Jun 04 2010

Looking at the bible again for the first time

Published by under Meetings

On Friday 11 June, we will look at what Christians call the Old Testament with the help of Claus Westermann, a German expert. For most people, the bible is a book that begins with the story of creation. Scholars, however, give us quite a different perspective.

First, the Old Testament is not a book but a library of books, one that increased and evolved over a thousand years.

Secondly, this library began in the time of the Israelite kings (Saul, David, and Solomon). The first “book” recorded events at court, especially surrounding the succession from King Saul to King David and then from King David to King Solomon. ¬†Later, a preface was added, committing to writing a bundle of oral traditions that pre-dated the kingship; stories of wandering nomadic clans, of oppression in Egypt, of the infiltration of Canaan. ¬†Even later, another preface was added in front of the first preface, that extended the pre-history of the kingship right back to the beginning of time, drawing on a mix of mythical and legendary traditions.

Later, when the Israelites were in exile, a priestly group added their variants of the main stories to this library, merging them with the originals. Other items were added; a collection of temple songs (the psalms), stories and words of various prophets, and wisdom literature such as Proverbs and the book of Job.

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