- It’s about God. It is easy for us to focus our attention on the human characters of the Bible or on our own needs. Instead of looking to the Bible to give us tips for living or decision-making, our first line of interpretation should be to seek to understand how God is revealed.
- The Bible is an ancient cultural artifact. Although the Bible is God’s Word, it is also an ancient book that contains information communicated to an ancient audience. Our interpretation must recognize this rather than thinking of it as if it had been written recently. It is important to remember that although it was written for everyone, it was written to
- What would the original audience have understood? Even though later readers of the Bible often can get more meaning from passages because of what God has been doing in history, our first obligation to the text is to try to understand it as the communication between the original author and his immediate audience. We want to hear it as they heard it and thus take the text at face value.
- What prophecy is (and is not). Prophets had messages given by God and understood those messages and communicated them competently to an audience who likewise understood them. They proclaimed God’s perspective and plan. In prophecy, God is more interested in revealing himself than in revealing the future.
- Law reveals the holiness of God. The law should not be considered simply a collection of rules. Like every other part of Scripture, the law serves as God’s revelation of himself. It illustrates what holiness looks like and how it is maintained.
- An Old Testament view of history writing. In history writing today we value highest the perspective of an eyewitness. In the Bible what is most important about history is often what an eyewitness could not see. Events themselves are not as important as the outcomes that reflect God’s activity and purposes.
- How you can understand a biblical author’s intent. A book of the Bible is not thrown together randomly but is carefully written with a literary purpose. We can understand the literary strategy of the book by observing the selection of what to include, the arrangement of the material, and the emphasis that is evident in how the material is presented.
BONUS: A Summary of the Prophets’ Messages
Prophet – Approximate Date B.C. – Message
- Hosea – 750 – God’s love for Israel
- Joel – 500 – The Day of the Lord
- Amos – 760 – Israel’s injustice
- Obadiah – 500 – Judgment on Edom
- Jonah – 760 – God’s compassion
- Micah – 730 – Judah’s injustice
- Nahum – 650 – Judgment on Nineveh
- Habakkuk – 630 – Judgment on the Babylonians
- Zephaniah – 630 – The Day of the Lord
- Haggai – 520 – Priorities and the construction of the Temple
- Zechariah – 520 – Comfort for Judah and call to repentance
- Malachi – 430 – Israel’s relationship with God
—by John H. Walton and Andrew E. Hill, adapted from resources in their new Learn the Old Testament Pack.
How to Use This Book
The Learn the Old Testament Pack will help you or your small group dive deeper into the Old Testament. Discover more about God’s character and his redemptive work in our history, and your life will be transformed.
The pack gives you several windows into the best of Old Testament evangelical scholarship:
- Read and discuss the bestselling book, A Survey of the Old Testament
- See and hear chapter-by-chapter video lectures (47 in all)
- Refer to the laminated “cheat sheet” that summarizes the Old Testament’s most important points
Get ready to reap a rich harvest from your study of the Old Testament.