Showing posts with label scripture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scripture. 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




February 2, 2018

100 Days with Jesus: a book review


When Lifeway Bloggers kindly sent me a review copy of 100 Days with Jesus written by Diann Cotton and published by B&H, I saw what a fine gift this book makes for Easter, new Christians, or anyone who wants to get better acquainted with Jesus the Person and Jesus the Messiah.

Those of us who had the blessing of being introduced to Christ years ago might be more apt to use this well-made little hardback as a reminder of the character and power of our Lord.

With an inspiring photograph on the left page and a Bible reference, definition, and “name” of Jesus on the right, brief devotionals on the “Chosen One,” the “Prince of Peace,” the “Reconciler,” the “Source of Eternal Salvation,” and more can provide a springboard for meditation and contemplation of Who Christ IS in our lives.

To give you an idea of the text and format, “Consolation” begins by quoting Luke 2:25-30 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) version then provides a definition of consolation followed by a one-paragraph response including these words:

“Simeon waited his whole life to see the One who would rescue and comfort his people. When he realized You were the One, he had complete peace. He knew that You were the only answer to this broken world…”

The page closes with a question and suggestion:

“To what are you looking for CONSOLATION and comfort? Thank Him, praise Him, and worship Him as your CONSOLATION today!!”

As another example, the page on Jesus as “Head of the Church,” says: “Jesus, You are the HEAD - the One who gives leadership and supplies the spiritual life to the body of believers…” then goes on to ask, “How does this give you peace today, knowing that Jesus is the HEAD OF THE CHURCH?”

May each “name” of Jesus lead us to pray for the church and our part in His Body and help us to receive Christ's consolation for ourselves and the world.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018, poet-writer, reviewer

100 Days with Jesus, hardback



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September 25, 2017

Bible Promises to Live By for Women

In Bible Promises to Live By for Women, which Tyndale House kindly sent me to review, Katherine J. Butler has collected and grouped relevant scriptures from “Abandonment” to “Worship” into one small book you can easily carry with you for a quick burst of spiritual energy from God’s Word.

As the “Introduction” tells us, “God knows the immense power a promise holds and has filled his Word with promises for his people. Some of God’s promises provide us with strength, perseverance, and encouragement to guide us through everyday life. Others speak to the deep desires inside each of us as we long to know that our future holds joy, security, purpose, value, and companionship. And because God has declared that his Word will last forever, we can trust him to keep…every promise.”

Using the alphabetically arranged table of contents as your guide, you’ll find over 500 verses on topics that mean the most to you at any particular moment. In addition, a brief word of encouragement provides a preface to the Bible verses chosen for this little edition.

And small it is! In about 4.5 x 5.5 inches, the linen-textured gray cover, featured as imitation leather, envelopes the pale blue-green pages with the font in a medium shade of blue-green. Although very attractive, this presentation might be harder for some to read. Also, the book does not lay flat when opened, but it should slip nicely into most purses or shoulder bags to give you a timely word from God’s Word.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017

Bible Promises to Live By for Women, linen-look gray cover