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For Jews, the collection comprises the Torah—the law for worship and everyday living—as well as the history of God’s promise to them.For Christians, the Old Testament is also sacred, but they view its religious meaning as incomplete without the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as related in the New Testament.Much of the Old Testament, especially the religious laws and prophecy, was written whole-cloth or rewritten and edited at this time.The experience of the exile caused the Old Testament writers to define the Torah, or God’s laws, and to emphasize biblical themes like suffering and the reversal of fortune.Nevertheless, the Old Testament itself greatly influenced the way Western civilization has thought about literature and stories.
They tell the story of the ancient Israelites, or Hebrew people, and contain the laws and rituals that comprise their religion.
Ancient references to a group of outcasts and refugees known as habiru exist, but there is little evidence to indicate that these were the Hebrew people.
The biblical story tells how the Israelites suffered as slaves in Egypt for many years, and how they miraculously emigrated to Canaan, where they conquered the land and its people in a sweeping military campaign.
Whether or not these claims are true, the Israelites certainly existed as a people, and the Old Testament remains one of the most vivid pictures of the historical, religious, and literary life of the ancient Near East.
As a work of literature, the Old Testament contains many literary forms, including narrative and poetry, as well as legal material and genealogies.