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Old Testament

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The Old Testament is the Christian term for the collection of Hebrew Scriptures (also called the Tanakh) that was followed by the Jewish people prior to the birth of the "New guy," Jesus, who ushers in the New Testament. The Old Testament is not (and should not be called) the "Hebrew Bible," as it is edited, translated, and redacted to align itself with the "proof" that Jesus is the Messiah. [1]

The Old Testament contains 39 books for Protestants, 46 for Catholics, and upwards of 52 if you are Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, or Georgian - all depending on how your Church dealt with the many Greek translations of the Hebrew which became part of the Hellenistic Jewish tradition, but not the more traditional and conservative Palestinian tradition.

Typically, the Old Testament is divided into four sections [2]: The Pentateuch (which is, in effect, the Torah), the Histories, the Prophets, and the Wisdom. In the Eastern Orthodox Canon, there is also the deuterocanon, the books of which are sometimes seen as part of the other 4 sections, and sometimes isolated on their own.

At the time the canon of the Christian Bible was addressed, in the 300 years following the Ministry of Paul of Tarsus, there were two versions of most of the books that would make up the Old Testament: a Greek translation (the Septuagint, which includes 18 extra books), and the original Hebrew. Today, scholars tend to think that most of the writers of the New Testament would have been using the Koine Greek translations found in the Septuagint. But, religion being what it is, theological, philosophical, and scholarly war broke out until "the" Church became two: the Roman Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The "Old Testament" is a focal point of that division: The Roman Church chose to use new translations of the Hebrew books (the Vulgates), while the Greek Orthodox chose to use the Septuagint.

The majority of the Biblical commentary at Rational Wiki is based on the Protestant canon and translations.

For a list of the Books in the Old Testament, as well as discussions of each book individually, please see Guide to the Bible

Contents

[edit] History

When they were originally written, the Hebrew Scriptures were all individual documents or scrolls. Other than the Torah proper, they were not understood as a single collection of works, and any given priest may or may not choose to use them as part of his theology – if he even had access to them. The first attempt at a formal canon for the Hebrew Bible was after the Exile, in the 6th Century BCE. The oldest scrolls of the Hebrew Bible were songs/poetry and the myths of the Patriarchs. The oral traditions themselves probably date back even as far as 4,000 years ago, but scholars suggest that the earliest written documents would have been no earlier than 1,200 BCE.

The full Hebrew canon (Tanakh) was likely finalized between 200 and 100 BCE.

The Septuagint had the final translation completed in 132 BCE.

Despite New Testament (and later apologetic) claims to the contrary, Jesus would likely only have considered the Torah to be truly relevant to his teaching and may or may not have had access to any given set of the rest of the Tanakh or the Septuagint.

[edit] Modern Interpretation

The Old Testament is a problematic set of books for many modern Christians. Because the earliest of the oral traditions and laws were written nearly 4,000 years ago, the first books (Genesis in part, Leviticus in parts) completed 3,200 years ago, and the rest written over the next 1,200 years, the Old Testament contains some troubling aspects for those raised to think the Rights of Man[3] are important.

  • God is portrayed as mean, cranky, egotistical, and petty.
    • He destroys cute kittens, new-born babies, and kiwi birds (death by drowning is, by the way, apparently extremely traumatic) just because his humans started acting, well, human.
    • He sends a bear to maul 40 kids because they taunted his prophet.
    • He tells a dude that he must kill his own son, proving that He, God, is more loved by this dude than the kid.
    • He demands that only the pure and healthy can come worship him. Even those who were scarred in battle for God are not worthy of God's presence.
  • The morality of the people of the time is quite different from our own.
    • Women and children were seen as property to be disposed of as necessary – under proper religious guidance, of course.
    • Rape was a sexual crime committed by both people. Women could be stoned to death unless the rapist wanted to marry them.
    • Slavery was, if not common, quite accepted. Even God himself tells his people to go to war for him, and take the women as slaves.
  • The laws in place are troubling for modern Christians, beyond those mentioned above.
    • Divorce was unacceptable in most cases.
    • Eating shellfish was not allowed.
    • In fact there are a whole host of foods that cannot be eaten, clothing that must or must not be worn, prayers that must be said... Those "strange" rites (or at least this is how most Christians see the rites) of Jews like keeping Kosher and not working on the Sabbath are "Old Testament" laws, which really never were rewritten.
  • Violence in the name of God and Truth is not only possible, it's morally required. (Kill the infidels started not with Islam and the Qur'an, but the Hebrews, a thousand years earlier).

[edit] Coping skills

How to get around all that Leviticus stuff, and the "Mean old god" stuff, and the calls for war, and killing off those who do not agree with your views.

  • Just ignore it, and it will go away.
  • Jesus changed all that when he said "It does not matter what goes into your mouth but what comes out."
    • Of course, he also said "I come not to change the Law, but to fulfill it." But clearly that's just "details."
  • We do not read the Old Testament, because God gave us a New One.
    • Unless of course we want to bash gays, but that's covered later.
  • The "Law" was really three different sets of laws: Ceremonial, moral, and legal. Only the moral law still applies to Christians.
    • Of course, such a distinction is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament, nor is this explanation universally accepted. Some Christians believe no laws apply to them, because their insanity faith will guide them to the right actions.
  • That's not in my bible.
  • You are reading it wrong, you have to understand the context.
    • I thought I was addressing the context?
  • Look, over there, a shiny thing!

[edit] Footnotes

  1. The distinction is a subtle one. When talking about the "Old Testament" from a Christian perspective, it is important to emphasize that the OT is not the same as the writings of the Tanakh. When talking about the source works that are shared by both traditions, "Hebrew Bible" or "Hebrew Scripture" is often used in discussions.
  2. And it is here, in how the books are organized and what associations the authors are given, that one of the most significant edits from "Hebrew scripture" to "Old Testament" occurs
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_the_Rights_of_Man_and_of_the_Citizen
Guide to the Jewish and Christian Scriptures edit
Torah: Genesis - Exodus - Leviticus - Numbers - Deuteronomy Old Testament History: Book of Joshua - Book of Judges - Ruth - Samuel (1 & 2) - Kings (1 and 2 Kings) - Chronicles - Ezra and Nehemiah - Book of Esther Old Testament Wisdom: Book of Job - Psalms - Book of Proverbs - Ecclesiastes - Song of Solomon Major Prophets: Isaiah - Book of Jeremiah - Lamentations - Book of Ezekiel - Book of Daniel Minor Prophets: Minor Prophets

Deuterocanon (Catholic and Orthodox): - Tobit - Judith - 1 Maccabees - 2 Maccabees - Book of Wisdom - Sirach - Baruch - Letter of Jeremiah Deuterocanon (Orthodox): 1 Esdras - 3 Maccabees - Prayer of Manasseh - Psalm 151 Deuterocanon (Georgian Orthodox): 4 Maccabees - 2 Esdras Ethiopian Orthodox ("narrow" canon): Jubilees - Enoch - Rest of the Words of Baruch - 1-3 Meqabyan Syriac Peshitta: 2 Baruch Psalms 152-155


The Gospels: Gospel of Matthew - Gospel of Mark - Gospel of Luke - Gospel of John Acts: Acts of the Apostles Pauline Epistles: Romans - 1 & 2 Corinthians - Galatians - Ephesians - Philippians - Colossians - First Thessalonians - Second Thessalonians - First Timothy - Second Timothy - Titus - Epistle to Philemon General Epistles: Epistle to the Hebrews - Epistle of James - First Peter - Second Peter - 1 John - 2 John - 3 John - Epistle of Jude Revelation: Book of Revelation


Selected pseudepigrapha: Gospel of Judas - Infancy Gospel of James - Gospel of Mary - Gospel of Philip - Gospel of Thomas - Nag Hammadi texts


Rational Wiki's Guide to the Protestant Bible

Guide to Bible translations

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