Introduction to the
Hebrew Scripture
Why Read the Bible?
The canon known as the Bible
literally means “the books”
What does the canon mean?
It is the ecclesiastical rule (law)
approved by the Church
What is Your Idea of the Bible?
 What
does it mean to say the Bible is
the “Word of God”?
 How did the Bible come about?
 How was it passed down from
generation to generation?
 What is its message and meaning for
us today?
What is the Bible?
 The
Bible is a sharing of a peoples
faith– a record of a nation’s belief in
God. It is the historical reality of
God’s relationship with his people.
 These people believed God really did
intervene in human history and that
he really does care about creation.
 And the roots of our Christian faith
are found in the Hebrew Scriptures.
 The
Bible then, was written as a book
of “Religious Truth.” That is, it was not
that other truths were not important,
they were simply not AS important.
 The ancient Hebrews understood God
only as a God who was involved in his
creation– and the very cause of
everything that happened.
We are the first in human history to see our planet
in this light. We look for a more scientific “cause
and effect. They saw only God as the cause of
what happened and the effect of outcome
Their view of the
world around them
was much different
from ours in that it
was much simpler.
 How is our world
different today
than in the time of
the ancient
The Bible Must be Read in its
Proper Context
The culture, politics, and religion were
much different from our own.
 The historical context was far different
from that of today.
 The authors of the Bible were writing to
the people of their own time—its quite
unlikely that they ever had us in mind.
 So the better we understand their culture
and their world, the more likely we are to
understand what they were trying to say.
 Have
you ever tried to read the
Hebrew Scripture?
 All at once or small bits at a time?
 Did you fine it difficult? If so, what
were some of the problems
 The Bible is not an ordinary book. It
must be read slowly, prayerfully,
studiously, and reflectively.
The Hebrew Scripture
The Bible you own
today came to you
in its complete
form. But there
was much involved
in its history and
its formation.
How Did The Bible Get Here?
Remember the Hebrews believed that they had
experienced God and his saving presence in their
lives-and they wanted their descendents to
understand and appreciate this.
How was this information learned and passed
down from one generation to the next in this
ancient culture?
By word of mouth. –i.e. ORAL TRADITION
As time passed, certain details in stories
changed., added, or even lost, but the basic
message of the story was still there. Eventually,
these fragments were written down on sheets of
goat/sheep skin called parchment as a collection of
Home Work Assignment
 Write
a story of a tradition of your
family passed down but not written
down. Ask your parents and
grandparents about your family
history. How far back can you trace
your family story on the basis of the
spoken word (oral tradition). What
can you conclude about oral tradition
in our society?
Oral Tradition
Oral tradition is still used today in some
societies. Many people in the Central
Pacific (Caroline Islands and the Gilberts)
navigate the open seas using techniques
passed down from generations by word of
 Songs were composed using the elements
of their navigation system. By chanting
these songs as they voyaged, they would
know which stars to observe and follow.
 Recently,
ancient routes were
retraced using only the ancient oral
tradition of navigation. The results?
 They were amazingly accurate-even
by today's standards.
 This experiment suggests the
likelihood that much of the oral
tradition behind the stories in the
Bible are accurate as well.
What Are the Benefits / Risks of
Oral Tradition
 Benefits:
 Commit
to memory-it’s not forgotten
 Will have the knowledge even if
 Risks:
 Knowledge can get changed /
distorted over time
 It’s lost if not passed down
Writing Down the Oral Traditions
It was about the time if king David that the first
written documents were produced. Later the
PROPHETS and SAGES wrote down their works.
Gradually, the various written accounts (stories)
were collected and put into a chronology over the
years and edited. And the Bible as we know it
was born. “Editing” is the putting order into the
These three stages of development – Oral, Written,
and Edited – have no definitive times lines
between them. At times, all three were going on
simultaneously throughout the ancient world.
Will the Real Bible Please Stand
 Are
the Catholic, Protestant, and
Jewish Bible the same?
 What are the differences?
 The Catholic Bible contains the
deuterocanonical books
 Why is there a difference?
Home Work assignment
 Compare
the Hebrew Scripture of the
Protestant Bible and Catholic Bible.
List the differences in the two. What
type of Bible do you have at home?
At school?
Why the Difference?
 The
Bible was first written in the
language of the people who believed
that they had experienced God; that
is, Hebrew.
 Translations soon followed into Greek
(Septuagint) and Latin (Vulgate)
 The translation used during the time
of Jesus Christ was the Septuagint.
and 70?
In C.E.90 Jewish leaders meet in Jamnia Israel to
decide their fate after the fall of Jerusalem. They
begin to consider which books to accept into their
cannon of Scripture.
The Jews decide over a period of time to include
the lesser # of books.
The Christians had already begun to form their
own cannon by this time-based primarily upon
the traditional acceptance of the Septuagint which was the accepted cannon during the
historical period of Jesus’ life.
The Deuterocanonical Books
 The
additional books included in the
Catholic Bible are called deuterocannonical books.
 Does the Protestant Bible have the
same # of books as the Catholic
Bible or the Jewish Scripture?
 Why do you think that is?
The Protestant Bible
After the Protestant Reformation the
Protestant groups went back to the
decision made by the Jews at Jamnia with
regard to which books would be in the
Hebrew Scripture and which would not.
The Protestants followed the Jewish
Canon. (39 Books)
 The Catholic Church retained the longer
canon which predated the decisions at
Jamnia. (46 Books)
 Imagine
all the texts and versions of
the Bible available in all the
languages of the world
 Does this demonstrate the generally
accepted importance of the Bible as
the word of God?
The Bible and Faith
The Bible is a book of faith. Faith is not
quite the same as knowledge.
 What’s the difference between faith and
 Knowledge is what we learn, either by
ourselves or from others. It comes from
our senses-sight, hear, touch, taste, smell.
We know b/c we experience it.
 Experience is important.
 How
do we know ice is cold?
 How do we know the sky is blue?
 We know b/c we can perceive
 How do we go about finding out
information that cannot be
experienced by observation? Or
questions that cannot be answered
by using only the data gathered by
our senses b/c no physical data is to
be had in the areas?
What are Some of the Questions?
Why am I here?
 What is my purpose in life?
 Where do I go when I leave here?
 What happens to me when I die?
 It is here that faith enters
 If knowledge is based upon information
gathered from the senses, faith is belief in
something based upon the word of
someone else.
Put simply, we believe b/c someone of trust
told us so.
 Much of life is based on some type of trust
 We trust others –even unconscious trust- in
many ways. Give some examples of how we
do this daily.
 Crossing a busy street, or driving through
an intersection.
 Architects and contractors ability to make
sturdy structures
 Doctors,- the medical field in general
Belief = Acceptance
 Belief
does not always imply total
acceptance of a statement. Often it
is the idea itself which is believed
rather than the specific language
used to express it.
 When reading the Bible we must get
behind the language to the idea it
Conscious exaggeration
 Many
of us make “conscious
exaggeration” statements in our
daily speech
 What are some you hear every day?
 I ALWAYS have homework
 I NEVER get to go.
 EVERYBODY has one.
 He’s as BIG as a house
 He’s as STRONG as an ox
Always Look for the Message
These type of statements aren’t concerned
so much about the words- the interest is
in getting the message across. The
exaggeration is used to make a point.
 So when reading, we shouldn’t get so
distracted by unusual descriptions or
details in the text that we forget the
religious message the writer meant to
 We
have to remember that we’re
not reading the Bible as a
historical narrative of ancient
times. Rather we are looking for
the religious message that it
contains. The message that is often
hidden in the prose (text/style)
Biblical Inspiration and Inerrancy
 We
believe the claim that the Bible is
the word of God.
 But what exactly does that mean???
 There are two generally accepted
characteristics the Scriptures
contain: INSPIRATION and
Biblical Inspiration
 Did
God have an angel whisper
words into the ear of the writers and
tell them what they should write
 NO! That would be note taking
 Inspiration in its proper sense is a
“religious mystery.” It’s something we
believe, even though it cannot be
fully explained.
 Faith
would be impossible without
religious mystery. If every element of
faith could be explained, we would
“know” everything. Religion would
simply be reduced to an intellectual
 God
utilized the author to get the
religious message across to the
people, and the message probably
had far more important meaning than
the one the author wrote consciously.
 Biblical inspiration is basically a matter
of God getting a message across to people
in terms they can understand.
 One of the proofs of God’s love for us
is that he communicates with us in a
way that is intelligible to us.
Biblical Inerrancy
All the books of the Bible are inspired, but
that doesn’t mean that the Bible contains
no mistakes.
 We can search the Scriptures and find
statements that are historically inaccurate
- or that modern science would contradict.
As long as we are dealing with humans,
we’re dealing with the possibility of
 When we say the Bible has no mistakes,
we are talking about inerrancy.
 Inerrancy
refers to the fact that there
are no mistakes in religious truth that
God wants to reveal to us.
 The
Bible is a book of religious belief,
and it must be taken as such. In that
sense, it contains no mistakes.
 The
Approaches to the Bible
way that we approach the Bible
will very much determine the way we
will read it – and thus, the degree to
which we understand it.
 There are three approaches to the
Bible we are going to discuss:
 1. The Fundamental Approach
 2. The Scientific Approach
 2. The Critical Approach
 Do you know which approach you
Fundamental Approach
The fundamental approach is a literal
interpretation of the Bible text.
 Those who adhere to this view insist on
taking every phrase, description, and text
of the Bible literally; that is word for word
as they appear in the text.
 Can you see any dilemmas that might
arise using this approach?
The historical and cultural context is
 The changes in language is also very
important. Language in ancient times was
not as developed. Words had multiple
meanings and the meaning of certain
words have developed and changed over
time; languages change.
 Remember, the IDEA to be communicated
is more important than the words chosen
to express it
Scientific Approach
 This
isn’t really an approach to study
scripture at all; it’s an approach to
one’s view of life and environment.
 The scientific approach would say –
whenever science and the Bible
contradict one another, preference is
to be given to the scientific
Do you see any problems with this
 The problem here is that an investigation
of the meaning of the scriptural passage in
question is completely ignored.
 Besides, discarding the biblical view in
favor of the scientific approach may
eliminate some of the biblical problems,
but it does nothing to solve them.
Critical Approach
 This
approach attempts to take the Bible
on its own terms instead of ours. This
approach tries to get behind the
written word
This method takes into account the
importance of the policies, culture, and
circumstances surrounding the biblical
 Those using this approach try to discern
the many oral traditions that predate the
written account, and how various traditions
were woven together and edited into the
biblical story.
 This approach tries to determine what the
biblical authors were saying to the people
of their own time.
 If
we find out what that message
was, we will have a better chance of
understanding how that message
applies to our own situation today.
 Which
one of these three methods
does the Catholic Church endorse?
 The Critical Approach
 Do you have a better idea of your
approach to the Bible now?
A Historical Sketch of Ancient Israel
The history
and religion of
the Israelites
begin with
Abraham. He
was a nomad,
living in the
region of Iraq
around 1850
God makes a covenant
with Abraham to give
his descendents the
land of Canaan. This
covenant is inherited
through his son Isaac
and grandson Jacob
and their wives.
These are the
patriarchs (head/father
of a tribe) and
matriarchs of the
Jewish faith
(The fathers and
mothers - founders)
What is a Covenant?
 Is
a covenant and a contract the
same thing?
 A contract is based on a legal
obligation. A covenant is based on
love. It has two sides: if it was
offered in love, it was to be
responded to with love.
Three Parts to God’s Covenant
The first part of the covenant specified that
Abraham would be the father of a nation.
The second part promised to give the land of
Canaan to the descendants of Abraham.
What was the promise that Abraham and his
descendents were to keep to God?
The descendents of Abraham would reveal the one
God to the world.
Who or what did people worship if it wasn’t the
God we know today?
The third part of God’s promise is the story of the
New Testament
descendents of
Abraham travel
to Egypt to
avoid famine
and are
enslaved by the
Egyptians for
400+ years
Moses in Exodus
 About
1250 B.C.E. God reveals to
Moses his name: Yahweh – “I am the
one who is always present.”
 Moses then leads the Israelites out of
the bondage of the Egyptians
 Moses then encounters God on Mount
 What happens there?
Moses is given the
10 Commandments.
 The covenant made
was: God would
make the Israelites
the “people of God.”
God would be with
them as long as
they kept the
covenant. The
Israelites part of the
covenant was to
keep God’s
David Becomes King
They wander in the
desert 40 years.
Led by Joshua, the
Israelites enter
Canaan and for the
next 2 centuries
fight against the
people living in the
region. They
abandon their
nomadic ways.
 Around 1000B.C.E.
David becomes king
The First Temple
Solomon, the son
of David, builds
the Temple in
Jerusalem. It
becomes the
principal place of
worship for the
Jewish nation. It
becomes both a
political and
religious capital
Two Nations
Solomon dies the nation is
divided into two
kingdoms: Israel
in the north and
Judah in the
 The Assyrians
take over Israel
in 722 B.C.E.
and the
destroy Judah in
587 B.C.E.
Not Holding up Their End Of the
The Israelite people were forced into
service and forced to pay heavy taxes.
Kings often practiced idolatry
 Prophets spoke against both kingdom’s
injustices but most of the time to no avail.
 The Assyrians crush the northern kingdom
in 721 B.C.E. and took its people into exile
 In 521 B.C.E. the Babylonians destroy
Judah (and Jerusalem) and take its people
to Babylonia as captives.
The Israelites are exiled to Babylon for 50
years and then allowed to return to the
land of Judah which had now become a
district within the Persian Empire.
 Upon their return, they were to become
known as Jews – taken from the word
 The Temple and the city of Jerusalem was
rebuilt and once again became the
religious capital of the Jews.
Diaspora refers to the dispersion
(exile) of the Jewish people after
they were conquered.
 The Jewish leaders begin collecting
and reflecting on their ancestral
writings in Hebrew and by about 400
B.C.E. the major books of what
would become the Hebrew Scriptures
were completed.
 The
400 B.C.E. to Christ
The Persian empire is conquered by the
Greeks in 330 B.C.E. and the Greeks seize
control of Jerusalem.
 The Romans capture Jerusalem from the
Greeks in 63 B.C.E. The Romans were
tolerant of other cultures and religions but
severely punished its subjects for revolts.
 It was a dark time for the Jewish people.
They longed to be released from
oppression. Many Jews looked for the
coming of the messiah, one sent by God
to save them. Many expected this messiah
to be from the family line of David.
Jesus the Savior
 During
a time of darkness and defeat
for the people of Israel, Jesus is
born; one of the house of David.
 Christians see Jesus as the fulfillment
of all of God’s promises to Israel and
the savior of the world.
The Romans destroy the Temple for good
during the Jewish revolt in 70 C.E.
 The surviving Jews were once again forced
to leave their land and dispersed to Africa,
Asia, and Europe.
 The Diaspora stressed the need for an
official set of scriptures to guide Jewish
religious life.
 Why would this be so important to the
To maintain a sense of identity as a
people set apart and bound by the
covenant with God
A sense of connectedness to
their ancestors who had been
dispersed from Babylon
generations earlier
The Types of writings in the
Hebrew Scriptures
 There
are stories, legends, letters,
biographies, poems speeches, laws,
prayers, and proverbs in the
scriptures. All of these writings have
been assembled into the following
 Pentateuch
 Historical Books
 Wisdom Books
 Prophetic Books
 These
five books are the primary
scriptural authority in the Jewish
Historical Books
 These
books tell of Israel’s conquest
in the land of Canaan and the break
up of the nation of Israel.
Wisdom Books
 These
books consist of Job, Psalms,
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom,
Sirach, Song of Songs
Prophetic Books
 This
book tells about the men who
loved Israel and warned it that to
depart from fidelity to God would
lead to moral blindness and
destruction as a nation.

Introduction to the Old Testament