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Summary of the Old Testament

Table of contents:
1. Introduction
2. The historical background of the Old Testament
3. The Pentateuch
4. Historical books
5. Wisdom writings
6. Major and minor prophets
7. Conclusion
8. Works cited

The Old Testament constitutes an essential and fundamental part of the Bible. In fact, the Old Testament comprises books which were written before the 12th and 2nd centuries BC. The Old Testament plays a significant role in the understanding of the Christian teaching. At the same time, the Old Testament has a great historical value as a collection of books which recounts the history of the Jewish people. In actuality, the Old Testament comprises books which may be divided into five major categories: the Pentateuch, historical books, wisdom writings, books of major prophets and books of minor prophets. In such a way, the Old Testaments combines books which vary by genre and their themes. To put it more precisely, the Old Testaments contains the narration of the history of Jewish people and the emergence of Christianity as a powerful religion. In such a way, historical books are combined with books containing the basic information on Christian religion, including fundamental Mosaic laws. In addition, the Old Testaments contains prophecies concerning the future along with philosophical works that makes the entire work, created before Christ the major work and the basis of the early Christianity, which was used the foundation for the development of Christianity and the New Testament created by Christ and his disciples.
The historical background of the Old Testament
The Old Testaments constitutes the large part of the Bible. In fact, the Old Testaments represents a collection of books that vary in genre and themes but which are united on the basis of the common historical ground and its major focus on the development of the Christian teaching. The Old Testament may be viewed as the backbone of the Bible prior to Christ since the books comprising the Old Testament were written by different authors in the period from the 12th to 2nd centuries BC.
On analyzing the history of the Old Testament, it is important to underline that the interpretation of original texts of books comprising the Old Testament vary substantially. To put it more precisely, specialists (Bahnsen et al., 291) distinguish the Septuagint which is commonly accepted in the Orthodox Christian tradition, and the Latin translations of the Hebrew texts, including the translation made by Jerome, which are commonly accepted in Catholic Christian tradition. At this point, it should be said that the Septuagint represents the Greek translation of the original Hebrew texts. Originally, the Greek translations were perceived as correct translations of the Old Testament. However, in the late 4th – early 5th century AD, Jerome’s translation of original Hebrew texts revealed the fact that the Greek translations were not absolutely precise and they did not always adequately conveyed the original message of ancient authors. At first, Jerome’s translations faced a strong opposition from the part of Christian theologies, including Augustine, who insisted on the correctness of the Greek translation. Nevertheless, gradually, the Latin translations of the original Hebrew texts were accepted by western, Catholic theologies and clergymen.
In spite of variations in interpretation and structure that can be traced in the Septuagint and the Latin translations of the Old Testament, its books are the heart of one of the major, world religions, Christianity. It is important to underline the fact that the Old Testament represents the narration of the ancient history of Jewish people its origin and development along with the narration concerning the development of Christianity and the Christian teaching. The Old Testament comprises basic wisdoms, philosophical and religious concepts and ideas of Christianity, on the basis of which the Christian religion was shaped and later complemented by Christ and his disciples in the New Testament. Finally, the Old Testaments contains important prophecies related to the future, though the interpretation of these prophecies can vary and is not absolutely precise, which, though, is the characteristic of all prophecies.
The Pentateuch
The Pentateuch consists of five books, which actually the Pentateuch is called after. Specialists (Anderson, 317) believe that first five books of the Bible comprising the Pentateuch were written by Moses after the forty year period in desert in c. 1406 BC. Basically, the five biblical books are dedicated to the origin of the world at large and Jewish people in particular. The primary concern of the books is to reveal the origin of the world and the early history of Jewish people as well as the role of God in the life of Jewish people. At the same time, the five books contain fundamental principles of the Christian teaching, including the Moses Law, which are considered to be given by the God to Moses, who was a prophet and mediator between the God and Jewish people. In such a context, Moses can be viewed as the founding father of the Jewish state since it is Moses who brought the Jews to Israel after the 40 years of wandering in desert.
Among the five books of the Pentateuch, Genesis is particularly noteworthy because it is the fundamental book in which the creation of the world by God is depicted in details. It covers the period from 2500 BC to 1406 BC (Dever, 124). At the same time, Genesis deals with such issues as the primary sin and the expel of Adam and Eve from the Eden. Also, Genesis reveals the origin of Jewish people and the people who were the ancestors of Jews. It is worth mentioning the fact that Genesis mainly refers to males in the depiction of the origin of Jewish people while females are apparently secondary that reveals the patriarchal social system existing in ancient Jewish society.
Exodus recalls the story of the liberation of Jewish people from Egyptian enslavement and the start of the search of the new, Promised Land for Jewish people. The liberation movement was headed by Moses, but the book repeatedly lays emphasis on the fact that all the actions of Moses were guided and supported by God. At the same time, Jewish people is depicted as blessed people because they were supported by God and Jewish God is depicted as the only true God which helps defeat all the enemies of Jewish people allowing Moses make miracles and save his people.
Leviticus is mainly dedicated to the relationship of Jews and God. To put it more precisely, the book defines basic rules of the holy life which are provided by God to Israel and Jewish people. This book introduces basic norms, rules and rites which Jewish people had to obey in order to lead a virtuous lifestyle and, therefore, be rewarded by God and, eventually, find the salvation.
Numbers depict 38 years wandering of Jewish people in desert under the guidance of Moses who proves to be not only the prophet but also the national leader, which united the nation and became its spiritual leader and guide in the desert. The book depicts major events and turning points which defined the religious and spiritual life of Jewish people in the epoch and it also contains basic norms and rules, in accordance with which Jewish people should live.
In this respect, Deuteronomy is particularly significant because this book is the repetition or copy of the Law given to Moses by God and Moses in his conveyed the laws granted by God to all of the Jews. Along with the repetition of basic, divine laws, the book contains the ending of the story of wandering of Jewish people and the end of the life of Moses. The latter eventually bring Jews to the Promised Land and dies peacefully.
Historical books
Historical books of the Old Testament constitute an important part of the Bible because they depict the history of Jewish people as well as other peoples which contacted or invaded Jewish territories. At the same time, it is important to underline that the history of Jewish people is the primary concern of authors of historical books of the Old Testaments. These books are particularly valuable from the historical point of view because they are written historical evidences of past events which took place from 1406 to the 5th BC century.
Joshua is one of the main historical books of the Old Testament. Joshua is considered to be one of the former prophets in the Hebrew Bible (Berkowitz, 183). The book tells the history of crossing of the Jordan and the violent and brutal conquest of Canaan by Joshua. This was a holy war waged to claim the chosen land from the idolatrous and dissolute Canaanites. It is worth noting the fact that the military actions conducted by Jewish kings were amply supported by God who interfered to support Jewish armies and Jewish people in their struggle.
Judges is another historical book of the Bible which covers the period before the monarchy. It was the period of frequent apostasy and divine punishment of people who adopted Canaanite pagan practices. Instead, the worship of God was rewarded by the divine support. In such a way, the book depicts the strengthening of the Christian God as the major divine power and the main and only God of Jewish people. At the same time, the book depicts conflicts of Jews with other peoples. For instance, Judges depicts in details the conflict between Israelites and the Midianites who oppressed Jewish people. In such a way, the development of religious foundations of Jewish people is accompanied by the narration of numerous conflicts of Jewish people and neighboring peoples.
Ruth depicts the history of Israel in the period of a relative peace between Moab and Jewish people. The book was written during the period of monarchy. The major theme of the book is redemption. However, the book lays emphasis on the redemption not by blood and birth, but through self-giving love that fulfills God’s law. In such a way, historical events are closely intertwined with religious teaching, promoting the faith in God and the importance of the obedience to the God’s law.
1 and 2 Samuel are important historical books which depict the history of Israel during the period of monarchy. The books depicts conflicts of Israel with neighboring states and its progress as a state. The reign of the Kind David occupies one of the central places in the books. In this respect, it is important to underline that such an attention of the author of these Biblical texts may be explained by the attention of David to religion. In fact, David is depicted as an almost ideal theocratic king, who was a successful statesman and simultaneously attempted to live in accordance with divine laws and spread religion among masses of Jewish people.
1 and 2 Kings is also focused on the history of the ruling monarchs in Israel. These books are particularly noteworthy because they convey the history of the King Solomon, who was apparently one of the major figures in the history of Israel and one of the most successful kings who amply supported religion and met basic religious ideals. In such a way, he was a respectable successor of David.
1 and 2 Chronicles continues the history of Jewish people they contain extensive genealogies, including David’s line. The books also depict major constructions of Jewish people at the epoch, including the temple Solomon had to be built.
Other historical books of the Old Testament, including Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, tell the story of Jewish people. Basically, these books focus the attention of readers on the history of relationship of Jewish state and the Persian Empire, which grew in power in 6-5th century BC. The books depicts the struggle of Jewish people against the Persian occupation.

Wisdom writings
Wisdom writings constitute a very important part of the Old Testament because these books, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, incorporated the wisdom of Jewish people and its major thinkers, including the King Solomon, who became the symbol of wisdom. In fact, these books may be viewed as the philosophical basis of the Old Testament in which authors postulate basic principles, philosophical concepts and rules, which regulate human life, their internal world and relationship with divine forces.
At the same time, it is impossible to estimate that wisdom writings of the Old Testament represent only authentic works created by particular authors. In actuality, wisdom writings should be viewed as a quintessence of woks of the most outstanding thinkers, such as the King Solomon or Ecclesiast, and wisdom of Jewish people. In this respect, it is possible to refer to proverbs which rather contain ideas accumulated by Jewish people as a socio-cultural group than ideas of the author. In a way, it may be viewed as a collection of folkloric elements created by Jewish people.
However, it is important to underline that practically all these books contain references or imply basic divine laws which are fundamental for the Old Testament and their origin may be traced back to the Moses Laws.
Major and minor prophets
The Old Testament contains a variety of books of prophets, among which it is possible to distinguish major prophets, who played a very significant role and are referenced to throughout the Bible as well as in other ancient literary works, and minor prophets, whose works are less renowned and well-known but still they contain prophecies which may be significant in terms of the Bible.
Among the major prophets its is possible to single out Isaiah which depicts the communication of Isaiah and God, which is actually a common structure for books of prophets. To put it more precisely, books of major and minor prophets are actually the depiction of the interaction and communication of prophets and God, whom they represented on the Earth and whose ideas they conveyed to masses of people. Isaiah, for instance, while depicting his communication with God, warns about the threat of Assyrian aggression against Israel, sin and punishment of Israel and the successive punishment of Assyria for the moral degradation and aggression against Israel. However, probably the most important prophecy of Isaiah is the prophecy concerning the Messiah who should come and save Jewish people. This idea became the milestone of Judaism and Christianity and Jesus was perceived as the Messiah.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the Old Testament contains a variety of books which are quite different by their genre and theme but which are united by the common religious background and history. To put it more precisely, the Old Testament depicts the history of the development of Jewish people and Jewish state of Israel and historic perturbations it had to pass through. At the same time, the Old Testament represents the Biblical version of the creation of the world by God and provides basic religious, moral and ethical norms, rules and rites which defined the life of Jewish people and which laid foundation for the Christian tradition and partially Judaist tradition. Finally, the book contains wisdom accumulated by Jewish people and its most outstanding representatives as well as numerous prophecies concerning the nearest and distant future.

Works cited:
Anderson, Bernhard. Understanding the Old Testament. New York: Random House, 2006.
Bahnsen, Greg, et al. Five Views on Law and Gospel. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1993.
Berkowitz, Ariel. Torah Rediscovered. 4th ed. Shoreshim Publishing, 2004.
Dever, William G. Who Were the Early Israelites? William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 2003.


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