The Old Testament is the first and longer portion of our Bible. A collection of ancient Hebrew writings that not only contains the historical record of God’s promise to them and all of humanity, but also their primary text for moral instruction.
It was set in the ancient Near East (our Middle East), with most events taking place in Palestine, the ancient land of Canaan. A Mediterranean region which extended from modern-day Iraq (ancient Mesopotamia) down to the Nile River in Egypt, and surrounded by the enemy empires of the Hittites, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians, among others.
It contains 39 books, divided into 4 main sections.
The law, the historical books, the poetical books, and the prophets. Covering about 1500 years (from approximately 2000 – 400 BC) all of these books were completed by the first century BC, although many of the books are much older.
Each of these sections has its own particular focus and emphasis.
According to J. Hampton Keathley, III, on The Poetical Books at Bible.org:
- The Law – relates to Israel’s moral life.
- The Historical – relates to Israel’s national development and life.
- The Poetical – Israel’s spiritual life.
- The Prophetical – relates to Israel’s future life as fulfilled in the Messiah.
How does the Old Testament relate to the New?
Study of the Old Testament is essential for good comprehension of the New, as it lays the foundation for its truth and teachings. It reveals God’s character and his plan for humanity. And it has played a major role in the preservation of the Jewish religion and culture.
Through its great themes: God, man, origins, sin, grace, righteousness, covenant, law, atonement, holiness, and Messiah, it reveals who God is, what he has done, and what he will do.
But its most important purpose is in presenting the Hebrews as God’s chosen channel through which the promised Messiah (or Christ) would come into the world. It sets the stage both for his arrival and his work of saving all humanity from sin.
Do we really need the Old?
It is through the New Testament that the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ shines through in its greatest glory. Yet every text of the Old makes some revelation about God, humanity, or the universe, that is important for understanding God’s work through Christ.
The Old Testament presents a clear representation of God and his sovereignty in orchestrating all the events toward accomplishing his awesome gift of salvation for fallen humanity through Christ.
The Old Testament would perhaps be best referred to as the First Testament, leading to the continuation of God’s word through Christ in the New.
On the road to Emmaus after his resurrection, Christ explains to two of his disciples that it was necessary for him to suffer death before he could enter his glory with the Father. As had been foretold in the Old Testament.
To get the full picture we all the parts of the puzzle.
The Old Testament beginning with the books of Moses, together with the New Testament clear through the book of Revelation, presents the full picture necessary for our understanding of the Holy Trinity.