The reading from JSB on Languages of the Bible is very useful for the Bible student. This particular section of the book speaks of the family of language to which Hebrew belongs to; as well as the shape of the Hebrew alphabet. It talks about of the possible way to pronounce the alphabet, and the development of the Hebrew language through time. The reading ends with information on the Aramaic and its usage in the Bible. I found to be some what informative.
Lesson # 3
The second section to be studied from the JSB is that of the Historical and Geographical Background of the Bible. This section was very informative, and at the same time interesting. It began with a warning from the writer that made his view on biblical inspiration very clear. The writer warns the reader that a lot of the content of the O.T. is not necessarily historically accurate but mystical, and many times the archeological and scientific findings rule against the Bible content.
From this, the writer moves into very detail recounts of the O.T. content. Starting with the very early establishment of the ancient Near East, to the Historical narrative of Genesis; yet once again, the writer warns the reader that after the retransmission it cannot be consider historical or chronologically accurate.
The writer continues with a progressive narrative of Israel, from its establishment in the land of Canaan, (making occasional mention of historical reasons to believe certain historical events mentioned in the Bible). The writer continues narrating the early stages of Israel in the land of Canaan, continuing with the united Monarchy, its highlights, and consequent transition to the Divided Monarchy of Israel and Judah.
After this, the writer continues describing the process by which Israel was taken over by Babylon and the beginning of the exile period of Israel history began. Continuing the Babylonian exile, the narrative began to speak about the consequences of such exile in Israel, as well as the Persian domination in the ancient world. During the reign of king Cyrus the Great, some of the Israelites in exile were able to return to Israel and rebuilt the temple that was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.
Continuing the narrative, the writer speaks of the Hellenistic Period and the control that Philip of Macedonia was able to exercise over Asia Minor from the Persians. Philip’s son Alexander the Great, was able to continue conquering lands for Greece to the point that the world belonged to Greece. Israel became Greek territory and the Greek language became the lengua Franca. The next major event spoken of in this section was the Maccabean revolt and eventual independence religiously and governmentally from Antiochus Epiphanes. The section ends with the Roman control of the world and a description of the geography and climate of Israel.
This section was very informative and at the same time it was able to cover the main events in the O.T. in just few pages.
Lesson # 4
The Modern Study of the Bible
This reading was a very refreshing reading for me for I have not read about the various Biblical criticisms in a while. The chapter started by speaking of the Historical critical method which was an inductive approach for interpreting the Bible. Continuing with Source Criticism and Form Criticism. Very useful to me was the short recount of the archeological development in the Christian world. In this section, the writer brought to light the methods used by the archeologists to dig, as well as the combination of field of expertise of the archeologists so that they could make sense of their findings.
Particularly insightful was the section on the Historical-Critical Method. According to the writer of the article, there is a modern tendency to question the adequacy of the historical method. These interpreters want to implement interdisciplinary approaches to the Bible, rather than the traditional historical method. Several approaches have appeared in regard to Bible interpretation including the Literary Study and New Criticism. I was not aware of the method of detaching the text from the author. Particularly interesting was the application of some philosophical trends in the interpretation of the Bible such as Deconstructionism and Post modernism. The writer’s explanation of Deconstructionism was particularly good and clear, for it is such a difficult concept to even understand. Finally, the inclusion of Liberation Theology in the section on Cultural Hermeneutics which speaks of the Bible being interpreted in a socioeconomic way, was surprising. Overall it was very insightful and informative chapter.
This chapter spoke of some of the formulas used by Biblical writers to refer to some older source or sources that they used for writing certain sections of books. An example we find of this is in Isaiah and Micah. This practice is particularly predominant during the Intertestamental period. During this period it was common to find authors revising texts and making significant variations in its content. We find an example of this in the book of Jubulees and some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Some times, the Biblical author will use an older book and explain it. This is the case with Daniel in Dan 9:24, where he explaining Jer 29:10.
The chapter ends by saying that the Priests and prophets, psalmists and scribes composed Scripture by recycling Scripture, by turning it and turning it to find new truth in it.
This practice could be explained by the following quotation from the chapter: “Moses wrote many things in an obscure way, and then came King David who explained them.”
This chapter was helpful in that it was able to open the eyes to content found in one passage that reflects the content of another passage. Yet, the chapter only treated the similitude’s as if they were borrowed one from the other, and not as if there was a possibility that God was the main source of the information. Since the Biblical authors had a common source, that is God, when speaking of similar or the same situation, the content will be similar. Of course this is not true in cases such as Daniel when he directly references Jeremiah.
During the Intertestamental Period, we find a great movement in non rabbinic interpretation. It is in the content of some Christian libraries and in the Dead Sea Scrolls that we find non rabbinic interpretation of Biblical passages these writers edited and retold the Biblical story. The resulting material of these writers received the name of Pseudepigrapha. Yet these writings served different purposes among them we could mention: interpreting some difficult passages in the Biblical text, and serving a particular theological agenda.
Bible translation was also part of this section, since the translation to Greek, Aramaic, and Latin were often interpretative. Yet, at Qumran was found some commentary of the text that were clearly differentiated from the text itself.
When it comes to interpretation, Philo of Alexandria plays a predominant role. His commentary on Genesis and Exodus as well as his theological essays were of much influence in his historical context. The main focus of his writings was to demonstrate that the authority of the Law was universally significant. Philo used the allegorical method of interpretation and emphasized a philosophical interpretation of the Law.
Classical Rabbinic Interpretation
The main point of this period was to bring the Law to life and to apply it to every day life. Since the Law was written down, its meaning became more and more obscure as time passed. So the way to keep the Law current and alive was by explaining it in the form of commentaries. These commentaries explained the text as it is, and also explained it in a way that it could be applied to the every day lives of the readers. The rabbinic area extended from 70 BC to the 11th century. It is divided in four periods.
Midrash and Jewish Interpretation
This essay was of great value to me. In it a detailed definition of what the Midrash is was given. The root word, its meaning, and the way the term is used. The writer tried to establish a difference between classical rabbinic interpretation and modern interpretation that some people are calling Midrash. The writer also gave a historical sketch of the development of the Midrash and did it by giving us some of the problematic passages from the Bible and showing the way that the Rabbis dealt with them.
In the essay the writer attempted to answer one basic question. What is Jewish about the Midrash? Is Jewish interpretation of the Bible different to everyone else? The writer then explained that the Rabbis did not only try to understand the immediate meaning of a text, but also its hidden meaning. The main difference between the Christian interpreters and the Jewish interpreters is that the Christians find in the New Testament the interpretation for the Old. While the Jewish thought that in the Old Testament itself one could find the complete revelation of God, if one just looked into it more than just reading the surface.
Medieval Jewish Interpretation
This essay was very helpful to me because it moved me throughout the Medieval time, and explained to me the various exegetical and hermeneutical movements that arose as a reaction to the rising Christian scholarship in the commentary field as well as the exaggerations and abuses of the ancient Rabbis when it came to interpreting the Bible. I found particularly helpful the very beginning when the writers spoke about a Jewish movement named the Karaites, that was a group that considered some of the ancient Rabbinic conclusions on the meaning and application of some passages unacceptable. They did not equate the Rabbinic oral law as divine as was customary.
Post-medieval Jewish Interpretation
This Essay was very helpful for me because it provided a brief description of the development of Jewish scholarly work in the post medieval era. It spoke of the motivation behind the emergence of the prominent Hebrew text and commentary on the Bible and the Hebrew language. Highlighting the main historical contextual motivation and figures that influence the theological world at the time.
Modern Jewish Interpretation
I truly ignored the Jewish influence on liberal circles. Since the Law has always been their treasure, their most appreciated possession, I did not believe that the liberal movement was influenced by the Jews.
The writer of the essay clearly and effectively spoke of the scholarship development of the Jews in the Modern era, highlighting the main characters that influenced the Hermeneutics of the Bible in their time.
The last essay that was of much interest to me was the final one on the Bible in the Synagogue. This chapter was very important to me since I have much interest in Judaism. I did not know much on what the Jews did when they met in the Synagogue and the little that I knew was fragmented. Now, thanks to the writer of this essay, I know what parts of the Bible the Jews read when they met in the synagogue, in what order, and how often, as well as the historical background of those ceremonies.
Finally, the last essay that pertained to this week was that of Jewish Translations of the Bible. This essay spoke of the very early Bible versions from Hebrew to Greek, Aramaic, and Latin. Their backgrounds and importance and impact. It also spoke of the Jewish effort on making the Bible available to the Jewish people who did not know Hebrew, and making it available in a simple vocabulary and easy to understand. The essay went from Ancient translations to modern translations and the formation and influence of the JPS.
Textual Criticism of the Bible
This to me was a review of what Textual criticism is and its development and use. It spoke of textual variants and the way they affect the text, as well as the way that they came to be. It spoke of the task of the textual critic and the way that they approach these issues. It spoke of the tools and materials used by the textual critic to come up with the closest possible text to the original.
The Canonization of the Bible
This essay was probably the most helpful one for me, due to the fact that it was teaching a subject matter that was of much interest to me. I do not really know much about the canonical process of the Bible, except the limited knowledge that is found in books referring to it, and it mostly speaks of the canonicity of the New Testament and hardly ever on the canonicity of the Old Testament. This essay was very helpful in providing a good and detailed overview of the canonicity of the Old Testament, its process and its implications as far as we can tell, based on the information available to us.
The Development of the Masoretic Bible
This essay was very hard to read and at times boring. Much of what is said here had already appeared in previous assays, except that here they are expanded and it include the printed editions of the Bible.
It was a great essay. I can speak six langauges but it was difficult for me to learn the Hebrew alphabets for me. May be with the age laguage learning is difficult. It was so easy for me to learn languages when I was growing. My kids came to US in 2005 and to yonger one seems that English is their Mother language though they were born in Pakistan. It was great to though this little essay all about the langauge history and changes came with the passage of time. When I saw the movie “Passion of the Christ” I was amazed to know that I could understand some words of the Araemic langauge. Later I found that Areamic is close to Arabic, Urdu and Persian languages. –Mehboob