Pinterest

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Not everything Biblical is Christian. Part 5 - not all texts are equal

Not everything Biblical is Christian, part 5. See part one, two, three, and four to catch up.

Part one points out that the words of Satan recorded in the Bible are not Christian doctrine. Part two shows the Sermon on the Mount overruling the cursing of enemies exhibited in Psalm 137. Parts three and four show Moses getting overruled by Ezekiel and Jesus. Part 5 will look at another angle of this theme, that not everything Christian is in the Bible you have today.

Dear Johnboy (that is my younger self)

I am going to write you a short summary of this post then put all the technical stuff afterwards to see what I am talking about.

The way the author of Hebrews uses the Greek translation of the New Testament, especially where it disagrees with the Hebrew version is an example of New Testament authors using a different OT text source than you do. Most Protestant translations today use the Masoretic Text as the basis of the OT translations. You learned that the OT we have today is so reliable because the Masorete community had so many rules for copying texts. Then you learned the Isaiah scroll from the Dead Sea scrolls confirms how good the Masoretic text is because of their agreement. What you didn't know is the early church scholar Origen collected six different Hebrew texts with similarities and differences. What you didn't know is the Masoretic texts we have are younger than the NT texts we have. What you didn't know is the Qumram community that kept the Dead Sea scrolls also had multiple versions of Jeremiah, a version similar to the Greek OT and another similar to the Masoretic text. The point is the Greek and Masoretic texts are very similar but have key differences, especially in Psalm 40, which Hebrews 10 references. When Hebrews references the Greek version, it makes sense that Jesus had a body prepared for him, when he came into the world, to serve as the sacrifice for mankind, not an open ear.

Despite the fact that the New Testament author of Hebrews chose the Greek version as the one God wanted to predict Jesus' mission, most of the western church chooses to ignore that, and translate from the Masoretic text, thank St. Jerome.

What you didn't know is that Psalm 29 is a modified Canaanite song. This is not a secret among Evangelical scholars, but it changes what we mean when we speak of Old Testament inspiration by God. However, it does not have to threaten anything about the message of that Psalm.

What it does mean is the psalmist was able to take something made by worshippers of other gods and modify it to worship God. What it does mean is the Old Testament was never as static as you were taught. What it does mean is those extra Old Testament books found in the Greek Old Testament are still full of allegories of Jesus, and mined for great spiritual benefit by the early church. It means that when you eventually read the Apocrypha with healthy skepticism, it opens up an avenue to also read the rest of the Old Testament. When you see some stories from the Apocrypha show up in the gospels (a woman married 7 times, a problem posed by the Sadducees to Jesus, is a main character in the book of Tobit) you realize that not all pre-Jesus stories are doctrinal for the Christian, but give context for the Jesus story. When you realize Jude references an apocalyptic story about Moses' body in his short epistle, it does not mean it is a doctrinal issue the Christian needs to affirm, but it serves a bigger purpose.

My previous letter shows Jesus doing some Old Testament criticism. Today's letter shows other New Testament authors doing the same, picking and choosing what to use and what to negate. Reading the extra books in the Septuagint as the Eastern churches and Roman Catholic churches do will bring you into a bigger story that contributes to the good news of Jesus. Not everything Biblical is Christian, and not everything Christian is limited to the Masoretic Hebrew text. Most things in the Old Testament still serve as preparation for Jesus' new kingdom, even when they get the fully revealed kingdom wrong.

The next letter shows the church thrashed this out in the New Testament book of Acts.

------------Technical stuff-----------------------------------------

Did you ever look up the cross reference from Hebrews 10?
4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, "See, God, I have come to do your will, O God' (in the scroll of the book it is written of me)." 8 When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, "See, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.
Here is one example of how the first is abolished. The author of Hebrews is referencing Psalm 40. I'll quote the verses, as translated from the Hebrew by the New Revised Standard Version.
6 Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
7 Then I said, "Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."
Did the Psalmist write God opened his ear or prepared him a body? In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, Psalm 40 is translated much like the Hebrews author's quotation.
40:6 Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not; but a body hast thou prepared me: whole-burnt-offering and [sacrifice] for sin thou didst not require.
 40:7 Then I said, Behold, I come: in the volume of the book it is written concerning me,
 40:8 I desired to do thy will, O my God, and thy law in the midst of mine heart.
Because Hebrew was no longer the popular language of Jewish people a few centuries before Jesus showed up, Jewish scholars in Alexandria produced a Greek translation. Entire books and academic studies are devoted to the use of the Greek Septuagint versus the use of the Hebrew Old Testament in the New Testament.

The early church fathers also used the Septuagint to find the allegories of Jesus. The Eastern Orthodox churches have continued in this tradition. The Western church led by Saint Jerome, translated the Bible, Old and New into the common Latin, and produced the Latin Vulgate, using several sources, Greek and Hebrew and Origen's critical text containing six Hebrew versions of the Old Testament side by side. The Vulgate version of Psalm 40 aligns with the Hebrew version.

Both the Septuagint and the Vulgate also include the intertestamental books called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books. The early church fathers mined these books as well, as they were part of the Septuagint, for allegorical references to Jesus. Here is a short Catholic defense of including the Deuterocanonical books in our Bible reading.

The Bible was not dropped down from heaven in the complete version we read in English today. The Old Testament is a book that argues with itself and which Jesus disagrees with himself. As the Hebrews 10 passage says, the establishment of the second abolishes the first, not everything, just anything that disagrees with the new nation Jesus is establishing, the nation based on love.

*Many of the links are to wikipedia. But the more difficult concepts can be explored by investing the time and money into a couple books. Who wrote the Bible? by Friedman and Sailhamer's The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation.

No comments: