Purpose and scope of this book.
Many books have been written about the Old Testament from different points of view. Some set out to demonstrate (or undermine) its historical accuracy. Others set out to prove certain theories of composite authority or late date. Some deal with archaeological discoveries which throw light on the text, others with the internal evidence for the text itself.
All these subjects are important, but not of primary importance.
In our limited time we shall leave such questions one one side and concentrate all our attention on two main points:
What does the Old Testament actually say?
What is its message for us today?
The general position we take
The Old Testament is an inspired book.
At this point it is enough to say that it was our Lord's Bible, and he quoted from it as from an authority.
Inspiration does not overrule the personal style and linguistic style of the human authors.
Nor has it anything to say to the method by which material was collected.
The Old Testament is a library written by many authors over a long period of time, yet it has an unmistakable unity in the message it proclaims.
The revelation given is progressive in character.
"Historically, there is progress from a nomadic state to national life, and from precarious leadership to the order of a kingdom. And doctrinally there is a steady movement forward from the Law of Sinai to the Sermon on the Mount; from outward observance of the Law of God to inward conformity to it; and from domestic and tribal to individual responsibility.
"The Family of Genesis expands into Nation from the Exodus and onward, and contracts into a Church from the Exile and forward." - Graham Scroggie.
The Old Testament finds its fulfilment in Christ (Hebrews 1.1) and he is the key to its interpretation. Neither the Old or the New Testament can be properly understaood without the other, and it is Christ who holds them together.
"What God has joined together let no one put asunder."
The parts of the Old Testament
Among the Jews the main division is into three, The Law, The Prophets and The Psalms. (See Luke 24.44)
These three divisions have nothing to do with the order in which the books were written, but rather with the order in which they were included in the Old Testament Canon.
The Law (Torah) consists of the first 5 books, the Pentateuch.
The Prophets consist of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings (called the Former Prophets) and Isaiah, Jermiah, Ezekiel and the Minor Prophets - Hosea to Malachi (called the Latter Prophets). The inclusion of historical books in this section shows that for the Jews history had a prophetic significance.
The Psalms, or poetical books, better known as the sacred writings (in Greek Hagiographa) comprise the rest of the Old Testament, including Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ruth, Lamentations and Daiel, as well as the more obviously poetical works.
A simpler division for our purpose is into the Pentateuch, the later historical books (including both Kings and Chronicles), the Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes etc.) and the Prophets.