Spirituality from the Hebrew Bible: 10 Major Themes

The major themes of the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Old Testament) surely include God, man, sin, righteousness, grace, covenant, law, atonement, and holiness. A final theme we will examine is the Messiah. Nearly everyone would agree that these ten themes are among the most important. Let's take a closer look at each one.

God - From its opening verse, the Hebrew Bible affirms the following important truths about God: Regarding time he is timeless, regarding power he is limitless, and regarding knowledge he is infinite; He is one and not two or more, He is creator not creature, and He is both loving and holy.

These characteristics, and many more besides, define who God is, and lie at the heart of the Old Testament revelation of Him. He is primarily revealed, however, not in abstractions or propositions, but in relationship with human beings.

Man - In contrast with God, human beings are limited: they have a beginning and are mortal, they have only limited power and knowledge, and they are certainly not always loving and holy. To be sure, the history of humankind has some heroism and stories of noble thoughts and deeds, but it documents the sad history of failed potential, squandered opportunities, and perverted purposes.

The original pair of human beings comes into existence in relationship with God, objects of His grace and love and reflections of His likeness. Unfortunately, however, they give up their standing with the Lord. In the name of independence, they become slaves to sin, in need of deliverance. The progress of their descendants reaches the climax when Genesis 6 says, "Every inclination of the heart of man is only evil all the time."

Sin - The Hebrew Bible reveals the nature of sin primarily in narrative form--in other words by telling the story of what happened to real people. Human beings were created in a sinless state, even as even now they are born into the world pure and innocent. Sinfulness is abnormal for human beings; it is out of alignment with what God designed us to be and to do.
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