A useful survey of the Old Testament that will aid in understanding difficult passages. This one volume contains all of Irving Jensen's Bible self-study guides to the Old Testament.
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About the Author
IRVING L. JENSEN (B.A., Wagner College; S.T.B., Biblical Seminary; Th.D., Northwestern Theological Seminary), was professor and chairman of the department of Bible at Bryan College, Dayton, Tennessee, and the author of numerous books, including the entire Bible Self-Study Series; Jensen's Survey of the Old Testament; Jensen's Survey of the New Testament; Jensen's Bible Study Charts; Acts: An Inductive Study; Independent Bible Study; and How to Profit from Bible Reading.
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Jensen's Survey of the Old Testament
Search and Discover
By Irving L. Jensen
Moody PublishersCopyright © 1978 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
All rights reserved.
Introduction to the Old Testament
Many pleasant surprises are in store for the one who embarks on a study of the Old Testament. Not the least of these is the discovery of its contemporary application to everyday life. The purpose of this introductory chapter is to offer some motivation and direction for the reader's survey study of this part of God's wonderful Book. Regular studies in the Bible text begin with the next chapter.
I. Why Study the Old Testament?
There are many compelling reasons why every Christian should study the Old Testament. Consider the following:
A. THE BIBLE IS INCOMPLETE WITHOUT THE OLD TESTAMENT
Both Old and New Testaments make up the inspired Scriptures. The New Testament was never intended to replace the Old Testament. Instead, the New was given to complement the Old, to complete its story. For example, the Old prophesies the coming of the Redeemer; the New reports the fulfillment of that prophecy in Jesus. The New Testament is the sequel to the Old Testament's origins, heir of its promises, fruit of its seed, the peak of its mountain. The diagram on page 16 illustrates various relationships of the two Testaments.
What associations between the Old and New Testaments do you see suggested by the illustration?
B. THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST WOULD BE AN ENIGMA WITHOUT THE OLD TESTAMENT
For example, why did Jesus say, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt 15:24)? In what sense was Jesus the promised Messiah and King, long awaited by the Jews? And why did He have to die? Are His cross and crown irreconcilable? Read Isaiah 53:10-12 for an example of how the Old Testament answers such questions.
C. THE HISTORICAL SETTING OF CHRISTIANITY IS FURNISHED BY THE OLD TESTAMENT
Christianity did not emerge mysteriously out of a vacuum. God had been moving among the peoples of the world, especially Israel, for many centuries before Christ. Then, "when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4-5). Erich Sauer connects the Old Testament with the New in these words:
The Old Testament is promise and expectation, the New is fulfilment and completion. The Old is the marshalling of the hosts to the battle of God, the new is the Triumph of the Crucified One. The Old is the twilight and dawn of morning, the New is the rising sun and the height of eternal day.
Even though the last book of the Old Testament was written about four hundred years before Christ's birth, our knowing the Old Testament is to know the religious, social, geographical, and, in part, the political setting of the New. Besides, the Old Testament was the Bible of Jesus, the apostles, and New Testament writers. When they spoke or wrote, they often quoted or referred to the Old Testament's history and teaching. This in itself is reason enough for every Christian to be acquainted with the Old Testament.
D. KEY REVELATIONS OF GOD ARE TO BE FOUND IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
The Old Testament is mainly history, but it is sacred history. That is, it reveals especially how God moves in and through the lives of people and the courses of nations. We might also say that the Old Testament is redemptive history, for "God actively directs human history for the purpose of redeeming men to Himself." The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Old Testament to record what would adequately reveal that redemptive purpose. Thus, the writers have much to say about such crucial facts as these:
1. God is the sovereign Creator.
2. Man is a sinner in need of salvation.
3. God is holy, and He judges sin.
4. God is love, and He offers salvation to sinful man.
5. A Saviour would be born to die for the sins of man.
6. Man is saved by faith, not by works.
7. Israel was sovereignly chosen to be God's channel of the redemptive message to the world.
8. All history will culminate at the throne of the sovereign Lord.
The Old Testament is especially valuable for its inspired record about origins. Consider, for example, the historical record of the first man and woman; the first sin committed by a human; the first communications of God with man; and the first revelation of the way of restored fellowship to God.
Miracles are also a key part of the Old Testament, preparing the reader for the climactic event of the Great Miracle, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. John Raven rightly concludes that "Christ and the Old Testament are so united by mutual testimony that a low view of the credibility of the latter must result in a low view of the credibility of the former." The factuality of miracles rests solidly on the person of the miracle-worker. This is one of many reasons why so much is revealed in the Old Testament about who God is.
E. THE OLD TESTAMENT IS SPIRITUAL FOOD FOR THE CHRISTIAN
Paul was referring directly to the Old Testament when he wrote, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17). The different parts of the Old Testament reach the reader in various ways:
1. Its indictments bring conviction of sin (Jer 2).
2. Its laws and counsel show the way to please God (Exod 20).
3. Its psalms encourage praise and prayer (Psalm 107).
4. Its testimonies inspire the reader to walk in paths of righteousness (Deut 31:24—32:47).
5. Its historical facts give perspective and direct the reader to learn from the God of all history (Psalm 78).
6. Its prophecies warn of danger and plant hope in the hearts of all believers (Zech 14).
7. Its story of Israel's kingdom gives background for our understanding of the millennial reign of Christ and His kingship (2 Sam 7:4-17; Zech 14:9).
Read the passages cited above to see the relevancy of the Old Testament to the twentieth century.
II. The Old Testament from God to Us
The plan of writing Scriptures originated with God (2 Tim 3:16–17; 2 Pet 1:21). So, from its very source, the Bible is a supernatural book. It is the revelation of God, written by divinely inspired human authors. Through the subsequent stages of transmission, canonization, and translation, God has preserved His Word so that today, as we hold a copy of the Bible in our hands, we may be fully confident of its trustworthiness. Let us look briefly at the overall history of the Old Testament. The starting point of such a history is divine revelation.
Revelation is God's communication of truth to man, without which man cannot know God. Before the first Old Testament book was written, God revealed Himself to man through such media as conscience and nature (general revelation) and direct conversation with people (special revelation). (Read Rom 1:18-21 for an application of general revelation, and Gen 3:8-19 for an example of special revelation.) But God also wanted to reveal Himself in the form of permanent writing, so that there would be a clear and fixed record of this revelation for all the succeeding generations. So He commissioned chosen men to write on various subjects. In the words of Gleason Archer,
If there be a God, and if He is concerned for our salvation, this is the only way (apart from direct revelation from God to each individual of each successive generation) He could reliably impart this knowledge to us. It must be through a reliable written record such as the Bible purports to be.
Two crucial questions at this point are: How did the human authors know what God wanted them to write? and Were their writings without error? We cannot explain the supernatural process of inspiration, which brought about the original writings of the Bible. Paul refers to the process as God-breathing. (Read 2 Tim 3:16, where the phrase "inspired by God" translates the Greek theopneustia, which literally means "God-breathed.") Peter says the Bible authors were undergirded, or carried along, by the Holy Spirit. ("Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit," 2 Pet 1:21, Berkeley.) These verses, along with many others, assure us that when the Bible authors wrote, their words expressed perfectly and infallibly the truths which God wanted to convey to mankind. In the original autographs, all the words were infallible as to truth, and final as to authority. Such accuracy applies to every part of the originals—to matters of history and science as well as to spiritual truths. If the Bible student does not believe this, his study of the biblical text will be haunted by confusing and destructive doubts.
C. THE ORIGINAL AUTOGRAPHS
The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament were written over a period of about a thousand years (c. 1500-400 B.C.), by about twenty-five to thirty different authors. All but a few portions were written in Hebrew. The writing material of most of the autographs was paperlike papyrus. (Some autographs may have been written on animal skins.) Sheets of papyrus about ten inches high were attached together to make a long, rolled-up scroll, easy for reading. (The page-type codex, or book, did not supplant the roll until the second or third century A.D.) The Bible text was written with pen and ink in vertical columns, with no space between words, sentences, or paragraphs. Only the consonants of the words were recorded. Read Jeremiah 36 for an example of how a portion of Scripture originated. How did Jeremiah receive the message from God? How did the scribe receive it from Jeremiah?
Practically nothing is known about the history of each individual autograph of the Old Testament. During the years of Solomon's Temple, it is likely that some autographs were among the Scriptures deposited there (cf 2 Kings 22). Probably all of the original papyrus scrolls perished within a century or two after they were written, due to such causes as fire and rotting.
Transmission is the process by which the biblical manuscripts have been copied and recopied down through the ages. God allowed each of the original Old Testament autographs to disappear from the scene, but not before copies were already in the hands of His people. Handwritten scribal copyings of the Hebrew text were made up to the time of the printing press (fifteenth century A.D.).
No ancient writing has been so carefully preserved in the process of scribal copying as have the Old Testament Scriptures. This was due in part to the Jews' almost superstitious veneration of their written Scriptures. During the fifth to sixth centuries of our era, a group of Jewish scholars, now referred to as Masoretes, produced a standard edition of the Old Testament by comparing the existing manuscripts available to them. Minor scribal errors had crept into the manuscripts along the way, and the Masoretes wanted to put into circulation one standard text which would be as close to the originals as possible. When they completed their work to their own satisfaction, this text (later known as the Masoretic text) was the basis of all future scribal copyings, and the existing, not so accurate manuscripts were withdrawn from circulation. Various checkpoints were recorded in the margins of the new manuscripts, to insure that no letter or word would be deleted or added in future manuscripts. The Hebrew Old Testament was so meticulously preserved through the remaining centuries that when the Dead Sea Scrolls (c. 150 B.C.) were discovered in 1948 and subsequently compared with extant (existing) Hebrew manuscripts of A.D. 900-1000, they were almost identical. Thus was confirmed the dependability of our English Old Testament, which had been based mainly on the Masoretic manuscripts of that tenth century. Also, this preservation of the text accounts for the fact that there are relatively few differences between modern versions of the Old Testament, if they are exact translations (not paraphrases).
So although some scribal errors were committed from time to time in the copying process, God has preserved the Old Testament text so that no doctrinal truth is jeopardized by such errors. Archer writes:
Do we have any objective evidence that errors of transmission have not been permitted by God to corrupt and pervert His revelation? Yes, we have, for a careful study of the variants ... of the various earliest manuscripts reveals that none of them affects a single doctrine of Scripture.
As divine Author, God wrote an infallible Book (inspiration); as divine Protector, He has preserved the text down through the ages from doctrinal error (transmission).
Canonization is the identification of a writing as being one of the divinely inspired Scriptures. It was not enough that God inspired the writing of each book of the Bible. He also gave to His people, in a collective sense, the spiritual perception to recognize in each of those books the genuine marks of divine inspiration and authority. With the Holy Spirit's guidance, they knew what spurious writings to reject, as well as what genuine writings to accept. Thus, over the centuries as the Old Testament books were being written, the Old Testament canon (list or group of inspired books) kept growing until it reached its completed form. It was God who foreknew and determined what books would comprise the complete Old Testament. The details of the long human process are veiled in obscurity. But it is clear that God's supernatural hand, working through humans, brought His inspired writings into the canon, while He excluded other writings.
By the time of Christ and the apostles, the Old Testament was a complete set of books that were usually referred to as Scripture(s). (Refer to an exhaustive concordance to see the many New Testament references to this name.)
The total number of books in the Hebrew Old Testament is twenty-four. Actually, those twenty-four books are the equivalent of the English Bible's thirty-nine, due to various combinations. For example, the Jews regard the twelve books of the minor prophets as one book, which they call "The Twelve." Also, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are each one book, and Ezra is combined with Nehemiah.
By the time of Christ, the Jews had grouped the Old Testament books into three major sections: Law, Prophets, and Writings. This threefold division is probably what Jesus had in mind when He said that "all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44). Study the groupings shown on Chart 1.
Note the following concerning the books listed on Chart 1:
1. The books of "Former Prophets" are historical in content, and yet are classified under "Prophets." The reason for this may be that their authors had the official status of a prophet, or, as F. F. Bruce holds, they reported events "to illustrate the great principles on which the prophets insisted."
2. Each of the five "rolls" was read at an annual Jewish feast or commemoration, in this chronological order: Song of Songs at Passover (first month); Ruth at Feast of Weeks (Harvest) (third month); Lamentations at the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem (fifth month); Ecclesiastes at Tabernacles (seventh month); and Esther at Purim (twelfth month).
3. Chronicles appears last in the Hebrew Bible. This is why Jesus used the expression "from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah" (Luke 11:51) to sum up all the martyrs whose blood had been shed in Old Testament times. Abel was the first and Zechariah was the last martyr appearing in this order of the Hebrew Bible. Read the account of Zechariah's martyrdom in the last book of the Hebrew Bible: 2 Chronicles 24:20-21.
The books of our Protestant English Old Testament are grouped in a fourfold arrangement, different from the Hebrew threefold format. This fourfold arrangement is traceable back to the Latin Vulgate version (c. A.D. 383-405), which derived its format from the Greek Septuagint (c. 280-150 B.C.). Chart 2 shows this familiar breakdown of the list of thirty-nine books.
The following facts apply to the books listed on Chart 2:
1. The first seventeen books chronologically record selected high-lights of man's history from creation to the marriage of Abraham (Gen 1-11), and from the birth of the nation of Israel to its return to Canaan after the Babylonian Captivity (Gen 12—Nehemiah). The section called History may be subdivided into these three groups:
a) Period of confederacy among the tribes: Joshua, Judges, Ruth
b) Rise and fall of the monarchy: 1 Samuel through 2 Chronicles
c) Captivity and return: Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
Excerpted from Jensen's Survey of the Old Testament by Irving L. Jensen. Copyright © 1978 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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Table of Contents
Introduction to the Old TestamentSurvey Methods of Study
1. Introduction to the Old Testament
2. The Survey Method of Study
Part 1Orgins of Human Race and the Early Centuries of Isreal's Life
3. Genesis: The Book of Beginninngs
4. Exodus: Book of Redemption
5. Leviticus: "Ye Shall Be Holy"
6. Numbers: Journey to God's Rest Land
7. Deuteronomy: Book of Remembrance
Part 2History of Israel in and out of the Land of Canaan
8. Joshua: Book of Conquest
9. Judges: Apostasies
10. Ruth: Kinsman-Redeemer Gives Rest
11. 1 and 2 Samuel: The First Two Kings of Isreal
12. 1 and 2 Kings: From Glory to Captivity
13. 1 and 2 Chronicles: Judah Durning the Years of Monarchy
14. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther: Return of the Jewish Remnant from Exile
Part 3Reflections and WorshipDurning the Monarchial Years
15. Job: Knowing God Better Through Adversity
16. Psalms: "Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul"
17. Proverbs: Walking in the Fear of the Lord
18. Ecclesiates: Vanity Under the Sun, But Hope is in God
19. Song of Solomon: Union and Communion
Part 4Ministries of the Prophets
20. Isaiah: The Glorious Throne of Jehovah, the Holy One
21. Jeremiah: The Book of Judgement
22. Lamentations: Mourning over Affliction
23. Ezekiel: The Glory of the Lord
24. Daniel: God Rules the World
25. The Twelve Minor Prophets
26. The Minor Prophets of Israel (Jonah, Joel, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habbakkuk)
27. The Minor Prophets of Judah (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)
AppendixBibliography General Index
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