“In the beginning…” That’s the first three words of the Holy Scriptures. Where do we go from there? Your answer to that question will affect your entire outlook on life. The Old Testament establishes the foundation for the study of the New Testament. Jesus himself was fluent in the Old Testament. He proclaimed that the Old Testament revealed every aspect of His coming before hand, so He marveled that so few seemed to recognize who he really was. Over the last 150 years the Old Testament has taken a pounding in the credibility department. Just tune in to the Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, and History Channel and you will see specials which question everything from the reality of the Exodus to the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah. In almost everything I have seen, the Old Testament is regarded skeptically at best. It is often cast as having little, if any, scientific or historical veracity.
As believers we should expect this attack. If an enemy can crack the foundation of a fortress the walls will soon crumble and fall. As an evangelical Christian pastor whose undergrad degree is in ancient history, I have had to fight my share of battles in this credibility war. Through it, all I have maintained the position that I will support the veracity of scripture on the belief that in the long run the relevant data will support the fact that the Old Testament is truly the Word of God. After nearly 30 years of defending this view I am finally discovering that I have kindred spirits. From the folks at the Answers in Genesis foundation to the work of Dr. Stephen Collins from Trinity Southwestern University we will explore the trustworthiness of the Old Testament. I believe you will be astonished at the evidence which supports a nearly literal view of the Old Testament Narrative. In an effort to keep things as simple as possible we will limit ourselves to three basic textbooks, one of which I’m sure you already have.
The Holy Bible
I am a New American Standard guy. Ever since my college Greek professor, who was a native Greek speaker from Cypress, told me that the NASB captured the subtle nuances of the original language I have been hooked. Now, you may certainly use your favorite flavor Bible, but I would strongly recommend having and NASB in your library…especially if you want to do later work with Biblical language.
NIV Archeological Study Bible
NIV Archeological Study BiblePublished by Zondervan this Bible features relevant articles on archeological discoveries right next to the text they support. I have decided to require the purchase of this Bible for your Old Testament reading assignments. I want you to read the footnotes and featured articles on each page. They fill in the blanks as to the historical context and archeological support for what you are reading. When you do this along with the weekly assignments in, Hoerth you will finish this class with a stunning respect for the trustworthiness of the Old Testament Narrative. I wish this wonderful study tool was available in the New American Standard instead of the NIV…but we will have to make do. When you have gotten to know me better you will understand the reason I say this.
You will be reading everything from Genesis through Psalms and then assorted passages in the prophets.
Archeology and the Old Testament – Alfred Hoerth
Dr. Hoerth is the director of archeology at Wheaton College in Illinois. The book is written in language that is easily understandable to the neophyte archeology or Old Testament student.
The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict – Josh McDowell
This book began as the project of an agnostic college student attempting to disprove Christianity…he ended up becoming one of the most influential evangelical Christian teachers of the latter 20thcentury. This is a book that every Christian should have in their personal library. We will be using it as a simple introduction into the pitfalls of Biblical Criticism.
As I stated above, I believe that we cannot preach the faith with conviction if we don’t have faith in the reliability of the Bible. Now you may assume that you can have a more lax attitude toward the reliability of the Old Testament just as long as you respect the New Testament. I used to be of that persuasion. However, I soon learned that after you’ve undermined the first 11 chapters of Genesis your resistance to the process of skepticism accelerates.
Along with the books and Bible reading, I will be sending you assignments using various websites which I have found informational and helpful. These assignments will be divided into 3 Units….approximately 1 month’s work for each.
Unit 1 - CREATION, THE FLOOD, THE PATRIARCHS, THE EXODUS, AND THE KINGS
Unit 2 – PLAYING WITH THE PROPHETS
Unit 3 - EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT
Reading assignments from the basic textbooks will be provided on a weekly basis as well as web site addresses to help you further explore the history of the Old Testament.