Showing posts with label Hebrew Bible. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hebrew Bible. Show all posts

January 16, 2019

Jesus' Bible: A Concise History of Hebrew Scriptures


This concise history of the Hebrew Bible by Christopher Dost shows the development of the Old Testament in the biblical texts Jesus and the Apostles would have known. 

As the Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible at Alliance Theological Seminary in New York and author of related books, Dr. Dost documented a wide range of resources to give us this slim paperback, chocked with information.

For some, the Jesus’Bible might challenge thinking or even offer more information than wanted! Despite the scholarly nature of the book, however, the author writes in an accessible style that keeps the text from being as dry as an old scroll.

As Dr. Dost quickly points out in the introduction, “There was no Bible in Jesus’ day. The Torah and the Prophets – the first two sections of what would become the Hebrew Bible – were essentially canonized (i.e., accepted as authoritative), but they were still textually fluid. The third section, however, the Writings, was not fixed.”

Another aspect of fluidity arose because of the Hebrew manner of writing words in consonants only with no vowels included.  Dr. Dost gives examples of this, but if we look at the same situation in English, that might help to clarify problems that arise in translation. 

For instance, take the English words “mite,” mate,” “mote,” or “moot” and remove the vowels, as Hebrew scribes would do, and you’d have “mt.” As you can see, each of those words has an entirely different meaning to be determined only by the context in which the word is found. 

In addition, the connotations and denotations of a word can change over time. For example, a “mite” in Jesus’ day brings to mind the widow with a single coin left to her name, while in our era, the word might mean we need to put protective covers on our pillows and mattresses to keep out dust mites!

Besides the fact that a living language does not remain static, there’s the regional dialect to consider. In Virginia, for instance, “a run” doesn’t mean a 5K race but a brook, a creek, or, as some parts of the country say, a crick, which, for me, means an achy neck.

Similarly, “The Hebrew Bible was penned over the course of the first millennium BCE in what is known today as the Middle East. Many of the biblical tests were written in Israel and Judah (roughly modern-day Israel and Palestine), while others were written in Babylonia (southeastern Iraq) and in Egypt.” The author also goes on to say, “…we cannot overstate how significantly foreign domination impacted the growth, development, and interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures.”

Along those lines, we learn “…that the oldest extant (i.e., still in existence) Christian Bible was not limited to the modern Protestant Canon. In fact, when we examine a list of the New Testament’s quotations and allusions to sacred Jewish texts, we see that the writers of the New Testament have a much bigger ‘Bible’ than do twenty-first century Protestant Christians….”

 We’re talking now about the “apocryphal” books (a misnomer, as they’ve never been hidden), which are part of the Greek scriptures (aka Septuagint.) As Dr. Dost explains:

“Because the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, one might expect early Christianity to have revered the ‘original’ much as the Reformers did, but such was not the case. The Septuagint was for all intents and purposes the Bible for many Jews in antiquity. And since early Christianity was really no more than a movement within first-century Palestinian Judaism, it should be no surprise that the Septuagint was immensely important for the writers of the New Testament. In fact, those who regard Paul as the author of 2 Timothy must conclude that ‘all scripture,’ which the letter’s author regards as ‘inspired and profitable,’ includes both the Hebrew and the Greek, since Paul quotes extensively from the Septuagint in his writings.”

If these well-researched thoughts seem at all upsetting, lovers of the Protestant version of the Bible might be glad to know that the beloved King James Version originally contained more books than it does now.  In addition, publishers of the accurate and evangelically oriented English Standard Version of the Bible typically omit the apocryphal books in both reader and study editions, but the ESV translation of the Apocrypha is available as a separate volume, well worth reading – not only for the wisdom to be found but for the historical accounts of events that occurred between the Old and New Testaments.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-author and Bible reviewer

To order, click this link




October 13, 2012

Which books go in which Bible?


Christians from all denominations often ask me which Bible is which and why, and I’ve been explaining away – incorrectly! Well, not totally wrongly, but I was under the forgetful impression that any Bible “with Apocrypha” is the same as a “Catholic edition” – not!

With apologies to all, I’ll try to set things straight, confusing though it may be, but important too, so please bear with me.

As I’ve also mentioned over the years (and, yea! – gotten right) – the order of the books in a Bible “with Apocrypha” differ from a “Catholic edition” most noticeably by placement.

Each edition approved for Roman Catholic readers has the “extra books” woven into the “Old Testament” according to category. For example, Tobit and I and II Maccabees go with historical books whereas The Book of Sirach (one of my favorites) wisely goes with Wisdom Books and Baruch goes with the Prophets. However, Bibles labeled “with Apocrypha” typically place the extra books between the Testaments or after Revelation.

That can be confusing if you enjoy interdenominational Bible study groups, as I do, but otherwise, it’s no big deal. Right? Well, at least not until you come to some extra “extra books” with no clue what to do, which is what happened recently to me.

Reading my new copy of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) with Apocrypha, I ran across books I did not recall ever reading in my Catholic Study Bible or Revised English Bible with Apocrypha or The New Jerusalem Bible. Just to be sure, I double-checked the lists and saw that some of the books “with Apocrypha” are not part of the deuterocanonical books of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church does not consider books labeled “apocryphal” as such since “Apocrypha” means hidden, which those books clearly are not. Rather the Roman Church deemed the “extra books” to be “deuterocanonical” or outside the canon established by Jewish scholars who canonized the Hebrew Scriptures sometime after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D.

When Protestants left the Catholic Church, the Jewish Bible went, too, as the “Old Testament.” In the ecumenical environment we now have, however, most Christians want to see all the books inspired by the Holy Spirit. But, surprise! Most new editions of the Bible “with Apocrypha” have books the Catholic Church never included.

Let me quickly add:

The New Testament (NT) is the same for every Christian.

The NT books are the same; the order is the same, and only the footnotes might differ.

Before I leave you hanging in confusion and despair of knowing, here’s a list of deuterocanonical (aka apocryphal books) included in Bibles approved by the Roman Catholic Church:

Tobit
Judith
Additions to the Book of Esther
Wisdom of Solomon
Ecclesiasticus aka the Wisdom of Jesus aka Sirach
Baruch
The Letter of Jeremiah
The Additions to the Book of Daniel – Prayer of Azariah
(aka Abednego)
Susanna
Bel and the Dragon
1 and 2 Maccabees


In addition to those “extra books” in the “Old Testament” (OT) of a Catholic Bible, the Greek and Slavonic Bibles include all books above plus:

1 Esdras
Prayer of Manasseh
Psalm 151
3 Maccabees


Finally, Slavonic Bibles include:

2 and 3 Esdras
4 Maccabees


To recap: “with Apocrypha” Bibles include all the “extra books” just listed, which, together, equal the length of the entire New Testament. Therefore, having done my extra reading, I think I’ll focus on the NT, OT books of Wisdom, and the Prophets to see what’s coming next!

~~

© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler reserves all rights to correct her mistakes and be corrected, so if I still got it wrong, feel free to tell me – nicely, of course :)