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The First Testament

There are three parts to the Jewish Testament, sometimes called the Old or First Testament:

The Law: The Law consists of the first five books of the First Testament and is believed to be the work of Moses, although there is some dispute within the ranks of present First Testament specialists. These five books contain the record of creation, the call of Abraham, the rise of the nation of Israel, the deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt, the giving of the covenant and its stipulations, which was the lifestyle guide for the Jewish nation.

The Prophets: There are two groups: The former prophets which include Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings and the latter prophets which contain Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets. These books show the acts of God and his interpretative word about the rise and fall of the children of Israel.

The Writings: The balance of the First Testament books is within this category. There are lyrical poetry and wisdom books such as Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and the Song of Songs. There are historical books like Daniel, Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles. By some accounts by the beginning of the first century, the Hebrew Testament was complete. Some believe it was confirmed in Jamnia in the mid-‘90s by a Jewish council. The most that can be said is that at Jamnia the Jews discussed the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures 1

Around 250 BC a group of Alexandrian Jews translated many the First Testament books. This version is called the Septuagint (often designated LXX, which is the Roman numeral for seventy). This translation had additional books which later Jewry did not accept as authoritative. These books are called the Apocrypha by the Protestants. The Septuagint had a wide exposure during the first century. Some of the authors of the New Testament books often quoted from it instead of the Hebrew text. As an example: see Hebrews 2.6-8. Remember, there were no verses. The New Testament authors used what Richard Hays and Kent Yinger call intertextuality. 2

During the first fifteen hundred years of the church till the Reformation period, these Apocryphal books caused many arguments and dissensions. The question about the authority of the Apocrypha surfaced during the Reformation. The Reformers returned to the Hebrew Canon of Jamnia, while the Catholic Church reaffirmed its allegiance to the Apocrypha as authoritative at the Council of Trent.

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  1. Clyde E. Donald, and Mitchell G. Reddish, An Introduction to the Bible, Revised Edition (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), 61. See also: Winn Griffin. God’s EPIC Adventure. (Woodinville, WA. Harmon Press. 2007-2014), 63
  2. Ibid. 39. “The problem of “selectivity” is addressed by Richard Hays under the concept of intertextuality, which is the “imbedding of fragments of an earlier text within a later one….” Kent Yinger sees “intertextual play” found in “all strata of the OT,” which helps us have a “better understanding” of concepts like “grace and works” in the New Testament. What Paul and others may be doing when they quote a text from the First Testament (remember, the First Testament was not yet canonized and certainly not versified at this time in history) is simply drawing attention to the whole story from which the text is being quoted. A present analogy would be the use of “keywords” in a search engine such as Google to find the larger context in which those words are recorded. It just might be that we have taken our propensity to proof text and projected it back on Paul and other writers of the New Testament.”