The Bible

Hebrew Bible

  • Written and collected together in a roughly 1,100 year period: 1200 BCE – 125 BCE
    • Written/collected right after Levite priestly organization
    • Abraham: approx. around 2,000 BCE
    • Moses: approx. around 1,300 – 1,200 BCE
    • David: approx. around 1,000 BCE
    • Conquest of Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians: 722 BCE
    • Josiah’s reformation: 622 BCE
    • Conquest of Southern Kingdom by the Babylonians: 586 BCE (exile ended in 538 BCE)
    • Final formation of the biblical texts in three parts: 400 BCE (culminating in 90 CE)
    • Destruction of Jerusalem and 2nd Temple: 70 CE
      • The Pharisees retained the Hebrew Bible and the Law
    • Council of Jamnia (deciding upon the final version of the Hebrew Bible, the canon): 90 CE
    • Accounts of Jesus written: 70s, 80s, 90s, 100s CE
    • Talmud (vast body of codified Oral Law, could be seen as the Hebrew New Testament): 180 CE – 550 CE
      • Talmud means “study/instruction”
      • Halakah means “walking, guiding one’s life” (could be viewed as dogma)
      • Mishnah means “repetition/study” (could be seen as repetitive worship practices such as our liturgies etc): codified oral laws around 180 CE and combined with the commentary on the Mishnah around 550 CE to form the Talmud
      • Midrash means “exposition” (could be seen as mastery, embodiment and improvisation, this is what Jesus was good at): commentary on the biblical books, written 150 – 1300 CE
      • 180 CE would be around the time of the height of the Roman Empire
      • 476 CE the end of the rule of Roman emperors
  • Timeline of the books of the Hebrew Bible:

Oral/Literary Units of the Large Compositions and Collections of the Bible

  • J – the writer of the early books (Genesis-Numbers) of the bible with an emphasis on the monarchy/rulers viewpoint, the southern tradition, Judah, Yahweh, anthropomorphic (God comes down to walk and participate with humans)
  • E – the writer of the early books with an emphasis on the traditions before the time of Moses, and rulers, Elohim, Ephraim, prophetic, the northern kingdom tradition, divine (God is separate from man, awesome, transcendent)
  • DH – Deuteronomical History – northern kingdom developed a sermon style of the history of Israel, post Assyrian exile, pre-Babylonian exile, around 622 BC. With the Assyrian conquest they were massacred, raped, and the Assyrians mixed with the Canaanites, losing the ethnic origins of the Canaanites, some of whom escaped to the southern kingdom, and the southern kingdom decided to welcome their brothers and sisters and merge the northern and southern traditions.
  • P – the Priestly writer of the early books who brought the stories together of J, E, P. Post-Babylon, Persian rule, around 550 – 450 BCE. Genesis 1-12 to…. culture, cultus = worship, ethical, dietary, ceremony, coping mechanism, Judaism, opting out of general society, building and protection of ethnic and identity culture.
  • G – an older pool of traditions that J and E dervived from  (often called “g” – German grundlage, “foundation”), grouped formal worhsip assemblies, before the tribes of Israel opted for kings

J and E ask the questions, “Who are we?” and “Where did we come from?” J and E are about identity.

DH and P asks the question “How do we live?” and is about ethics.

Where is theology in the Bible? In the loosest form the whole Bible narrative is theology. The most scriptural is the Pentateuch and the rest of the Bible is a reflection on that (theological). The source in the New Testament is the Gospels, and then the rest of the NT is theologizing on the Gospels. In 90 AD, in Jamnia, when the council basically closed the canon, everything after 90AD was theological (reflections on what had been written and finalized as canon). Is a closed canon a good thing? It is an arbitrary decision.

Theology is not the problem. Reification (reify = harden) is the problem, when the reinterpretation becomes part of the scripture, and it’s no longer a living word. Then, do we accept the council at Jamnia, and the Council at Nicea, when the canons were definitively closed? Accepting that closing at least gives us some structure and shape and form, not open-ended, and not open to endless additions.

How we live out our identity and ethics is our theology.

At other seminaries they have reified theologies onto the scripture, e.g. Calvin, Luther, etc. Which is what we are against. Which is why different denominations cannot come together– different hardened theologies that gave been layered on top of scripture.

Sources of the Pentateuch

North – E (Elohist) – narrative

North – D (Deuteronomist) – legislative

South – J (Yahwist) – narrative

South – P (Priestly) – legislative

Jesus consistently quotes from Deuteronomy – the northern ethics

Julius Wellhausen

  • Came up with Source Theory / Documentary Hypothesis

Norman Gottwald

  • Defined the socio-political analysis of the Old Testament

Genesis Chapters 12 – 50

  • Chapter 12 – Abram and Sarai travel from Ur to Haran, settle there for a while, then move on to Egypt. Abram gives Sarai over to Pharaoh but when Pharaoh finds out that Sarai is Abram’s wife and not his sister as they claimed then Pharaoh sent them away.
  • Chapter 13 – Abram, Sarai and Lot travel to the Negev, then to Bethel and made an alter to God. Lot and Abram separate because the same land can’t sustain them both. Abram settles in Canaan in the Cisjordan. Lot heads to the cities of the Plain of the East and Sodom. God promises land to Abram as far as he can see to the north, south, east and west, and promises him countless offspring. Abram settles by the oaks of Mamre, at Hebron.
  • Chapter 14 – Four kings rise up against five kings. Abram has a small standing army and helps the five kings. Lot is captured. Abram goes in pursuit as far as Dan far in the north, and brought back Lot and all that was with him. Verse 18, King Melchizedek brings out bread and wine (the first mention of communion in the Bible). King Melchizedek blesses Abram, gives him one tenth of everything. We get the traditions of communion and tithing out of this one meeting/King Melchezidek who worships an ancient God El (the first appearance of El in the Bible, and is collapsed with Yahweh, Abram’s God right away, to become one God). The King of Sodom offers Abram a reward, but Abram takes nothing, just asks for his people to receive freely what they have already eaten.
  • Chapter 15 – Abram has no heir but God says he will have many offspring, and says again that Abram will have land (from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates), and that Abram’s offspring will be aliens in the land that he will have. Genesis 3:24 – man will not enter the Garden of Eden again (which would be the eastern portion of the Fertile Crescent). We suspect that the land that God is promising Abram is Abram is the stretch of the Levant (not all the way east to Ur).
  • Chapter 16 – Sarai is barren. Hagar, her slave girl that Sarai had. Sarai told Abram to have sex with Hagar because she says that Yahweh had prevented her having children. Abram follows Sarai’s wishes. Abram takes Hagar as a wife as she conceived. Sarai then looks upon Hagar with contempt. Sarai deals harshly with Hagar and she runs away. An angel appears to Hagar– “where are you going?” The angel tells Hagar to return and tells her that God will give her many offspring. “Mistress” means female Master. The child is called Ishmael. In the old ways, Hagar’s status would have been elevated above Sarai as soon as Hagar had an heir for Abram, hence Sara’s contempt for Hagar. Hagar was just a slave girl following instructions, but then by running away and not submitting to her Mistress she was displaying contempt for Sarai.
  • Chapter 17 – verse 13, the slaves born in your household and the slaves bought, will be circumcised. So, here we see it is not by birth that one is Hebrew, it is by the act of circumcision. Verse 25– Ishmael was 13 when he was circumcised, along with Abram on the same day, and all the men of the household. The age of 13 is Bar Mitzvah.
  • Chapter 18 – Abram is told that his barren wife will have a son. Sarah laughed. Sarah had already gone through menopause. God tells Abram again that he will have offspring and land. Main themes, as we have read in Ceresko and in Gottwald, was children and land. Sodom and Gomorrah is destroyed. Lot pleads with God to save the righteous people, and finally requests 10 people (the size of his family probably). The process of bargaining is an important part of the near east culture, and we see the people in the Bible bargaining with God. This bargaining with each other and God is an important concept that the West does not completely understand. Which means God is really accessible in a human way.
  • Chapter 19 – Angels come to Lot’s house in Sodom. Lot welcomes them into his house. Men of the city come to Lot’s house. They’re pissed off because Lot is an alien in their land and being judgmental (in the people of Sodom’s eyes) on the city. The angels bring Lot back into the house to protect him and stuck the crowd with blindness. The angels tell Lot to escape with his family. They fled. His wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. God rained sulphur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot settles in the hills with his two daughters. His daughters get him drunk and sleep with him to get pregnant. Lot had exploited them (Lot was going to allow the men of the city to rape his daughters), now they’re angry and get revenge. They become pregnant. The oldest daughter bears a son, Moab. The younger bore a son, named Ben-ammi. This is a rape culture– Lot giving his daughters, his daughters raping him.
  • Chapter 20 – Abram journeys to Negev, resided in Gerar. Abram again tells the King (Abimelech) that Sarah is his sister (verse 13– Abraham says that this is the ruse that he and Sarah must play out at each place that they go). Abimelech has a dream that misfortune is going to befall him because he’s taken Sarah as his wife. God tells Abimelech to return Sarah to Abram. The only time Abraham is called a prophet. Abimelech gave Abraham riches and land and Sarah. Abraham prays to God and then God heal Abimelech, his wife and his female slaves so that they can have children again. There is this theme of possible sexual transmitted diseases that can make a woman barren. We speculate whether or not this was the plague that came upon Pharaoh previously, and comes upon the women on Abimelech’s household, passed onto them by Sarah. God’s voice and speech in this passage is not normal for the rest of the Bible. In this passage God defends and comes to rescue of the reputation of the enemy of His people.
  • Chapter 21 – Isaac is birthed, so in the previous chapter it is made clear that Abimelech did not sleep with Sarah and blameless, otherwise Isaac could have been Abimelech’s child. It’s important for the teller of the story to outline that Isaac is Abraham’s son. Sarah conceives and has a child. Sarah is amused, verse 6. God has brought her laughter. Abraham casts out Hagar, because Isaac and Ishmael are playing together. God tells Abraham not to be distressed, do as Sarah tells you. God tells Abraham that he will make a nation out of Ishmael as well as Isaac. Hagar hides Ishmael, tries to get rid of him, but God tells her not to. Ishmael grew up and went to live in the wilderness of Paran. Abimelech and Abraham make an agreement to deal fairly with each other. Abraham buys a well from Abimelech and calls is Beersheba, and plants a tree to the everlasting God. Abraham resided as an alien in the land of the Philistines for many days. Verse 33, the Lord = Yahweh, the everlasting God = El – the merging of the two gods/traditions.
  • Chapter 22 –
  • Chapter 23 – Sarah lives 127 years and dies. Abraham buys the cave and the field to bury Sarah at Machpelah and this becomes the place where the patriarchs are all buried.
  • Chapter 24 – Abraham sends out his servant to find the wife for his son Isaac from the daughters of Canaan. Hand under the thigh– where we get the word testament (from the word testes), the servant is touching Abraham’s balls and swearing on his life. Abraham tells the servant not to take Isaac back to Nahor, because it was a place he did not like/traumatized in, and wanted his son to stay well away from it. The servant sees Rebekah coming to the well, and tests if this is the woman to be Isaac’s bride. Rebekah leaves with the servant immediately. Rebekah’s family is well-to-do (maids) and they’re cheap because Laban’s eyes open wide when the servant gives gifts, and they ask the servant to stay longer which means that they would accept more gifts. So, this again, is an Abraham in contrast to the Lot/Laban type of character– the city dweller, the person focused on the system and money.

Exodus (commentary on)

  • Chapter 1 – the Israelites were prolific and multiplied, and grew exceedingly strong. The Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. Verse 25: Hebrew women are named. Why would the king be talking to Hebrew midwives? This is ancient storytelling. Egypt was afraid of racial annihilation by the Hebrews. Speaks to the modern day context in the USA.
  • Verse 23 – “after a long time…. the Israelites groaned under their slavery.” Here we’re looking at possibly 400 years. There’s silence between God and the Israelites, and then He notices.
  • The 10 plagues were plagues of nature– this is the God of nature against the human of empire. It is the divinity of humanity set against the divinity of God.
  • Chapter 3 – the calling of Moses. Land of milk and honey– a natural land God will give them– milk from cows and goats, honey from bees– pasture lands and flowering plants. Moses complains 5 times. El Shaddai is “God almighty” (Shaddai means ‘mountain’, means God on the mountain), the Lord when spelled with capital letters is “YHWH” or “to be”. Verse 18– the elders of Israel are important, Moses has to go through the elders.
  • Chapter 4 – Moses complains again, “what if they don’t believe me,” “I’m not good at speaking,” “please send someone else.” Verses 24-26: YHWH tries to kill Moses, but Zipporah cuts off her sons foreskin and touches Moses with it. Verse 25– “feet” is a euphemism for genitals. This is also an origin story of leadership and the kinds of people God choses to lead.
  • Chapter 15 – Miriam, Aaron and Moses’s sister. Miriam sings the song and it was attributed to Moses later on.

Leviticus

  • Heavily edited by P.
  • Burnt offering– burning the whole animal. In the other offering, the kidneys and the fat around the kidneys were burnt up and the smell was pleasing to God. The offal was taken outside the city and burned. The animal offered was them shared within the community.
  • Grain offering– the poorest of the poor give this offering.
  • It’s great that anyone can make an offering– at any income level, with grain being the lowest form of offering. The principle that Church of Nations keeps, that people can offer whatever they can afford, comes from this Levitical tradition.\
  • Chapter 4 and others– if you sin unintentionally, not out of anger etc, then there is a lesser cost for that. Verse 22– “ruler”, who is this speaking to? This was redacted after the Babylonian exile and may apply to Assyrian exile and Babylonian exile times. In Moses time, Israel had not yet had a king.
  • These laws and rules give the Israelite people an identity, makes them different from other peoples. The priests are therefore the keepers of the Hebrew culture.
  • There is no distinction between sinning against God or humanity– the two are seen as the same. A sin against God is against your fellow humans and vice versa. The people of Israel are God’s kinsmen, as written in Exodus.
  • Chapter 6– there is a 20% fee on top of the original amount for wronging someone. You steal $10, you return it plus 20%.
  • Unclean / guilty– when you’re unclean you are guilty of affecting the whole community. These are laws for protection of the community life and its well-being.
  • Chapter 10– Nadab and Abihu, the sacred fire, if not treated with respect can be fatal. Same as the rocks in the scared fire in Native American culture– rocks can explode and kill you. Verses 4-8: here the priests are to accept the grief of the people but not have the grief themselves, and this speaks to how we are to be as Pastors in the modern age.
  • Chapter 12– we begin hearing laws about human fluids and discharges (later Chapters) that could transmit diseases to the community. The Priest shall examine– there is some corolation between Priest and medicine man.
  • Chapter 13– the Priest examines and examines again. It is a heavy and arduous position that the Priest had.
  • Chapter 18– unjust power relations that the Bible speaks against (man lying with a man– back then there was no man-man relationship, if a man slept with a man it was about exploitation and domination). The Bible is not against a particular practice but is against exploitation, domination, unethical behaviour.
  • Chapter 19, verse 18– I am the Lord… this is who we are, that’s why we do these things, we are community. These are not instructions of “do not sin against me”, this is a command to care for us all and our identity because this is who we are together as kinsmen. The rules are based on kinship and not on the law. Verse 33– even the alien in your midst, those that are not your direct kin, are to be treated with this respect because they are part of the larger kinship and just like you.
  • Note that this was all written after being in Babylon, the hotbed of civilization, unethical behaviour, diseases etc etc
  • Role of Levitical Priesthood
    • Preserve the culture. (Chapter 18 as an example, verses 2 and 3– not Egypt and not Canaan.)
    • Enforcing ethical vigor. (Love your neighbour. Chapter 19:18) This is a healthy community where the cost of sin is high. If you sin you’re going to pay for it, on a sliding scale of cost. They cannot hurt people without a cost for it, which is different from our modern society where there is no cost for hurting another (outside of the legal system).
    • Ensure the common good / the health of the community. (community over individualism)
    • Medicine man (Center for Disease Control). Medicine with borders (rules and structure to care for the health of the community.)
    • Defining sexual purity (keeping STDs and other diseases out of the community). It is not sexual morality, it is sexual health! Sexual purity does not equal sexual morality.
    • Encouraging mental health.

Numbers

  • Repetition– could be because of: 1. equal honor to each tribe or topic, 2. oral tradition, repetition helps retain the information, 3. like a liturgy, repetition creates a mood.
  • Set in the second year of wandering. About 18 months after leaving Goshen.
  • Judah has the largest tribe. The total of 600,000 or so is disputed. Accurate numbers weren’t so important at the time, all we know was that it was a lot of people.
  • Chapter 1:48 and 3:39– the Levites are not numbered and then later they are. This is from the merging of the traditions, but at that time accuracy was not as important as it is in modern times.
  • Defilement, infection, sin– are all used interchangeably, as ways of not loving your neighbour
  • Chapter 5 verse 11-31: jealousy, adultery– taking a person to a priest to determine if she has been faithful or not. This may be an intimidation and the power of suggestion– if you drink this curses will come upon you, and this may affect her guilty conscience.
  • Chapter 6– Nazarites, the most famous being Samson. Verses 24-27: the benediction, this is from/about YHWH (the Lord). The other gods of Canaan, Babylon etc don’t do a beautiful, caring benediction. This is a very different god. Modern times: we would not say “YHWH” in a service because it could be offensive to any Jewish people present, since the name is too Holy to speak out of respect.

Joshua & Judges

  • Perspective / Perspectivalism (the device through which the narrator gets the observer to arrive at a specific conclusion). The narration leads to sympathy with the cause or the action. The perspective of the narrator is an important factor. The narrator gets to choose which backstory is told and how so that we sympathize with a particular character. The backstory here is that is Israel came out of Egypt where they were slaves and a oppressed people who were in exile, so we naturally sympathize with them.