So I am beginning the week with my new class, “Intro to the Old Testament.” I have learned some basic information that I have always wondered about, but have never asked the questions. I thought I would share some of most interesting facts I have picked up so far:
- The Name – Most everybody I know calls this first half of the Bible, the Old Testament. The word testament actually means covenant. So it makes sense to me that everything prior to Jesus is considered the “Old” covenant, and everything beginning with Jesus is considered the “New” Covenant. However, I never thought about what religions call this collection of writings. For example, the Jewish people refer to it as the Tanak. This is actually somewhat of an acronym, in that T = Torah (the Law or first 5 books,) N = Nevi’im (the Prophets,) and K= Ketuvim (The Writings or everything that didn’t fit into the first two categories.). This is the Hebrew Bible. There is no old or new to it. This is their entire book. So, of course they would call it something other than the Old Testament.
- The Contents – Where I come from, we talk about the fact that the Bible is a closed cannon. Meaning we believe that God’s full revelation has been recorded there and it is complete. So it has always made me question how other religious bodies have different books in their Bibles. If ours is so complete, why are they different. So, a couple of things I read began to make sense. First, the development of the OT was not a one-time event. The addition of the books came over a long period of time and was based upon the different usage among the different groups of Hebrews at the time. Remember, they didn’t have computers, phones or even printing presses to share information. In fact, most of the stories were orally translated. So this led to different sources over time. As well consider why our protestant Bible is missing several of the books found in the Catholic Bible. We have to look no further than our friend, Martin Luther, who in his famous reformation removed not only icons and prayer practices from our tradition, but also several of the Apocryphal books as well. Only in recent history has the Apocrypha began to reemerge in some of the more common translations of the protestant Bible.
As I reflect on this history, it makes me question why we cling so tightly to the idea that “Our” Bible is the unchanging Word of God. When, in fact, it has been changing throughout history. I look forward to learning more about the foundations of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible/Tanak – as I seek to more deeply understand God’s message for us through it.
Peace my friends!