In the Protestant Scripture, the Old Testament has thirty-nine books and is traditionally broken into four categories: Pentateuch, Historical, Prophetical, and Poetical. These writings make known the Covenant God of Israel. They describe his acts toward his children and what those acts mean. It informs the reader about the special relationship that God and his children had. These books were written by many different authors over many years. We cannot tell when they were first assembled into one volume. However, we do know that the first five books, often called the Pentateuch or the Law, were accepted as inspired or canonized between 450-300 BC The Prophets were received around 200 BC and the Writings were accepted sometime in the Second Century BC Israel had faith in and relationship with God before there were any inspired books to represent her faith and relationship. In other words, the worship of God came before Scripture which should be ever present in our minds lest we find ourselves reversing the order and worshiping Scripture before we worship God.
Second Temple Judaism
This period formally knows as the Intertestament Period was 400 year period of time between Malachi and the beginning of the story of Jesus. During this period there were several books written which are often referred to as Apocryphal, which means hidden, or Apocalyptic. An additional group of books called the Psudepigrpha were also written. These books are like a window into this period of time and help us understand how the people of God were thinking, reflecting, and acting. During this period the Maccabean Revolt occurred. It was a full-scale rebellion among the pious Jews toward the Greek culturalization which was being mandated by Antiochus Epiphanes and denied the religious freedom for the Jews to practice worship to God. Independence came in 161 BC two years after the death of Antiochus. They reestablished temple worship and rededicated the temple. Today this celebration is called Hanukkah.
The New Testament was written over an approximate 60 year peiord of time in the first century AD. The first four books, called Gospels, tell the story of Jesus. The Book of Acts tells the story of the Holy Spirit’s acts throughout the Mediterranean world and the proclamination of the Kingdom was spread. The Letters were written to churches or individuals to help them solve problems that they were facing in their day-to-day life as the new people of God.
We live far removed from the stories in the text of the Bible. We are years and cultures apart. To read with understanding, we must get into the mind of the ancient as much as possible. This calls for us to use resource materials that will help us enter their minds so that we can hear more accurately what God has said and what he is saying. In this section you will find an on-going Bible Study (Almost Weekly Bible Study) and WordWise, resources on various books and topics.