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Books of the Hebrew Scriptures

Books of history

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Abbreviations Used:

"CT" refers to the beliefs of many conservative Christian and Jewish  theologians;

"LT" refers to the interpretations of liberal theologians.

"LXX" refers to the Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures and some related texts into Koine Greek circa the late 2nd century BCE.

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There are 12 books in this section:

bulletJoshua: This book describes how the Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua entered the land of Canaan, exterminated its occupants (men, women, children and infants), and divided up the land.

bulletCT attribute authorship to Joshua himself, perhaps helped by an anonymous writer who wrote some of the verses in Joshua 24. Those passages describe activities occurring after Joshua's death. The book would have been written circa 1430 BCE.

bulletLT attribute authorship to a number of writers over a time span of many hundreds of years, from the 10th to the 7th century BCE. The final editing of the book was done in the late 7th century or first half of the 6th century BCE. Some researchers note that the archaeological record confirm many of the events mentioned in this book. However, they happened hundreds of years before the Jews entered Canaan. The Israelites may have simply picked up local stories of conquests from previous centuries and incorporated them into the book of Joshua.

bulletJudges: This book describes the time when Israel was ruled by a theocracy. It had no king; the law was taught and administered by the priests. Currently, the governmental system in Iran is the closest to this form of theocracy.

bulletCT generally attribute authorship to the prophet Samuel, circa 1000 BCE.

bulletLT believe that the activities of the Judges were first recorded in song and poem format. Prose accounts arose about the same time. Some of the latter evolved into the book of Judges in a form similar to today's version, circa 8th century BCE. Later writers added a preface to the book circa 600 BCE. Further minor alterations were made from then until the present canon was fixed in 90 CE.

bullet Ruth: This is a fascinating short story of the close, loving supportive friendship between Naomi, a Jewess, and a foreigner: Ruth, a Moabitess.

bulletCT generally attribute authorship to the prophet Samuel, circa 1000 BCE.

bulletLT commonly believe that the book was written in the 4th or 5th century BCE by an unknown author or authors.

bullet 1 & 2 Samuel: Originally 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings formed one large book. By the time of the LXX, they were divided into their present format. 1 Samuel describes the transition from a theocracy to a monarchy, with the prophet Samuel playing an important role. It begins with the birth of Samuel and ends with the death of Saul. 2 Samuel describes the second king of Israel, David, who initially ruled over the two tribes of Judah and eventually over all of Israel. Many archaeologists and historians have believed that David, the Patriarchs, and other persons mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures who predated him were fictional characters. However. archaeological evidence has been found that appears to confirm the existence of a leader named David.

bulletCT generally attribute authorship of 1 Samuel 1 to 24 to the prophet Samuel, circa 975 BCE. The rest of the two books were written by Nathan and Gad, friends of David.

bulletLT commonly believe that the book was finished circa 560 BCE by an unknown author or authors.

bullet1 & 2 Kings: These books cover the rule of David's son Solomon, the construction and dedication of the temple at Jerusalem, the division of the kingdom into Israel in the North and Judah in the South in 931 BCE, a succession of 20 kings in both kingdoms, the captivity of Israel by the Assyrians in 721 BCE, the captivity of Judah by the Babylonians in 605 BCE, and the Jewish exile in 586 BCE.

bulletCT generally attribute authorship of 1 & 2 Kings to an unknown writer who initially wrote the books before the captivity of Judah and who did a final edit circa 580 BCE, shortly after Judah was conquered.

bulletLT essentially agree with this assessment.

bullet1 & 2 Chronicles: These books repeat much of the material in 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. Starting with Adam, 1 Chronicles traces the lineage of Israel down to Kings Saul and David. 2 Chronicles describes the reign of Solomon and the succeeding Judean kings.

bulletCT often attribute authorship of 1 & 2 Chronicles to Ezra, some time after 450 BCE.

bulletLT many essentially agree with this assessment, although a few would attribute it to an unknown author who composed it after Alexander the Great conquered Palestine in 333 BCE.

bulletEzra: Describes the return of the people of Judah (and some of Israel) to Jerusalem in 538 BCE, the rebuilding of the temple, and the reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem.

bulletCT often attribute authorship to Ezra, writing about 450 BCE.

bulletLT many scholars debate the appropriate chronological order for the books of Ezra and Nehamiah. Some believe that Ezra and Nehemiah might have been contemporaries. Others are convinced that Nehemiah preceded Ezra by a generation or two. (Ezra 10:16 says that when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, Eliashib was the high priest. Eliashib's son Jehohanan was the high priest at the time of Ezra). There appears to be no consensus on the date that Ezra was written; dates range from 450 BCE to a century or two later. The author might have been Ezra or one of his disciples.

bulletNehemiah: This book describes the reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem, and its repopulating with citizens of pure Jewish descent. Celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles is renewed. Financial relief is given to the poor. This (or the book of Ezra) is chronologically the last book of the Hebrew Scriptures in most Protestant biblical translations. There is a gap of about 450 years between this book and the 1 Thessalonians, the first book to be written in the Christian Scriptures.

bulletCT written by Nehemiah about 425 BCE.

bulletLT written by Nehemiah at an unknown date.

bullet Esther: Describes a group of Israelites held captive within the Persian Empire and in danger of being exterminated. Esther, a Jewess, wins a country-wide beauty contest, becomes queen and saves her people. The annual Festival of Purim is created to celebrate delivery from their enemies.

bulletCT authorship unknown; perhaps written about 475 BCE.

bulletLT the book contains numerous historical and chronological errors. Many feel that the Festival of Purim was established first and the book of Esther created later to justify it. II Maccabees of the Apocrypha contains a list of Israelite heroes, but omits Esther. No evidence for the existence of the book was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. These might indicate that the book was written quite late, perhaps about 125 BCE.

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Copyright 1997, to 2013, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-SEP-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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