Thoughts of John

What is on my mind.

Introduction to The Torah

Our study in Deuteronomy may have raised a number of questions. For example, Deuteronomy is a profound theological statement, but what is the historical development of that theology? Or another question that is quite fundamental, what is the historical origin of Israel? A third question also comes into focus, how did our world come into being? These questions are not mere curiosities which have interesting answers. Other nations had their own writings which attempted to answer, in part at least, these questions. Many of their documents were already hundreds of years old when Israel was encamped in the plains of Moab ready to cross over into Palestine. In other words, long before we asked these questions Israel herself had the same questions in mind. The answers are thus found in ancient writings belonging to her which are now called Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. These were also given to her through Moses as was the treaty document called Deuteronomy. But how they developed, or when, we cannot tell. They appear to have something of the stamp of Moses upon them, even Genesis, though the recorded events in that book predate Moses.

The precise progress of the development of these first four books until they reached the final written stage is not very important. We have no objective data that tells us how it happened. There are theories about the process of development. Some of them deny Mosaic authorship. Some allow for brief references to the Mosaic period. But they argue that for the most part the documents represent a time much later than him. Thus, according to them, these writings belong to Israel’smonarchial period and even to the post-exilic period. We will deal with these theories because they are part of Old Testament study, but we will deal with them rather briefly.

Our major concern in this study, however, will center around the structure and content of the first four books of the Old Testament. These writings reflect a certain literary pattern. At times that pattern is quite easy to discern, as in Genesis. But at other times the pattern may be arranged in such a way that only patient study may discern it. And even here what is discerned is only one way of looking at the material. For example, we have developed a topical approach to Exodus through Numbers, but this obviously does not exhaust the way these books may be studied. This simply offers a convenient way of analyzing a large amount of material.

One other matter needs to be considered before getting into the body of our work. The study of these early Old Testament documents has raised questions of vast implications. This is especially true of Genesis and even more so as we deal with creation and theNoahic flood. Our approach to these questions is as a biblicist. We cannot compete with the “solutions” of the scientific community. But then, our biblical data is not giving scientific answers. The material is theologically oriented (using theology in the context of an event oriented descriptive phenomenon). People of all generations from every conceivable culture can understand that language.

The same is true of the flood account in Genesis 6 through 9. Whether it was local or not, the species of animals aboard the ark, even when the flood took place, are questions that may be essentially irrelevant. Our concern has to do with the purpose for including the flood narrative in the Bible. What is the religious message that werecieve from this story?
Let us turn now to our study of Genesis through Numbers. We will follow this format. First, we will consider the various theories of Old Testament interpretation which have developed this century. This will entail a consideration of their historical development before the twentieth century. It will also entail a study of the proliferation of these theories in the twentieth century. Finally, we will critique the basic assumptions of these theories showing their weaknesses and strengths. Second, we will then give our attention to the structure and content of the books to be considered. This will give us an opportunity to look briefly at certain archaeological contributions as well.

Notes from J Warren & H Hosch

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October 19, 2009 - Posted by | Bible, Bible Study, Biblical Interpretation, Christian, Christianity, God, Jesus, Old Testament, Religon, Theology

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