Thomas Scott’s Introduction to the Old Testament

Thomas Scott was an English clergyman who succeeded John Newton (author of “Amazing Grace”) in the Olney Parish when Newton moved to London. Scott had been a Unitarian but came to accept Jesus as Redeemer and Lord largely through Newton’s influence. Scott wrote of his conversion in The Force of Truth, a testimony of God’s grace still in print today. Scott’s 6-volume Commentary on the Bible, first published in America in 1804, was extremely popular and went through numerous American editions in the 19th century. The Dunham Bible Museum contains six separate editions of Scott’s commentaries, published between 1804 and 1845. R. A. Torrey heavily relied on Scott’s Commentaries when writing his Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge. Below is Scott’s “Introduction to the Old Testament”, as found in the 1816 America edition.


IT does not appear that the distinction of the two parts of the sacred Scripture, into the Old Testament, and the New Testament, is of divine authority; though it is of very ancient use in the Christian Church. The original word in both the Hebrew and in the Greek, rendered “Testament,” is generally rendered Covenant, and perhaps ought always to be so. It refers to the condescending manner in which it has pleased God to deal with men, by covenant transactions and engagements; and not merely by commands and sanctions. The covenant of works, as distinguished from, the covenant of grace does not seem to be intended by “the Old Testament;” for the covenant of grace and mercy was introduced immediately after the fall of Adam, by the promise that “the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head:” the hopes of believers in every age have arisen from that source alone; and all unbelievers, even under the Christian dispensation, remain under the condemnation of that covenant which Adam transgressed; the terms of which are simply, Do this and live, transgress and die. But of the covenant of mercy and grace, there have been, so to speak, several editions; yet that which Christianity has made known to mankind is by far the most full, clear, and enlarged. Above four hundred years after God had established his covenant with Abraham, as the father of the faithful, (which the apostle refers to as the same in substance as that made with Christians under the Gospel,) it pleased him to make a covenant with Israel, as a nation, at mount Sinai. The Mosaical dispensation, and the writings of the prophets, chiefly related to that period, during which this national covenant was in force; and the prophets themselves speak of the change which would take place in the days of the Messiah, as “a new covenant,” distinguishing it from that which was made with Israel, when brought out of Egypt. This, St. Paul says, “waxed old and was ready to vanish away.”- At the opening of the Christian dispensation, these predictions were fulfilled; and as the origins of the apostles and evangelists relate principally to the dealings of God with his church, in the days of the Messiah, the “Mediator of the new covenant;” this part of the sacred volume has received the appellation of the New Testament, or Covenant; and that part which was published before his coming is called the Old Testament, or Covenant. Thus they are distinguished from each other: but by no means opposed. The same discoveries of the glorious God, and the same views of true religion, pervade both. They reciprocally establish the authority, and illustrate the meaning of each other and even those parts of the Mosaic law which we are not now required to obey, as commands, are replete with important instruction. In short, the whole is the unerring Word of God.

The Preface to each of the books of Moses, with which the sacred Volume opens, renders it superfluous to add much in this place respecting them collectively. They are generally, in the New Testament, as well as in uninspired writers, called “the Law:” as distinguished from the other parts of the Old Testament. Yet a great proportion of them is historical; they contain many most extraordinary prophecies, and some devotional compositions exquisitely sublime and beautiful. If the single book of Job be excepted, (and concerning it, there are different opinions,) the books of Moses are, beyond comparison, the most ancient writings extant: and certainly by far the most ancient authentic records. Immediate revelation alone could make known to the writer, or to those from whom he had his information, very many of those events which he records; and on this account, the author of this publication is at least doubtful whether the endeavours which many persons have used to shew how, by tradition, or other similar means, Moses might receive the knowledge of the facts which he narrates, are of salutary tendency. For instance, Adam could not know the particulars of the creation of the world, or of his own creation, except by immediate revelation. He might indeed make these things know to Methusaleh, Methusaleh to Shem, Shem to Isaac, Isaac to Levi, or Aniram, and Amram to Moses; I am not sure that the chain might not be made short by a link or two. But does this strengthen, or does it not weaken the proof or rather the impression of the divine original of the Mosiac history, to suppose that it was derived from revelation, handed down from father to son, through a few generations, rather than as made direction from God to Moses? Nothing is conveyed down by oral tradition, without alteration and deviation: Moses informs us, that “God spake with him face to face;” and the prophecies extant in his books, compared with their accomplishment during three thousand years, as fully confirm his testimony to us, as his miracles did to his contemporaries; and the simplest method, as well as the most ancient of stating the case, is the most rational. Whatever he might have known, or collected otherwise, he wrote under the infallible superintendency of the Holy Spirit; or by immediate divine inspiration.