Encountering the Old Testament, 3rd Edition

A Christian Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


1. What Is the Old Testament and Why Study It?

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Recite the tests for canonicity
  • Evaluate the most common theories of inspiration
  • Provide illustrations of textual transmission
  • Explain the importance of the scribe in textual transmission
  • List the considerations that are key to interpreting the Old Testament

Chapter Summary

  1. Tests for canonicity of the Old Testament must focus on the author, the timelessness of its message, and the consistency of its teaching with earlier canonical books.
  2. The Bible itself does not tell us in exact words precisely how God inspired the human authors to write the Scriptures.
  3. Scribes who copied the biblical texts took great care in their work because they believed they were copying the very words of God.
  4. The Masoretes did three things to preserve the text they received: (1) they developed a system for writing vowels; (2) they developed a system of accents for the Hebrew text; and (3) they developed a system of detailed notes on the text.
  5. The vast majority of the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the rest in Aramaic.
  6. The most important Hebrew copies of the Old Testament are the Masoretic text, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  7. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Old Testament.
  8. To interpret the Old Testament, it is important to follow the rules of hermeneutics: use the grammatical-historical method; understand the context; determine the type of literature; interpret figurative language; and let Scripture interpret Scripture.
  9. To understand the context of an Old Testament passage, we must consider the immediate context, the remote context, and the historical context.
  10. The Old Testament is more than an ancient book. Its principles apply to our lives today.

Study Questions

  1. What do we mean by the term “canon”? How did people know or decide which books belonged in the Bible?
  2. Identify the different theories of inspiration. Describe the process of biblical inspiration in your own words as you understand it. What are the implications of plenary verbal inspiration?
  3. Describe the process by which those who copied the Scriptures passed them down to us. Name and briefly describe the significance of the major manuscripts we have.
  4. What do Bible interpreters mean by the expression “grammatical-historical interpretation”? Why is it important to use good guidelines for interpretation? How many of those guidelines can you name?