Full Title The Old Testament
Author Unknown (various)
Type of work Sacred writings and religious narrative
Genre Myth; folktale; epic; poetry; wisdom literature
Language Ancient Hebrew; some passages in Aramaic (an ancient
Time and Place written First millennium b.c., Palestine
and surrounding Near-Eastern regions
Date of first publication Fourth century to first century b.c.
Narrator The narrator of each book is anonymous, but sometimes assumes
the voice of a famous biblical figure to increase the authority
of a given book. For instance, in Ecclesiastes, the narrator claims
to be the wise King Solomon, or the Teacher.
Point of view The anonymous speaker of each book typically narrates
in the third person. In some books, the narrator describes events objectively
(as they would appear to the observer), but the point of view is
limited to the human perspective of the protagonist or of the Israelites.
In others, the narrator has an omniscient, or unlimited, knowledge
of both human and divine motives and actions. However, some books
contain the laws and commandments spoken by God, or the lengthy
speeches, poetry, and sayings of one person. These are narrated
in the first person. They often contain imperatives and instructions
delivered to the reader or to an unseen audience of listeners.
Tone In the books of wisdom and law, the narrator attributes
to the speaker a universal tone, as though each imperative or saying
is timeless and applies to all people. In Genesis, Exodus, and the historical
books, the narrator remains uncritical and withholds judgment on
the characters’ actions. The narrator conveys the scope of the Israelites’
disobedience to God by repeating phrases or ideas that show the
cyclical and ongoing nature of Israel’s evil ways.
Setting (time) Approximately 2000 b.c. to 400 b.c.
Setting (place) The Ancient Near East, particularly the eastern Mediterranean region
Protagonist The Israelites
Major Conflict God promises to give the Israelite people a great land
and nation, but the Israelites’ persistent disobedience and worship
of false gods hinders the fulfillment of God’s promise, or covenant.
Themes The problem of evil; the possibility of redemption;
Motifs The covenant; doubles and opposites; geography
Symbols The fertile ground; the Ark of the Covenant
Foreshadowing Moses’s and Joshua’s exhortations to the Israelites;
Israel’s failure to remove the native inhabitants and their religions
from the Promised Land; the division of the kingdom between Rehoboam and