Session 1: Getting Oriented

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The Old Testament’s original form was a series of papyrus scrolls, written in Hebrew.

It’s really more of a portable library than a book. It contains 39 books, 939 chapters, and more than 700 pages. Reading it all the way through is the equivalent of reading Gone with the Wind or Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

This portable library groups books together, just as our libraries do. Jews and Christians arrange it slightly differently.

The Jewish groupings are here (see page 8 in the handbook):

  • The Law or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible)
  • The Prophets (includes Historical Books and books that record the prophets)
  • Writings (covers a variety of other books

In Christian Bibles it’s arranged this way:

  • Pentateuch
  • Historical Books
  • Wisdom Literature
  • Major Prophets
  • Minor Prophets

It is the sacred scripture for Jewish people then and now, and was the Bible used by Jesus and the apostles. In fact, when New Testament writers refer to “the scriptures,” this is what they have in mind. The Bible was preached and studied by the early church.

The name “Old Testament” is a term coined by Melito of Sardis in AD 180 and is used by Christians. Jews just call it “The Bible.” Scholars usually refer to it as the “Hebrew Bible.”


When studying the Bible, it really helps to learn the geography. All of the events recorded in the Old Testament happened in the Ancient Near East. (See page 9 in the booklet.) There will be maps included in many of our sessions. It’s always useful to take a few minutes and find the locations we are discussing. The land the Israelites eventually settled in is called Canaan.

It is part of a larger region at the east end of the Mediterranean Sea called “the Levant.” Watch this video from to give you a sense of how important this real estate is in world history:



We’ll be meeting a variety of these characters in Origins, but it is important that you learn the Big Three:

Abraham is the father of the nation of Israel, the one with whom God made his initial covenant.

Moses is the man God used to lead the Israelites out of slavery from Egypt, and through whom he gave the Ten Commandments and the rest of his law.

David was the greatest king. The Messiah is to come from his line.

Guide Book






The guide is divided in sections and ordered chronologically. Each section has more information in it than we will cover – it is meant to serve as a reference for you in the years to come. You’ll be able to keep it with your Bible and flip back to the maps and charts whenever you need them.

At the end of each section is a summary sheet with key information, a helpful resource for you during Origins and after. At the bottom of the summary sheet you’ll find some notable lines. These are phrases or sentences from the Bible that are found in English literature or general culture.

At the end of each section is a “Selah” page. “Selah” is a Hebrew musical term that is used in the Psalms. It is thought to mean “interlude” or “pause.” For us, “Selah” will represent a point to pause on the journey and reflect on what we’ve just learned. We will be covering a lot. Making notes on the “Selah” pages will be like keeping a travel diary. It’ll help you remember what you’ve seen, and you’ll be able to make notes about places you’d like to return to for further exploration

Biblical Genres

Further resources:

Note: The links go directly to the publishers’ stores; at this time it’s more important to support them than Amazon…

Traditional Stories

Babylonian Creation Story Enuma Elish (8:13 to 10:40)

Inductive Bible Study

Finally, watch this video as an overview of the Inductive Bible study method to prepare for our study of Genesis 2. When it asks you to pause, feel free to keep going; we will do each of these steps together on Monday.