Methods of Biblical analysis
There are many ways to read the Scriptures.
- Historical criticism is concerned with the historical aspect of the book, whether it actually happened, who wrote the book, what archaeological findings are there, and researching the background. This is obviously restricted to experts, however it is exciting to uncover findings for yourself for the first time!
- Source criticism is the study of books in the bible to discover what sources if any the author used .
- Form Criticism is not primarily concerned with documents. It is concerned with the community that produced them, their myths, their songs , their needs and the ‘rhythm of life’ of the people concerned.
- Textual criticism is a very painstaking way of exploring the bible; where are the overlapping stories?, why were they re-written, and re-written again?; what are the differences?. ( e.g the different accounts on the gospels of Jesus’ death? )
What is the structure of the Old Testament?
The Old Testament has 39 books, some short and some long, but can be broken down into 4 broad categories.
- The 5 books of the LAW/ or the Pentateuch
It is not clear when the Pentateuch was written, but these five books contain the essentials laws/ codes, which define Israel’s history. The books contain stories of how the world was created, and how God called specific people to take Israelon a journey. It contains the Ten Commandments, and three key personalities are introduced, Abraham, Jacob and Moses. In the Jewish faith, these five books are called the Torah.
- The 12 HISTORICAL Books
|Joshua||1 and 2 Samuel||Ezra|
|Judges||1and 2 Kings||Nehemiah|
|Ruth||1and 2 Chronicles||Esther|
These 12 books portrays the rise and fall of the Jewish nation. It describes their journey through to the landof Canaan, and how the region of Canaan was divided into two parts the north (ISRAEL) and south (JUDAH). It tells the story of the establishment of a monarchy and the reigns of great Kings. It tells stories of Prophets, Kings, people and key events in Israel’s history. The key personalities in the Historical books are Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha , Saul and Solomon .
- The 5 Books of POETRY or WRITINGS
|Song of Solomon|
These books deal with the questions of ‘how wisdom can be found’. Job is probably the oldest booking the Bible and focuses on the questions why does God allow suffering? The Psalms are poems addressing God in times of persecution and suffering, love and praise. These writings also give a moral code and guidance of how to love each other and how God relates to the world, through love and action.
- The 16 PROPHETS – 4 Major and 12 Minor
The use of ‘major’ and ‘minor’ does not imply any judgement about the importance of the prophets. It refers simply to the length of the books in question. God is speaking through specific people, to bring about reason, hope and warnings to the people ofIsrael. Prophets were seen as ‘God’s mouth piece’, and when they spoke, people listened. Some were reluctant prophets (Jonah), but others knew God was with them from an early age (Jeremiah). Lamentations was probably written by the prophet Jeremiah. Studying and reading the prophets can give us indications of how God speak to us today.
The following works are regarded as Deutero -canonical Books. The 39 books are found in the Hebrew Bible, whilst these 7 books are found in the Latin and Greek Bibles. Nowadays, the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible has the Apocrypha included.
Why are there so few women in the Old Testament?
Men were the scribes, and wrote the books of the Bible. They used different names for God – Lord, Yahweh, and Eloheim. The Jewish Law decreed that, women were unclean in many ways, and many were also illiterate. Certain women have voices, (Rachel, Hannah, Ruth, Miriam, Esther, Deborah) however many are unnamed and were seen by men as ‘property’, and were treated as servants.
The Old Testament as a ‘tool box.’
When reading or listening to a Biblical text, ask yourself these questions
What strikes you?
What do you like or dislike?
What amazes you?
What raises questions for you?
Who is talking and who is listening?
An Introduction to Christianity Alistair E McGrath
How to read the Old Testament Eteinne Charpentier
Introducing the Old Testament Richard Coggins
The message of the Psalms Walter Bruggeman
Being Biblical John Campbell
URC Publications 2003
Studying the Old Testament Henry Mc Keating
Epworth Press 1990
Walk through the Old Testament
A brief overview of the Old Testament
This leaflet is to assist those people who wish to learn more about the Bible, but don’t know how to go about it. This month we shall be exploring the Old Testament.
When we go on a trip, we may wish to purchase a guide or map of the area. One can learn about the area, by thoroughly studying before you travel. The second way is to buy a guide and work through it whilst you are on holiday.
This leaflet is similar to the second guide. It will give pointers where you may stop and browse at books in the Bible. At the end of the leaflet is a list of further books for you to read if you wish.
You may feel daunted by the thought of this, or your mouth is watering at the prospect, however remember that God spoke to people thousands of years ago, and still speaks to us today.
So let us journey forward in faith and excitement.
What is the Bible
The word Bible comes from the Greek, it is a plural noun, ‘ta biblia’ and means ‘the books’. When the word was taken over into Latin, it became singular, ‘the bible’.
The Bible is more than a book. It is a library, and in it you will find a number of very different works collected together in two large groupings, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word ‘Testament’ in Hebrew means ‘a covenant’.
What is its purpose?
So the Bible is a collection of books which tells of Gods covenant or agreement withIsraelthrough Moses (the Old Covenant) and which God fulfilled through Jesus (the New Covenant).
The Old Testament is regarded as preparing the way for Jesus.
What themes run through the Old Testament?
There are many themes which run through the Bible, too many to mention here but here are a few:-
Journeying (Historical books),
Creation of the world and Law (Pentateuch),
Exile (Pentateuch and historical books)
Obedience (throughout the Old Testament),
Love and Suffering (Poetry and writings)
Many of the themes are linked to people, places and actions. Reading the Old Testament stories and books helps us understand God’s love for us