How to Read the Old Testament and Get It.3

by admin on October 28, 2014

Reflections for 26 October 2014
Psalm 1; Proverbs 9:1-6; Ecclesiastes 12:1-8.

• Torah—Covenant identity as people of Yahweh. Peculiar people. Nation on a mission.
• Prophets—Get back to Yahweh. Re-member what it is like to be his people.
• Writings—distillation of wisdom seen though the lens of covenant. Practical application in conversation with culture.

Working on this message was a real challenge to my thinking about Hebrew Bible. I’ve worked under the illusion that Old Testament was in flux till late 1st—2nd centuries. Wrong. Tells you how much I read up to latest research! Council of Jamnia in late 1st century purported to be place where Jewish scholars argued out and excommunicated one another. Set the course of Jewish theology. All up for grabs. Canon was probably fixed a lot earlier than that.

Jesus reference Torah, Prophets, Writings (only in Luke) ; talks about Law and Prophets on many occasions.

Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, Song of Songs.
Accumulated teaching based on discernment and reflection about the character and mystery of life. This body is largely a theological and ethical reflection grounded in the human experience and is therefore a tradition that poses an alternative to the better known traditions of Salvation History rooted in Yahweh’s miracles and expressed as Covenant.

As such there is very little about Salvation History—some Psalms are exception. There is instead the slow steady pondering of the gifts and demands of life lived in all its circumstances. Common sense is theme.

Pervading questions What works? What risks can be run? What realties can be trusted? Where can human choice, freedom and responsibility be exercised?

Upshot comes to terms with nearly hidden order of God that much be embraced and accepted as the only viable context which effective, joyous and secure life can be lived. E.g. lament psalms can be blunt and threatening precisely because there is trust that even if the psalmist is skeptic that does not nullify Gods existence.

The fool believes that life is completely open and pliable and available for managing and manipulation. We often talk about planning and planning for outcomes. Gales of laughter.

This Writings tradition asserts boundaries of a God given life against excessive self-assertion. Deeply rooted in reality of Yahweh and Yahweh’s often inscrutable Will. This is about paying attention to Creations order. Intelligent Design.

Idea inherent in Writings is that new generation may benefit from accumulated insight that arises from reflection upon older experience. Dr. Daniel Siegel: speaking of emotional intelligence: reading, (w)ritig, (a)rithmetic + REFLECTION.

Upon reflection here are some worthy conclusions God’s world is reliable. This makes possible a sustainable community free from self-destructive conduct and aligned with God’s purposes.
What is up for grabs is context of the Writings clan; royal court; schools all places for the socialization of young people into a responsible life for the sake of community.

1. Writing asserts that like Torah and Prophets Yahweh tradition is always in conversation with people in context and therefore new meanings are constantly arising.

2. We live in word that settles for data and proclaims that knowledge is power. We reply on our technical capacity to figure everything out. Writings insist that demands and possibilities of human life are richer, more complex and less directly available that technique may suggest. There is a non-decoded mystery.

3. Writings suggest that not all the data is in. Ethical conclusions are endlessly provisional and open to reformulation. Judaism and later Christianity showed enormous interpretive vitality that knows truth that life is hard work and requires ongoing discernment being open to challenge to your little “stand my ground” theological world.

4. Writings/Wisdom is about transmitting its truth to next generations. Model of education and disciple making. Education is not about the import of facts and data but the socialization into a world view / ethical perspective rooted in the reality of Gods ordering of creation.

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