Last Updated on January 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 5229
First transcribed: Tanakh, c. tenth-c. second century b.c.e.
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Edition(s) used: Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1985
Genre(s): Holy writings
Subgenre(s): History; lyric poetry; morality tales; narrative poetry; stories; theology
Core issue(s): The Bible; Creation; God; holiness; Judaism; justice; life; love; prayer; priesthood; trust in God; wisdom; the Word
The ancient collection of books considered sacred by Jews and Christians is known by the Jews as the Hebrew Bible and by the Christians as the Old Testament. Most of the books were written in classical Hebrew, and about two-thirds are prose and one-third are poetry. The Old Testament, along with the New Testament, forms the Christian Bible, but the Jewish Bible does not add any further books. Christianity and Judaism share a majority of the books in each of their Bibles. For example, all the books in the Jewish Bible are in the Christian Old Testament. The Jewish Bible contains twenty-four books divided into the three sections of Torah (Law/Teachings), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Kethuvim (Writings). These categories only roughly describe the actual content of the books. For example, the book of Joshua, which is considered part of the Prophets section, describes the Israelites’ conquest of the land of Canaan; no prophet is mentioned. Furthermore, the book of Genesis, the first book of the Torah (and the Bible), does not contain many laws or teachings.
The Christian Old Testament appears in several forms according to varying Christian traditions. Protestants have the shortest Old Testament, corresponding with the Jewish Bible in content but not order. For example, the book of Ruth is found in the Writings section of the Jewish Bible because of its late date of composition; however, it is located after Judges in the Christian Old Testament because the story of Ruth is set during the time of the Judges. The Roman Catholic Old Testament contains several additional books such as the Tobit and Wisdom of Solomon, but Protestants consider these books nonauthoritative and label them Apocrypha (a Greek word meaning “hidden away”). The Greek Orthodox Old Testament boasts an even larger collection of books.
These varying lists of biblical books demonstrate that not all Christians—throughout history and in the modern world—consider the same books to be authoritative. In fact, during the early, formative period of Christianity, different canons, or lists of inspired books, developed. The word “canon” comes from a Greek word that means “measuring stick,” but in Christianity it took on a metaphorical definition of “boundary” or “list.” The Old Testament was canonized in stages, and the process concluded sometime around the destruction of the second Jewish temple in 70 c.e. However, Christians throughout the ages have ignored various biblical books and thereby created a canon within a canon.
The Old Testament contains numerous types and genres of literature. There are narratives such as the Joseph story in Genesis 37-50; songs like the ancient Song of the Sea in Exodus 15; poems like the love poem of the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) or the lament poems found in Lamentations; prophecy like Isaiah 11; proverbs like the book of Proverbs; short stories like the book of Ruth; genealogies like Genesis 5; and legal materials like Leviticus 12. Because most of the authors of these books share a relatively similar religious, economic, and political background, there are important themes running throughout most of the books. However, the books also display an astonishing diversity of thought. In fact, scholars have argued that some biblical books were written in response to, or in direct opposition to, other biblical books. For example, the biblical book of Job can be read as a rejoinder to the earlier book of Deuteronomy and its simple theological formula that the righteous will be blessed and the wicked will be cursed. Furthermore, different and sometimes opposing traditions—priestly, prophetic, wisdom, liturgical—exist within the Old Testament. These different strands of Israelite religion often influence each other even as they seek to differentiate themselves from each other.
Although not every book of the Old Testament tells a story, the overall history, according to the biblical writers, of the ancient Israelites can be sketched. The opening sentences of Genesis tell the story of the creation of the world including the creation of man and woman. Next, Genesis relates how the early couple disobey God and receive a punishment that includes leaving their blissful garden home. The story continues with the first homicide and a worldwide flood that kills everyone except for the righteous Noah and his family. Next, the narrative narrows in on one particular family—that of Abraham and Sarah. This family eventually grows into a large population which first migrates to Egypt, then is enslaved there. God must liberate these enslaved people from Egypt in a long-remembered event called the Exodus.
After some initial wandering in the wilderness outside of Egypt, the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, conquer the land of Canaan and settle there. After a series of charismatic leaders called judges, the Israelites officially united under the leadership of three kings—Saul, David, and Solomon. While King David wishes to build a temple for God, it is Solomon, his son, who actually constructs the Jerusalem Temple. After Solomon, the kingdom divided into two smaller kingdoms, Israel and Judah, because of sibling royal rivalries. The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital, Samaria, about 200 years later in 722 b.c.e.
Then, more than one hundred years later, the Babylonians became the major military threat in the area and conquered the southern kingdom of Judah including the major city of Jerusalem in 587 b.c.e. When the Babylonians conquered the area, they took the captives back to Babylon. So the Judeans went into exile in Babylon for about fifty years. The Persians then rose to power, conquered the Babylonians, and freed the Judeans to return back to their native land. Some chose not to return from Babylon; others joined the many who were not deported back to Judah. After some initial community strife and struggle, which included issues of identity, the population in Judah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and the temple. The Judeans were under Persian control until Alexander the Great swept through in 332 b.c.e. and conquered the land. Slowly, under Greek influence, the Jews became more like the Greeks in their culture.
The writers of the Old Testament are mostly anonymous figures. Often, the title given to an individual biblical book relates to one of the main subjects of the book (for example, Joshua, Samuel, Esther) and not to that book’s author. The authors were educated, religious, Israelite men. This rather succinct description of biblical authors reveals many further observations about ancient Israelite society. First, we cannot assume all ancient people could read and write; in fact, literacy may have been the privilege of an elite class within ancient Israel, perhaps scribes, for much of its history. Second, religion must be understood broadly as relating to a community or individual’s viewpoints of and practices concerning the supernatural because the religious authors of the Old Testament held diverse opinions concerning the seminal issues of religion. Furthermore, polytheism and monotheism existed in varying degrees throughout the ancient Near East, and they were represented by varying religious practices. Third, a major issue within Israelite culture was always self-identity. Who is a part of the community? Because of this topic’s importance, it is unlikely that foreigners could have written the biblical books. Fourth, patriarchy was the norm within ancient Israel. Although some modern scholars have suggested woman authors for biblical books (like Ruth), this is probably only wishful thinking. Finally, the authors were not historians or scientists as we conceive of them today. Therefore, their cosmology and historical analyses run counter to modern knowledge concerning science and historiography.
The earliest pieces of the Old Testament may have been written before 1000 b.c.e. Yet a majority of the words were written either during the Israelite monarchy (1000-587), the Babylonian exile (587-540), or the Persian period (539-333), although some twentieth century scholars argue for an even later dating of the texts’ composition. Whenever the books were written, it seems clear that they were given their final shape only in the Persian and Hellenistic (333-63) periods.
The earliest Jewish followers of Jesus, including the New Testament writers, had a set of scriptures—probably a Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. However, it is unclear exactly what books were included in this collection because the New Testament makes reference to the first two sections, “the Law and the Prophets,” but fails to mention the third division. These sacred writings were important to these early followers as they related to their daily life, religious practices, and theology. Therefore, it seems natural that the New Testament writers would depend quite profoundly on the Old Testament in their writing and thinking about Jesus.
Because of their newly acquired belief that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, these authors began to read the Septuagint less as a historical narrative about the people of Israel and more as an announcement of Jesus’ appearance to the world. When these early Jews attempted to explain the significance of Jesus as the Messiah, they went to their scriptures to see if they could find meaning. However, they did not simply quote the Old Testament as the final word on an issue nor did they provide an extended commentary on any Old Testament book. Instead they alluded to or quoted briefly from the Old Testament to strengthen their argument about the person and work of Jesus. The writer of the New Testament book 2 Timothy offers the following statement about the Old Testament, which he calls “sacred writings” and “scripture”:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
Paul, a Jew turned Christian apostle and one of the writers of the New Testament, quotes from various Old Testament books including Isaiah (twenty-eight times), Psalms (twenty times), Deuteronomy (fifteen times), Genesis (fifteen times), and the Minor Prophets (five times). As a member of the Jewish sect called the Pharisees, Paul would have studied the Old Testament extensively and learned to apply it to his world. However, after Paul encounters Jesus in a vision (Acts 9, 22), his understanding of the Old Testament radically changes. Now, Paul views the Old Testament as a text that bears witness to the Gospel. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes that Jesus’ death and resurrection on the third day are “in accordance with the scriptures,” although he does not continue to define exactly what Old Testament passages he has in mind. Also, Paul uses allegory and typology in his analysis of the Old Testament. These two ways of reading deserve differentiation: Allegorical readings are necessarily ahistorical because they look for symbols within a text that contain secret meanings that differ from the literal meaning; Old Testament typological readings are historical because they view an Old Testament personality, object, or event in connection with a New Testament personality, object, or event, thereby creating two meanings—a historical one and a deeper, more spiritually significant one. For example, in Galatians 4, Paul uses allegory to explain why Abraham has two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, by two different wives, Hagar and Sarah. In Romans 5, he identifies Adam, the first man, as a type of Jesus.
New Testament scholars generally assume that the historical figure, Jesus, had a basically standard Jewish view of the Old Testament. However, demonstrating how and when Jesus used scripture in his teaching proves difficult because one is never certain whether the Old Testament quotations in the Gospels are authentic reports of Jesus’ words or simply sincere usages of the Old Testament by the Gospel writers to establish the link between the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of the Old Testament. Additionally, Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospels, appears ambivalent about the authority of the Old Testament. In general, Jesus refers to it as a source of authority; however, on several occasions, he criticizes the law.
In the Gospels’ presentation of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Old Testament is quoted. In fact, the Gospel of Mark, considered the oldest of the Gospels, begins with a quotation from the Old Testament book of Isaiah and then demonstrates how John the Baptist, Jesus’ predecessor, fulfills this prophecy. Furthermore, when Jesus is crucified in Mark 15, Mark has Jesus quote from the Septuagint Psalm 21: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark may intend for the quotation to invoke the entire psalm, which is a lament and cry for help. Matthew’s Gospel is characterized by multiple fulfillment quotations from the Old Testament, where some specific Old Testament prophecy is fulfilled by the actions of Jesus. Furthermore, Matthew begins his Gospel with a genealogy, a familiar genre from the Old Testament, which states that Jesus is “the son of David, the son of Abraham” before providing a list of descendants beginning with Abraham and ending with Jesus. Even the Gospel of John, which differs considerably in content from the other Gospels, quotes from the Old Testament. Additionally, in John 19, when Jesus is about to die, the writer has Jesus say “I am thirsty” and then blatantly gives the reason for this request—to fulfill the Old Testament scripture (Psalm 69).
The New Testament writers used the Old Testament because they believed in God’s plan of redemption, which surely began with figures such as Abraham and Moses, yet culminated in the work of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they proclaimed the Messiah and whom they used as their lens through which to view the Old Testament.
Obviously, early Christianity did not designate the Old Testament as the sole written authority for faith. The early Christians knew it was also important to have writings about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, although the religion centered on a person, a set of writings, the New Testament, became a source of inspiration. The “problem” of the function and authority of the Old Testament first occurs during this time when the early community embraced another set of writings. Yet, the Old Testament does not present any real problem for the early Christians because it remains an important part of the nascent tradition as the sacred writings continue to shape Christian theology, practices, and liturgy.
The early Christian church read the Old Testament in ways similar to the New Testament writers, including typology and allegory. For example, Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c. 215 c.e.) identifies the musical instruments listed in Psalm 150 as different parts of the human body; according to Clement, these body parts unite to praise God. However, not all scholars believed in the allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament. In fact, we can summarize interpretation within this historical period with the following question: Should Christians allegorize the Old Testament or read it literally?
Marcion (d. c. 160 c.e.), the most famous early Christian heretic, believed in two gods—one God of Law who created the world and another benevolent God of the New Testament who was the Father of Jesus. This dualism led him to reject the Old Testament as Christian scriptures and to view it as an accurate revelation of a Creator God that must be interpreted literally. However, his contemporaries disagreed strongly and tried to formulate theories or theologies as to how the Old Testament and New Testament could stand together as sacred writings. Saint Irenaeus (120/140-c. 202 c.e.), for example, argued that the law of the Old Testament was valid until God had begun a revelation in Jesus. This historical outlook appreciates the old covenant while maintaining the ultimate priority of the new covenant brought by Jesus.
Origen (c. 185-c. 254 c.e.), one of the foremost allegorists of the early Church, concerned himself mainly with the spiritual sense of the Old Testament, which meant the allegorical interpretation, because he thought that the Old Testament contradicted itself if read literally and that it contained many prophecies that made sense only with the revelation of Jesus. Yet he also focused on the details of the text as evidenced by his Hexapla, a manuscript with six-columns of translation including the Hebrew text and various Greek texts as well as his own Greek translation.
Saint Jerome (between 331 and 347-probably 420 c.e.) mastered Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, and translated the Old Testament into Latin. This Bible, the Vulgate, became the Bible for the Church until the Reformation. Jerome vacillates between the allegorical interpretation and the literal so that some of the Old Testament Psalms refer to Jesus while others refer to King David.
Saint Augustine’s (354-430 c.e.) book De civitate Dei (413-427; The City of God, 1610) speaks of two cities—the earthly one and the heavenly one. However, this split between cities does not refer to the divide between testaments. Instead, his division can be seen throughout the entire Bible as Augustine shows that the events of the Old Testament are historical (as opposed to allegorical), yet they relate clearly to the two cities.
Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament had influenced Christian writers since the beginning of the Church. In fact, the impulse to seek a literal, historical understanding of the text found in Saint Jerome and others stemmed from their interaction with Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament. This type of Jewish influence continued in the Middle Ages as the Bible continued to be the most read and studied book among Jews and Christians.
However, the most important method of medieval interpretation was allegory. For example, the Christian monks read the story of Moses as a moral allegory. In fact, monasticism tended to interpret the Old Testament according to its ascetic ideology and emphasized the use of the Old Testament in liturgy and prayer. Furthermore, monasticism was often able to support multiple interpretations of texts because, in the pursuit of union with Christ, the needs of each individual would vary. In any case, the Old Testament was generally used within monasteries as a lifestyle manual and not a treatise on or for theology.
Also, during this time, the four meanings of a text—literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical—which had been developing through the centuries and was emphasized more or less by individual interpreters, reached its peak. Scholars debated which of these meanings was most important. For example, Dante (1265-1321) considered them all equal in importance, while Thomas Aquinas (1224/1225-1274) and the Dominicans maintained that the literal meaning was the most significant. Aquinas defended the literal sense of the Bible in his Summa theologiae (c. 1265-1273; Summa Theologica, 1910-1921); he thought it was essential to understand properly the literal meaning of the text before moving on to the more spiritual meaning.
Although the Christians debated the four different means of reading Scripture, the Jewish scholars maintained a literal interpretation of the Old Testament. This historically oriented presentation of the Old Testament helped them refute the Christian’s claim that Jesus could be found in the Old Testament. For example, Rashi (1040-1105), the rabbi and commentator, argued that the many of the Psalms concern David and the nation of Israel instead of Jesus and the Church. Furthermore, he and his successor David Kimhi (c. 1160-c. 1235) wrote to provide legitimate answers based on a literal interpretation of the Bible for their fellow Jews who were being proselytized by Christians. Likewise, the Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204 c.e.) offered literal interpretations and argued for the rationality of the law.
Finally, this period saw the rise of early European universities where the Bible was read for the sake of knowledge instead of spiritual truth. Therefore, many commentaries were produced during this time but always in service to preaching/teaching endeavors. These scholastics also struggled with reconciling the literal and spiritual meanings of the text because they believed that the literal should not be disregarded, yet the spiritual dealt with truth, which was the most important element.
The interpretation of the Old Testament shifts fundamentally with the Reformation. Until this point in history, Scripture had been seen as essential for Christian doctrine and life, but not as the sole authority. The tradition given to the church by previous scholars and councils also provided a meaningful basis for faith. The Protestants upended this reliance on tradition and asserted that Scripture alone must be the basis for faith. In a sense, the Protestants wanted to start anew with the interpretation of the Bible, placing the emphasis on the literal, historical meaning of the text. Therefore, they argued that Christians should go back to the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament instead of using the Greek Septuagint or Saint Jerome’s Latin Vulgate.
After Martin Luther (1483-1546) left the Roman Catholic Church, he argued for the historical interpretation of the Bible and stopped using allegorical interpretation. However, he believed that the historical interpretation of the text must then lead a Christian to a spiritual interpretation that revolves around Christ.
John Calvin (1509-1564) took this argument one step farther and insisted that the Bible itself, not a Christ-centered interpretation of the Bible, was the Christian’s only authority. Additionally, whereas Luther had claimed that certain sections of the Bible did not have as much authority as others (for example, Esther, which Luther hated), Calvin insisted that all portions were equally authoritative and of divine origin. Finally, Calvin, in contrast to Paul and the early Church leaders, tried to show how the Old Testament and the New Testament contained only one covenant, one based on grace.
The Catholic Church responded to the Reformation at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and stated that the Apocrypha was to be included in the canon and that both testaments as well as tradition were to be held in equal reverence. This began a tradition within Catholicism in which scholars who differed on the statements of Scripture could look to tradition to settle the question.
The Reformation focused Christianity on the Bible as the source of authority. Although Catholics and Protestants could not agree on the amount of authority to give to the Bible, the Reformation did cause all of Christianity to return to an examination of the Bible’s contents and message. However, the exact methods needed to interpret accurately the Bible remained contentious during the Reformation and afterward.
The Enlightenment brought another radical shift within Old Testament interpretation as scholars began to read the Old Testament more critically and with more attention to its historical validity. The rise of modern, historically oriented methods of interpreting the Bible, which developed mainly outside the Church within universities, engendered a slow process by which the Church lost some control of the interpretation of the Bible and the authority of the Bible came under question by scholars.
This way of reading the Bible has always elicited criticism from church authorities, but it was gradually accepted by liberal and moderate sectors of Christianity. However, although this method, which has developed since the eighteenth century, has been taught in seminaries for hundreds of years, the average church attendee still does not know about this type of interpretation and its results. Furthermore, some conservative traditions of Christianity either completely reject this methodology or view it as unhelpful.
Historical critical methodologies seek to read the Old Testament within its historical context of the ancient Near Eastern world and not within the world of Christian dogma or theology. Critical readings of the Old Testament portray it as a piece of literature similar to something written by William Shakespeare or Homer, with errors and ethical pitfalls. It is not a theological reading of the text and does not rely on previous tradition or thought; therefore, when it was first introduced, many clergymen were astonished and upset. As it relates to the Old Testament, historical criticism widens the gap between the two Christian testaments because of its emphasis on history rather than theology. This nonconfessional, critical scholarship allows Jews and Christians to discuss the Old Testament together without permitting the Christians to use Jesus as an interpretive tool. Because Jesus of Nazareth is not a historical part of the Old Testament, critical scholarship on the Old Testament does not relate to him. Julius Wellhausen’s 1878 work on the history of Israel well represents modern critical scholarship because his results were highly influential during his day and continue to exert influence. His monograph claimed to be scientific and demonstrated the evolution or development of Israelite religion.
Not all Christian intellectuals were in favor of historical critical methodology as the following two theologians demonstrate. Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), the German Protestant theologian, exemplifies the spirit of modernity and should be mentioned briefly because of his admittedly unorthodox view of the Old Testament. He argued that the Old Testament does not share the same amount of inspiration as the New Testament and that it should be placed as an appendix to the New Testament to show its inferior status. Schleiermacher, like his predecessors, continued to struggle with the relationship between the testaments and concluded that they are not equal in authority. Karl Barth (1886-1968), another Protestant theologian, has an equivocal relationship with the historical-critical methods in that he sometimes engages in critical scholarship but more often views it as unhelpful for theological reflection and interpretation. Barth views the Old Testament, like the New Testament, as a testimony to Jesus Christ; he sees an amazing unity between the testaments because they witness to one subject—Jesus.
Various academic disciplines also affected the study of the Old Testament during the modern period. For example, ancient Near Eastern studies like Assyriology and Egyptology shed light on Israel’s surrounding societies. Additionally, anthropology, archaeology, and sociology helped scholars examine the Old Testament texts and their historical backgrounds through the use of social scientific theory and excavated artifacts.
The divide between the academy’s use and reading of the Old Testament and the church’s remains today. The academy’s readings are often highly specialized, complicated, and written for a small audience. Therefore, although many (but certainly not all) Old Testament professors are religiously affiliated, they find that their work is not easily understood, appreciated, or even beneficial for their religious communities. In fact, within the academy, there seems to be a divide between those scholars who wish to engage Christian communities with their work and those who feel they have little or no responsibility to make their work accessible to religious communities. In the end, religious communities and institutions no longer have the monopoly on biblical interpretation.
Furthermore, within the past thirty years, methods of Old Testament interpretation have multiplied. Feminist, liberationist, and postcolonial readings of Old Testament passages offer novel interpretations that bring various underrepresented people into the enterprise of reading sacred texts and claiming them as their own. Older, more traditional forms of criticism are experiencing change and renewal in interaction with these newer criticisms. This explosion of methodological practices challenges the scholar to remain current on scholarship and overwhelms the Christian pastor or layperson.
The Old Testament is still generally read in Christian churches, especially liturgical ones that use the lectionary, which almost always includes an Old Testament lesson for each Sunday; however, the preacher must decide whether to use the Old Testament as the basis for the sermon. Furthermore, the preacher must choose whether to situate the Old Testament passage within its historical framework as a historical-critical scholar would or to relate the passage to the New Testament or Jesus as many premodern readers would have done. The question of the relationship between the Old Testament and the person of Jesus will always remain a seminal question within Christianity.
Religious pluralism and the close interaction of Jews and Christians also present a challenge to Christians as they read the Old Testament. On the one hand, Jews and Christians share this literature, and although they view it differently as can be seen by their naming of it, many commonalities exist between the religions. On the other hand, Christianity’s historically anti-Semitic attitudes and notions of supercessionism complicate the relationship between Judaism and other religions.
Many of the current issues surrounding how Christians should interpret the Old Testament are actually very old. Christians must deal with the Old Testament as a historical presentation of religious events that occurred before Jesus, the center of their religion. Relating the past events to the new revelation of Jesus will always be a struggle as Christians continue to find meanings—literal, allegorical, and other—in their sacred texts.
Sources for Further Study
- Ackroyd, P. R., and C. F. Evans, eds. From the Beginnings to Jerome. Vol. 1 in The Cambridge History of the Bible. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1975. This reference work contains numerous articles that, although slightly outdated, help orient the reader to the relevant issues within biblical scholarship.
- Brueggemann, Walter. Introduction to the Old Testament. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003. An explicitly Christian theological reading of the Old Testament by one of America’s leading biblical theologians.
- Childs, Brevard S. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979. Childs’s classic introduction devotes a chapter to each biblical book, including historical-critical problems, the book’s canonical shape, which concerns him the most, and the theological implications.
- Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2004. This large book contains the best that current historical-critical scholarship has to offer.
- Freedman, David Noel. Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1992. This six-volume work covers place names, proper names, and major concepts from the Bible.
- Grant, Robert, and David Tracy. A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible. 2d ed. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984. This slim volume provides the shortest book-length history of biblical interpretation from Jesus to the 1980’s.
- Greenslade, S. L., ed. The West from the Reformation to the Present Day. Vol. 3 in The Cambridge History of the Bible. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1963. This final volume in the series contains over twenty articles on biblical versions and the rise of modern biblical scholarship.
- Kraeling, Emil G. The Old Testament Since the Reformation. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955. This volume begins with Luther’s understanding of the Old Testament and ends with a 1950’s assessment of the biblical theology movement. It is a very good study for those wanting to focus solely on the Old Testament.
- Lampe, G. W. The West from the Fathers to the Reformation. Vol. 2 in The Cambridge History of the Bible. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1969. This edited volume includes twenty articles about biblical versions and interpretation during the Middle Ages.
- Pelikan, Jaroslav. Whose Bible Is It? A History of the Scriptures Through the Ages. New York: Penguin, 2005. A popular and short examination of the history of the Bible by a great historian of Christianity.
- Smalley, Beryl. The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1983. This third edition is the most comprehensive work for this time period.
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