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The Old Testament

Posted by Mobile Bible Monday, 28 May 2012
Background
The Old Testament is the first of the two major sections of the Christian Bible. The Old Testament contains the sacred writings of the Jews. It was written over the period of roughly 1000 B.C. to 100 B.C., but it includes narration of events that occurred many centuries earlier and had been passed from generation to generation in oral form. The Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language with a few sections written in the Aramaic language.

There was no "official" list of accepted books of Jewish scripture until around 100 A.D. when Jewish rabbis revised their Scripture and established an official canon of Judaism, rejecting some books not found in Hebrew versions of the Scripture. This revision accounts for the fact that Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians use slightly different versions of the Old Testament.
Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity, was born a Jew and practiced Judaism all His earthly life. Christianity began as a sect of Judaism and only emerged as a separate religion after large numbers of Gentiles had been converted. The Jewish Scripture had predicted the coming of a savior, the Messiah, and Jesus fulfilled that role. So it is natural that Christians would retain the Jewish Scripture as part of their Bible.
For more details: What is the difference between Protestant and Catholic Bibles?
Synopsis
The Old Testament tells the story of God's chosen people, the Hebrews, who were later known as Israelites or Jews. Sometime around 1800 B.C., God made a covenant with a man named Abraham to make of his descendants a great nation. The first few of these descendants migrated to Egypt to escape a famine in their own land. After many generations they had greatly increased their numbers but had become enslaved to the Egyptians. God sent a great leader and prophet, Moses, to lead the Hebrews out of captivity and into the Promised Land of Israel. During this time God gave Moses the Ten Commandments which are still considered the basis for a moral life by both Jews and Christians.
In addition to the Ten Commandments, the Old Testament lists many other laws about circumcision, dietary restrictions, blood sacrifices, Sabbath observance, tithing, social welfare, crimes, social behavior, armies, qualifications of leaders, etc. These laws regulated almost every aspect of Hebrew life.
God intended for the Israelites to live according to His commandments and to show the truth of God to all the world (Genesis 12:1-3). However, time and again, the Israelites lost sight of their mission and lapsed into idolatry, sin or narrow-minded nationalism. On these occasions, God called prophets, such as Elijah, Samuel, Jonah, Isaiah and many others, to lead them back to the right path. The Old Testament writings make no attempt to hide the fact that the Israelites and their leaders had many failings and flaws. Yet, through these flawed people, God was able to accomplish His purposes in the world.
The later Hebrew prophets foresaw the coming of a Messiah (meaning "anointed one"), a king who would usher in a golden era of peace and prosperity. More than any other nation, the Israelites looked to the future, to the coming of the Messiah, and to the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham to make of his descendants a great nation.



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