INTRODUCTORY STUDIES — THE OLD TESTAMENT


There will be two chapters on the introduction to the Old Testament and to the book of Genesis. This is the first chapter. It is not designed at all, by these brief introductions, to take the place of the extensive work of biblical introduction, but only to give some general outlines of the relations of the book of Genesis.

I will commence with our English word “Bible.” It has two derivations. The first derivation was from the Greek neuter plural Biblia, which means a library or collection of books. The word, “Holy,” indicates the character of the books as distinguished from secular books, so that the words, “Holy Bible,” mean sacred library. Later on, after all of the books were bound together into one volume, the word “Bible” was derived from the singular Greek word, Biblos, and is properly called “a” or “the book.”

DIVISIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN WORLD AND THEIR ATTITUDE TOWARD THE BIBLE

In general terms, there are Romanists, Greeks, and Protestants. Only technically do Baptists belong to the Protestants; in a general way you may include them with the Protestants. The Romanists have an English Bible, the Douay Version, which, in the Old Testament, differs from our Bible by certain additions. I will state these differences: (1) Just after Nehemiah they insert two books, Tobit and Judith; (2) they addto the book of Esther six and a half chapters; (3) just after Song of Solomon they insert two books, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus; (4) just after Lamentations they insert a book, Baruch; (5) between Da 3:23-24, they insert 67 verses; (6) at the close of this book they add two chapters, The History of Susanna and The Story of Bel and the Dragon; (7) after Malachi they put two additional books, I and 2 Maccabees. These books and parts of books which they add are not found in the Hebrew Bible at all. They were never accepted by the Jews as a part of their sacred oracles. They are sometimes inserted between the Old Testament and New Testament as parts of what is called the Apocrypha, that is, the questioned books of the Old Testament.

The Romanists have the same New Testament that we have, but there is another quite important distinction between their English Bible and ours. Theirs is not a translation from the original languages at all, but it is a translation of a translation. It is a translation into English of what is called The Vulgate, or the Jerome Latin Bible, and while the whole of it is a fine piece of work, in the main, it is in itself but a translation from the faulty Greek version called the Septuagint. And in that respect it is very inferior to our Bible. Their English Bible is, therefore, different from ours in the renderings or translations. I will give you two samples out of many: In Ge 3:15, where the promise is that the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head, they render: “she shall bruise the serpent’s head” — making a woman and not the Saviour the bruiser of the serpent’s bead. Again, where our Bible says “repent,” theirs says “do penance.”

We next come to the Jewish Bible in English. I have a copy of it before me. It is a very modern translation; after the King James, and even after the Canterbury Revision, which I advise you to purchase when able. It is by Isaac Leeser, printed in 1891 at Chicago. The difference between this English Bible and our Old Testament is that this version was made so late that all those passages which ancient Jews counted as messianic, this version strains to so render as to weaken, if not destroy, any application to our Lord Jesus Christ. The original of the Jewish Bible has exactly the same matter as our Old Testament, and the same books; it is only a difference of translation.

DIVISIONS OF THE BIBLE

In our English Bible there are two grand divisions, called the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word “testament” is a very unfortunate translation of the original Greek word, dialheke, because our Bible is not a last will and testament. In only two verses in the New Testament ought diatheke to be translated “testament”: Heb 9:16-17. Here, plainly, the reference is to the last will and testament of a man who, as testator, must die before his heirs can inherit. In every other place in the New Testament the Greek word diatheke should be translated “covenant,” which is quite a different thing from a last will and testament. So we really should call these two great divisions “The Old and New Covenants,” and Paul does so call them in his letter to the Hebrews. Now, the idea of the translation, “testament,” was suggested by two passages of Scripture: Mt 26:28 — ”This is my blood of the new testament”; and the other passage is Heb 9:15, “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament [and it ought to have been rendered “covenant”], that by means of death) for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” While, therefore, there are points of analogy between a man’s will and God’s covenant, yet some hurtful interpretations have arisen by calling these two divisions of our Bible “Old and New Testaments.” I refer particularly to a book of a certain sect looking upon the New Covenant as a testament or last will of Jesus Christ. He says that as under a will nobody can inherit until after the death of the testator, therefore no sins could be remitted, and there could be no children of God, until after Christ died, a failure to Dote the difference between the time of expiation and the time of remission. The true interpretation of this matter is set forth in the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, Art. VIII, Sec. 6, and in Art. XI, Sec. 6, which read:

Art. VIII, Sec. 6, Philadelphia Baptist Confession: Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof was communicated to the elect in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein He was revealed and signified to be the seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent’s head, and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, being the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.

Art. XI, Sec. 6: The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers tinder the New Testament.

So you are to understand that the translation, “testament,” is not inspired; it is a human, misleading rendering of the Greek word, diatheke.

SOME OTHER DIVISIONS

The Jews divided their Bible into the following classifications: “The Law, The Prophets, and The Holy Writings.” They understood by the Law the five books of Moses, the Pentateuch, and they divided their prophets into two classes: those who record history, as Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, which are called the Earlier Prophets, not because they were prophecies, but because they were books which prophets wrote. Their second subdivision of the second division is the Later Prophets, and these they have divided into Greater and Lesser: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and then the twelve minor prophets. To some it is a matter of surprise that their third main division contains Daniel — not that Daniel has no prophecy in it, but because Daniel’s office was not prophetic. He was the prime minister of an earthly government, and, while there is much revelation in Daniel, yet there is very little prophecy directly uttered by him. He records marvelous revelations which God gives to him, and those revelations have much of the element of prophecy. For the same reason they include the psalms in their third division. David was not by office a prophet. By office he was a king, but incidentally he prophesied much in the psalms. Some people are greatly troubled at the thought that Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings are classed among the prophets, and that Daniel’s book is not classed among the prophets. You understand that there is no denial of the prophetic element in Daniel, but that his was not the prophetic office, and that there is no assertion that Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings are prophecies, but that they were written by prophets.

BOOK DIVISIONS

Our Old Testament has thirty-nine books; twenty-seven in the New Testament — sixty-six books in all. The Romanist Old Testament has forty-six books, and their New Testament the same as ours. The Jewish translation in English has thirty-nine just. like ours, but they have two different enumerations of these books. The first is twenty-four, obtained in this way: combining 1 and 2 Samuel as one book, I and 2 Kings as one, 1 and 2 Chronicles as one, Ezra and Nehemiah as one, and then the twelve minor prophets as one book, making twenty-four in all, answering to the letters of the Greek alphabet. Then again they are divided into twenty-two books, as found in Josephus. According to this combination Ruth and Judges make one book, and Jeremiah and Lamentations make one, answering to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The New Testament recognizes the threefold division of the Old Testament — The Law, The Prophets, and The Psalms. Our Lord himself so recognizes it in Lu 24:44: “All the things that are written concerning me in the law, the prophets and the psalms.”

THE ORDER OF THE BOOKS

The order is not inspired, nor chronological, nor at all times logical. The Jewish Bible collates the books for liturgical purposes, i.e.) for readings in the Temple, the synagogue, or the home, so as to provide special lessons for each year, each week and each day. Now, if we had to put the books of the Bible down in the order of their history, we have it about right as far as the second book of Kings. If we should arrange them according to the date of the writing, then, in my opinion, Job should come first, both logically and chronologically. In the New Testament they are arranged according to a mixed method, more historically than chronologically. Perhaps the first book of the New Testament was James’ letter; then would come Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians; next, his letters to the Corinthians, then Galatians and the Romans; and the letters of his first Roman imprisonment — Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews. And then would follow Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, and the letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus. John’s Gospel and letters come very much later than the others, with Revelation last of all. It is important for you to know that fact in order to know how much of the written New Testament each man had at the time he himself wrote.

DIVISION OF THE BIBLE INTO CHAPTERS AND VERSES

This is not inspired. The division into chapters took place about the middle of the thirteenth century, A.D., and the honor of making that division lies between Cardinal Hugo and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton. The object of the division was to make a concordance, and so about the middle of the thirteenth century the first concordance of the Bible was made. The division into verses took place in the sixteenth century A.D., by Robert Stephens, a printer in Paris, and that added very much to the facility in making concordances. While generally these chapter and verse divisions are fine, sometimes they break the connection and dislocate the thought most arbitrarily. For example: Genesis I should include the first three verses of the second chapter.

THE BIBLE AS A STANDARD

You ask a Catholic what is the supreme standard by which all conduct and creed and destiny are determined, and he will say: “The Bible, with the additions that we put in it, and in the translations that we give, and in the interpretations we give, together with tradition.” To illustrate: Suppose you and a Roman Catholic were debating, and he should cite a proof text from Tobit, or Judith, or Baruch, or 1 or 2 Maccabees, or Wisdom, or Ecclesiasticus — while this would be authority to him, it would not be for you, but only uninspired Jewish literature. Then, he would want to quote either from the Vulgate Latin Version made by Jerome, or the Douay Version, which is but a translation of the Latin Version into English, and then he would want to confine you to the interpretations put upon it by the Church of Rome, and ultimately the dictum of the Pope, while you would naturally object to his text, his renderings, and his interpretations; so you could not join in an issue. Your standard and his standard are not the same.

THE METHOD OF STUDY

Now, I want to say something about the method of studying the Bible in the Old Testament. The history of the Old Testament is really divided into two parts — just as distinct as it is possible for parts to be. The first part takes the history from Genesis to the close of 2 Kings, the destruction of the Jewish monarchy, with those prophets who prophesied in that period of time. Now, the other part of history commences with Chronicles, and instead of following the other order, it makes a new start from Adam. It commences with Adam and Eve, going back to the beginning. It does not recognize anything but the Davidic line. Now join with that Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, for history, and the post-Exile prophets, and the lines of thought are different. There is a pause where the Jewish monarchy dies. There is a new beginning after the return from the Exile. While we can and do use Chronicles in harmonic connection with Samuel and Kings, yet a part of 1 Chronicles does not synchronize with those books at all; but goes back to Adam. For this second part of the Old Testament history you need an entirely new viewpoint. You ought to commence the second part of the Old Testament with Chronicles, then Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, and the post-Exile prophets: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. They form a later and distinct part of the Old Testament history. I call attention to another division of Old Testament history, very clearly indicated in the original by an initial word, which is just one small letter, sometimes rendered “and.” This little word of connection and relation marks out the several related groups of books, i.e., Genesis heads the first group, followed by Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers — every one of the last three commences with “and.” Deuteronomy commences the second group, followed by Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings — all of these connect with Deuteronomy by the same word “and,” showing a continuity of history. 1 Chronicles commences the third group, followed by 2 Chronicles, Ezra. Nehemiah commences the fourth group and is followed by Esther. This quadruple division has been happily named thus:

  • The Books Before They Entered the Holy Land: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers.
  • The Books in the Holy Land: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings.

Deuteronomy heads this list because they are about to enter the land under a renewed covenant, and relates to that entrance.

  • The Books out of the Holy Land: 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra.
  • The Books in the Dispersion: Nehemiah and Esther.

A HELPFUL BOOK

is the Syllabus for Old Testament Study, by Dr. Sampey, the professor of Hebrew and Old Testament English in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This syllabus itself gives an extensive and up-to-date bibliography, a great part of which the reader does not now need, because we are in English, not Hebrew, and because many of you are beginners, unprepared for many critical discussions. As we progress, however, I will mention the helpful books an English student needs in studying the English Old Testament. An exceptionally important part of Dr. Sampey’s book is the chronological chart.

THE UNITY OF THE BIBLE

The next preliminary thing to note is the unity of the Bible, the whole of it. There are no other sixty-six books in the world that fit each other like these sixty-six books do. Genesis connects on to Exodus, and Exodus connects back with Genesis and on to Leviticus; Leviticus connects back with all these and forward to Joshua; and it is that way all through the Old Testament, and equally so with the New Testament. As Genesis commences with paradise lost, the New Testament closes with paradise regained.

Then, this book is a growth in a twofold way. I do not believe with the Negro who said that God Almighty handed down the Bible from heaven Just as we have it in the King James Version. It was a growth as to its books, book added to book, in a period of sixteen hundred years, with a gap of four hundred years between the Old Testament, and the New. That is, from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 100 — 1,600. Then, it is certainly a growth in the unfolding of doctrine. Take the first verse in the Bible: “God created the heavens and the earth,” and every other book in the Bible is evolved from that declaration. Take the promise: “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head,” and everything touching Christ is evolved from that declaration. Likewise from the establishment of the throne of grace at the close of the third chapter of Genesis, clear on to the book of Revelation is a development of God’s plan of salvation, from the first thought to its latest and highest expansion. It ia a growth from “type” to “antitype,” from symbol to the thing symbolized, from signs to things signified; and this is one of the highest proofs of its inspiration: that an author back yonder 1,500 years before Christ leaves behind several books, to which other authors in the several centuries following have added their contributions, and these all articulate, fitting into each other like the bones of one skeleton. This vast library, whose volumes were written at different times, and under different conditions, fragmentarily and multifariously, becomes a single book in its unity. We now come to

THE CONTENTS OF THE BIBLE

These contents are very varied, and the styles of the different books vary. You have here poetry, prose, history, drama, law, prophecy, parables, proverbs, allegory, types — exceedingly varied. Now, the original languages in which this book was written: The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, except the following passages: Jer 10:11; several chapters in Ezra, from Ezr 4:8 to 6:18, and 7:12-26; Da 2:4, to 7:28. All those exceptions were written in Chaldee or Aramaic. The New Testament was written i Greek. It may be that even the letter of James and the Gospel of Matthew were also written in Hebrew, but we know that the whole, of the New Testament was written in Greek.

Now, to get this Bible, originally written in these languages, into the mother tongue of each people is one of the most important things ever done. What was it that brought about the division into nations? It was first a division of the languages. God confused the speech. They were of one people and one tongue, and through the confusion of speech came the division of nations, not vice versa; not a division of nations and then different languages, but a division of nations resulting from a confusion of tongues. Now, the reverse of the confusion of the tongues at Babel is the gift of tongues at Pentecost. Why the gift of tongues? That these messengers of the cross might speak to every nation under heaven in the tongue in which they were born. Turning Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into English is called (rightly) a version — that is, a turning of one language into another; or it is called a “translation,” from the old compound Latin word, transfero-ferre-tuli-latum, meaning “to translate, transfer.” Suppose a colored liquid here in an opaque pitcher, and suppose another pitcher not quite so opaque, but translucent, you can see through it just a little. Then suppose another pitcher perfectly transparent. I pick up the opaque pitcher that has the colored liquid in it and I transfer it, translate it, turn it into the translucent pitcher. You can see it, but not clearly. That is a bad translation. But suppose I turn it into the transparent pitcher, that you may see its contents clearly. That is a good translation or version. So a version is a translation. The Septuagint Version is the translation of the Hebrew into Greek, the Vulgate is a translation of the Septuagint into Latin, the Douay is a translation of the Vulgate into English.

Now, in another respect, what is the Bible? It is not a history of all nations. It is a history of the kingdom of God. Genesis is a race history down to the eleventh chapter, then it sidetracks all of the families but. one; when the Ishmaelites come it sidetracks them; when Esau comes he is sidetracked; when Lot’s children come (the Moabites and Ammonites) it sidetracks them; but it follows a certain family until it becomes a nation, to which are committed the oracles of God, and touches the history of other nations where they bear upon the development of the kingdom of God in that one people.

RULES OF INTERPRETATION FOR THE BIBLE

The usage of common life determines the meaning of a word or phrase; not that of philosophy.

The usage of the time and place of the writer determines the meaning; not that of any other time; not modern usage.

If a word or phrase has several meanings, the context determines the meaning it bears in a given passage. The more common meaning of the writer’s day is to be preferred, provided it suits the passage, not that more common in our day.

If the author has occasion to employ a new word, or an old word in a new signification, his own definition or his own usage must determine the meaning, not any other author’s usage.

The direct or literal sense of a sentence is the meaning of the author, when no other is indicated, not any figurative, allegorical, or mystical meaning.

Passages bearing a direct, literal or fully ascertained sense go to determine what passages have another sense than the literal, and what that other sense is; not our opinions.

The Bible treats of God in relation to man. It is obvious that this circumstance will afford occasion for new words and phrases, and new applications of the old ones. It brings into view such peculiar figures of speech as are called anthropomorphism and anthropopathism. It gives a new expansion to all the previous rules.

A word, a phrase, or sentence belonging primarily to the things of man must be understood, when applied to the things of God, in a sense consistent with his essential nature; not in a sense contradictory to any known attribute of that nature.

There is a growth in the Bible in two respects: (1) There ig a growth in the adding of document to document for at least 1600 years. Hence the simple or primary part of speech will appear in the earlier documents; the more expanded and recondite may come out only in the later. (2) There is a growth also in adding fact to fact, and truth to truth, whereby doctrines that at first come out only in the bud are in the end expanded into full bloom. At its commencement the Bible chooses and points the all-sufficient root from which all doctrines may germinate. The root is God. In him inhere all the virtues that can create and uphold a world, and therefore in the knowledge of him are involved the doctrines that can instruct and edify the intelligent creature. Hence the elementary form of a doctrine will be found in the older parts of Scripture; the more developed form in the later books. This gives rise to two similar rules of interpretation.

The meaning of a word or phrase in a later book of Scripture is not to be transferred to an earlier book, unless required by the context.

The form of a doctrine in a subsequent part of the Bible must not be taken to be as fully developed in a preceding part without the warrant of usage and the context.

The Old Testament was composed in Hebrew, the New Testament in Greek. Each must be interpreted according to the genius of the language in which it was originally written. The interpreter must, therefore, be familiar with the grammar of each in which the particulars which constitute its genius are gathered into a system. The writers of the New Testament were, moreover, Hebrews by birth and habit, with the possible exception of Luke. Their Greek, therefore, bears a Hebrew stamp and their words and phrases are employed to express Hebrew things, qualities, customs, and doctrines. Hence they Must receive much of their elucidation from the Hebrew parts of speech of which they are the intended equivalents. Two rules of interpretation come under this head:

The sense of a sentence, and the relation of one sentence to another, must be determined according to the grammar of the language in which it is written.

The meaning of New Testament words and phrases must be determined in harmony with Old Testament usage; not by Greek against Hebrew usage.

The Bible is the word of God. All the other elements of our fundamental postulate are plain on the surface of things, and therefore unanimously admitted. This, however, some interpreters of the Bible do not accept, at least without reserve. But notwithstanding their rejection of this dogma such interpreters are bound to respect the claims of this book to be the word of God. This they can only do by applying to its interpretation such rules as are fairly deducible from such a characteristic. In doing so they put themselves to no disadvantage. They only give the claimants a fair stage, and put its high claim to a reasonable test. Now, God is a God of truth. Hence all Scripture must be consistent with truth and with itself. It contains no real contradiction. This gives rise to the following rules:

All Scripture is true historically and metaphysically; not mythical and fallible.

In verbally discordant passages that sense is to be adopted which will explain or obviate the discrepancy; not a sense that makes a contradiction. To explain it positively is to show the harmony of the passage; to obviate it negatively is to show that there is no contradiction.

Scripture explains Scripture. Hence the clear and plain passages elucidate the dark and abstruse; not anything foreign in Scripture to time, place or sentiment; not our philosophy. Of rules that cross one another, the higher sets aside ormodifies the lower. An inspired, illumined New Testament writer will give the true sense of an Old Testament passage.

By: B.H. Carol

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