II - The Old Testament


    There are sixteen books in the Bible called by the names of the prophets although not necessarily written by their hands. A prophet is one who speaks by the direct inspiration of God; only secondarily does the word mean one who foretells the future. Four of the prophetic books are those of the so-called major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.

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    The Psalms are the divinely-inspired songs of the People of Israel. They are traditionally called the “psalms of David,” although many of them most certainly come from other authors of much later times. The enumeration and the wording of the psalms differ in various scriptural traditions. The Orthodox Church follows the Septuagint version of the psalter and for this reason the numbers and not seldom the texts of certain psalms are different in Orthodox service books from what they are in the Bibles which are translated from the Hebrew.

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    The books of the Bible which are commonly called the Wisdom books include Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, as well as the Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach, also called Ecclesiasticus, and the Wisdom of Solomon from the so-called apocrypha.

    The Book of Job, usually dated sometime at the period of exile, is the story of righteous suffering in which the sufferer pleads his cause before God only to “repent in dust and ashes” (42:6) upon seeing the Lord for himself and being confronted by Him with His own defense of His unspeakable and unfathomable majesty. Selections from this book are read on the first days of Holy Week in the Orthodox Church because they deal with the most profound problem facing believers, the problem of suffering, which is brought to its ultimate completion in Christ who is not merely the most perfect of “suffering innocents,” but indeed the Suffering God in human flesh.

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    Following the Law in the Bible are those books which are called historical. They cover the history of Israel from the settlement in the promised land of Canaan to the first centuries before Christ. They include Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, as well as 1 and 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, and 1 and 2 Maccabees, which in the English Bible includes 3 Maccabees.

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The Ten Commandments

    The Ten Commandments:

  1. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above. or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work: but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth. the sea. and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore, the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
  6. You shall not kill.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his man servant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

(Exodus 20:1-17)


    The first part of the Bible is called the Torah, which means the Law. It is also called the Pentateuch which means the five books. These books are also called the Books of Moses. They include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The events described in these books, from the calling of Abraham to the death of Moses, probably took place sometime in the second millennium before Christ (2000-1200 BC).

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