Authorship

As I was working on another assignment for the class I was quite surprised to see the number of times uncertainty was declared concerning the authors of the Old Testament.  I must say, as one often in the New Testament more than the Old, I found I was relatively ignorant to number of questionable authors in the book.

As I researched I was wondering what percentage of questions concerning authorship was just a result of scholarly rebellion against tradition.  At first, I thought that could be an answer to at least some authorship issues, and it still may.  But what I want to consider for this post was the number of legitimate authorship issues.  As discussed in posts and lessons, these include Moses’ influence on the Pentateuch, Jeremiah’s relation to Baruch, and others many other example.

What I have concluded is that authorship issues can be more than just who wrote the book, it can also encompass background info about the author.

As I was reading the lesson on the Milieu I was thinking about how studying it could change our interpretations of texts.  I am not sure if such a topic as follows falls within the normal definition of authorship issues, but it made me think.

Take for example the prophet Obadiah.  Our book says “We know nothing about the author except his name [and] there is some uncertainty about the spelling of his name” (562).  We do not know anything about Obadiah, and we cannot even spell his name, yet he is in our scriptures speaking on behalf of God.

Now, if the milieu is legitimately important, as I believe it is, than are we not at a disadvantage in interpreting Obadiah’s words from the moment we open his book.  We know very little about him.   All we can do is  discern from his general lifetime information about the current political, economic, religious situation.  Yet, all of those factors create a huge stumbling block for accurate interpretation if not factored correctly.

What I am concluding is even if our author is known, authorship issues could still be present.

-Brian

Hebrew for Dummies

So about now I am really wishing life was a little more like the matrix movies where I could just download information into my brain through an ominous needle. I guess I have not had that desire since undergrad 🙂  .   I was reading on someone’s post in the class about how they realized how hard English is to learn…I for one am glad I learned it as a child b/c I agree it is hard and I do not think I could learn it otherwise…or other languages for that matter.  I only passed my two required years of spanish in high school because though I could not say anything in Spanish, I was the best cook in the class and became the fiesta chef and supplied food for our parties.  (resulting in subsequent bonus points and a passing grade.)  My teacher actually sat me down once and told me I could not just add “el” to the beginning of an English word and an “o” to the end and call it Spanish.  (i.e. el dog-0)

That said Hebrew has been a challenge for me.  I have flash cards, I say the words, I write them…then I forget it as soon as I step away.  The language is certainly interesting in the pronunciation and characters, but their novelty has only increased my trouble learning them.

I can totally understand the importance of learning the original language.  Like watching a poorly done foreign film, I often wonder how many times our translations totally miss the mark from the original language.

Though it is disheartening looking at a language with an alphabet I cannot even comprehend, it is interesting seeing what just a few minutes with a lexicon can turn up in a passage…thus solidifying the importance of original language research.

I guess I am interested in knowing if anyone else is having trouble with the Hebrew aspect of our assignments.

-Brian

How to Write Hebrew

The site Byron found has a link on how to write the letters: http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/7_handwriting.html.  See also the link there to the site Hebrew for Christians.  Note the links on “Hebrew for Christians” to the Shema and other Jewish Prayers.  The Amidah or Shemoneh Esrei is historically a very important prayer.  There are audio links for these prayers, along with the Hebrew text, transliteration, and translation.  The transliteration system used in sites like this may not be exactly the same as the system scholars use, but it gives you some idea of the pronunciation.

meeting schedules

I am asking for opinions to fulfill my selfish desires. I live over 400 miles away and must be back in Southern Illinois  by Saturday morning. I was hoping we might meet a little longer each day in order to finish up on Friday by noon. Is that a possibility for us? Can you detect the tears in this post? thanks. Bill

Why study the Biblical Hebrew Language?

Why study the Biblical Hebrew Language? For a quick and simple answer – because the Bible was not written in English. This is even more important today as there are more and more translations on the market and the English Bible as we know it, remains the best selling book year after year. As more and more translations are introduced to the market, I have found personal frustrations with broad differences that I have came across in study.

In a recent study of Isaiah 58:10, we came across “pour yourself out”, “spend yourself”, and “feed the hungry” from three different English translations. I could argue that one could feel the passion behind the first two, but the simple “feed the hungry” statement falls flat. Maybe this is more cultural interpretation than language? On the Ancient Hebrew Research Center web site, there is a video discussion on six different Hebrew words that are all translated over into the English word “teach”. Again, not only do we miss out on the richness of the Hebrew Language, we are also forcing our cultural interpretation of the word “teach” on the text.

Martin Luther in His book Table Talk comments “The words of the Hebrew tongue have a peculiar energy. It is impossible to convey so much so briefly in any other language.”

Here are some additional quotes from the Ancient Hebrew Research Center web site that speak well for why it is important to study the Biblical Hebrew Language.

“Our sacred literature does not use obscure language, but describes most things in words clearly indicating their meaning. Therefore it is necessary at all times to delve into the literal meaning of words to achieve complete understanding of what is actually meant.”
–Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888)

“Reading the Bible in translation is like kissing your new bride through a veil.”
–Haim Nachman Bialik (Jewish Poet, 1873-1934)

“The Bible is a book that has been read more and examined less than any book that ever existed.”
–Thomas Paine (Author, 1773-1809)

Who wrote it?

I was reading though parts of the Mangano commentary today and getting really frustrated at so-called scholars. They spent an excessively long time approaching the different books of the Old Testament (not just the Pentateuch) with way to much critical skepticism. I know that studying the word of God is important and that understanding the historical background and the different interpretations as to how it was written and put together are important, but if it ultimately distracts you and ends up leading you away from God and divine inspiration then there is a problem.

I personally am of the opinion that Moses wrote the majority of the Pentateuch, however I know full well and even lean this way myself with the idea that he had help. What is to say that Moses did not use a scribe like Jeremiah? What is to say that Moses’ family did not help him? What is to say that some of this is recorded from the very first priests? No can truly say for sure because they were not there. (Currently God is still mum on the issue…something about him divinely inspiring all of it kind of trumps everything else.)

The documentary hypothesis is an interesting one to say the least. Interesting in that God could have inspired four writings to take place and ultimately come together to form what we know today as the Pentateuch. To think that these sections came from different view points on the history of Israel i.e. the Northern Kingdom (E), the Southern Kingdom (J), the writings during the time of Josiah from Deuteronomy-II Kings (D), and finally the writings that occurred either during or immediately after the exile period that focused mainly on the priestly duties and responsibilities (P), is neat and also a little crazy. I mean do not get me wrong, God very well could have divinely inspired these writings, but why can’t the simplistic work? Why does it have to be made difficult in order to  be right?  Authorship wise I keep coming back to Moses writing the majority of it. I am also fully aware that there are sections, like his death, that would be pretty hard for him to write and that Joshua may have very well wrote them but I do not think that, that detracts from the meaning or the importance of what is being told to us in scripture.

Ultimately, it comes down to the simple fact that the Bible as a whole, including the Pentateuch, is the divinely inspired word of God, and that it has a very important message and life application for us today. The Old Testament is just as relevant regardless of how many people wrote it, added to it, and amended it along the way. All of it is God’s word to us and for us and that is what should matter in the end.

Language Challenged

What can I say other than I am language challenged. For me languages do not come easily and Hebrew is no exception. I tried learning German in high school and some success with that, especially when I actually got to go over to Germany and use it. However, with Hebrew I cannot readily go find someone who speaks it…not even my husband. (I will say Ian had a slight unfair advantage, though it has come in handy for me with learning the alphabet…cause if it was good enough for his class than it is good enough for me when it comes to writing the letters.)

While I was reading over all the different information and basic structure of Hebrew, I solidified my conclusion that the English language is insane. (there is a reason people have trouble learning it.) The fact that Hebrew words, i.e. nouns and verbs, are built around triliteral roots is so cool. Three basic consonants that one adds vowels to, or in this case vowel points, to make up one whole word. Compared to German this is a walk in the park when it comes to making words and even spelling them.

Having listened as my husband took Hebrew, I have picked up on at least one thing that was pretty neat to me, and that was the idea of repetition. There were instances like in Genesis where the Hebrew says that they “died dying,” or in Exodus where they describe God as “triumphing triumphantly.” The additional use of the word adds an emphasis that I think is sorely missed in the English translation of the Bible. It also adds intensity to what they are saying. For instance, the “died dying” statement helps to capture the idea of spiritual and physical death at the same time, while the English translations have to infer such thought.

All of this is still pretty new to me and I am just hoping that I am learning it correctly.