Old Testament vs Hebrew Bible

This is pretty late (and I’ve been sick and haven’t had the energy to respond sooner) but folks have commenting about how they refer to the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible and so on.  

My question is don’t we get the whole notion of a Old Testament and New Testament from the book of Hebrews where it talks about the Old Covenant and the New Covenant and Christians replaced Covenant with Testament?  

Seems to me like the whole insistence on the use of Hebrew Bible has mixed motivations behind it and much of it is modern and political.  

What say you?

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9 responses to “Old Testament vs Hebrew Bible

  1. I think it is useful in so far as it demonstrates an attitude that can be conducive to relations with Jews, but even so it is a designation they would not usually use.

  2. I think the answer is both. It is both the Hebrew Bible and what Christians also call the OT. Nevertheless, it forms, in its entirety, OUR story and more importantly the story of salvation history.

    I must admit I oscillate on my answer to this but this is the one I am beginning to feel most comfortable with.

  3. It’s scholar jargon which the vast majority of regular folk, Jew and Christian alike, don’t use or care about. It’s an insider’s conversation that’s really hardly worth having.

  4. I think the issue is a moderately important one, a conversation definitely worth having (at least on a blog!?). The reasons for this, in my view, are as follows:
    1. The Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament are not the same book. While it is true that the physical contents of these two documents are the same, the order is different, which, briefly put, reveals two very different views of the direction and meaning of Israel’s history and religion (i.e., either looking “forward” toward the coming Elijah, etc., via the final book of Malachi for xtns, and looking toward the rebuilding of the temple and the primacy of that imagery for Jews).
    2. If your Bible includes a New Testament, then there is a certain sense in which the first 2/3 of that Bible can only really be an “Old” Testament; still, this terminology could obscure the importance of that collection of books by training your mouth to call it “old,” a decidedly negative characterization.
    3. If one reads the OT/HB in light of the NT, as Christians are wont to do, then the OT becomes a very different book than the HB. The Jews that I know do not call the Hebrew Bible the “Old Testament,” although Jews that are also biblical scholars often use the terms interchangeably in mixed Jewish-Christian settings (as do xtn scholars), which is, I think (for what it’s worth = nothing!) probably a good strategy. But calling the OT the “Hebrew Bible” could, in some settings, encourage an audience to rethink what the OT/HB is, and what it’s relationship to the NT could be, or should be. And that is good for everyone who cares about the Bible, in any of its forms.

    A good book to access some of these problems is Jon Levenson’s The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and Historical Criticism: Jews and Christians in Biblical Studies, http://www.amazon.com/Hebrew-Bible-Testament-Historical-Criticism/dp/0664254071.

  5. Bryan, as would be expected! 😉

    Nick, and Mark, thanks for your comments.

    Brian, my friend, this is a helpful response, thank you for commenting. I am starting to see now. The BHS is compiled comepletely differently than English Bibles isn’t it? Amd because of this there are different implications, are there not? I think I need to check out that you book you linked and review some of my OT intro books. Are you sure you don’t want to start up a new biblical studies blog? I know many would be pleased to have a Harvard blogger on their blogroll….. 😉

  6. Hello everyone. Interesting question here. I think it was the church father Origen who popularized the term “Old Testament” to refer to what was then known as the Law, Prophets and Writings. The term “Old Covenant” as used in the New Testament seems to be used more in reference to the ancient forms and modes of worship of Israel rather than the body of Hebrew Scripture. I, for one, like to use the term “Older Testament” as an attempt to maintain the sense of continuing authority and continuity with the New Testament. Just my .02

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