Books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)
The major prophets
||"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.
||"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Bible as a historical document to determine the identity of the author(s) "and/or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).
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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||CT: The book was written by Jeremiah during the time of his ministry.
||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.
||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.
||CT The book was written by Jeremiah circa 586 BCE.
||LT The book was written by one or more anonymous survivors in the years following
the destruction of Jerusalem.
||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.
||CT The book was written by Ezekiel near the end of his ministry, circa 570 BCE
when he was living in exile in Babylonia.
||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.
||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.
||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
||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.
Copyright © 1997 to 2013, Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2013-SEP-06
Author: B.A. Robinson