How Did We Get the Old Testament?
The Old Testament is thousands of years old, and contains accounts stretching back to the beginning of time. This ancient collection of books provides the foundation of both Judaism and Christianity.
So where did it come from? How did these age-old traditions, stories, and commandments make their way to modern times? These are important questions.
John Walton and Andrew Hill answer these questions in their Old Testament Survey online course. The following post is adapted from their unit on the background, history, archaeology, and formation of the Old Testament.
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John Walton: “This Course Can Change Your Life”
Have you ever read a chapter from the Old Testament and wondered, why did God put that in the Bible?
Lots of people—even in the church, even in the academy—don’t really know how to read the Old Testament.
It’s time to change that.
In this online course, John Walton and Andrew Hill will walk you through the Old Testament, book-by-book.
You will learn:
How to read the Old Testament and ancient history together The background to each Old Testament book—even the hard books How the Old Testament relates to the New Testament Why understanding the theology of the Old Testament is so important And much more!
When you take this course, the Old Testament will start to…
When There’s No Silver Lining — John H. Walton on the Book of Job [Excerpt]
Here’s a slice of John H. Walton’s NIV Application Commentary: Job.
Sometimes there is no visible silver lining, no redeeming value in sight. Sometimes those who endure difficulty feel that nothing is left but an empty shell. Some people never recover physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It is not guaranteed that we will emerge on the other side of pain strengthened by the experience. It would be naive to suggest that suffering universally results in growth. S. Cairns suggests a more nuanced perspective as he elaborates on Simone Weil’s observation that “affliction compels us to recognize as real what we do not think possible.” He observes:
The occasions of our suffering are capable of revealing what our habitual illusions often obscure, keeping us from knowing. Our afflictions drag us — more or less kicking — into a fresh and vivid awareness that…
My Advice to Students — John Walton Says “Take Your Time, Take Responsibility, Take Languages Seriously”
(Can't see the video? Watch it here)
If you're a student considering going on into academia watch this video!
John Walton, professor and contributor to Four views on the Historical Adam, shares three important lessons to help you keep the big picture in mind:
Take your time. Walton was in a hurry to get to his career. Yet "it might have been better to take my time and pick up more along the way." Your time of preparation is short, so take your time. Take responsibility for your education. ”Don’t just be mechanically doing the minimum of what you have to do to get to the next step.”…
Walton and Hill Ask, What Is Wisdom? — An Excerpt from “Old Testament Today (2nd Edition)”
In their foundational Old Testament textbook Old Testament Today, they explain the category covers such things as scientific knowledge, philosophy, politics, and law. While the Bible declares that the foundation of “wisdom” is the “fear of the Lord,” they ask, “Does this suggest that none of those disciplines could be successfully engaged without fear of the Lord?” (324)
As they explain in the excerpt below, the key to “wisdom” is worldview integration.
In the ancient world, order was a prime value, and wisdom was seen as the path toward understanding and preserving that order. “The people of the day wanted their worldview to fit together like a puzzle…They saw the fear of the Lord as the keystone to this integration process.” (326)
Read the rest of the excerpt for a helpful introduction into OT wisdom literature.
-Jeremy Bouma, Th.M. (@bouma)
Win a Free ZIBBCOT Volume to Review!
We are interested in sparking some conversations on the recently-released Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament, which John Walton has been blogging about every Friday for the past 10 months or so.
The problem is that it can get pretty pricey to send out $250 sets! So we came up with this idea.
We will send you a volume of your choice to review (you pick the volume):
Hebrew Corner 16: Jephthah’s Daughter
First, I just want to mention that this will be the last Hebrew Corner post (at least for awhile). After the holidays I will be starting a new series called "Bible Backgrounds" dealing with background issues from the ancient Near East that help us to interpret the Bible with fresh insights.
It would be difficult to find in the Bible a more tragic story than that of Jephthah and his daughter in Judges 11:29-40. The question arises from time to time whether he really sacrificed his daughter—perhaps he dedicated her to lifelong service in the sanctuary where she would have remained a virgin. Some of the arguments used are that the text emphasizes her mourning her virginity (seemingly not the biggest issue if she were being sacrificed), that Jephthah as a judge on whom the spirit had come would not do such a despicable thing, and that no priest would have officiated at such a sacrifice. These can be answered by noting how having children was important in their understanding of afterlife, and how depraved behavior was in the Judges period—even by judges and priests. We would note also that Jephthah hardly had grown up in an environment where he would have been instructed in the law.
All of this having been said, the real issue deals with some of the details of the Hebrew text, which is why this passage is included in our Hebrew corner today. There are two Hebrew elements to explore, both in 11:31.
Hebrew Corner 15: Nineveh’s Response
Jonah 3:5 describes the Ninevite response to the prophet’s oracle of judgment. NASB indicates that the Ninevites "believed in God," yet in many translations the rendering is "believed God" (NIV). Which is correct? What does this phrase convey about the spiritual state of the Ninevites?
It is not going to work to ask simply, "Is the Hebrew word for ‘in’ there or not?" The reason for this is that in English the collocation "believe in X" has become an idiomatic expression indicating a significant faith commitment. The same combination would not necessarily convey the same idiomatic force in another language. This is one of the things that makes translation so tricky.
If we want to understand this verse we have to apply two of the principles we have considered in previous entries.
Hebrew Corner 14: Atonement (kipper)
In our discussion several weeks ago of Cain and Abel’s sacrifice, we made passing reference to the Hebrew word kipper usually translated as "atone for." In fact, however, this is a complicated ritual term that needs close examination.
When we begin to explore the contextual situation of this verb, we should particularly note the grammatical objects and indirect objects. Most commonly the grammatical structure indicates that kipper will be done to a sacred object (e.g., altar, veil, mercy seat) on behalf of an individual or group. This immediately raises a question—how could one "atone" the altar? We find that the agent of kipper is most often the blood of the sacrificed animal, and that is going to be key.
Hebrew Corner 13: What is in a Name? (Isa 9:6) by John H. Walton
Since we are now in the advent season, it would be appropriate to explore one of the primary passages that is a topic for advent studies, Isaiah 9:6. In this passage there is a proclamation concerning the name of the ideal king. In Isaiah’s own time, this could have been part of a coronation ceremony for a new Davidic king. Even if that is the case, the oracle contained idealistic elements that expressed the hope for that eventual Davidic king who would fulfill the prophecies that all faithful Israelites longed for (see Isaiah 2:1-5 as well as the immediate context in Isaiah 9).
Hebrew Corner 12: Cain’s Sacrifice
by John H. Walton
In popular circles the tradition that Cain’s offering was unacceptable because it was not a blood sacrifice is still very common, despite the fact that no major evangelical commentary on Genesis in the last several decades endorses it. The offerings that Cain and Abel bring are described in the text by the term minhâ. In Leviticus, the minhâ is discussed in ch.2, where NIV translates it as "grain offering." Its purpose is simply to give a gift to honor deity, and is usually given in a context of celebration. It often accompanies an animal sacrifice, but usually is comprised of grain. Outside of ritual contexts, the term can be used in personal or political senses. In political contexts…
Hebrew Corner 11: Divorce (Deut. 24:1-4)
by John H. Walton
Last week we discussed the nature of the Hebrew stem system, the means by which the language indicates a variety of relationships between subject and object of the verb. This week, as we look at that troublesome passage in Deut. 24:1-4, we are going to find that it is an understanding of the stem system that helps us to sort out what is going on.
This is an intriguing passage in that it is the only legislation in the Pentateuch that has anything to say about divorce and remarriage. It therefore warrants our careful attention.