Outline Analysis of the Books of the Bible

By Barnard C. Taylor

Introduction - Old Testament


1. There are four classes of books in the Old Testament: The Law, consisting of the five books of Moses, from Genesis to Deuteronomy, which show how the Theocracy was established, and contain the laws that were to govern it; the Historical Books, comprising those from Joshua to Esther, which give the course of the Theocracy through its periods of prosperity, decline, exile, and restoration, in order to show the mercy, love, and holiness of God, and the wickedness of men; the Poetical Books, comprising those from Job to the Song of Solomon, which for the most part give the religious experiences of those who had appropriated to themselves the truths that God had revealed; and the Prophetical Books, comprising those from Isaiah to Malachi, which give the reproofs, warnings, and promises by which God sought to keep Israel faithful to himself. The Hebrews themselves arranged all the books into three classes, placing most of the Historical Books with the Prophetical, and calling them all “The Prophets,” and placing the rest of the Historical Books with the Poetical, and calling these “The Writings,” i. e., the Holy Writings. They sometimes designated the latter, by the most important of the collection, “The Psalms.” Thus in the New Testament they are called, ” The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.”

2. The books of the Old Testament were produced during a period of about a thousand years. As we have them in our Bible they are not arranged in their chronological order. This is especially to be remembered in reading the Prophetical Books. In some cases it is impossible to determine accurately the date of the books, but we can understand them better when we know the circumstances in the midst of which they were produced. There is a great advantage in studying the books in their chronological order.

3. It is to be observed that in the case of the Historical Books the names of the authors are not given. The authors and dates have to be determined from a study of the books themselves. This is sometimes difficult to do. There is, however, no serious lack of agreement about these books. In the case of the Pentateuch, it is claimed by some that the books were written at various times far later than the days of Moses. It is sufficient here to say that this claim has not been satisfactorily proved to be true. It is no doubt true that some parts of the Pentateuch were added after the death of Moses. But we may accept with confidence the historical trustworthiness of the whole. It is also claimed that some of the Prophets—e. g., Isaiah and Zechariah, consist of writings by different men. There are good authorities on both sides of this question. Of course, our view of the date of a prophecy will help to determine our idea of its meaning. So also there are different views about the authorship of the Poetical Books. But their value will remain substantially the same whoever wrote them.

4. The names that have been given to the different books have arisen either from the men who wrote them, as in the case of the Prophets, or from the character of the most important contents, as in the case of the Historical Books. The division into chapters and verses arose after the books were written. The chapter division is supposed to have been made in the thirteenth century of the Christian era; the verse division was made earlier. These divisions 6 Introduction. often obscure the thought, and, though convenient for reference, should generally be ignored in reading a book. The headings of the chapters are of course no part of the original writing. Words printed in italics do not stand for any corresponding words in the original, but were deemed necessary to give the complete thought. When the name of God is printed in small capitals it is to indicate that the name in the Hebrew is Jehovah. There is no reason why it should not appear as such, except an ancient superstition of the Jews. The thought is often obscured by substituting the name ” Lord” for “Jehovah.”

5. Hebrew poetry is distinguished from prose by a certain correspondence between the members of a verse called “parallelism.” This correspondence is in the thought rather than in the metre. Sometimes the terms of the second member are synonymous with those of the first; sometimes they are in direct contrast; and sometimes the second member carries farther the thought of the first. Most of the writings of the prophets are in the form of poetry. In reading the poetical parts of the Old Testament the characteristics of its form should be kept in mind.

6. With some of the alms there are found superscriptions, including the name of the author, the occasion of the psalm, and certain musical directions. These last were intended for the leader of the temple choir, and their meaning is not fully understood. The other superscriptions, giving author and occasion, may have been added by some one after the psalm was written. Some regard these as trustworthy, others reject them as of no value. Each of these is to be considered by itself, and may be supposed to be correct, unless there is something in the psalm to show that it cannot be.