The Wisdom of God

I have read pages 278 to 288 of An Introduction to the Old Testament by Temper Longman and Raymond Dillard along with pages 71 to 78 of a book of the same title but authored by David Carr.

In Carr’s book, the chapter looked at some texts in the Bible that contain strong “echoes” of past ancient empires in the biblical texts, specifically the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. These echoes may indicate that these texts were written during the early monarchy when scribes were most dependent on foreign models in creating the first Israelite written corpus. Some of these texts were traditionally attributed to Solomon while others are originally anonymous.

Since Proverbs is a collection of collections, it is particularly difficult to summarize with a single theme or set of themes. Nevertheless, major features of the book include its prominent focus on female figures toward the beginning (1-9) and end (31:10-31), and its repeated emphasis on the importance of the “fear of Yahweh” (1:7, 29; 2:5; etc.) throughout.

The lead themes through most of Ecclesiastes are the absurdity of all human striving and the daily pleasures of daily life. Yet, the last verses of the book as well as isolated sections in its midst affirm the more traditional idea that good eventually is rewarded and evil punished. Many would take these more traditional affirmations to be late additions to the book.

As for Song of Songs, many readers insist that one must decide that it is either about human desire or about divine-human love. The poetry of the Song, however, is more elusive. The dense metaphors and disconnected dialogues invite readers to build their own images of what is happening. The lack of explicit divine references and other features of the Song suggest that the book was meant to evoke the drama of human love. Still, the poetry allows multiple readings, especially now that the Song stands in a Bible that elsewhere depicts God’s love for His people.

Here I Am to Worship!

In preparation for our Old Testament Survey class, I have read pages 266 to 291 of Reading the Old Testament by Rev. Fr. Lawrence Boadt, C.S.P. This chapter discusses Israelite worship and prayer, particularly the nature of the book of Psalms. The author described the development of Israelite worship beginning with the book of Genesis to the time of King David. He then compared the same to the different methods of worship of the pagans surrounding the land of Canaan with special emphasis on their respective holy places, which, for the Jews, culminated in the temple built by Solomon. Attention was likewise given to the major types of sacrifices found in the book of Leviticus and the various feast days observed by the Jews as commanded by God through Moses.

The second part of this chapter dealt with the Psalms and Israel’s prayer life. According to Fr. Boadt, the Psalms seemed to be grouped in small collections, namely: (1) Davidic hymns; (2) northern collection of hymns; (3) collection from temple singers; (4) psalms from a royal collection; and (5) a second and expanded Davidic royal collection. He noted that each of these divisions is marked by a special prayer and blessing of praise. Moreover, the Psalms are further made up of different literary genres such as praise, thanksgiving, individual laments, community laments, liturgical, wisdom, trust songs, royal psalms of the king, Zion hymns, and royal psalms of Yahweh as King. Aside from these, there also some psalms for special occasions like weddings, victories, and personal piety.

Reading the Psalms can truly be a source of blessing and inspiration as it gives us an idea on how the ancient Israelites approached God in prayer and worship. Likewise, we can use it today in our own respective church services or personal prayers. It shows us that we can indeed approach God with both our triumphs and pain, in short, God receives and meets us in whatever circumstances we may be in. May the Lord be praised forever!

Studying the Old Testament

Dillard

Boadt

I have read pages 13-37 (Introduction) of An Introduction to the Old Testament by Tremper Longman and Raymond Dillard as well as pages 89-108 (The Pentateuch) of Lawrence Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament. Longman and Dillard discussed the purposes of writing such an introduction. According to both books, such an introductory work would greatly aid students and readers of the Bible in understanding the historical, geographic, archaeological and literary background of the Old Testament. Longman and Dillard divide their work into three major topics, to wit: historical background, literary analysis, and theological message. Each of these topics is covered in the analysis of each of the Old Testament books under consideration following this introductory chapter beginning with Genesis.

It is worth noting that Longman and Dillard write from an Evangelical perspective while Boadt writes from a Catholic perspective. What this means is that the biblical text is treated as the church has received it, while not denying the possibility of sources and the history of development of individual biblical books. More specifically, the focus of their work will be squarely on the finished form of the canonical text. On the other hand, while many Catholic scholars were attracted to the possibilities of critical methods, they did little with them until the 1940’s because of the crisis of modernism. Finally, in 1943, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical entitled Divino Afflante Spiritu that gave Catholic biblical scholars encouragement to examine the ancient sources and literary forms in order to deepen the understanding of the sacred texts. From that time on, Catholic scholars such as Boadt have pursued a sober use of source and form criticism as seriously as do most Protestant and Jewish scholars.