The Old Testament is the first two-thirds of the Christian Bible with the last third being the New Testament. While the Bible is a unified book, there are differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is foundational; the New Testament builds on that foundation with further revelation from God. The Old Testament establishes principles that are seen to be illustrative of New Testament truths. The Old Testament contains many prophecies that are fulfilled in the New. The Old Testament provides the history of a people; the New Testament focus is on a Person. The Old Testament shows the wrath of God against sin, with glimpses of His grace; the New Testament shows the grace of God toward sinners, with glimpses of His wrath.
The Old Testament has played a major role in Christianity from the very beginning of faith. Jesus, the apostles, and the earliest converts quoted from it, alluded to it and understood the Christian faith in light of its teachings. Here are five fascinating facts about the Old Testament:
The Old Testament Was the Jewish Bible
The Jewish Bible or Hebrew Scriptures are the same books as our English Old Testament. The sacred books that make up the anthology modern scholars call the Hebrew Bible – and Christians call the Old Testament – developed over roughly a millennium; the oldest texts appear to come from the eleventh of tenth centuries BCE. All the Books are the same although they are arranged differently. In our English Old Testament the first book is Genesis and the last is Malachi. In the Jewish Scriptures, the first book is Genesis and the last is Chronicles. The Jews divided their Scriptures into three divisions: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.
There Were Extraordinarily Long Life Spans Before the Flood
It is somewhat of a mystery why people in early chapters of Genesis lived such long lives. There are many theories put forward by biblical scholars. The genealogy in Genesis 5 records the line of the godly descendants of Seth – the line that would eventually produce the Messiah. God possibly blessed the line with especially long life as a result of their godliness and obedience. While this is a possible explanation, the Bible nowhere specifically limits the long lifespans to the individuals mentioned in Genesis chapter 5. Further, other than Enoch, Genesis 5 does not identify any of the individuals as being especially godly. It is likely that everyone during that time lived several hundred years. Something happened at the global flood to shorten men’s lifespans. Compare the lifespans before the flood (Genesis 5:1-32) with those after the flood (Genesis 11:10-32). Immediately after the flood, the ages decreased dramatically and then kept decreasing. By the time of Moses who lived 120 years, lifespans were much lower. After Moses, we have no record of anyone living past 120.
One theory for why the people of Genesis lived such long lives is based on the idea that a canopy of water used to surround the earth. According to the canopy theory, the water “above the firmament” (Genesis 1:7) created a greenhouse effect and blocked much of the radiation that now hits the earth.
Another consideration is that, in the first few generations after creation, the human genetic code had developed few defects. Adam and Eve were created perfect. They were surely highly resistant to disease and illness. Their descendants would have inherited these advantages. Over time, as a result of sin, the human genetic code became increasingly corrupted, and human beings became more susceptible to death and disease resulting in drastically reduced lifespans.
Jesus Believed in the Whole Old Testament
In examining the four gospels, we have a great amount of information to work with concerning Jesus’ view of the Old Testament. His view can be simply stated in two words. “total trust.” Jesus accepted the Old Testament Scriptures as being divinely authoritative – He never cast doubt on any of the accounts. Jesus assumed the people were actual people and the events likely occurred. We never find Him giving the slightest hint of anything but the complete acceptance of the Old Testament as the Word of God. The first thing we find Jesus confirming about the Old Testament is that the people mentioned on its pages truly did exist. They were not mythical characters. As we look the way Jesus treated the Old Testament, we discover that He assumed the various stories to be factual. In addition, Jesus confirmed some of the most ridiculed stories in the Old Testament. For example, Jesus believed in the Genesis account of creation – which includes the direction creation of Adam and Eve. Jesus also believed there was a flood that God sent to destroy the earth in the days of Noah. Jesus also confirmed the traditional authorship of the Old Testament books – particularly Daniel and Isaiah. Finally, Jesus said that certain prophecies, recorded in the Old Testament, were fulfilled in His life and ministry.
The Old Testament Reveals the Origin of Races and Nations
According to the Bible, every nation had its origin from the three sons of Noah: Shem, Ham and Japheth. The Tower of Babel forced mankind to migrate over the whole earth according to God’s original command to be fruitful and replenish the earth. Shem’s descendants populated the Semitic nations of the east. Ham’s descendants populated the African nations. Japheth’s descendants populated the European nations.
Daniel Predicted the Empires of World History
Daniel’s book prophesied events fulfilled many centuries ago as well as major events yet to come. It reveals a history of the region, written in advance, from Daniel’s time right up to the return of Jesus Christ. Daniel could be rightly called, “the Empire Predicting Prophet” because of his accuracy in predicting the four world empires of history, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. The prophecies of Daniel provide proof of the accuracy of the Bible. Many of his prophecies are so detailed and specific that they long confounded Bible critics. According to Daniel, the final world empire will be the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, “an everlasting kingdom, which will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).
The Old Testament is truly fascinating. It lays the foundation for the coming of the Messiah who would sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). The following New Testament records the ministry of Jesus Christ and then looks back on what He did and how we are to respond. Both testaments reveal the same holy, merciful and righteous God who condemns sin but desires to save sinners through an atoning sacrifice. God ultimately reveals Himself to us and shows us how we are to come to Him through faith.