Old Testament

Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures . For some Christian denominations, the set of canonical books of The Bible written before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth , covering both the Pentateuch and historical, prophetic, and wisdom books.

The books, which make up the first part of The Christian Bible, roughly correspond to the Jewish Tanach; some differences in the ordering of the books and in the inclusion or not of some of them separate the version used by the Jews that derives from the Masoretic text codified in the first centuries of the Common Era of the Vulgate that constitutes the official version of the Church Catholic , translated into Latin from a preceding Greek translation, the so-called Septuagint. In turn, the Protestant texts exclude some books, considered deuterocanonical, precisely because the original text is not available in Hebrew .

The denomination of the Old Testament (which presupposes the existence of a New Testament to which it is opposed) is exclusive to some Christian denominations.


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  • 1 Literary genres
  • 2 Old Testament Books
    • 1 Pentateuch
    • 2 Historical books
    • 3 Prophetic books
      • 3.1 Major prophets
      • 3.2 Minor Prophets
    • 4 Wisdom books
  • 3 See also
  • 4 Sources

Literary genres

Ancient writing

The Old Testament is a very complex text as it is made up of books written in multiple genres and in different historical periods of the Hebrew people .

As for most books, four literary traditions that compose them can be recognized (according to the documentary hypothesis ):

  • Yahvista tradition, which uses the term Yahveh to refer to God , whom it presents anthropomorphic, manifested in human form. This genus is probably typical of the southern Hebrew kingdom or Judah .
  • Elohista tradition, which uses the term Elohim to refer to God , the one who presents the most inconsequential. This genus is probably typical of the northern Hebrew kingdom or Israel .
  • Priestly tradition, which focuses on issues of Judaic worship, and which includes the account found at the beginning of the entire Old Testament: the first version of Creation in the book of Genesis (the second version of Creation comes immediately after and It is of Yavista tradition).
  • Deuteronomic tradition, which focuses on compliance with the Law, for having been written in what some have identified as the discovery of the Law in the times of King Josiah .

Drawing Reading of the Law

Precisely the book of Deuteronomy belongs to this genre. A summary of the theory, development and criticism that this hypothesis has received can be found in Soggin’s book that is cited in the bibliography.

The following literary genres can be recognized in the Old Testament:

  • Historical books: Covers all texts in the form of a story. Includes: true, novel and fictional stories; popular stories (myths, legends , sagas, stories ); informative and biographical data; stories announcing the coming of the Messiah .
  • Law: Collections of norms and precepts by which the Hebrew people were governed, both civilly and religiously.
  • Prophetic books: Sayings and speeches delivered by a Prophet or messenger who speaks in the name of God. Includes oracles, biographical accounts, visions, and symbolic actions.
  • Lyric: Poetic texts, generally in verse, that express deep feelings and experiences. Includes songs of love, elegies of pain, prayer poems.
  • Wisdom books: Collections of sentences, proverbs, allegories and sayings that express in a popular and reasoned way the experience of the sage’s own life.The development of the literary genres that are supposed to be included in the texts of the Old Testament as well as their relationship with literary genres Back then used in the East .

Old Testament books


Main article: Pentateuch


Genesis : The book of Genesis describes the creation of the universe , the beginning of human history, the origin of the nations and especially of the Hebrew people, and the covenant of God with them through Abraham and the other patriarchs. Among its most surprising stories are those relating to the Tower of Babel and the Universal Flood .

Exodus : The main facts of the book revolve around the departure of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt , under the leadership of Moses.

Leviticus : This book deals with the themes of the laws regarding sacrifices, the consecration of priests, purity and holiness.

Numbers : This book is about the pilgrimage of the Hebrew people through the desert for forty years, as well as their arrival at the eastern border of the promised land .

Deuteronomy : This book summarizes what happened from the handing over of the tables of the law to the arrival in the plains of Moab .

Historical books

Main article: Historical books

Joshua : This book narrates the conquest of the Promised Land and the distribution that Joshua makes among the various tribes. Then it deals with some issues of the Shechem Assembly and Joshua’s dispositions.

Judges : The Book of Judges tells the period from the death of Joshua to the birth of Samuel, a time when the Jews have abandoned their nomadic life and have just settled as semi-sedentary first and farmers later, living in houses of material or adobe huts.

Ruth : The book tells the story of Elimelech, a man from Bethlehem in Judah who migrated with his family to the country of Moab. His wife was called Naomi and her children, Quelyón and Majalón. When Elimelech died, his two sons married Orfa and Ruth de Moab, respectively.

I Samuel : This book tells the story of Samuel and of King Saul’s reign until his death, including the Israelites’ war against the Philistines and the great feat of Little Shepherd David in defeating the giant Goliath .

II Samuel : This book tells the story of Israel from the death of King Saul and the subsequent reign of David , with a supplement at the end.

I Kings : This book tells the story of the reign of Solomon , son of David and of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

II Kings : In this book the history of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel continues from the death of Solomon to the fall of Samaria and Jerusalem , it should be noted that all the Israelite kings did evil in the eyes of God, among them, Jeroboam , Omrí , Acab and Jezabel , Uzzias and Joacin. It also relates the miracles of the prophet Elisha and at the end of the book the story continues to culminate in the Babylonian Exile.

I Chronicles or I Paralipomena: This book in particular narrates the period from the origins to the death of David. It tells the story from Adam to Saul in his first half and then David’s.

II Chronicles or II Paralipomena: This book in particular narrates the period between the death of David and the final liberation. It tells the story of each king in a very schematic and non-exhaustive way, indicating in general: name of the father, name of the mother, duration of the reign, successor, place of burial, main events and synchrony of each of the kings of Israel .

Ezra : Ezra is especially concerned with the rebuilding of the Temple and the legal organization of Judaism.

Nehemiah : This book tells of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, the temple arrangement, and the reforms carried out by Nehemiah.

Tobias : This book relates the accompaniment that the archangel Raphael makes to a young man full of faith, who goes to find a wife and finally marries after overcoming enormous difficulties with the help of the angel sent by God. It is an apology for family and human values.

Judit : The book tells the story of Judit daughter of Merari in the middle of Israel’s war against the Assyrian army.

Esther : It is a historical book with the purpose of explaining to the faithful the origin of the Purim festival.

I Maccabees : Maccabees narrates the attempt to Hellenize the Jews by force by Antiochus IV Epiphanes . It has been contested by some Protestant authors, who do not see evidence of doctrines in it.

II Maccabees : The book focuses on two religious festivals: the Dedication of the Temple after its reconstruction, and the day that Nicanor besieges the temple. It also tells the story of Heliodorus, and the martyrdom of Eléazaro, and of the seven brothers and their mother.

Prophetic books

Main article: Prophetic books

Major prophets

Isaiah : This book contains very vivid glimpses of early dreams and aspirations of universal redemption for all the peoples of the earth. Modern exegesis divides it into at least three large collections of prophetic poems (Chapters 1-35, 40-55, and 56-66), and a historical appendix (Chapters 36-39), partly parallel or taken from parts or passages of II Kings.

Jeremiah : This book contains the history and prophecies of Jeremiah, a highly sensitive Jewish gentleman, who from a young age felt compelled to make people aware of the need to be faithful and obedient before God. He insistently prophesied the exile and exile of the people and the kings of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, so he often got into trouble with the civil and religious authorities of the Kingdom of Judah.

Lamentations : This book contains four acrostic-alephatic lamentations, and a prayer, written on the occasion of the devastation of Jerusalem after falling into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar II. They evoke vividly the horrors of the siege, fall and destruction of Jerusalem, and the unfathomable sorrow of seeing the Jews humiliated, marching into exile, carried like sheep by the Babylonian conquerors.

Baruch or Baruch: Series of documents attached to Baruch, scribe and secretary of the prophet Jeremiah, where the Jews are instructed on how to face and cope with exile and captivity with responsibility and dignity, and loyalty to the Lord. Numerous authors, as well as editors of Biblical writings, present as a body of text independent of the body of this book of Baruch, Chapter 6, which contains an Epistle ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah .

Ezekiel : In the introduction, God gives the prophet the guidelines of his prophetic mission, while the following chapters detail a long series of threats and future punishments for Jerusalem and Judah, for the false prophets and, in general, for all the Jews who have sinned before Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion.

Daniel : This book is the sum of up to twelve different documents that relate stories and visions attached to Daniel, a wise man and Jewish exile counselor who served in the courts of Babylonian kings. Numerous authors, as well as editors of Biblical writings, present as separate text bodies from the body of this book of Daniel, Chapters 13 and 14, which contain, respectively, the Story of Susanna and the Story of Bel and the Dragon .

Minor prophets

Hosea : This book tells a prophecy that is divided into two parts.

Joel : Joel’s book is divided into two clearly differentiated parts. In the first, a devastating locust infestation destroys the country, producing a penitential celebration among the victims. The second part deals with the fruits of penance and liberation that heralds a future redemption.

Amos : This book gives a warning message to the pagan nations and to the sinners of Judah and Israel as they will be judged by Yahweh (God) and punished but could eventually be forgiven.

Obadiah : The book of Obadiah prophesies Yahweh’s revenge against Edom, which will come in 312 with its conquest by the Arabs.

Jonah : The book tells of the prophet Jonah and a well known story in which God commands Jonah to prophesy or preach to the people of Nineveh to persuade them to repent or receive destruction.

Micah : This book is about God’s punishment on the northern kingdomfor sins like: idolatry, Baal worship, sacrifices, child rituals, magic and enchantments.

Nahum : Nahum prophesies the destruction of Nineveh, symbolizing the liberation from all slavery.

Habakkuk : This book chronicles the final days of the Assyrian Empire and the beginning of Babylon’s world domination under Nabopolasar and his son Nebuchadnezzar.

Zephaniah : The book of Zephaniah is an invitation to penance and an affirmation of God’s love for the people.

Haggai or Haggai: This book is mainly about the reconstruction of the Temple and is divided into four discourses or sermons that are in chronological order.

Zechariah : This book talks mainly about the restoration of the Temple and Jerusalem and the coronation of the High Priest Joshua.

Malachi : This is the last book in the Old Testament that reproaches the attitudes of families to separate and the behavior of priests for non-compliance with divine worship.

Wisdom books

Main article: Wisdom books

Job : This book is about Job a religious man, good and just, whom God allows Satan to subject to numerous and dire tests.

Psalms Book : This book contains psalms and prayers.

Proverbs : They are the teachings of theological philosophy that teach man to be like the wise and to live accordingly.

Ecclesiastes : This is the book of man reasoning about life. Here we have the highest height he can reach with his knowledge that there is a holy God and that one day He will bring everything to judgment.

The Song of Songs : It is about two lovers, Solomon and Sulamit, who have been forced to separate.

Wisdom : This book addresses the brothers of its author alerting them to the ruin of those who will lead idolatry and atheism if they allow themselves to be seduced by them.

Ecclesiastical Book : The book is addressed to pious Jews who want to live life according to the Law, without forgetting the pagans who want to know what awaits them when they become good Jews.


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