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Old Testament

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was empty and void. Darkness covered the abyss. God's SPIRIT hovered like a bird over the water.” Such is the usual translation of this opening statement of the Bible. From these words, all sorts of theological and philosophical conclusions have been drawn. Yet the basic meaning has often not been touched.
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These first five books of the Old Testament are called the Torah, or the Law. They contain the story of the Chosen People from the beginning of time to the banks of the Jordan River and the eve of entrance into the Promised Land. The story is told in Genesis, part of Exodus, and part of Numbers. Leviticus is a book of laws and rituals. Deuteronomy is a development of the Law, written in the time of Jeremiah. These five books, the Torah, were the most sacred part of Israel's story about its origins and goals.
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The next great national hero of the Chosen People was David. David was responsible for putting the Kingdom on a solid footing. David had many claims to greatness, but he also had feet of clay that frequently mired deeply into the clay of this earth. The outstanding men who lead up to David were Moses and Joshua, who took over the reins from Moses. Then came a whole series of rulers called “Shophetim” or Judges. Some were great. Many were anything but real leaders. Finally came Samuel, the last and greatest of the Judges. He set up the Kingdom that began with Saul.
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First Chronicles is a story of David who brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David's prayer was a model of humility, faith and gratitude. He drew up the plans for the Temple but then gave the glory of building the Temple to Solomon. David was much loved during this time period.
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The books of Tobit, Judith, and Esther are usually run together. Each deals with the lives of individual people. These people were heroes or heroines coming through some major difficulties.

Are the books history in any sense of the word? At one time, they were presented as stories of actual people. Today, most scholars would hold rather that they are stories that were told

1. to depict the conditions of the times, and
2. to teach a lesson of how to act in difficulties.
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The last two historical works of the Old Testament are called 1 and 2 Maccabees. They are not a part of the Jewish Canon, but they are used as part of the history of their people. These books are not a continuous story.
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The Wisdom Story is composed of the writings of the Old Testament that are primarily concerned with teaching a lesson. In a certain sense, this could apply to all the writings of the Old Testament. Everything in the Bible is intended to be read for the lessons that it teaches in reference to the daily life of the reader.
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In English, when the word "prophet" is used, people immediately think of foretelling the future. In Hebrew and in the Biblical literature, there are two different words used for a prophet.

One of these words is "nabi." This refers primarily to a person who is appointed 0r driven by an inner compulsion to speak out and correct the immoral actions of leaders and people. All the prophets of the Old Testament fulfilled this "moralist" function.
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