“Home-Study Lesson: Introduction to the Old Testament–Studying the Scriptures (Unit 1)” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Unit 1,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
Introduction to the Old Testament–Studying the Scriptures (Unit 1)
This lesson can help students better understand the structure of the Old Testament. In addition, it can help them understand that the Old Testament testifies of Jesus Christ. This witness can be seen in prophecies, events, and symbols contained in its pages.
Suggestions for Teaching
Before class, create a “scroll” for each book in the Old Testament by loosely rolling up pieces of paper and taping them closed. Write the name of each book on the outside of the scroll.
The structure of the Old Testament
To help students understand how the Old Testament is organized, divide the paper scrolls among the students. Explain that the scrolls represent the books of the Old Testament.
Explain that the books of the Old Testament were originally written on material such as leather or papyrus. These were eventually transcribed and preserved as scrolls, which were written mostly in Hebrew (see Bible Dictionary, “Bible”).
If you were in charge of compiling all of these scrolls into one book, how would you organize them?
Explain that over the years several efforts were made to collect and organize the authentic inspired words of the prophets. One important effort happened during the third to second century B.C. Jewish scholars translated the Old Testament writings from Hebrew into Greek and decided to organize them by categories. This Greek version of the Old Testament, referred to as the Septuagint, was the version commonly used by the Jews in the Savior’s day. The order of the books in the King James Version of the Old Testament today follows this same organization. Write the following across the board:
(Job–Song of Solomon)
Invite students to open to the table of contents of their Bibles (the page titled “The Names and Order of All the Books in the Old and New Testaments”). Consider inviting them to mark and label their table of contents with the four categories written on the board.
Invite students to use the table of contents to locate the book written on their scrolls and then come forward and deposit their scrolls on the ground or in a container beneath the appropriate heading on the board.
Hold up one of the scrolls and explain that we do not have any of the original documents of the books of the Bible. The oldest known sources are basically copies of copies. Explain that just as with any scripture, the greatest evidence of the truthfulness of the Bible comes through the witness of the Holy Ghost.
The Old Testament testifies of Jesus Christ
Before class, place several Old Testament pictures in a circular pattern on the board (see Gospel Art Book , nos. 4–27; see also LDS.org). In the center of the picture display, place a picture of the Savior. Beneath that picture write the following statement by President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency (“The Message of the Old Testament” [Church Educational System symposium address, Aug. 17, 1979], 4; si.lds.org):
Begin by asking students if they recognize any of the stories represented in the pictures on the board. Invite them to explain what they know about the stories they recognize. After a few students have commented, draw an arrow pointing from each picture toward the statement in the middle. Invite a student to read the statement aloud.
How can the events depicted in these pictures teach of Jesus Christ, His coming, and His Atonement?
Point out that although the Old Testament may seem to focus on topics such as covenants, prophets, repentance, the law of Moses, and commandments, there is one theme that weaves through them all: Jesus Christ. Write the following truth on the board: The Old Testament testifies of Jesus Christ.
As you begin your study of the Old Testament, why do you think it might be helpful to know that this book of scripture testifies of and foretells the life, ministry, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ?
Explain to the class that as they study the Old Testament this year, they will learn to see Jesus Christ in the prophecies, events, and symbols of the Old Testament. As they study the Old Testament with the understanding that it testifies of Jesus Christ, then it becomes easier to see Him and their testimonies of Him will increase.
How can you be blessed as you learn to see Jesus Christ in the prophecies, events, and symbols of the Old Testament? (Help students identify and understand the following truth: As we learn to see how the Old Testament testifies of Jesus Christ, then our faith in Him will increase.)
To help students understand how the Old Testament testifies of Jesus Christ through symbols, show the class a picture of a lamb. Explain that one of the early commandments given to Adam and Eve was to sacrifice “the firstlings of their flocks” (Moses 5:5), or firstborn male lambs, as an offering unto the Lord.
Explain that in the book of Leviticus we learn additional details about animal sacrifices and other offerings. These details were meant to teach of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Invite a student to read Leviticus 1:2–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words or phrases about the animal to be sacrificed that also describe the Savior and His Atonement. Ask students to report what they find. Ask questions such as the following to help students deepen their understanding of these verses:
What does “without blemish” mean? (Free of flaws or imperfections.) How does this symbolize Jesus Christ?
You may want to share your testimony that the Old Testament testifies of Jesus Christ and His mission.
The Bible helps us come unto Christ
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for reasons why the Bible is of great worth to us.
“It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior” (“The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 80).
According to Elder Ballard, why is the Bible of such great worth?
Share a favorite scripture or brief passage from the Old Testament that has been particularly meaningful to you. Also consider inviting students to share their feelings about how the Bible has helped them in their search to grow closer to the Savior.
Encourage students to continue their study of God’s word as found in the Bible.
Next Unit (Moses 1–4; Genesis 1–3; Abraham 4–5)
Explain to students that in the coming week they will learn about a confrontation between Moses and Satan. Invite them to consider what they think God’s ultimate purpose for His children is. What might it be like if God showed us all the worlds He created? How would Adam and Eve keep the first commandment—to multiply and replenish the earth—unless they used their agency to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?