Old Testament notes

Basic Facts about the Old Testament.

The first 39 books in the Bible are called the “Old Testament”, and the following 27 books are called the “New Testament”. The Old Testament writes about the time before Jesus, called BC (before Christ), and the New testament writes about the coming of Jesus in the 1st century AD.1  

Those 39 different books were written over a time span of 1000  years, from 1400 BC to 400 BC.  The original language is mostly Hebrew, the language of the Jews

The Old Testament It is the same book as what the Jews  call the Hebrew Scriptures or Jewish Scriptures.

The Old Testament includes:
• Creation, Fall into Sin, Flood
• History Of the Jews, from 2000 BC to 400 BC
• Religious writings of the Jews, such as poems, songs, sayings, and prophecies

See a one-sentence description of each Old Testament book

Contents of the Old Testament

The Old Testament explains how God formed a relationship with the Jewish2 people, starting with their original ancestor, a man named Abraham, in the year 2000 BC. God promised to Abraham: “I will be your God, and the God of your descendants”. This promise is called a “covenant,” or “testament.”

During these years before Jesus came to earth, God gave the Jews many promises, and also gave them detailed instructions about the religious rituals to use to indicate that they believed in God and accepted these promises. One of these rituals was killing an animal. God wanted to teach his people that “sin” is so terrible that it must be punished by death, but that since God loved people, it was possible for something to substitute for a man, that is, to die in his place. This system of animal sacrifice, which continued for about 1400 years, formed the world view of the Jews so that later they would be able to understand the significance of the death of Jesus. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, the one who took our place so we would not be punished for our sin.

All these promises to the Jews, and all the rituals which God commanded them to do, taken together are called the “Old Covenant”, and are described in the Bible’s “Old Testament”. They describe the “old” way for God to relate to his people. After Jesus arrived, God added more promises, made it clear ‘that the promises were for all people, not only for Jews, and set forth a new, more simple, way for people to relate to him. This way also depended on a sacrifice, but not a sacrifice of animals. Rather, it depended on the death of Jesus, which was a sacrifice so valuable that it has taken care of all sins of all people, and will never have to be repeated.

Jesus then rose from the dead to prove that He really was God, that His words were true, that his death really did successfully accomplish the substitution for our sins, and that he is able to make us rise from death as well. The. way of relationship to God based on trust in Jesus is God’s new “covenant” with  the human race,, and is described in the Bible’s “New Testament”.

A distinguishing feature of the religion revealed in the Bible is that our relationship to God depends on the reliability of God’s promises; it does not depend on our reliability. Therefore we can be sure about receiving these promises, since God is more reliable than we are. The Bible itself sums up this concept in the following sentence: “For this reason it (that is, the promise) is received by faith (that is, not by deserving but by simple trust), according to grace (that is, based on God’s love for ‑us), in order that the promise may be CERTAIN.3

see How Christians use the Old Testament


 AD stands for the Latin words Anno Domini, which means “year of our Lord,” indicating the years starting with the appearance on earth of Jesus Christ and up to the present.) Around the world, then, years are measured as whether they are before or after the coming of Christ. Scholars today who want to avoid reference to Christ write the words BC as BCE, which means “before common era,” instead of BC, and write CE, “common era,” instead of AD, but the time of Jesus still remains the basis for our numbering of years. The idea of dating events from the time of Christ was begun by a scholar in the 6th century (his name was Dionysius Exiguus). Because he made a mistake in his calculations, the actual birth of Jesus turns out to be 6 or 7 years BC.

2 Jewish people is one of the names for the people who are the subject of the Old Testament, but was not the earliest name.  All the names below refer to this same group of people:

• People of Israel, or “sons of Israel” or “Israelites.”  The people named themselves after one of their ancestors, a man named Israel
(his other name was Jacob), who was a grandson of Abraham.

• Chosen People, because God chose them to belong to Him and to pass his promises on to the rest of the world.

• Hebrews.  In the second book of the Bible, Exodus chapter 1, you can see that the same people are called “sons of Israel”
(verse 13) and also “Hebrews” (verse 15).

• Jews.  This word means “people from Judah.”  (Judah was one province of the land of Israel.)  The name “Jew” was more commonly used starting during the last 500 years before Christ.  In the book of Nehemiah you can see the name “Jew” used at chapter 1 verse 2, and the same people referred to as “sons of Israel” in chapter 2 verse 10.  By the time of the New Testament, the term “Jew” was most commonly used, but the term “people of Israel” and “Hebrew” are also found.  Examples: “Jew” and “Hebrew” are used together in Acts 6:1, and “sons of Israel” in Acts 7:37.  It is correct to say that Jesus is a “Jew.”

3 Romans 4:16

Some Concepts found in the Old Testament

The God known by the Jews is actually the God of the entire universe.

This God made everything, and therefore is the only one with the right to be worshipped and obeyed.

No other god or spirit should be worshipped’.

Mankind has chosen to disobey this God, and thus to cut off his original relationship with God.

Mankind’s underlying attitude of rebellion against God shows itself when people prefer their will instead of God’s will. A decision contrary to God’s will is called “sin”.  God hates sin, but, God loves people.

God should punish people because of sin, but because of his love, God has provided a way for people to avoid punishment. and return ‘to a good relationship with God. The Bible sums up this plan of God with the word  “save”. God will save people. The noun is “salvation”. God’s plan is for people to receive salvation.

To begin this plan, God chose a man named Abraham. Abraham’s descendants are called the Jews. Therefore the Jews are called  “the chosen people”.

God entered into a‑relationship with the Jews. The ultimate purpose was to extend this relationship to all people. The Bible uses the word “covenant” to describe this relationship.

The terms of this covenant were:
1) God will save and protect the Jews
2)  The Jews will be loyal and obedient to God. (more on covenant)

The Jews, just, like all people, were sinners. But God said, “I will treat you like a non‑sinner (like a righteous person)” The Bible says, “Abraham believed God, and was counted as righteous”.

God gave detailed laws about moral behavior to the Jews. Since the people did not completely obey these laws, it was impossible for them to deny that they were sinners.  Therefore they knew they needed God to forgive them.

God also gave the Jews detailed laws about ceremonies which they were to perform because of sin. Through these ceremonies., God showed the idea of substitution for sin. An animal was killed in place of the person who had sinned, and the person was forgiven.

Promises in the Old Testament

God promised the Jews that they would experience salvation in its fullness sometime in the future.

it is clear now that some of these promises came true when Jesus arrived, and other promises will come true after the end of the world.

God told the Jews that the full experience of salvation will be connected to the appearance of a powerful king. In the Hebrew language, this king is called “The Messiah”.* The same word in the Greek language is “Christ”. When Jesus came, some people recognized that He was “the Christ”. That means, “He was the great king people were waiting for, the one that God promised in the Old Testament. He is the one who will make our salvation complete.  He is the “Messiah” we are waiting for.”

The Old Testament contains many details about the Messiah.

The Messiah will come from the family of king David, but the Messiah will be greater than David, because the Messiah will be king forever.

The Messiah will be called “God’s Son”. In Hebrew’ thinking, “God’s Son” means “the same as God.”  In Psalm 2, the last word in verse 2 brings up the Messiah, by calling him “the anointed.”  Verse 7 refers to him as the “Son of God.”  Verse 12 states how important it is to be in good relationship with him.

God also made other promises about someone who will come in the future. It is clear now that these promises were also fulfilled by Jesus.

One promise was about a man who would suffer to take care of sins, just like the lambs and other animals in the Old Testament were killed to take care of sins. When Jesus came, someonepointed him out and said “Look! There is the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”1  When Jesus died on the cross, he paid for the sins of every person.

Another promise was about someone who looked like a man, but was a representative of God. This person had.the right to judge the world. In the Old Testament, this person was called “the Son of Man.” When Jesus came, He often called Himself “the Son of. Man”. By this, Jesus meant, “I am the supernatural figure which you read about in the Old Testament. I come as God’s representative. I have the authority to judge the world.”2

Another promise was that a great prophet would come. God promised that this prophet would tell God’s truths very clearly. The Bible makes clear that this prophet is Jesus, by saying “No one has seen God at any time, but the only Son, who is in intimate relationship with the Father, has made Him known.” 3

As the years went by, the Jewish people expectantly looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. When Jesus came, some Jewish people recognized that Jesus was the Messiah (in Greek, Christ), and they put their faith into Jesus and received salvation. These people were criticized by other Jews, who called them “Christians” (that is, “those who belong to Christ”).4 As time went by, most of the people in that area believed in Jesus, but even up to today, the Jews who did not accept Jesus are still waiting for Messiah to come.

Other prophecies about Jesus have not yet come true. The Bible says that in the last days Jesus will come for the second time, to judge the world, and to bring his children to live with Him forever in an eternal relationship with God, as God had promised to Abraham.

*The word Messiah is from Hebrew language and means “anointed.”   Anointed means to pour oil on someone’s head in a ceremony.  For example, they would pour oil on someone’s head to show that he has become a king.

1 John 1:29       2 Matthew 25:31       3 John I:1       4  Acts 11:26

See a one-sentence description of each Old Testament book

Go to Bible as a Whole