The Bible and Western Culture

The Bible and Western Culture

by Sam Armato

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ISBN-13: 9781477263914
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 10/09/2012
Pages: 252
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.57(d)

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THE BIBLE AND WESTERN CULTURE


By Sam Armato

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2012 Dr. Sam Armato
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4772-6391-4


Chapter One

WHAT IS THE BIBLE?

THE WORD "BIBLE" comes from the Greek ta biblia = the books, plural of biblion = book. The work ultimately derives from the name of the Phoenician port Bublos from which papyrus from Egypt was shipped to Greece.

The broadest general statement we can make about the Bible is that it is a book of scriptures, that is, holy writings, which is considered the sacred word of God by its believers. For Jews, the word Bible makes reference only to the Hebrew Bible, the part of the Bible Christians call the Old Testament. For Christians, the word Bible refers to the Hebrew Bible and the scriptures, which tell the story of the coming of Jesus and the formation of the early Christian Church, that is, the New Testament. Christians call these two books the Bible and make a distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The New Testament in their view is the story of fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament in the appearance of Jesus whom they proclaimed was the Messiah, (Christos, "anointed" in Greek) and the establishment of a new covenant with God.

The Hebrew Bible written in Hebrew with some small sections in Aramaic (Dan. 2.4b-7.28; Ezra 4.8-6.18; 7.12-26; and a verse in Jer. 10.11) is comprised of a collection of writings, which are divided into twenty-four books. They include narratives of various kinds, legalist sections, moral injunctions, wisdom literature, poetry, and prophecy. The oldest of these writings are believed to date to the tenth century B.C., though some of the earliest writings record narratives and poems that had existed orally before they were written down. Its first written expression shows evidence of one writer who, because of his use of the name Yahweh for God, is known as the "J" writer, after the German spelling "Jahveh." It is the oldest document of the Pentateuch. The last of the Hebrew Bible was written around the 2nd century B.C.E. and 100 B.C.E. These books were included in the Septuagint and therefore in St. Jerome's Latin translation, the Vulgate. The Roman Catholic Church called them "deuterocanonical," of a second but equally authoritative canon.

The New Testament was written in a considerable shorter period of time, probably no more than one hundred years. The earliest piece of New Testament writing, Paul's first letters, were written about 50 A.D. whereas the last were written about 100 years later, the final version of 2 Peter. The New Testament consists of twenty-seven books, though the word "book" in this context has special meaning. Included in the count are the four biographies of Jesus, i.e., the Gospels; Acts of the Apostles (history of the early Christian church); twenty-one epistles; and the Book of Revelation. Some of the letter "books" are no more than a page in length. The entire New Testament is about a third the size of the Old Testament, and was written in about a tenth of the time; thus there was less time for expansion, inclusion, and redaction.

In the Old Testament, we have the record not only of the birth and development of a religion, Judaism, but also of a history of the evolution and identification of a people, and the growth and decline of a nation. In the New Testament, we see an incipient religion trying to establish itself in a hostile environment. Not only had it to survive the opposition of the Roman emperors who insisted on being worshipped as gods and brooked the worship of no other deities, but early Christians also found themselves cut off from their own cultural and religious roots, Judaism. After all, Christianity was born in the synagogue and all of the first Christians were Jews. But soon the religious ideas, which centered around the acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah created an unbridgeable breach between them and the traditional Jewish community.

Both the Jewish and the Christian Bible have gone through several translations down through the centuries, and the history of these translations brings to mind the old Italian adage, traduzionee tradizione (translation is a betrayal), but more on that later. The Hebrew Bible was originally written in Classical Hebrew, the Semitic language of the Israelites, with some later books written in Aramaic, a Syrian dialect of Hebrew and probably the language of Jesus. Its first translation was begun in Alexandria, Egypt in the middle of the third century B.C.E. and completed more than two centuries later. The Hellenized Jews who had forgotten classical Hebrew, the language of the Hebrew Bible, and were most familiar with Greek brought this translation, called the Septuagint, into existence. The name derives from its apocryphal origins recorded in "The Letter of Aristeas" which tells of the selection of six Biblical scholars from each of the twelve tribes of Israel at the court of Ptolemy in Alexandria, the account continues, each of the seventy-two scholars went their separate ways to undertake the task. After seventy-two days the scholars returned with identical translations. For convenience seventy-two was reduced to seventy, thus the name Septuagint and the Roman numerals LXX that is used to refer to this translation in brief.

The Vulgate, the Latin translation, executed by Jerome at the end of the fourth century A.D. became necessary because the language of the people in Rome and Mediterranean at that time was Latin. The King James Version of 1611, the English translation probably has had as great an impact upon the English language as it had on the moral and religious concepts of the English-speaking world. Among several other modern translations are the Roman Catholic The Jerusalem Bible, 1966, (includes many useful notes) and most recently (1990) the Catholic Study Bible, the Catholic hierarchy's attempt to enter the mainstream of scholarly study editions. This translation, which is the same as that used in the most widely disseminated in Catholic parishes, the New American Bible, contains 650 pages of explanatory notes and references. An updated version of the RSV called the New Revised Standard Version has also made its appearance this year after sixteen years of work by thirty-three scholars. Both the Catholic (New American Bible) and the Protestant (New Revised Standard Version) the one used by mainline Protestant, Episcopal and Eastern Orthodox churches attempt to respond to objections of male-privileged pronouns in the older translations. In Gen.1:26 RSV reads:

Then God said, "let us make man in our image ..."

The NRSV reads:

Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our Image ...

James 2:14 RSV reads:

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?"

NRSV reads:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?"

Both revisions make gender changes in Matthew's Sermon on the Mount. Both now read "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" instead of "sons of God." And both translate "O men of little faith," to "you of little faith."

One recent translation not well received by many biblical scholars is the Living Bible. A number of the passages have been judged to be inaccurate.

Many Hebrew scholars consider the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation of the TANAK as the most accurate.

[Some other translations to cite: Bede 730's translated parts of the Vulgate into Old English. John Wycliffe, ca. 1384 translated the entire Vulgate into English (condemned in 1408 and forbade future translations, fearing they would encourage apostasy or irreverence) Luther's translation into German is the first translation in a modern language to use Hebrew and Greek texts rather than the Vulgate].

Chapter Two

THE PARTS OF THE HEBREW BIBLE

THE HEBREW BIBLE is made up of three parts: Torah (the Law) Nevi'im, (The Prophets), and Kethuvim (Writings). The acronym TANAK is used to refer to it in Hebrew, since the consonants make up the first letter of each section.

Torah – this is the name for the first five books – Gen., Exod., Lev., Num., and Deut. Originally Torah meant "oral instruction," especially in religious matters. Then the word came to mean ruling or rules, then a definitive collection of law. Eventually Torah came to be the proper name for the whole Pentateuch.

Exodus 20:1 introduces the Ten Commandments with "God spoke and these were his words."

Deuteronomy 31:9 says, "Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel."

In 621 B.C., a "book of law" was discovered (See 2 Kings 22, 23). King Josiah then initiated a radical religious reformation. Foreign elements were eliminated form the worship of Yahweh, and it was decreed that sacrifices must take place only at the central sanctuary in Jerusalem, and not at local shrines.

Since these and other reforms correspond with standards laid down in Deuteronomy, it is generally agreed that the book found in the temple was a substantial part of Deuteronomy as we know it. Some of Nehemiah's reforms in Judea in mid 5th C.B.C. are definitely related to the Deuteronomic law. One such reform is the exclusion of the Moabites and Ammonites from the community (See Neh. 13.23ff., Deut. 23.3ff).

TORAH

Around the Torah grew up the practice of "unwritten law," or commentaries and interpretations, which were the application of the principles of the Torah ... and ritual situations known in the New Testament as "tradition" or "ancient tradition" (Mark 7:1-13). It was written down in the Christian era in the Rabbinic works known as the Mishnah and the Talmud. Sometimes the whole Old Testament is called the Torah; to the Jew, denial of the authority of the Pentateuch would involve rejection of all the rest.

PROPHETS (HEB. NEVI'IM)

Th is section of the Hebrew Bible is divided into "Former" and "Latter" Prophets. The former prophets (Joshua, Judges, Land 2 Sam. and 1 and 2 Kings) we might be inclined to regard as History rather than prophecy, though they include stories of Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, Elisha, and others. Latter prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the "Twelve" minor prophets (beginning with Hosea and ending with Malachi).

WRITINGS

Sometimes the Greek hagiographa – "sacred writings" – is used. Of these, only the Psalms found a place in the Synagogue service where the Torah and the Prophets were read regularly.

In the Hebrew Bible similar kinds of books are grouped together. Thus, the first three books of the Writings are poetry (Psalms, Proverbs, and Job); then the "Five rolls" (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther) each of which has, at least since the Middle Ages, been read at one of the major Jewish festivals. Next comes Daniel, part prophetic and part apocalyptic, and finally the work of the editor known as the Chronicler – Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 and 2 Chronicles.

Chapter Three

ARCHAEOLOGY AND BIBLICAL STUDIES

IT IS INTERESTING to note that up to the eighteenth century our understanding of the history of mankind before the Greeks was derived principally from the Bible and several ancient sources such as Herodotus, Josephus, and Eusebius. Archaeological discoveries made since then have illuminated a historical landscape that was shrouded in darkness. Excavations in the Syro-Palestinian region (which includes the modern states of Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon) as well as Mesopotamia (Greek for between the rivers, i.e., the Euphrates and the Tigris the equivalent of modern Iraq) and Anatolia (roughly modern Turkey) have given us a better understanding of these regions. Some of the excavations have been useful in fleshing out scant information we had of Biblical lands and in providing information that has given us alternative and sometimes corrective views of history as represented in the Bible.

Samuel Noah Kramer once said that history begins at Sumer, which was occupied by a non-Semitic people who possibly came from the east. Their civilization, which centered around the Tigris-Euphrates delta, at the head of the Persian Gulf, from Nippur to Ur to Eridu, flourished around 3200 B.C.E. The Sumerians improved the pictographic form of writing by inventing the cuneiform (wedge-shaped) syllabic symbols. Cuneiform was difficult to decipher, moreso, for instance than Hieroglyphics, but once it became clear that it was used to transcribe a number of diverse languages, it finally yielded to researchers. Cuneiform was used for Sumerian, which is not related to any other language that we know; Akkadian, a Semitic language; and Hittite, an Indo-European language. Moreover, because the principal medium used for cuneiform was clay, many of their religious, scientific, and other cultural records survived the millennia since they were inscribed. We are now better informed about the quotidian activities of Mesopotamians than we are about the day-to-day occurrences in the lives of the Greeks and Romans. Among some of the more signifi cant fi nds in this area are the earliest creation story we know, the Enuma Elish, (also called the Babylonian Genesis) discovered in 1875 by a British Museum worker, George Smith. We also have a Babylonian flood story Atrahasis published for the first time in 1969; a heroic epic Gilgamesh, which contains many features possibly adopted by the writers of the Old Testament, including a Babylonian Noah; a list of antediluvian kings whose long lives remind us of the longevity of the genealogies in Genesis, and literally thousands of tablets unearthed at the various Midwestern archaeological sites.

It became clear to the biblical scholars that the Bible could no longer be read in a vacuum, that much that occurred before and during its creation in the cultures that surrounded the Biblical Israelites, effected its theology, its literary genres and its narrative, rhetorical and stylistic features.

Two Syrian Sites which have yielded valuable texts: Ebla and Mari

EBLA TABLETS:

Discovered in Northern Syria near Aleppo (35 miles away) at tell Mardikh which covered the ancient city of Ebla. Excavations began by an Italian archaeological team in 1964 and continue today. Among the 18,000 tablets found so far written in Sumerian and a NW Semitic dialect Eblaite and inscribed in cuneiform script is the first bilingual dictionary of Sumerian and Eblaite. Though not many of the tablets have been translated so far, it is clear that we will learn a great deal about the ancient near east from the legal and economic texts, letters, proverbs, as well as texts and lists which were apparently used in schools, such as lists of animals, birds, fish, professions etc. The text have been dated from 2400-2200 B.C.E. or 2580-2450 B.C.E. depending upon which of two methods of dating is used: 1. stratigraphy, or 2. Epigraphy. The first is the examination of the layers of settlements of a particular site, frequently yielding pieces of pottery, jewelry, jars, ceremonial dresses, amulets, weapons, etc., which can be carbon dated or dated by the designs and decorations and association with other contemporary artifacts. For instance, an Egyptian mace (ceremonial staff symbol of authority) found in the tomb of the "Lord of the Goats" in Tell Mardikh belonged to the pharaoh Hetepibrek Harnedjheriotef of the Thirteenth Dynasty who reigned around 1760 B.C. Probably a gift from the Egyptian pharaoh to the king of Ebla the mace shows two baboons in adoration of the sun. The identification of the mace as belonging to the pharaoh of the Thirteenth Dynasty obviously helps us to date the site. (See Paolo Matthiae, Ebla: an Empire Rediscovered, 1980; and "New Discoveries at Ebla," Biblical Archaeologist, March 1984, p.25). The second method used for dating the tablets is the study of the writing which is found on tablets, ostrica, or other materials which have survived.

MARI TABLETS:

Mari, founded in the 3rd millennium B.C.E., is an ancient Sumero-Babylonian city on the Euphrates' West Bank (Modern Syria, near the Iraqi border). French Archaeologist, Andre Parrot, commissioned by the Musee de Louvre, discovered a royal library with more than 20,000 clay tablets about 4000 years old. The excavations were conducted in 1933-39 and 1951-64. Mari was a powerful settlement during the 3rd millennium, but it was conquered by Sargon of Agade, c. 2250. A dynasty led by King Yah-dun-Lim circa 1820 B.C.E., exercised hegemony over the entire area to the Mediterranean, controlling the surrounding seminomadic tribes. The Babylonian king, Hammurabi, brought the dynasty to an end in c. 1760 B.C.E. Information illuminating the age of the patriarchs seems to be the valuable contribution of these tablets. We know a great deal of the daily life of these people, especially of the activities at the 300 room royal palace. We know of the political and diplomatic activities between Mari and its neighbors, we have archives recording commercial operations in wine, honey, ice, wool, oil, etc. The religion of Mari included the worship of the sun (Saps) and moon (Sin, Yerah), a storm god (Adad), the goddess Ishtar, Dagan, Ba'al. 'El, Rasap the underworld god, and Lim, "the thousand gods," among others.

See A. Parrot, Mari, Capitalefabuleuse, 1974; B.F. Batto, Studies in Woman at Mari, 1974.

(Continues...)



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Table of Contents

Contents

What is the Bible?....................3
The Parts of the Hebrew Bible....................9
Archaeology and Biblical Studies....................12
Mesopotamian Background Sources....................22
Outline Genesis....................25
Differences Between First and Second Creation Story....................29
Four Major Sources of the Pentateuch....................44
Some Theories About the History and Evolution of the Pentateuch....................49
Prehistory of Israel....................51
The Themes of the Pentateuch Tradition....................52
Narrative Types in the Bible....................54
YHWH....................57
Genealogy of the Patriarchs....................58
The Law Code of Hammurabi....................61
Historical Background to Deuteronomy....................68
Moses....................71
Origin of the "Horned" Moses....................73
Ten Commandments and Other Codes....................76
Summary of the Exodus and Conquest Account....................78
Exodus as Epic....................81
Hebrew God and Religion....................83
The Ten Plagues....................84
Judicial and Penal System....................85
Murmurings and Counter-Revolutionary Behavior....................87
Joshua and Judges....................89
Thematic Connection Between Joshua and Judges....................91
Outline of Joshua....................92
The Book of Judges....................95
Outline 1 Samuel....................104
Outline 11 Samuel....................114
Outline 1 Kings....................121
Chronologies....................132
Job....................137
Outline Ecclesiastes....................139
Glossary....................141
Possible Religious and Philosophical Influences On Christianity....................149
Introduction to the New Testament....................154
Jesus of History....................156
Beliefs and Ideology of the New Testament....................157
Marcion and the Christian Gnostics (Second Century C.E.)....................162
Donatist Church....................165
The New Testament and the Hebrew Bible – The Old Testament....................168
The Synoptic Problem....................173
Some Literary Genres in The New Testament Literature....................174
Some Poetic Expressions of the Birth of Jesus....................176
The Parable....................179
Differences in the Passion Among the Gospels....................181
The Annunciation....................184
Some Christian Signs and Symbol....................186
Gospel According to Mark....................188
Distinctiveness of Luke's Gospel....................192
Characteristics of Gospel....................194
Matthew - A Schematic Outline....................195
The Gospel According to Luke....................198
Gospel According To John....................209
REVELATION....................215
Select Bibliography on The Book of Revelation....................219
The Book of Judith....................221
666 and All That Gematria....................223
Emperors of Rome During Early Christian Era....................225
References on Bible Origins and Comparative Mythology....................227

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