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Unity and Diversity of The Old Testament

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Introduction

The Bible is like a big puzzle. Each piece, having its size and shape, must be placed together to create a single image correctly. The image can be described as a love story, a spiritual guide on how to please God, a history textbook, a self-help guide, perhaps even a storey or legal code, but one thing is for sure that all these images appear throughout the text of the Bible (diversity). In contrast, however, the Bible can be understood as a testimony of God’s good news by the Son of God, Jesus Christ (Unity). The covenantal relationship, which is identified throughout these public documents, agrees that God first had unity with this world, and then with His people, which was later revealed in the New Testament through His Son Jesus Christ. In order to understand the Bible and the message it brings, a sense of insight into diversity and unity grasps the overall message of life that it brings.

Unity of the Old Testament

The beginning of the bible reveals Gods creation as the earliest account of humanity. Mears (2011, p.38) explains how this era of the patriarchs, which falls between Adam and Moses is the cornerstone of history. God called a person out as a result of humanities failures during this earlier period of history. ‘He put aside the nation and called a man, Abraham, who was to become the father of the Hebrew nation’. Youngblood (2014, p.873) explains how the Old Testament refers to the nation of Israel as Gods people. ‘The phrase the people of God rerefers to the special relationship of Israel with the Lord through his covenant with Abraham’ (Gen. 12:1-3).

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown (2017, p. 5) explain how the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch is determined by the concurrent voices of both Jewish and Christian traditions. It is affirmed by his express declaration that Moses kept a written record of significant transactions involving the Israelites, an example of which is ‘the victory over the Amalekites, commanded by the divine authority to record the language used’ (Ex. 17:14). This shows the narrative was part of the scroll which was already underway, and that different circumstances converge to demonstrate that this register was a continuous record of exceptional goodness and divine providence in the Hebrew nation’s selection, security and direction.

According to the Hebrew canon sequence, the law and the prophets are the first two of the significant sections of the Old Testament. Fee and Stuart (2014, p. 171) note that the prophets have a particularly vital role to play in the history of Israel, they believe that they cannot be adequately understood apart from their commission in connection to the law. They call the people of Yahweh back to their origins as God’s appointed servants, ‘announcing both the curses and blessings for covenant disloyalty or loyalty’.

Each successive narrative is consciously based on the previous one when it comes to the composition of these books. The Pentateuch is the centre of God’s vow to His people and culmination of their arrival at the threshold of the land of Canaan. Joshua, who comes first of former prophets, follows Deuteronomy so clearly that many scholars align Joshua with the first five books.

All the books of the prophets are historically placed within the chronological structure of exile and restoration within the divided kingdom. Historical narratives are scattered with prophetic oracles, indicating that these prophets intentionally complement the previous prophets (Walton, Matthews & Chavalas 2012, p. 581).

According to Duvall and Hays (2012, p. 416), it is at the root of the message of the prophets, interwoven with all facets of the prophetic word, that the evidence of God’s relationship with his people is a constant theme.

The ‘writings of Israel’, the third section of the Hebrew canon, are seen as the most unstructured, yet it is clear to see they belong. Israel’s worship was formed from the book of Psalms. There content and authority indicate that many have emerged as responses to specific historical contexts. The detailed accounts of the past acts of God, as mentioned in previous narrative literature, are particularly noteworthy (Fee & Stuart, 2014, p. 119).

The Old Testament remains intentionally open-ended. The abundant promise of Genesis an expanded in Exodus, added to the law, transformed by the empire of Samuel and the other kings, foretold by the prophets to be fulfilled in the coming day of the Lord, was not finished. As Birch et al. (2011, p. 33) note ‘there is a continuity of God’s people’. They are explaining that the people of God do not just cease existing at the closure of the Old Testament and then resume their existence from the New Testament. ‘There is a continuing story of God’s people through the story of second-temple Judaism extended beyond the canon through the literature we now call the Apocrypha and witness in other early Jewish tradition’.

The Bible is one book, one history, one story-His story. Behind 10,000 events stands God, the builder of history, the maker of the ages. Eternity bounds the one side, eternity bounds the other side, and time is in between. God is working things out. You can go into the minutest detail everywhere and see that there is one great purpose moving through the ages; the eternal design of the almighty God to redeem a wrecked and ruined world. His people (Mears 2011, p.19).

Diversity of the Old Testament

According to Kaiser (2009, p. 25) for most readers today, the case for diversity in the Bible seems more evident than the argument for unity in the Scriptures. However, since these sixty-six books function as Holy Scriptures for Christians, various ways have been proposed to uphold the case of diversity while still recognising the presence of some unity. In addition, Youngblood (2014, p. 192) claims that “biblical theology focuses on the diversity that exists within the larger unity of Scripture, and tries to set forth that which unifies, without ignoring the diversity”.

Waltke (2011, p. 50) asks the question on whether there is a single theme or message to the Old Testament and then argues that the central message is spread throughout all the scriptures all the while acknowledging that each book has its significance and theology. Waltke continues to explain how the Old Testament contains books of various human authors. It, therefore, comes to us through a different medium of human personalities living in diverse situations, whose role is to meet the diverse needs of the Covenant community.

Although the Old Testament is composed of diverse works, each containing its message, there are strings of significant subjects that threads throughout the texts of the Old Testament literature. These distinctive themes are one of the most notable examples of diversity in the Old Testament. The Pentateuch focuses in particular on the promise that the nations will be blessed through the seed of Abraham. The themes of the presence of God, holiness, redemption and the reestablishment of the covenant are also present in the books that make up the Pentateuch. Social justice, the restoration of the temple, the return of the Lord and the struggle of evil are some of the themes that have been identified throughout the book of the prophets. Birch et al. (2011, p. 23) note that the vast diversity of voices that speak through its texts cannot be ignored by anyone who has read the Old Testament. “Narrative and poetry, present piety and royal archive, priestly ritual and prophetic utterance, apocalyptic vision and wisdom saying – all of these voices, and many more, witness to the polyphonic nature of the Old Testament”.

Apart from diversity within the themes of the Old Testament, Kaiser (2009, p. 26) explains that there are other types of diversity found within the text. Some of which are; ‘Diversity of language’, two main languages were used to bring the revelation of God to the reader. The Old Testament is mainly composed in Hebrew, whereas another part of the Old Testament was composed in Aramaic.

‘Diversity of authorship’, At least thirty-one men were involved in the composition of the scriptures of the Old Testament. The fact that many authors have formed the Old Testament and yet they have maintained the consistency of the theme and mission for such a long time is nothing short of a miracle unless of course, some guidance is at work.

‘Diversity of places’, “The authors of scripture wrote in the desert of Sinai, in the cave of Adullam, on the banks of the Chebar canal in Babylon and in the palace in Jerusalem” (Kaiser 2009, p. 27). The places in which the message comes are so diverse that it is almost beyond belief that absolute confusion has not been created in the place of divine revelation.

‘Diversity of forms’, scripture contains a variety of genres, from the narrative to the law, to poetry, prophecy and apocalypse. One has to wonder how many books, which have such a diversity of genres and forms, can make sense if they are combined unless their writers are supernaturally directed towards the same goal.

To sum it all up, Birch et al. (2011, p. 24) explain it perfectly, “The God of the Hebrew Bible is one God, although experienced in many ways and depicted through multiple images”.

Reflection and Application

We know the immutability of God, and so wherever we understand his character and his ways correctly in the Old Testament, we learn something true about God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Old Testament contains innumerable examples of divine principles which are timeless in their application. They are beneficial to people seeking God in any age or community. There are countless amounts of precious treasures which can be found stored up within the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. As Christians, we should take heed to this body of literature intently studying this cannon of truth. At the same time, we recognise that the legal system of the Old Testament is not what new covenant followers of Christ are bound to do today. The Code of Law served its original purpose and has come to an end, and the reader will find that this argument is persuasively argued in large parts of the books of Galatians, Romans, Hebrews, Colossians and 2nd Corinthians. The fact that the Old Testament leads believers to Jesus as the Messiah. The Messiah is at the heart of the text of the Old Testament. There are 456 Old Testament texts, according to rabbinical estimates, which relate either explicitly to the Messiah or the Messianic times.

Conclusion

To conclude, the unity and diversity of the Scriptures must be remembered and kept in careful balance. Modern progressive scholars tend so much to focus on diversity that unity disappears, while more orthodox scholars tend to focus so much on unity that diversity disappears. The canon cannot serve as the definitive basis for Christian faith and practise, as has historically been the case, without the recognition of unity. However, without understanding the diversity of scriptures, authors, and writers, one risks misinterpreting the Scriptures and not knowing what God wants to say to his people at any time in history. 

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Unity And Diversity Of The Old Testament [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Dec 16 [cited 2022 Jan 28]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/unity-and-diversity-of-the-old-testament/
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