Religious Tolerance logo

Books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)

The major prophets

horizontal rule

Sponsored link.

horizontal rule

Abbreviations Used:

bullet "CT" refers to the beliefs of many conservative Jewish and Christian theologians. They interpret the Bible as inspired by God and inerrant --- without error. 1 Thus, for example, they believe that the entire book of Isaiah was written by the prophet Isaiah because the book says it was. They believe that the Pentateuch -- the first five books of the Bible -- was written by Moses, because the text refers to his authorship in multiple places.

bullet "LT" refers to the interpretation of most secularists and religious liberals. They analyze the Bible as a historical document to determine the identity of the author(s) "and/or redactor of the final text." 2 This analysis method is called "biblical criticism," "literary criticism" or, less commonly, "higher criticism." For example, they generally agree that the book of Isaiah was written by multiple authors over many centuries. Another example is the Pentateuch -- the first five books of the Bible. Most accept the "Documentary Hypothesis", that the Pentateuch was written by four anonymous authors or groups of authors who were commonly called J, E. P, and D. It was edited by one or more Redactors (R).

horizontal rule

This section consists of 5 books.

Prophets were regarded as direct spokesmen for God. They were seen to speak the words of God to the people of Israel. Their main role was to predict future events, and to call upon the public to repent and return to the true faith. The term "major" in this context means that the prophet's message was preserved in a lengthy book and covered a wider variety of subjects than did the minor prophets. There were of course dozens or perhaps hundreds of prophets whose stories were never recorded.
bullet Isaiah: Isaiah was a prophet and a court preacher in Jerusalem. He predicted a future disaster for the Southern Kingdom of Judah because of their many sins. The writer(s) of this book cover many themes: fate of foreign nations, Israel's reliance on God instead of alliances with other nations, the special significance of Jerusalem, the establishment of the rule of justice and righteousness, the eventual restoration of Israel, the expansion of God's justice to other nations, a new age of prosperity, etc. Finally, he discussed the future coming of the "servant of the Lord", who would bring an era of great peace and happiness to the people of Israel.
bullet CT The book was written by Isaiah about 740 BCE. The servant of the Lord refers primarily to Jesus Christ. Isaiah contains many prophecies that will not be fulfilled until the second coming of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom.
bullet LT Writing of the book extends over a period of 200 or more years. Chapters 1 to 39 were written about 700 to 750 BCE, at the time of Isaiah. They relate to the Syro-Ephraimitic War (circa 733 BCE) and the invasion of Judah by the Assyrian army in 701 BCE. Chapters 40 to 55 were composed in the 6th century BCE, probably by an unknown Jewish exile in Babalonia, often referred to as 2nd Isaiah or Deutero Isaiah. They were perhaps written during the reign of the last Babylonian ruler, Nabonidus (about 555 to 539 BCE). Chapters 56 to 66 are identified by some theologians as the product of a third author 3rd Isaiah who might have composed them circa 540 to 500 BCE. The final editing of the book might have been as late as 200 BCE.

The Christian churches have traditionally taken isolated verses from the book of Isaiah and interpreted them as predicting events associated with Jesus' lifetime, execution and second coming. In reality, they relate to the future of Israel's seen from the 6th through 2nd century BCE. Many events described in Jesus' life appear to match prophecies in Isaiah; however, this is simply the result of the authors of the New Testament creating events in Jesus' life that match their interpretation of Isaiah -- events that never happened in reality.

bullet Jeremiah: Jeremiah was a priest who lived in the city of Anathoth, just north of Jerusalem. He was called the "weeping prophet" because of his dire predictions of the fate of Jerusalem, the Southern Kingdom of Judah and other nations. His ministry data from 626 to 586 BCE. He was persecuted by the religious leaders, and faced a great deal of hostility and resistance, including an attempted execution. He included a description of the attack on Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and Israel's exile in 586 BCE.
bullet CT: The book was written by Jeremiah during the time of his ministry.
bullet LT: Chapters 1 to 25:14 were written by Jeremiah over a 20 year period, starting in 626 BCE. Chapters 26 to 45 were authored by his friend Baruch after Jeremiah's death in Egypt. Chapters 46 to 51, plus the remainder of Chapter 25 were written by unknown author(s), primarily during the interval 550 to 500 BCE. The summary found in chapter 52 was added later by an unknown editor.

bullet Lamentations: This was written shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem by the invading Babylonian armies. It describes the horrendous siege of the city, the reduction of its occupants to starvation and cannibalism. The author(s) attributes the cause of the disaster to sinful behavior by the people of Israel.
bullet CT The book was written by Jeremiah circa 586 BCE.
bullet LT The book was written by one or more anonymous survivors in the years following the destruction of Jerusalem.

bullet Ezekiel: He was a prophet from the Southern Kingdom of Judah whose ministry lasted from about 593 to 570 BCE. He associated freely with the people and was often referred to as a "son of man". He may have been a disciple of Jeremiah, and seems to have been influenced by the older prophet's teaching. Chapters 1 to 24 describe his prophecies of judgment on Judah. The rest of the book deals with events after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, and includes prophecies of doom on the surrounding countries and on the eventual restoration of Israel. The book concludes with a description of a new temple for Jerusalem. Inclusion of this book in the Hebrew canon was only achieved with great difficulty. Rabbis were concerned, particularly with chapters 40 to 48. They contradict material found elsewhere in the scriptures. (1) For example Ezekiel 46:6 directly contradicts Numbers 28:11.
bullet CT The book was written by Ezekiel near the end of his ministry, circa 570 BCE when he was living in exile in Babylonia.
bullet LT Opinion is divided on the authorship and date of this book. Some theologians believe that Ezekiel spent his entire ministry in Palestine, and that much of the material in the book was inserted by unknown editors long after his death, perhaps about 300 BCE.

bullet Daniel: In 605 BCE, when Daniel was a teenager and a member of the Jewish royalty or nobility, he was captured and taken into captivity by the Babylonian army. He held a senior position in King Nebuchadnezzar's court which lasted the entire life of the Babylonian empire. He interpreted the dreams etc of kings and interpreted his own visions as predictors of the future. This book is one of the most important books of the entire Bible to conservative Christians because most believe that some of the book's extensive prophecy has yet to come to fruition.
bullet CT: The book was written by Daniel himself, in the 5th century BCE and contains a great deal of prophecy of events that were to occur after Daniel's death.
bullet LT: The book was written by an unknown author in the 2nd century BCE and contains mainly a historical record of past events. It also contains prophecies concerning the time after the book was written that never came to pass. The transition from the historical record to future events allowes theologians to date the writing of the book to between 167 and 164 BCE.

A detailed description of this book is available.

horizontal rule

References used:

  1. Farrell Till, "Bible Inerrancy: A Belief Without Evidence," available at:
  2. "Source Criticism," Wikipedia, at:

horizontal rule

Copyright 1997 to 2013, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-SEP-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

line.gif (538 bytes)

Sponsored link

horizontal rule

Go to the previous page, or return to the  Jewish Foundation, or to the  "Books of the Old Testament" essay, or choose:

Custom Search

Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Purchase a CD of this web site

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?

Twitter link

Facebook icon

GooglePage Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.