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Old Testament

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The Old Testament or the Hebrew Scriptures (also called the Hebrew Bible) constitutes the first major part of the Bible according to Christianity. It is usually divided into the categories of law, history, poetry (or wisdom books) and prophecy. All of these books were written before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth who is the subject of the subsequent Christian New Testament.

Contents

Canon of the Old Testament

Main article: Biblical canon

The Protestant Old Testament consists of the same books as the Tanakh, but the order and numbering of the books are different. Protestants number the Old Testament books at 39, while the Jews number the same books as 24. This is because Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are considered to form one book each, the 12 minor prophets are grouped into one book, and Ezra and Nehemiah are also considered a single book. The Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox include additional books, called the deuterocanonical books, which Protestants exclude as apocryphal. The basis for these books is found in the early Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible. This translation was widely used by the early Christians and is even quoted in the New Testament.

See also: Books of the Bible, for a side-by-side comparison of the various canons of the Hebrew Bible.

Historicity of the Old Testament

Main article: The Bible and history

Several professors of archeology claim that many stories in the Old Testament, including important chronicles about Abraham, Moses, Solomon, and others, were actually made up for the first time by scribes hired by King Josiah (7th century BCE) in order to rationalize monotheistic belief in Yahweh. As far as archeologists can tell, neighboring countries that kept many written records, such as Egypt and Assyria, have no writings about the stories of the Bible or its main characters before 650 BCE. Other archeologists have found evidence in the same documents supporting the accounts of the Bible, although the documents do not explicitly retell the stories of the Jewish people.

Naming of the Old Testament

The term "Old Testament" is a translation of the Latin Vetus Testamentum, which translates the Greek Η Παλαια Διαθηκη, h Palaia Diathk, meaning "The Old Covenant (or Testament)". Christians call this group of books the Old Testament, because of a belief (taught in the Epistle to the Hebrews) that there is a new covenant or testament between God and mankind, after the coming of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jews themselves do not accept the New Testament or the characterization of the Tanakh as the Old Testament (although many Jews accept Jesus as a historical figure and even as a student of a Tannaitic sage).

21st century Christian theologian Marva Dawn has advocated calling the Old Testament the First Testament, freeing the writings from any trace of irrelevancy associated with aging in western culture. Some modern Biblical scholars and liberal theologians have advocated referring to the books as the Hebrew Bible, which emphasizes Christianity's roots in Judaism. Neither Dawn's or the liberal theologians' attempts have gained much popularity.

Christian use of the Old Testament

Part of the series on
Christianity
History of Christianity

Christian theology
The Trinity:
God the Father
Christ the Son
The Holy Spirit

The Bible:
Old Testament
New Testament
The Gospels
Ten Commandments
Beatitudes
Apocrypha

Christian Church:
Catholicism
Orthodox Christianity
Protestantism

Christian denominations
Christian movements

Christian worship

Related faiths:
Abrahamic religions
Rastafarianism

The relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament is not fully agreed upon among Christians. There is some debate among Protestant scholars over the issue of whether the New Testament applies to Jewish people, but there is very little debate over its applicability to Gentiles. Similarly, the degree to which the Old Testament and its laws applies to Christians is disputed. Very few Christians, for example, follow the dietary laws within the Old Testament, whereas almost all Christians believe that the Ten Commandments are applicable. The question of which Old Testament laws are applicable affects debates on a variety of issues, including homosexuality and the ordination of women to the priesthood. Most Christians agree, however, that understanding the Old Testament is essential to understanding the New Testament, and that the contents of both are inspired by God.

Some historical groups such as Gnostics have gone so far as to assert that the God of the Old Testament is a different being from the God of the New Testament, often calling the Old Testament God the demiurge; of these, some like Marcion of Sinope went further to say that the Old Testament should not be retained as part of the Christian Bible. Most Christian groups believe that this view is heresy.

Today, many scholars prefer Hebrew Bible as a term that covers the commonality of the Tanakh and the Old Testament while avoiding sectarian bias, although this commonality only includes the Protestant Old Testament.

The New Testament contains many references to, and quotes from, the Old Testament, especially in relation to the fulfillment of prophecies concerning the promised messiah (Greek: Christ), whom Christians believe to be Jesus of Nazareth. In Christian theological views, this expectation, present fulfillment and eschatological fulfillment of the divine, eternal kingdom under the headship of Jesus of Nazareth are the thread running through both Testaments.

Supersessionists adhere to a doctrine that claims the replacement of the nation of Israel with the Christian Church since Christ. This is based upon a number of New Testament verses, one of which is Galatians 3:28, which says And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, (and) heirs according to the promise (English Standard Version). In practice, this means that while the Old Testament ceremonial and dietary laws can be dispensed with, the ethical and moral laws remain. Moreover, those who believe in Supersessionism also hold to the belief that specific Old Testament prophecies about Israel are fulfilled in both the person of Jesus of Nazareth and the church as God's people. Proponents of Dispensationalism disagree with this thesis.

Another take on the matter is proposed by Covenant Theologians, who believe that the various covenants of the Bible are supersessive, and culminate in the covenant made in the blood of Jesus of Nazareth, but who claim that Israel has always served as a type (or symbol) of the national church, and who assume a pattern of continuity between the covenants unless a discontinuity is specifically introduced by the covenant-maker (such as the discontinuity between dietary and social proscriptions).

It is useful to note that Dispensationalists, Supersessionists and Covenant Theologians may all be considered to be Evangelical Christian views.

See also

Further reading

  • Anderson, Bernhard. Understanding the Old Testament. (ISBN 0139483993)
  • Dever, William G. Who Were the Early Israelites? William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 2003. ISBN 0802809758
  • Silberman, Neil A., et al. The Bible Unearthed. Simon and Schuster, New York, 2003. ISBN 0684869136 (paperback) and ISBN 0684869128 (hardback)

External links

cs:Star zkon da:Det gamle testamente de:Altes Testament et:Vana Testament es:Antiguo Testamento eo:Malnova Testamento fr:Ancien Testament id:Perjanjian Lama ia:Vetule Testamento it:Antico Testamento nl:Oude Testament ja:旧約聖書 no:Det gamle testamente pl:Stary Testament pt:Antigo Testamento ru:Ветхий Завет sk:Star zkon sr:Стари завет fi:Vanha testamentti sv:Gamla Testamentet tr:Eski Antlaşma zh:旧约圣经

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