 20 years or so.
In the ancient Hebrew there was no vowels

Higher Criticism

Historical – Literary - looks at the History around the book. Who Wrote it? What Sources did they use? Etc
Form Criticism - The study of the smaller units that make up the larger text, Speech patterns that make up different situations in life. Why was the text written? Looks for the Sitz-in-leben (situation in the life}
Redaction -How the different sources were combined into larger units
New literary Criticism - Looks at the passage as a literary work. What is the central theme of the story? Etc
Canonical Criticism - Looks at the Bible as a whole. Why was it seen as important?
Socio-historical Criticism - Study of Culture. How did the common person live? Archeology comes in.

Geography of the Old Testament


“In the midst of two rivers.” This is where Civilization said to emerge. Though the oldest evidence we have puts humans emerging from Africa, at least right now.
Sumer is the City dominating the lower Mesopotamia. The Sumerian civilization was the earliest of the world’s urban civilization.
They used Cuneiform. One of the earliest forms of writing. 2 to 4000 types of characters.
As early as 3000 BC they were able to count in 60’s
Akkadians Dominated Mesopotamia from 2350 BCE to 2060 BCE
Hittites - People associated with Modern day Turkey
They were the greatest power of the Near East region in the middle of the 2nd Millennium (ca 1500 BC probably 1300’s when at height)
They will dominate the area after the Hittites decline. They will dominate the area until the fall of Nineveh in about 612 bc
Arameans - These are the people of the Syrian Desert. Possible Predecessors to the Hebrews known as the “Habiru”. They were Outlaws, slaves, mercenaries. It is said All Hebrews were Habiru but not all Habiru are Hebrew. This group will migrate, conquered and spread though out the kingdoms
After the Assyrians end the Medians and Persians will come to power


Nile river is important for life, theology, and mythology. The Delta region is known for its Rich soil. Its fertile land.
Egypt is probably best known for the pyramids which in 3000-2000 BC began to build the pyramids. Began to build Pharaoh’s Palace at 2600 BC. So the Hebrews were not building the pyramids.
The dating of the Hebrews might, and I said might because as our understanding of history changes so do the dates and Egyptian dating is a mess, around 1720-1570 BC when the Hyksos reign Egypt. They were Foreigners. Which would explain how Joseph was able to come to such power and why after Joseph a Pharaoh came that new him not because the Egyptians took control of their land. (we will talk more about this as we study the exodus event).


Traders. One of the first great seafaring people of history. Able to dye cloth purple, the color of Royalty.
Why is this important?
Trade and Money



Five Distinct Geographical Divisions

These fertile hills made areas like Bashan (in the north) and Gilead (further south) legendary for their grain, cattle, wine, olives, and timber. But the hills soon give way to desert.
The bleak wastes of the Syrian Desert formed a natural eastern boundary to the land.
A great geological fault splits the country. Through it, the River Jordan drops rapidly to the Dead Sea, 1,285 feet below sea level. The Dead Sea is 1,300 feet at its deepest.
The hill country of Judah held plenty of opportunities for guerilla warfare and was a formidable challenge for a would-be attacker. The hills were covered by woods. Galilee in the north was richly fertile, prosperous, and densely settled in Jesus' time.
Heavily populated in Old Testament times. Southern end of the plain dominated by the 5 cities of the Philistines. The straight coastline means there are no natural harbors.

Trade Routes

Israel will become an important piece of property because it houses many trade routes. The most important of these two are 1. Way of the Sea and The Kings Highway

Names of God

Tetagrammaton. This is the name given to Moses to call God. I am that I am. It is in all but three of the books of the Old Testament: Song of Songs, Ecclesiastics, Esther.
hybrid of Adoni and YHWH
The Name
God or gods
Simply god with no reference to which one.
El is the Chief deity of the Canaanites
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more