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Index to this Study


A History of the Bible

Dr. William S. Sadler

2. The Hebrew Sacred Scriptures—The Old Testament



Before sometime around 1000 B.C. there was not much writing among the Jews. Tradition was perpetuated by oral transmission from generation to generation.

  • 1. COMPOSITION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
    • 1. The Ode of Deborah, commemorating Israel's victory over Sisera (Judges 5) is the oldest Old Testament document. Probably composed 1125 B.C.
    • 2. Probably not composed by Deborah. There are two accounts--prose version in Judges 4 and the poetic version in Chap. 5.
    • 3. Heavy rain and thunderstorms rendered the Canaanite chariots useless--so that they were routed and massacred.
    • 4. Deborah was a wise judge. The Hebrews gave women more recognition in these days than later on in their national history. Deborah was a prophetess as well as a judge.
    • 5. Among the oldest portions of the Old Testament are poems quoted from the lost books of Jashar, Book of the Word of Yahweh, etc. See Josh. 10:12-14.
    • 6. The oldest Old Testament prose is probably the narrative of the establishment of the kingdom of David.
    • 7. Next come the Elijah stories and the reign of Jehu. 842-815 B.C.
    • 8. The writing of the historical books of the Old Testament began about 600 B.C. They had access to the lost book of "The Acts of the Kings of Judah and Israel." II Chron. 25:26.
    • 9. The story of the kingdoms of David and Solomon. I Sam. 16 to I Kings 11.
    • 10. David was shepherd, poet, musician, and warrior. For years a fugitive and outlaw. Became king of Judea and Israel upon the death of Saul.
    • 11. There are two stories of David's being made king.
      • a. Anointed king at Hebron. II Sam. 2:1-11.
      • b. Elected king. II Sam. 5:1-5.
    • 12. David has a long and eventful reign--subdues the Philistines, Moabites, Zobahites, Syrians, Edomites, and Ammonites.
    • 13. David goes through the rebellion of Absalom and finally sees Solomon on the throne.
    • 14. Solomon reigns 960-922 B.C. He presides over the united kingdom and builds the temple. Marries many wives and establishes far-flung international relations.
    • 15. Has a reputation for being wise. Raises taxes--builds extensively, and all but bankrupts the kingdom.
    • 16. After Solomon's death, the united kingdom breaks up. Wars break out. Jeroboam sets up rival religious system in the northern kingdom.
    • 17. Rehoboam, Solomon's son by an Ammonite princess (I Kings 14:21), carries on an indifferent rule at Jerusalem.
    • 18. Very little is contributed to the Old Testament except some Psalms.
    • 19. The Old Testament was almost one thousand years in taking shape. The "Former Prophets" cover the period from Abraham to the captivity.
    • 20. All sorts of literature are to be found in the Old Testament:
      • a. Legal--the Pentateuch
      • b. Historical--Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
      • d. Prophetic--the major and minor prophets
      • d. Wisdom--Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon
      • e. Devotional--Psalms
    • 21. Amos is probably the oldest book in the Old Testament.
  • 2. GROWTH OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
    • 1. The books of the Old Testament are of composite authorship--few were written by the names they bear. Most of them have been edited and re-edited many times.
    • 2. When writing came into vogue, records were made of many traditions before 1000 B.C.--before the monarchial period:
      • a. War Poems and March Songs
        • Song of Deborah. Judg. 5
        • Song of Lamech. Gen. 4:23
        • Song of Miriam. Ex. 15:21
        • War with Amalek. Ex. 17:16
        • Ode to the Ark. Num. 10:35
        • Taunt Song--Amorites. Num. 21:27-30
        • Song of the Well. Num. 21:17
        • Joshua to Sun and Moon. Josh. 10:12
      • b. Proverbs and Fables
        • David's proverb. I Sam. 24:13
        • Samson's riddles. Judg. 14:14,18
        • Samson's taunt. Judg. 15:16
        • Jotham's fable. Judg. 9:7-15
      • c. Prophetic Blessings and Oracles
        • Blessing of Noah. Gen. 9:25-27
        • Blessing of Jacob. Gen. 49
        • Oracles of Balaam. Num. 23.
    • 3. During the times of David, Solomon, and Jeroboam. 1000-910 B.C.:
      • a. Poems
        • David's victories. I Sam. 18:7
        • Sheba's war cry. II Sam. 20:1
        • David's lamentation over Saul. II Sam. 1:19
        • David's lamentation over Abner. II Sam. 3:33
        • Nathan's parable. II Sam. 12:1-4
        • Solomon's dedication of temple. I Kings 8:12
        • Blessing of Moses. Deut. 33
      • b. Narratives
        • Founding of the kingdom. I and II Sam. and I Kings
      • c. Laws
        • Book of the covenant. Ex. 20-23
      • 4. The 9th and 8th Centuries
        • The Elijah stories. I Kings 17-19
        • The Omri dynasty. I Kings 3:6-9; 20:22
        • The Elisha stories. II Kings 2-8; 13:14-21
        • Yahweh activities. 850 B.C.
        • Elohist activities. 750 B.C.
        • Genesis. 850-750 B.C.
        • Amos. 750 B.C.
        • Hosea. 745-735 B.C.
        • Isaiah. 738-700 B.C.
        • Micah. 715-686 B.C.
      • 5. The 7th Century
        • Deuteronomy published. 621 B.C.
        • Zephaniah. 627 B.C
        • Jeremiah. 620+ B.C.
        • Nahum. 615 B.C.
        • First edition of book of Kings. 620-608 B.C.
      • 6. The 6th Century.
        • Jeremiah continues. After 585 B.C.
        • Habakkuk. 600-590 B.C.
        • Ezekiel. 593-571 B.C.
        • Holiness code. Lev. 17-26
        • Lamentations. 586-550 B.C.
        • Isaiah. 63:7-644.12
        • Second edition of Kings. 550 B.C.
        • Revised stories of Joshua, Judges, and Samuel. Song of Moses. Deut- 32
        • Isaiah 13:2; 14:4-21
        • Second Isaiah 40-55. 546-539 B.C.
        • Haggai. 520 B.C.
        • Zechariah 1-8. 520-518 B.C.
      • 7. The 5th Century
        • Parts of Isaiah 59-66
        • Jeremiah 3:14-18
        • Isaiah 34
        • Obadiah
        • Amos 9:8-15
        • Isaiah 11:10-16
        • Malachi. 460 B.C.
        • Book of Ruth
        • One story of Ezra 4:8-6:18
        • Joel. 400 B.C.
      • 8. The 4th Century.
        • Joel--some parts.
        • Isaiah 19:1-15; 23:1-14.
        • Proverbs
        • Job
        • Isaiah 24-27
      • 9. The 3rd Century
        • Chronicles: 300-250 B.C.
        • Genesis 14
        • I Kings 13
        • Esther
        • Song of Solomon
        • Proverbs 1-9
        • Jonah
        • Isaiah 19:18-25
        • Ecclesiastes 200 B.C.
      • 10. The 2nd Century
        • Daniel. 165 B.C.
        • Zechariah, 9-11; 13:7-9
        • Isaiah 33
        • Completion of Psalter
  • 3. CANON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
    • 1. The Old Testament represents the growth of almost one thousand years. Only Christians call the Hebrew scriptures the Old Testament.
    • 2. The Hebrews classified the 39 books of their Scripture into four grand divisions:
      • a. The Law--Torah. 5 books. The Pentateuch
      • b. The Prophets. 8 books
        • (1) The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings
        • (2) The Later Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel
      • c. The Minor Prophets-the Twelve
      • d. The Remainder: Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles
    • 3. The Old Testament canon was created by a synod of rabbis at Jamnia (near Joppa) in A.D. 90
    • 4. This was the first "completed" assembly of sacred writings to be fomulated by any religion.
  • 4. THE OLD TESTAMENT VERSIONS
    • 1. No original manuscripts of either Old or New Testament are in existence today.
    • 2. The Samaritan Pentateuch -- This manuscript is possibly as early as the fourth century B.C. There are 6,000 differences between this text and later Hebrew versions. Only 1,000 are important. One of the oldest copies of this text is in Paris.
    • 3. Hebrew Texts
      • One of the oldest is the codex of the Former and Later Prophets, found in the Karaite synagogue at Cairo--written in A.D. 895. A complete manuscript of the entire Old Testament is now in Leningrad. A.D. 1008.
      • The Dead Sea Scrolls (A.D. 1947) go back to as far as the fifth century B.C.; others to 100 B.C. and A.D. 70.
    • 4. The Massoretic Texts
      • The Massoretes were a school of textual scholars who devoted themselves to the protection of the Scriptural text.
      • They created vowel sounds for the Hebrew text, as well as punctuation. They functioned up to the tenth century A.D.
      • The first Hebrew text with vowel sounds was published in A.D. 1488.
    • 5. Greek Versions
      • The Septuagint--the LXX--is the oldest of the Greek translations. It was completed in 250 B.C. for the Alexandrian library. It may have covered a period of one hundred and fifty years.
      • This was the Bible of the apostles, Paul, and the early Christians, it is quoted in the New Testament.
      • Several new Greek translations were made in the second and third centuries A.D.
      • In A.D. 240 Origen made a six-column comparison of the Greek texts.
    • 6. The Major Greek Texts
      • Codex Vaticanus.
        • In the Vatican library since the fifteenth century. Written at Alexandria in the middle of the fourth century A.D.
      • Codex Sinaiticus.
        • Found on Mt. Sinai in 1844. Taken to St. Petersburg. Bought by England in 1933. Now in British Museum.
      • Codex Alexandrias.
        • A fifth century manuscript brought to England in 1624. Now in the British Museum.
      • Codex Ephraemi.
        • Fifth century manuscript now at Paris.
        • NOTE: The first printed LXX was in 1514.
    • 7. The Latin Versions.
      • The "Old Latin" version originated in Carthage A.D. 250.
      • African, European, and Italian versions soon appeared.
      • The Vulgate. Produced by Jerome A.D. 382. This was a major event and it was many times revised. It was first printed A.D. 1456 and has been the Bible of the Roman Catholic Church ever since Jerome produced it. (Also known as the Douay version.)
      • For the first time in over a thousand years the Catholics have recently made a Revised Version of the Vulgate.
    • 8. Syriac Versions
      • The Peshitta version was made in the third century, from the LXX--for Christians.
      • Bishop Tetta's translation was made in A.D. 616.
    • 9. The Targums
      • These are Aram interpretations of the Hebrew text, completed from the fifth to ninth century A.D.
    • 10. Other Versions.
      • Coptic, Egypt; Fourth century
      • Ethiopic; Fourth century. Gothic. A.D. 350
      • Amenian; A.D. 400
      • Georgian; Fifth century
      • Slavonic; Ninth century
      • Arabic; Eighth century