Part 3—The Old Testament and The Apocrypha
By Mike DuBose
The Old Testament, which comprised 39 books, experienced vigorous debate over 1,500 years. It guided the Jewish faith (called Judaism) which outlined ways people should behave and treat one another, worship and moral standards, and ethical guidelines. Both today’s Jews and Christians believe that the Old Testament was inspired by God. Smith and Bennett noted in their book, How the Bible Was Built, “There is unity in the Bible, just as there is unity in a well-designed house. But the rooms differ in size, purpose, and perspectives.”
Scholars have determined that the book of Job, which describes the battle between God and Satan for our souls, was written early in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy scrolls were found in the great temple in Jerusalem during its reconstruction. It was considered a popular book by the early Jews and was the foundation of the Old Testament because it outlined how to revere God.
In the 200 years following the discovery of Deuteronomy, the first four books of the current Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers) were found. Moses and other writers are credited as being the authors. The books were considered of great importance to the Jewish faith and life. Combined with Deuteronomy, the five books are considered “The Law” or The Jewish Torah.
The Bible contains books by major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) and minor Prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Obadiah, and Joel). Jeremiah was considered to be the greatest Prophet and one of the most often-quoted Prophets in the Bible. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” This has been the foundation for our family.
These Prophets’ writing styles are different in many ways, but they claimed to speak for God, and their messages were powerful and intense. Surprisingly, Smith and Bennett reported that they were considered poets (some were very good) and their content has become part of our language and culture. They wrote about the righteousness of God, what He expects of us, and His love for everyone. Some of these Prophets were considered to be “minor” not because they were insignificant, but because their books were shorter in length. They were so relevant that early Jews thought of their writings as one book.
Psalms were very important to Jewish religious life and contained hymns, prayers, and poetry. Smith and Bennett noted that many of us can relate to the Psalms because they deal with the highs and lows of life, the feelings of anguish, hope, and despair, along with the great feeling of knowing God. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes illustrated the teachings of life, followed by the books of Ruth, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
Few Christians know there was a group of books called “The Apocrypha,” (or hidden books) which is contained in the Roman Catholic Church Bible but not in Protestant Bibles. Martin Luther (a German monk who changed Christianity when he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in 1517, beginning the Protestant Reformation) considered the Apocrypha as good reading, but not Holy Scripture. He did include the Apocrypha in his German-translated Bible. Many Biblical writers saw the Apocrypha as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. These books, referred to as Wisdom Literature, are described as moral stories which teach us lessons about divinity and virtue. The Apocrypha was written between the time the Hebrew Bible was completed and the creation of the New Testament. Some of these books included Wisdom of Solomon, Letter of Jeremiah, Esther (additional volumes), Judith, Susanna, and Ecclesiasticus. The Apocrypha had such an impact on literature that Shakespeare named his two daughters (Susanna and Judith) from its books. Christopher Columbus read the Apocrypha and mistakenly determined that water covered 15% of the Earth (versus 70%) and used this reference to convince King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to finance his voyage to America! Smith and Bennett reported that while none of the New Testament Writers quoted the Apocrypha, they were aware of the books and were influenced by their content.
The Bottom Line: There is so much to learn about the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. The journey of how God chose us to be His children over hundreds of years is fascinating! Our last part will focus on the creation of the New Testament and the life of the Messiah, Jesus, as predicted in the Old Testament.
Mike DuBose has been an instructor for USC’s graduate school since 1985, when he began his family of companies, and is the author of The Art of Building a Great Business. Visit his nonprofit website www.mikedubose.com for a free copy of his book and additional published business, travel, and personal articles, as well as health articles written with Surb Guram, MD.