The Old Testament
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Basic Information

Most Christian Bibles use the term Old Testament to refer to the Tanakh, or the Hebrew Scriptures. It describes the Creation of the world and the history of the Jewish people from the time of Abraham to the return from the Babylonian Captivity. More importantly, it contains the Law of Moses, the core of the Jewish religion and culture. The most important distinction between New and Old Testament is that the Old contains everything pre-Jesus and the New Testament is everything (canonical) from Jesus onwards.

The following list of books represents the consensus of those considered authoritative1 as parts of the Old Testament. Other works of dubious authenticity that are not considered completely worthless are referred to as apocrypha or pseudepigrapha and some editions of the Bible may include some or all of them for reference.

  • The Books of Moses (the Torah)
    • Genesis
    • Exodus
    • Leviticus
    • Numbers
    • Deuteronomy
  • The Historical Books
    • Joshua
    • Judges
    • Ruth
    • 1 Samuel
    • 2 Samuel
    • 1 Kings
    • 2 Kings
    • 1 Chronicles
    • 2 Chronicles
    • Ezra
    • Nehemiah
    • Esther
  • The Poetic Books
    • Job
    • Psalms
    • Proverbs
    • Ecclesiastes
    • Song of Solomon
  • The Major Prophets
    • Isaiah
    • Jeremiah
    • Lamentations
    • Ezekiel
    • Daniel
  • The Minor Prophets
    • Hosea
    • Joel
    • Amos
    • Obidiah
    • Jonah
    • Micah
    • Nahum
    • Habakkuk
    • Zephaniah
    • Haggai
    • Zachariah
    • Malachi

The Tanakh contains the same books as the Christian Old Testament, but are ordered differently. In the Tanakh, the books are categorized in three groups, The Law (Torah); the Prophets (Including most of the longer Historical books except for Chronicles); and the Writings (the Poetic books and the shorter Historical books, including Chronicles)

It is important to understand the range and diversity of works within the Old Testament when considering it as a whole - for those coming from a religion where key sacred texts are considered to be direct divine revelation, the presence of works of semi-secular history, let alone poetry and song can be confusing. Likewise, not all behaviour recorded in the historical books is held up as a positive example, nor is being part of a sacred text a guarantee that all the content is necessarily edifying.



Game and Story Use

  • When world building, the activities of Biblical characters are as available as anyone else's to be emulated by culture heroes (and, where appropriate, villains) in fiction. Whilst you may be called out on some of the more famous ones (like the parting of the Red Sea) something like the resurrection of the dry bones (from Ezekiel's vision EZK37) or Joshua throwing a massive time eddy to allow the Israelite army to win a battle (JOS10) would be awesome
    • Scripturally the resurrection of the bones is a metaphor for the return of the Israelite People from exile, but a fictional version inspired by it need not be … resurrecting an entire people would make for an impressive (and very literal) Deus Ex Machina. Not something to have on a PC's normal list of powers, but something useful to wheel out when they get to the final reveal that (for example) the people they had hoped to save had been dead for (many) years … roughly when they start to get to the "so what was the point of that then", you either wheel out a useful NPC or have a PC cleric hear a voice in his ear saying "prophesy!".
      • You may still get a dose of "we know a song about that, don't we boys and girls?" … but equally, these days, you may not…
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