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Introduction to the
Old Testament
R. C. Flores, SVD
June- October 2005
The Shema (opening prayer)
Deuteronomy 6:4-9
"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all
your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.
Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and
abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.
Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a
pendant on your forehead.
Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your
Happy those who do not follow the counsel
of the wicked, Nor go the way of sinners,
nor sit in company with scoffers.
 Rather, the law of the LORD is their joy;
God's law they study day and night.
 They are like a tree planted near streams
of water, that yields its fruit in season;
 Its leaves never wither; whatever they do
Psalm 1:1
Three things that sustain the world:
(according to Judaism)
1. Torah (The Law)
 2. Temple (Service)
 3. Deeds of Loving-kindness
“The Old Testament is essential to know
 -John
Paul II.
Preliminary Remarks
1.The Hebrew Bible
The Old Testament (Christian Term)
The Bible of the Jews
 Called Torah (The Law)
 Tanak
 From:
 Law-Prophets-Writings
Three Divisions
 Torah
 Prophets
 Writings
 Exodus
 Leviticus
 Numbers
 Deuteronomy
Former Prophets
Latter Prophets
 Joshua
 Isaiah
 Judges
 Jeremiah
 Samuel
 Ezekiel
 Kings
 The Twelve
 Hosea,Joel,Amos
 Obadiah,Jonah, Micah
 Nahum,Habbakuk,Zeph
 Haggai,Zechariah,
Proverbs and Job
Five Scrolls
 Song
of Songs
 Ruth
 Lamentations
 Ecclesiastes
 Esther
Hebrew Bible = 39 Books
 Protestants
The Special Catholic Books:
The Deuterocanonical Books
 Tobit
 Judith
 Maccabees
 Sirach (Ecclesiasticus)
 Wisdom of Solomon
Catholic Old Testament = 46
2. Ancient Israel and Its Neighbors
Map of the World
Major Empires/Civilizations
 East
of Israel = Egypt
 West: = Mesopotamia
 Babylonia
 Persia
Dawn of Civilization (Ancient Near East)
 Literature
Enuma Elish
Gilgamesh Epic
 Laws
Hammurabi Code
 Political
 religions
Marduk, Baal, Re
Temples for gods
 Irrigation
 Commerce
 Weapons
Pyramids at Giza in Egypt
Egyptian Hieroglyphics
Ziggurat (Tower) in Ancient Iraq
Hammurabi Code
3. Map of Ancient Israel
The map of
Ancient Israel
 Called “Canaan”
 Then “Israel” in honor of Jacob
 His
children and their descendants would
compose the future one nation.
 When
it became a Roman colony
State of Israel (Today)
Four Principal Regions
 Galilee
 Samara
 Judah
 Negev
4. Major Events (Key Periods)
Exodus - 1250 BC
 United Monarchy under David and
Solomon – 1000BC
 Babylonian Exile – 586 BC
 Fall of Jerusalem 70 AD
5.The Empires who invaded
Ancient Israel
Assyrian Empire 8th century BC
 Babylonian Empire 6th century BC
 Persian Empire 5th century BC
 Greek Empire 4th century BC
 Roman Empire 3rd century – 2 century AD
Seal of the Persian King Darius
6. Who wrote the OT?
Many people
 in different places: in and outside Israel
(like in Babylon)
 Over long period of time
c. BC – 4th c. BC.
 Roughly over 1000 years!!!
 13th
A sample manuscript of Isaiah found in Qumran,
near the Dead Sea in 1947:
dated 1st c. BC- 1st c. A.D.
7. Necessary Books
A Copy of New American Bible
 or New Revised Standard Version
 Lawrence Boadt, Reading the Old
Testament, St. Pauls, 1984.
 Or Anthony Ceresko, Introduction to the
Old Testament, Claretian, 1992.
Chapter I:
The Pentateuch
Also called: The Torah
 “Five Books of Moses”
 “First Five Books”
 The heart of the Old Testament
 "Do not think that I have come to abolish
the law or the prophets; I have come not
to abolish but to fulfill. Matthew 5:17
Studying Torah. An observant Jew at the Western Wall in
Jerusalem intently studies a Torah Scroll.
The Torah is the
document of
Judaism and is the
heart of the Old
General Introduction
1. General Outline of the
I. Genesis 1-11 - Story of Beginnings
II. Genesis 12-50 – Story of the Ancestors
III. Exodus 1-18 – Story of God’s
Liberating Actions
IV. Exodus 19-24; Leviticus; Numbers 1-10 – Story of
the Covenant and Law For God’s People.
V. Numbers 11-36 – Story of the Wilderness
VI. Deuteronomy 1-34 – Farewell Speeches of
Genesis – Story of Beginnings
 Ends
with the death of the Ancestor, Joseph.
Exodus – Deuteronomy – Story of Moses
and Israelites
 Ends
with the death of Moses.
2. Who wrote the Torah?
According to Jewish
and Christian tradition.
By Michelangelo
Torah was composed
from a variety of
materials assembled
over a long period of
Modern scholarship
Hypothesis” or theory
of sources
Source Criticism
Julius Wellhausen 1844-1918
Yahwist Source (J) 10th -9th cent. BC
 Elohist Source (E) 9th cent. BC
 Deuteronomic Source (D) 7th cent. BC
 Priestly Source (P) 6th or 5th cent. BC
Five Literary Identifiers
to distinguish the sources
1) duplication and repetition of material.
2) variation in the ways of referring to God.
Yahweh -- Elohim
3) contrasting author perspectives.
Compare Genesis 1 and 2
Genesis 1 = Human beings created last
Genesis 2 = Human beings created first.
4)variation in vocabulary and literary style.
5) Evidence of editorial activity.
a. The Yahwist Source (J)
The Yahwist narrative begins at Genesis
2:4 and continues through the book of
 By itself, it can form one continuous story.
 Yahwist materials can be identified in the
The over-all plot of the Yahwist
 Stories
of human origins
 The promise of the patriarchs
 Oppression in Egypt
 Exodus from Egypt
 Wandering in the Sinai wilderness
 A covenant made at Mount Sinai
 On the edge of the promised land.
Themes of the Yahwist Story
 1)
Human beings’ sin, punishment, hope.
Adam, Cain, People in Noah’s time, Tower of
 2)
Foreshadowing (Gen 15:13-15)
 3) God acting like human beings
such as when he walked with Adam and Eve in the
garden of Eden.
 4)
Conflict between brothers
Cain and Abel
 Jacob and Esau
 Joseph and his 11 Brothers
 5)
The triumph of the younger brother over the
older brother.
 6)
The wife who cannot bear children
Sarah (Abraham)
 ,Rebecca (Isaac)
 Rachel (Jacob)
 7)
The prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24)
“A star will come forth from Jacob
 A scepter from Israel will rise.”
= God’s Promise will be fulfilled.
Theology of the Yahwist Story
 Promise
of Yahweh to Abraham (read: Gen
12:1-3). “I will make your name great.”
 This the basis for hope despite the growth of
human disobedience (Adam, Cain, The Flood,
Tower of Babel).
 Since
J could have been written in the court of
king David (1000BC), this promise echoes the
promise of Yahweh to David (read: 2 Samuel
b. The Elohist Source
Offers a counterview to the Yahwist optimistic
Perhaps the Elohist writer was trying to make
sense out of David’s failures.
 E.g.
Bathsheba affair.
The Elohist source must have come from the
Northern Kingdom which was established after
the death of David’s son Solomon.
God, instead, is distant.
 Communicates
through dreams (Gen 20:3)
Warning to Moses not to start a dynasty
(Exodus 18)
 Emphasis on the “Fear of God”
 “conscience”//
natural sense to do what is
morally right.
See Genesis 20:11
 Exod 1:15-17
Concerned about ethical and moral
 His
version of sad story of Sarah as sister of
Abraham – Abraham’s lying is highlighted in
E; while in J, it was Pharaoh’s fault.
 Read Gen 12:10-20 (J)
 Read also Gen 20:10-17 (E)
c. The Priestly Source
Last of the narrative sources.
 It is intended to supplement J and E
Written during the time of the Exile
 Israel’s
faith is still valid even with no land, no
temple, and no king.
 Reasons
for keeping the Sabbath (Gen 1)
 origins of circumcision (Gen 17)
 The divine command to obey all the worship
and religious laws (Leviticus 1-27; Num 1-10;
 Importance of high priest.
 Holiness
 The use of genealogies
 The importance of blessing (Gen1 and 9).
d. Deuteronomic Source
The whole book of Deuteronomy
 Joshua-Judges
 1-2 Samuel
 1-2 Kings
A. Genesis 1-11 The Story of
1. Literary style: Myth.
 Myth
are stories about the beginning of the
world and human beings.
 Myths in Mesopotamia:
Enuma Elish (1000 BC)
Babylonian Creation Myth
Gilgamesh Epic
Sumerian story of the Flood (2000 BC)
 Behind
the myth: Truth about reality.
 Myth is true history because it is sacred
Malakas at Maganda
Filipino Myth of Creation
Artist: Alfredo Roces
2. Our Beginning is good and holy.
Genesis Chapter 1- 2:4a
Priestly creation story
“and God saw that it was good.”
Paglilikha (creation)
 Day 1: Day and Night
Day 2: sky
Day 3: Earth, sea,
and Plants
Pagpupuno (filling-up)
 Day 4: Sun, Moon,
 Day 5: Birds and
 Day 6: Animals,
insects, and human
Day 7:
God rested. He made “holy” all his creation
God constructs a good, beautiful and a holy house,
the earth.
Day 7
Day 4 Sun,
Moon, Stars
Day 5
Birds, Fish
Day 6
Day 1
Day 3
Day 2 Sky
Sea, Land
“Let there be light!”
1) All creation is good, including:
 Darkness,
waters, or wild animals, sea
 In Enuma Elish, these are forces to be
Marduk slaying Tiamat (Sea god)
2. All creation is holy.
 On
Day 7, God choose to dwell/rest—
meaning “to build his house” in our created
In Enuma Elish: Creation is concluded through the
construction of a house for the god.
 Sabbath: the temporal dwelling place for God.
 The
One who made them is “Holy”.
3. Only the human beings are created in
God’s image and likeness.
 Meaning:
He/She imitates God to make
creation good and holy.
 Imago Dei = Imitatio Dei
4. Only the human beings are created in
God’s image and likeness.
 Meaning:
He/She imitates God to make
creation good and holy.
5. command to birds, fish and to human
 “Be
fertile and multiply” (Gen 1:22,28)
Today, this commandment is applicable only to
birds and fish, since they are getting extinct.
6. Only human beings are commanded:
 “fill
the earth and subdue it.” Have dominion..
over all the living things” (Gen 1:28)
 NOT TO ABUSE the environment
 But: to act like God (image and likeness)
To make the environment good and holy.
 To take care of creation
 To use his/her talents to make the earth fruitful!
 Only the human beings are given this
By Marc Chagall
Genesis chapters 2-3
Story of Human Beings’ Forgetfulness of
their vocation.
Chapter 2: Human Beings, called The Man
and the Woman (ADAM and EVE)
 God
forms the man out of the clay of the
ground (Gen 2:7).
He is one with the earth.
 He is to till/take care of the earth. (Gen 2:5).
 He is placed in a garden in EDEN, to cultivate and
care for it (Gen 2:15).
 EDEN? - symbol of the goodness and holiness of
the creation.
By Michelangelo
 God
formed out of the ground wild animals and birds
to be his suitable partner.
 The man gave names to all the animals and the birds
(Gen 1:20).
Nature indeed becomes not only partners but the friend of
the human being.
For the man, these were not fitting as his friends
Human beings begin to separate themselves from nature, to
see themselves as more important than nature.
So Lord God formed the Woman (Isha)
 When
man (ish) was asleep
Man did not form the woman, it was God who formed her.
He should not think he is more important than the woman.
 Woman
from man’s rib.
Man and woman are interrelated.
They are not rivals
They are equal partners.
“bone of my bones”/ “flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23).
Since they are of one flesh, the two can from a family.
(Gen 1:24= marriage)
“Man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife.”
Animals, and the rest of creation are not of one flesh with the
human beings. He/she can’t marry them.
Man and man/ or woman and woman can’t form a family.
Note that although they were naked, they were not
they continue to be interrelated with nature, to live in harmony
with nature.
Animals and the rest of creation don’t wear clothes.