Scripture and Its Interpretation

A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible


3. The Scriptures of Israel (The Christian Old Testament)

Reviewing the Chapter

  1. In what sense is the collection of Israel’s Scriptures a Jewish text? a Christian text?
  2. What are the names and basic contents of the three main divisions of the Scriptures of Israel (the Christian Old Testament)?
  3. What are some of the main themes and narratives found in each of the five books of the Torah (or Pentateuch)?
  4. What are the books of the former prophets? Who are some of the main characters and what are some of the main events in the narratives found within those books?
  5. Which biblical books are referred to as the latter prophets, and what are some of the major concerns of each of these books?
  6. What kinds of literature do we find in the third division of the Old Testament?
  7. Which biblical texts are referred to as the apocryphal or deuterocanonical books, and in which canons (Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, and/or Orthodox) are they found?

Engaging a Central Issue

Respond to the following claim Claire Mathews McGinnis makes in this chapter (p. 69): “[A] Christian approach to Scripture involves reading any one part of Scripture in light of the whole. Thus, the texts of the Christian Old Testament are not simply a prelude to the texts of the New; instead, they offer their own important testimony to the God of Israel, who is both the Creator and God of all the earth.”

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What ties together the various books of Israel’s Scriptures / the Christian Old Testament as one Scripture?
  2. How are the human features of Scripture (language, characteristic forms of discourse, imagery, and so forth) related to the divine aspects (to the claim that it is divinely inspired)? Do you see these two things as being mutually exclusive or as working hand in hand with each other? Why?
  3. What issues and questions raised by the OT are particularly relevant to the questions and concerns of contemporary readers? What issues and questions seem the least relevant?
  4. How are the ways that contemporary readers and writers think about history and historical events different from those of the biblical writers? How are they similar?