Bible 101, takes us to the basics. God did not reveal himself in English.
Isra’el and the Jews still do today, call their scriptures the Tanakh. Christians added to the Tanakh a shorter portion they call the New Testament (NT). In doing so they: re-named The Tanakh: Old Testament, re-ordered the books of the Tanakh and altered the status of some of the books of the Tanakh. Daniel is a good example, only becoming a Prophet in the Christian Old Testament (OT).
Jews consider the Tanakh to be the revelation of God to Isra’el. Christians see the Holy Bible (OT & NT) as God’s word to all humanity.
Christians, reading your Bible in the Old Testament, you mainly consider its intriguing stories and as to the remainder are frequently left puzzling about how it fits together and connects with the New Testament which seems much easier to read. Scholars have made various attempts to resolve those puzzles.
The Tanakh/OT begins with five books known among Isra’el/The Jews as Torah and known among Christians as the Pentateuch. These are often referred to as the books of Moses. They are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Jews continue to call the books of Moses: Torah; meaning instruction or teaching. It contains autobiographical, statistical, legal and historical material.
In addition to Torah there are the Prophets and the Holy Writings. The New Testament consists of the four accounts of the life & ministry of Jesus (the Gospels), The Acts of the Apostles and the letters written by Paul, John, Peter, James, Jude and whoever wrote Hebrews.
Reading your Bible in their native tongue, few Christians appreciate that the Old Testament/Tanakh was first written in Hebrew, or that the New Testament was written in lingua franca not classical Greek. The Tanakh was translated from Hebrew to the lingua franca Greek of Alexandria, Egypt. They began with Torah in the third century before the Christian era. Completing the remainder of the Old Testament took another two centuries. There is some dispute about these details among scholars.
When the New Testament writers quoted from the Old Testament, almost always, they quoted from the Septuagint. They may have used the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew, because it fitted in more comfortably with the lingua franca Greek they were using to write the Gospels and letters of the New Testament for their Greek readers. So, when reading your Bible keep in mind that:
- the Old Testament is currently translated from the Hebrew into English using the Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS).
- the New Testament is translated from the Greek into English mainly using the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament
When you are reading your Bible (the English New Testament), and find a cross-reference to an Old Testament passage, don’t be surprised to find that when you read that passage in your Old Testament, it is not quite the same as when you read it in your New Testament. For most routine purposes the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible is an excellent English translation for reading your Bible. More on reading your Bible will follow. Separate items will follow on Exodus as well as on Passover. In the meantime, do let us have your comments. Questions and observations are also welcome in the space below.
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