What is the Old Testament?
There are the easy, trivia quiz answers: it’s the first part of the Christian Bible, it’s a collection of 39 books, it forms the Jewish scriptures, etc. But any real understanding of the Old Testament has to be linked to the question of where it came from.
Unlike many other sacred writings, the OT was not written by an enlightened holy man as a single piece of prophetic output. It has history. It has scars and scuff marks. It’s complicated.
Peter Enns has written a post with some great insights into where the OT comes from and how we need to think about this collection of books.
The central points are:
- It’s not a single work but an incredibly diverse collection
- The various books were “composed” centuries before they were written down
- Most importantly, it is impossible to make sense of the text without understanding the history and culture and context of the people who wrote it.
Read the full thing here:
5 Modern Insights about the Old Testament that Aren’t Going Anywhere
Here’s a completely unrelated comic, from the incomparable Radio Free Babylon:
One of the effects of the current political landscape in the USA has been to highlight the diverse attitudes and stances that exist within the various churches in the country.
Depending on your news sources, you may not fully appreciate that there is a vast range of positions within Christendom on issues of politics, social justice, ethics, and the relationship between a believer’s duties as a citizen of the state and as a follower of Jesus. Even with agreement on certain beliefs, there may still be a diversity of opinion on how exactly those beliefs should play out in the world and in our daily lives.
Here’s a perspective that hasn’t had much play in the media, courtesy of Trinity’s Portico. Enjoy!
An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor
Since it’s Easter, I’ve been having a few discussions around the resurrection of Jesus (see Luke 24 for one account). One of the discussions involved my interlocutor arguing that the resurrection would require complete suspension of the laws of physics, and thus must be discounted. His idea was that the best explanation was “mass delusions and a series of hallucinations”.
I think it’s important to distinguish in what capacity we make different statements. As individual human beings we tend to be multifaceted; within specific disciplines, we must narrow our range of possibilities. Science, for instance, explores natural phenomena within the known universe. History explores multiple strands of evidence (some scientific, some not) to investigate and understand events in the human past. Psychology tries to unravel the curious workings of the human mind. Each of these is limited in scope, but powerful within its field.
A few days ago a pair of Dutch comedians, Sacha Harland and Alexander Spoor, decided to perform the sort of lame prank that is guaranteed to pull internet views. They wrapped a Bible with a cover reading “Holy Quran” and then read excerpts to random people in the streets to get a reaction.
The Age newspaper had an article on it, Patheos had a post about it on The Friendly Atheist, it’s been featured far and wide. It has over a million views on Youtube.
The creators explained the experiment thus:
“Muslims have been accused of following a faith that has no place in our Western culture. What about Christianity? A religion that has influenced our culture greatly.”
Society changes, but the Bible doesn’t. So how can the Bible have anything relevant to say that can guide our lives in this 21st century, interconnected, post-modern world? And if we just reinterpret it to suit our changing social context, what is the point?
…at least, not the way you think.
Often, when someone experiences a personal setback, the “encouragement” given to them by well-meaning Christians is: “Don’t worry, God has a plan for your life,” or, “It’s all part of God’s special plan for you.”
God certainly has a deep desire for you to be reconciled to him, but usually when people talk about “God’s plan for my life” they mean that there are very specific, very human milestones that God has laid out for them to reach and achieve during their time on this Earth. And I don’t think that idea is Biblically grounded.