Old Testament Survey
by Billy Houston
A survey is a look at the structure of Scripture; there are two ways of approach to Bible study, the use of the microscope or the use of the telescope (analytical or synthetical – going from the parts to the whole or from the whole to the parts).
Luther describes Scripture as one great tree with limbs (66 books), branches (1189 chapters – 929 Old Testament / 260 New Testament), leaves (31,173 verses – 23,214 Old Testament / 7,959 New Testament); to complete the picture, there are 773,692 words in the Bible – 592,439 Old Testament / 181,253 New Testament and there are 3,566,480 letters – 2,728,100 Old Testament / 838,380 New Testament.
1. WHY STUDY THE OLD TESTAMENT AT ALL?
Should we be bothered with the Old Testament? How much of it do we know?
(a) The Bible would be only half a drama without it.
(b) The ministry of Christ would be impossible to comprehend without it.
(c) It is a valuable contribution to the revelation of God.
(d) It is an invaluable spiritual resource for every child of God.
2. HOW DO WE STUDY THE OLD TESTAMENT?
- breakdown of books according to
(i) Literary character
– 17 history / 5 poetry / 17 prophetic
– 1450 – 1000 B.C. Genesis – Joshua
– 1000-786 1&2 Samuel / Song of Songs? Ecclesiastes? Psalms (many, perhaps not all)
– 786-736 Amos, Jonah, Hosea
– 736-686 Hosea (continues), Isaiah, Micah
– 686-636 Proverbs, Nahum
– 636-586 Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Obadiah
– 586-536 Lamentations, Daniel (continues), Ezekiel (continues), 1&2 Kings (completed)
– 520 (approx.) Haggai, Zechariah
– (before) 420 Joel? Malachi
– 420-326 Psalms (perhaps completed), Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, 1&2 Chronicles (completed)
N.B. In the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament consisted of 24 books due to Samuel / Kings / Chronicles / Ezra-Nehemiah / and 12 Minor Prophets each taken as one book; the breakdown is as follows:
5 books of the Law (Torah, Genesis – Deuteronomy).
8 books of the prophets (Nebhiim, 4 earlier prophets Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and 4 later prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve).
11 books of Writings (Kethubhiim, 3 former writings Psalms, Proverbs, Job, 5 rolls [Megilloth] Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, and 3 later writings Daniel, Ezra – Nehemiah, Chronicles).
(b) A knowledge of geography, major events, leading individuals, and nations:
Geography – 8 bodies of water including the Mediterranean, Galilee, Jordan, the Dead Sea, the Nile, the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Persian Gulf.
Major Events – 9 main eras including Creation, the Patriarchs, the Exodus, the Conquest, the Judges, the Kingdom, the Exile, the Return, the Silence.
Leading Individuals – 9 are singled out here including Adam, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samson, David, Daniel, Ezra and the Pharisees.
Leading Nations – 5 will be noted including Israel (Canaan/Palestine), Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Persia.
Recommended Reading List
1. 30 Days to Understanding the Bible – Max E. Anders – Kingsway Publications.
2. Survey of the Bible – William Hendriksen – Evangelical Press.
3. The Unfolding Drama of Redemption – W. Graham Scroggie – Kregel.
4. All About Bible Study – Herbert Lockyer – Zondervan.
5. God’s Wonderful Word – Trevor F. Knight – Young Life.