Mark Hamilton is currently autograph a PhD argument at Harvard University alleged ‘The Body Royal: Kingship and Masculinity in Age-old Israel.’ His commodity “The Accomplished as Destiny” will arise in the October affair of the Harvard Apostolic Review
The Origins of the Hebrew Bible and Its Components
The angelic books that accomplish up the album avant-garde advisers alarm the Hebrew Bible – and Christians alarm the Old Testament – developed over almost a millennium; the oldest texts arise to arise from the eleventh or tenth centuries BCE. War songs such as Exodus 15 and Judges 5 are actual age-old Hebrew and bless Israelite victories from the time above-mentioned the Israelite absolution beneath David and Solomon. However, best of the added biblical texts are somewhat later. And they are edited works, collections of assorted sources intricately and artistically alloyed together.
The bristles books of Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy), for example, commonly are ascribed to Moses. But by the eighteenth century, abounding European advisers noticed problems with that assumption. Not alone does Deuteronomy end with an annual of Moses’ afterlife (a boxy appointment for any biographer to alarm his or her own demise), but the absolute Pentateuch shows anomalies of actualization that are adamantine to explain if alone one columnist is involved.
By the nineteenth century, best advisers agreed that the Pentateuch consisted of four sources alloyed together. This angle of four sources came to be accepted as the Documentary Hypothesis, and, in assorted forms, it has been the prevailing approach for the accomplished two hundred years. Israel appropriately created four absolute strains of abstract about its own origins, all cartoon on articulate attitude in capricious degrees, and anniversary developed over time. They were accumulated calm to anatomy our Pentateuch age-old in the sixth aeon BCE.
By this time, abounding of the added biblical books were advancing together. Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings anatomy what advisers alarm a “Deuteronomistic History” (because the work’s canon is heavily afflicted by Deuteronomy), a history of the Israelite states over a five-hundred-year period. This assignment contains abundant of actual value, but it additionally operates on the base of a actual and apostolic theory: i.e., that God has accustomed Israel its land, that Israel periodically sins, suffers punishment, repents, and afresh is rescued from adopted invasion. This aeon of sin and accretion shapes the work’s way of autograph history and gives it a able religious dimension, so that alike back the sources abaft the biblical books are “secular” accounts in which God is far in the background, the canon of the all-embracing assignment places history in the account of theology. The aftermost copy of the Deuteronomistic History, the one in our Bible, comes from the sixth aeon BCE, the time of the Babylonian Exile. In this context, it offers an account for Israel’s poor action and about a acumen to achievement for the future.
Another area of the Hebrew Bible consists of the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the twelve “minor,” i.e., brief, prophets). Here again, it’s important to accept how these developed. In the book of Isaiah, from which Jesus quotes, the aboriginal Isaiah of Jerusalem lived in the eighth aeon BCE in Jerusalem, and abundant of Isa 6-10 acutely reflects the political and amusing contest of his time. Another allotment of the book, however, comes from a astrologer who lived two hundred years later: Isaiah 40-55, acclaimed in the New Testament (early Christians anticipation the adversity assistant of Isaiah 53 was Jesus) and arresting in Handel’s Messiah, speaks of the Persian baron Cyrus the Abundant (d. 530 BCE), and so the argument charge arise from that time. Added genitalia of the book of Isaiah are alike later, and the absolute book was anxiously edited together, conceivably by the fifth or fourth aeon BCE. The amazing balladry of the book offers the clairvoyant achievement in a God who controls actual contest and seeks to acknowledgment his bodies Israel to their own land.
In accession to the prophets, the Hebrew Bible contains what Jews generally alarm the “Writings,” or the Hagiographa, hymns and abstract discourses, adulation balladry and absorbing tales. These accommodate Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes (or Qoheleth), Song of Songs, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles. These books were the aftermost completed and the aftermost to be accustomed as Scripture, although genitalia of them may be actual age-old indeed. The books of Psalms, for instance, contains abounding hymns from Israelite temple adoration from the monarchic period, i.e., afore the Babylonian Exile in the sixth aeon BCE; songs such as Psalm 29 may be adopted from the Canaanites, while Psalm 104 carefully resembles Egyptian hymns. In its accepted form, the 150 psalms abatement into bristles “books,” modeled on the bristles books of the Pentateuch.
Proverbs additionally has abounding old parts, including one allegedly translated from the second-millennium BCE Egyptian argument the “Instructions of Amenemope” (Proverbs 22). The actual books in this allotment of the Bible are somewhat later: the latest is apparently Daniel, which comes from the mid-second century.
From Abounding Books to the One Book
How did these assorted pieces arise to be admired as Scripture by Jewish and, later, Christian communities? There were no committees that sat bottomward to decree what was or was not a angelic book. To some degree, the action of Scripture-making, or account as it is generally alleged (from the Greek chat kanon, a “measuring rod”), complex a process, no best absolutely understood, by which the Jewish association absitively which works reflected best acutely its eyes of God. The antiquity, absolute or imagined, of abounding of the books was acutely a factor, and this is why Psalms was eventually attributed to David, and Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes (along with, by some people, Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha) to Solomon. However, bald age was not enough. There had to be some way in which the Jewish association could analyze its own religious adventures in the angelic books.
This occurred, at atomic in part, through an busy action of biblical interpretation. Simply account a argument involves interpretation. Interpretative choices are fabricated alike in acrimonious up today’s newspaper; one charge apperceive the arcane conventions that analyze a account report, for example, from an op-ed piece. The claiming becomes abundant added acute back one reads awful aesthetic texts from a altered time and place, such as the Bible.
The age-old examples of estimation we accept arise in the Bible itself. Zechariah reinterprets Ezekiel, Jeremiah generally refers to Hosea and Micah, and Chronicles essentially rewrites Kings. These reinterpretations are in themselves affirmation that the earlier books were already acceptable authoritative, canonical, alike as the adolescent ones were still actuality written.
But some of the oldest all-encompassing reinterpretations of our Bible arise from the third or added centuries BCE. For example, the book of Jubilees is a afterlight of Genesis, now abiding in 50-year periods catastrophe in a year of jubilee, or a time for absolution of debts. A accompanying assignment is the Genesis Apocryphon, additionally a afterlight of Genesis. Ezekiel the Tragedian wrote a comedy in Greek based on the activity of Moses. And the Essenes, the camp that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, composed commentaries (peshers) on assorted biblical books: bits of those on Habakkuk, Hosea, and Psalms survive. From the aboriginal aeon BCE or so, arise added psalms attributed to David and the Letter of Aristeas (about the amazing advice of the Bible into Greek), amid others. And during the activity of Jesus himself, Philo of Alexandria wrote all-encompassing emblematic commentaries on the Pentateuch, all with a actualization against authoritative the Bible admirable to philosophers afflicted by Plato.
Despite their abundant array of angle and interests, all of these works aggregate assertive accepted views. They all believed the columnist of the Bible was God, that it was accordingly a absolute book, that it had able moral agendas and that it was abidingly relevant. Estimation had to actualization how it was accordant to alteration situations. They additionally anticipation the Bible to be cryptic, a addle acute piecing together. The brainy gymnastics appropriate to accomplish the old texts anytime new is one of the abundant contributions of this era to the history of Judaism and Christianity, and accordingly Western acculturation itself.
An archetype of interpretation: Genesis 11
Genesis 11 is the adventure of how bodies anon afterwards the Flood congenital a burghal centered about a belfry “with its top in the heavens.” The purpose of the Belfry of Babel was to acquiesce its builders to “make a name” for themselves. God, in a annoyance of anger, alters the builders’ languages so that they cannot accept anniversary other. In its aboriginal form, the adventure is an account of why not anybody speaks Hebrew, as able-bodied as a animadversion on the huge temple-towers (ziggurats) of Mesopotamian cities.
For afterwards interpreters, however, this adventure cried out for explanation. Why was God abashed of these people? How aerial was the tower? Who led the construction, and did anyone articulation objections? What did the builders apprehend to do back they accomplished the heavens? What moral acquaint should one apprentice from the story?
To acknowledgment these questions and others, Jubilees 10 says that the builders formed for 43 years (50 years of the Ceremony aeon bare the mystical cardinal seven) and congenital a anatomy one and a bisected afar high! Their purpose was to access into heaven itself. Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities (first aeon CE) adds a adventure about Abraham, a archetypal of courage, abnegation to abet with the builders and so actuality befuddled into a ablaze furnace, abundant like the three adolescent men in Daniel 3. God sends an convulsion to abort the furnace, and afresh he changes both the builders’ languages and their appearance, so that no one can admit alike his or her own brother. Added traditions anticipate that the builders of the belfry were either giants (Pseudo-Eupolemus), or were bodies led by the boss hunter and city-builder Nimrod mentioned in Genesis 10 (Josephus). Anniversary analyst imaginatively builds on some adventitious chat or byword in the biblical argument to try to acknowledgment reasonable questions about it. Meanwhile, the first-century philosopher and biblical analyst writes an absolute book on this chapter, which he interprets as an apologue about animal morality: the builders represent acquisitiveness and venality.
The Book and the Once and Advancing Messiah
Like their Jewish predecessors and Jewish contemporaries, aboriginal Christians believed that the Hebrew Bible was God’s book, and accordingly a book that should casting ablaze on accepted contest and moral conundrums. For Christians, of course, the best important affair was the accurate acceptation of Jesus and the adventure of his life, death, and resurrection. Since they believed him to be the messiah (“anointed one”), God’s savior and the augury of a new and absolute age, they approved to acquisition acknowledgment of him in the Hebrew Bible itself. This is why so abundant of the adventure of Jesus in the gospels quotes the Bible.
This move was not afterwards precedent. The Dead Sea association additionally believed that the prophets had predicted their movement and their leader, the Teacher of Righteousness, as able-bodied as the political contest of their time. They go so far as to affirmation that the prophets did not apperceive what they were saying, but God, the accurate columnist of the text, acclimated them to allege of the (to them) abroad future.
Christians, however, had a altered set of questions than the Dead Sea sect, and so they begin altered texts to cite. Any texts that accredit to a time of a approaching deliverance, or the advancing of a approaching king, were fair game. So the adversity assistant of Isaiah 53 becomes the adversity Jesus of the gospels. And Luke’s citation from Isaiah 61 becomes a advertence to Jesus’s admiral of healing and reconciliation. Yet in every case, as far as we can tell, the Christian account comes afterwards the fact. That is, they aboriginal believed in Jesus and afresh approved to acquisition his activity in Scripture. They afresh could appearance their cogent of acceptance about his activity to fit the scriptures. This action may assume actual circular, but accustomed their assumptions — namely, that Jesus is axial to God’s plan, that God batten through prophets who ability not accept their own words, and that the Bible was a cryptic addle defective analytic — this acceptance in apocalypse and accomplishment is not incomprehensible. So Luke can accept Jesus say, “Today this Scripture is accomplished in your presence!” Jesus saw himself as the deliverer that the prophets had advancing continued before. Back his followers drew the aforementioned conclusion, they could afresh absorb the age-old Scriptures, transforming them into article new, a Christian Bible.
The English chat “Bible” is from the Greek byword ta biblia, “the books,” an announcement Hellenistic Jews acclimated to alarm their angelic books several centuries afore the time of Jesus. Christians adopted the byword “Old Testament” to accredit to these angelic books they aggregate with Jews.
Jews alleged the aforementioned books Miqra, “Scripture,” or the Tanakh, an acronym for the three capacity of the Hebrew Bible: Torah (“instructions” or beneath accurately “the law”), Neviim (“prophets”), and Kethuvim (“writings,” including Psalms, Proverbs, and several added books). Avant-garde advisers generally use the appellation “Hebrew Bible” to abstain the confessional agreement Old Testament and Tanakh.
As for the New Testament, its accepted twenty-seven book anatomy derives from the fourth aeon CE, alike admitting the basic genitalia arise from the aboriginal century. Christians did not accede on the exact admeasurement of the New Testament for several centuries.
For Further Reading
Brueggemann, Walter. Canon of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997).
Charlesworth, James H., ed. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. (2 vols.; Garden City: Doubleday, 1985).
Kugel, James. The Bible as It Was. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997).
Idem. In Potiphar’s House: The Interpretive Activity of Biblical Texts. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990).
Leiman, Sid. The Account of Hebrew Scripture. (Hamden, CT: Archon, 1976).
Levenson, Jon. Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible. (San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco, 1985).
Noth, Martin. A History of Pentateuchal Traditions. (1948; trans. by Bernhard Anderson; Atlanta: Scholars, 1981).
Vermes, Geza, ed. The Dead Sea Scrolls in English. (3d ed.; New York: Penguin, 1987).
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