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Studying the Outdated Testomony Historic Books


This semester I’ll be educating a course on the Outdated Testomony “historic books”—Joshua, Judges, 1 and a pair of Samuel, 1 and a pair of Kings, Ezra, and Nehemiah. (I cowl Chronicles as a part of my Biblical Hermeneutics class underneath “midrash.”)

As I at all times do for my biblical canon programs, I learn by way of that portion of the Bible throughout break. And as I’m revisiting these tales, I’ve discovered myself pondering, “Please, Lord, let these be tremendously exaggerated if not largely manufactured tales.”

With hardly a break, I’m struck (pun meant) by how informal and heartless the traditional Israelites have been about violence and vengeance. The historic Israelites, by and huge, have been plain outdated nasty, imply, and never the form of individuals you’d wish to cross—and even playfully tease.

. . . Or higher:

the Israelites we meet within the Outdated Testomonyhave been that means.

Frankly, I don’t know what “historic Israelites” have been really like—these tending the sheep, rising their grain, telling tales to their kids, hiding from invaders. We don’t actually know something about them. We simply know of a treasured few, and we solely know themby way of what nameless writers stated about them most likely many centuries later.

How honest have been these writers? Had been they even attempting? What ax have been they grinding? What was their deal?

At any charge, no matter how they obtained there, the individuals we meet in these tales have points, and you’ll’t assist however marvel what the purpose of all that is in a holy e-book. If I have been writing the Bible, I’d throw in some extra optimistic stuff—like notglorying in impaling or beheading your enemies or individuals who wish to take your stuff.

Or at the least have God step in every now and then and say, “Hey, will you individuals reduce. it. out?! Sufficient of this already! If you happen to solely knew the shelf life these tales will get and how persons are going to make use of them. . . . ”

However God appears OK with it. At the least that’s what the writers have written.

Sure, studying the tales from conquest to exile might be an eye-opening expertise, not for the faint of coronary heart, and doubtless not with out somebody to speak it by way of with. Typically I want the Bible got here with a toll-free customer support quantity. (And no, that’s not what prayer is. Sheesh.)

Even leaving apart the entire conquest of Canaan (aka extermination of Canaanites and every other dwelling factor), persons are dropping like flies. It looks like main loss of life is the tip results of almost each story you learn. Persons are simply gonna die. Brace your self. And infrequently these killings are portrayed nearly as good, simply, honorable, and regular—like, “What’s your drawback? That is simply what occurs, you recognize?”

I began going by way of these books and itemizing the violence and common vindictive nastiness, however then stopped. I’ve a busy schedule. Plus it’s getting discouraging.

All of this jogs my memory of a few issues I are likely to harp on, and I feel for good motive.

  1. Figuring out one thing of when and why these tales have been written may assist us perceive one thing of what the writers are attempting to say. Discerning all this isn’t easy by any means, however I feel it’s well worth the effort.
  2. And after you’re carried out with all that, we readers of the Bible nonetheless need to resolve what WE are going to do with all of it, how we’re going to course of it for our life of religion right here and now. And that’s not straightforward both.

In The Bible Tells Me So, I mainly come down on these two issues as follows:

  1. I feel that these tales have been written in a tribalistic context, and thus replicate that context—that is how tales of gods and nations have been instructed.  Additional, the writers exaggerated and/or freely formed the previous for theological and/or propagandistic functions.
  2. I don’t suppose these tales ought to be learn theologically uncritically, which means merely accepted as prescribing what God is like. The Bible isn’t a rule e-book or proprietor’s handbook, and we don’t get off the hook so simply. What God is like transcends the tales written about him.

I’ve stated a mouthful right here, I do know. Agree or disagree, however my pondering comes from studying the Bible respectfully and thoroughly, not from an antagonistic or dismissive viewpoint.

The Bible—because it at all times has—raises loads of questions by itself. And after we have interaction these questions, we’re becoming a member of a protracted and honored dialog.

[The photo above depicts a scene in Judges 4, where Jael drives a tent peg through Sisera’s temple and out the other side into the ground while he was sleeping. The story concludes, as if the reader were puzzled at this point, “—and he died.” The following verses make it clear that this was God’s means of subduing the Canaanites.]

This weblog was first posted in January 2016.

[Please be patient as your comment is in moderation. Comments are normally posted within 6 hours but may take as long as 24—longer if you’re annoying. If you’re a troll, I might just sneak up on you while you’re sleeping and drive a tent peg through your brain.]

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