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Basics of Old Testament Study
Major Themes - Old Testament
History and the Old Testament
Institutions of the Old Testament
Interpreting the Old Testament
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recently discovered Jehoash inscription – is it really a fake?
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Take a look at a range of high quality maps relating to the Old Testament, including the journey of Abraham, the route of the Exodus, and the ktingdoms of David and Solomon.
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“The most profound use that can be made of the Bible is not to treat it as a law book, but to seek to hear and act in accordance with its prophetic voice, a prophetic voice that is disturbing and unconventional, and which can never be content with the world as it is.” (John W. Rogerson in An Introduction to the Bible, Penguin, 1999 )
History and the Old Testament
This section takes a look at the history of ancient Israel through relevant biblical text & archaeology, exploring what can be known as well as why our knowledge has gaps.
Tall Stories?

(Writing the History of Israel)
• The question of how much of the Old Testament might be fact and how much might be fiction is a lot more complicated than some people might believe.

• Just how much of the history of ancient Israel can be known with any certainty from the Old Testament is one of the most hotly debated topics of current Old Testament scholarship.

Meet the Ancestors

(What can we know about the early history of Israel)
• How much reliable information can be known about the early history of Israel, from Abraham to Saul, depends to a large extent on how old these stories in the Old Testament actually are and there is no clear answer to that.

• Scholarly opinion is divided as to the age of these stories. At one end of the scale, some believe they are as old as they seem and date from the second millennium BCE., thus offering some ‘historical’ information. At the other extreme, others believe they date from the sixth century BCE, or indeed even later, and are little more than created fictitious stories about the past intended to promote a sense of national identity.

Give Us A King!

(What can we know about the monarchy in ancient Israel?)

  • The importance of characters like David and Solomon has undoubtedly been exaggerated for religious purposes by the biblical authors, and some scholars have more recently questioned their existence at all. However, many scholars still believe that both the style of parts of the stories and archaeological evidence seem to suggest that the Old Testament accounts of the monarchy are rooted more in actual historical events than in myth and legend.
  • The biblical accounts, as well as the words of eighth century prophets, indicate political life during the time of the monarchy appears to have been relatively unstable. The turbulent fortunes of the various kings and their attempts at alliances eventually delivered Israel into the hands of the Assyrians and Judah into the hands of the Babylonians.

A History of Israel, John Bright, 1960, SCM
“We have at our disposal, fortunately, sources that are both exceedingly full and of the highest historical value, much of the material being contemporaneous, or nearly so, with the events described ….. information regarding David, and the bulk of that regarding Solomon, comes to us in the form of excerpts from official annals, or a digest of them, and is exceptionally valuable. We are, in short, better informed about his period than any comparable one in Israel’s history”

Refugee Status

(What can we know about the exile & return?)

  • The exact nature and scale of the deportation of the Jewish people from their land to Babylon in sixth century BCE is debatable and may not have been the virtually complete depopulation portrayed in the biblical accounts.
  • The experience of exile was a crucially important one for the nation as it produced a large amount of literature and was the catalyst for significant developments in religious thought and practice.
Loyal Subjects?

(What can we know about the ‘Second Temple period?)

  • In post-exilic times Palestine existed as a relatively minor area, first of the Persian Empire (6th - late 4th century BCE), then of the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great and his descendants (late 4th – 1st century BCE) and finally becoming part of the Roman Empire in 63 BCE.
  • With the exception of some information about attempts to rebuild the Temple and restore Jewish religious life in Jerusalem, there is little clear information in the Old Testament about this post-exilic age.
Digging Up The Old Testament

(The contribution of archaeology to the study of the Old Testament)

  • The discovery, excavation and interpretation of the many finds of the so-called ‘biblical archaeologists’ over the last few centuries have captured the imagination of readers of the Old Testament and informed their understanding of the text.
  • Archaeology has much to contribute to the debate about how much of the Old Testament might be fact and how much might be fiction, but any claims that archaeological evidence proves the bible is true ought to be treated with caution.
More on Archaeology and the Old Testament
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This degree is offered in part-time mode by the Theology Department at Newman College Birmingham. To gain the award a student takes 6 taught modules and writes a Dissertation.There are also Certificate and Diploma options within this M level degree.The focus of the programme is an analysis of contemporary perspectives on Christian thought, with modules based on Biblical Studies, on contextual theology and ethical theory.
For more information or for a leaflet please contact Dr Mary Mills at Newman College (

© J.Barton & J.Bowden 2004The book is also available to order from Darton Longman and Todd (trade dept.): 1 Spencer Court, 140-142 Wandsworth High Street, London SW18 4JJ [Tel:020 8875 0134 Fax: 020 8875

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