I know we have talked quite a bit about what we have not been able to do while living through the pandemic. What about the things we have gotten to do that maybe we didn’t before?
I have seen more people spending time with their families. That is awesome! Some people have tackled home improvements projects and made the most of their stay-cations.
For me, the pandemic allowed me to get plugged into a Bible study in the book of 1 John. It was cool to co-lead it with Seth and the group that we had included some people who probably would have not been able to make it if we were meeting in person. So the virtual study we were forced to have actually become a great opportunity for some to participate that could not normally. How cool is that!
As we studied 1 John, I was blown away with the references that John made to his gospel as well as to creation and the first 3 chapters of Genesis. He certainly knew a lot! Especially when you consider that they did not have printed copies of the Law & Prophets in every home!
It made me think about life in the exile.
The Babylonian exile took place in the around 722-721BC. What does that mean? That means the law of Moses had been recorded, and many of the prophets had shared their messages, but none of it had been canonized – or formally accepted by the religious leaders of their day.
So the Jewish exiles enter the land of their enemies, with no printed Word of God in their homes, and removed from their synagogues where they would read and learn about the Law.
It was about 300 years later that some of the Jews would rebuild the walls under Nehemiah’s leadership and we read this passage:
Nehemiah 8:1–3 (CSB) — 1 all the people gathered together at the square in front of the Water Gate. They asked the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses that the Lord had given Israel. 2 On the first day of the seventh month, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding. 3 While he was facing the square in front of the Water Gate, he read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men, the women, and those who could understand. All the people listened attentively to the book of the law.
ASK: If you were forced for 70 years to be away from church without a Bible or a Bible App, what would your faith be like? What about after 300 years?
We hope to get into the events of Nehemiah more in the months to come, but for now I think it is important for us think about the Bibles we have.
Did you know that the Bible you have was not created when Genesis 1 took place? 😊 Sometimes I think we take for granted what we have, but the Bibles we use today did not exist until quite recent in human history.
V Let me give you some dates:
Northern Kingdom (Israel) destroyed by Assyrians; 10 tribes exiled (10 lost tribes)
Southern Kingdom (Judah) and First Temple destroyed-Babylonian exile
ca. 450 B.C.E.
Torah (Pentateuch = first division of Jewish Scriptures) begins to gain recognition as Scripture.
ca. 250 B.C.E.
"Septuagint" translation of Torah into Greek.
ca. 201 B.C.E.
Prophets (second division of Jewish Scriptures) recognized by some as Scripture
ca. 50-125 C.E.
Christian Testament (NT) writings.
Writings (third and last division of Jewish Scriptures) discussed and accepted as sacred scripture.
Oldest existing text of full Hebrew Bible is written.
The Protestant canon of Old & New Testaments were defined.
Jewish Virtual Library (https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/timeline-for-the-history-of-judaism
Some interesting things to note:
1. The acceptance of the Torah (the writings of Moses) did not take place until AFTER the exile though they were widely read before that.
2. The third part of the Tanakh (the Writings) were not accepted until after much of the NT was penned.
3. The entire OT (Tanakh) was not believed to be compiled into a single volume until about 1,000 years after the birth of Jesus.
4. While there is a lot of debate about WHEN the Tanakh (or Old Testament of our Bibles) was compiled, the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Torah) was written somewhere about 250-200 BC (ish)
5. The Council in Rome (382) is believed to be the first place a complete canon of both Old & New testaments was established.
You and I have printed bibles. As a matter of fact, I have dozens of them both in print and digital form. Most of you have phones or tablets that have the entire text of the bible on them.
If you lived during the exile, you did NOT have a printed Bible. You had your memory. When you USED to gather at the temple, the priests would read to you the scriptures so you could commit them to memory. So, as a exile you did not have access to the written word or God. Nor did you have a place to go and hear it.
Is it possible that such a reality helped fuel the creation of the texts? It is speculation of course, but I think a real possibility. It has been documented that in countries where the Bible is forbidden, there is a greater value placed on it and a greater desire to know it and remember it.
PERHAPS it is time that we, as the modern church, make an effort to re-discover the scriptures.
We have 66 books in our Protestant Bible.
There is actually a really cool table that shows which books were accepted by which groups (Catholic, Protestant, etc) at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_canon
To simply for this morning, we have: 66 TOTAL Books = 39 OT & 27 NT
The JEWS had just the OT and they had 24 books broken down into 3 sections :Law, Prophets, Other Writings.
The Five Books of Moses (Torah)
The Eight Books of the Prophets (Neviim)
· The Twelve (minor prophets)
The Eleven Books of the Writings (Ketuvim)
· Song of Songs
But that is just the organization of the texts. The bible is more than just a compilation of random works. Though many books by many authors it carries with it common themes and teachings that are unified. It is a piece of literature that is carefully woven together that encompasses a plethora of literary styles!
You and I have a GIFT in our hands – we have the words of God that teach us about Him and us and each other.
How many of your are familiar with this verse?
2 Timothy 3:16–17 (CSB) — 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
ASK: When you read that verse, what do YOU think it applies to?
Well, many scholars place the writing of 1st Timothy at around 67 AD. According to our timeline, the only SCRIPTURES that had been formalized at this point would be the Law and the Prophets!
You could read Paul’s words to Timothy as, “Everything written in the law and the prophets is inspired by God and is profitable….”
When you understand the timeline you come up with some interesting questions, like why would Paul write that? Possibly because the church in Ephesus (Turkey) might have thought the Jewish writings did not apply to them? [though I am sure out modern churches would not think this way!]
The modern church automatically translates “all scripture” to be the canon that we have accepted in the 1500s, but for Paul, it was the law and the prophets.
And yet most of us spend very little time actually studying the law and the prophets. We want the good stories, but we certainly don’t want to weed through genealogies!
Can I say that the modern church in the United States has lost something! We relegated the “profitable” parts of the Bible to the Pauline epistles and gospels and have missed out on the beauty and wonder of the God and his interaction with his creation that those NT authors studied and based their understanding of Jesus on.
The ENTIRE BIBLE it an amazing book! And the more I learn to view ALL of it as the inspired word of God the more amazed I am with it!
I cannot think of any other book that has so many authors and yet stays consistent. Nor any book that has so many literary styles to help us contemplate the message in so many different ways!
““Literary genre” refers to the category or the kind of writing characterized by a particular form(s) and/or content. Distinguishing the various genres (kinds of literature) in Scripture helps us interpret the Bible more accurately.”
In his book, Basic Bible Interpretation, Roy Zuck provides a helpful list and summary of the different types of literary genres within the Bible: legal, narrative, poetry, wisdom literature, Gospels, logical discourse, and prophetic literature.
Basic Bible INTERPRETATION by Roy B. Zuck © 1991 David C Cook Publisher
· Wisdom literature
· Logical discourse
· Prophetic literature
Some other sources add topics like “parables” and “apocalyptic” as literature types, we should not get hung up on having an exact number of them but recognizing that there is a great variety, and each of them need us to approach and teach it differently.
ILLUSTRATION: 3 books – how would you approach each one? What would you expect to the result when you are done? Just as we approach instructional books different than allegories and both of those different than a biography, each genre of the Bible has a unique way of engaging us, which require different expectations going in and application at the end.
V SHOW Bible Project Video V
Let’s look at some of these genres together.
If you read a book like, “How to win friends and influence people” then you will want to take notes and make a plan on how to implement new strategies to help you grow and improve. Or if you read a book like, “The Five Love Languages”, hopefully you come away from it looking for ways to speak your spouses love language more effectively.
This is a lot like reading the books of James in the New Testament, or just about any of the Pauline epistles.
James 1:2–4 (CSB) — 2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
1 John 2:3–6 (CSB) — 3 This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know him,” and yet doesn’t keep his commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps his word, truly in him the love of God is made complete. This is how we know we are in him: 6 The one who says he remains in him should walk just as he walked.
While not the largest section of scripture, this is the group of books that most churches focus on. Probably because they were written during the church are, appeal to our Roman mindsets and also preach really well.
When we teach history in school, sometimes the lessons we teach have an application – especially when civil rights are involved. Sometimes it is simply because we want our kids to have context for their current culture and an understanding of where they came from and the price that has been paid.
I think this is very similar to much of the historical narrative of the OT. When we read about the wilderness wanderings of Israel, or the new testament in the gospels and Acts. The majority of the Old testament, as well as the gospels, is narrative.
Joshua 1:1–3 (CSB) — 1 After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’s assistant: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites. 3 I have given you every place where the sole of your foot treads, just as I promised Moses.
Luke 1:1–4 (CSB) — 1 Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. 3 So it also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.
Many of the narratives are viewed through the lens of specific people, such as Joshua or Moses or David. We would call these biographies.
How many of you have read a biography? What ones have you read? Did you get done with the book and make a list of all the things you need to do with the information you just digested? Of course not! It was a biography!
I asked my father-in-law what he likes so much as biographies. I believe it is the insight into the lives of other people. He also stated that he wants a biography to show the strengths and weaknesses of the individual – it needs to be real.
I think this is a beautiful picture of what the scriptures do! We read about the life of Moses, the amazing man of God who led Israel out of Egypt and to the promised land. – who also murdered someone and ran away, said “no” to God and eventually forfeit his right to enter the promised land.
Biographies are designed to give us insight into the life of the person we are reading about and perhaps to alter our world view and make us think about your relationship relationships, faith, etc. In the case of many of the biographies of the Bible it helps us understand the human condition.
We read poetry as a way to invoke deeper thoughts: sometimes we can called to it bluntly, other times via metaphor and illustration.
Similarly, the poetry of Scripture can either remind you of an historical event like many of the Psalms, or they can illicit images of romance and passion like the Song of Solomon. Perhaps the most famous poem is this one:
Psalm 23 (CSB) — A psalm of David. 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need. 2 He lets me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.
If you walk away from that thinking, “I need to be better at feeding where God is leading” then you have really missed the point! lol
According to Britannica, poetry is, “literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.”
We do not approach poetry the same way we approach logical discourse or narrative.
Perhaps the closest thing we have to parables today would be allegorical writings such as “The Pilgrims Progress” or some of C.S. Lewis’s works like, “The Great Divorce”. They are meant to tell a story that parallels another story or truth.
Jesus spoke many parables about the kingdom of God:
Mark 4:30–32 (CSB) — 30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use to describe it? 31 It’s like a mustard seed that, when sown upon the soil, is the smallest of all the seeds on the ground. 32 And when sown, it comes up and grows taller than all the garden plants, and produces large branches, so that the birds of the sky can nest in its shade.”
I tried to think of a modern day comparison to this and could not think of much that we have that is like the wisdom literature of the Bible, like Proverbs. Wisdom literature is rarely meant to be taken at face value, but to make you think about what it is saying and process it. For instance:
Ecclesiastes 7:1–2 (CSB) — 1 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. 2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart.
Every time I read and think about those verses I come away with another possible meaning, another possible teaching or truth that I can embrace.
Some are a bit easier to comprehend, like one of my personal favorites:
Proverbs 26:11 (CSB) — 11 As a dog returns to its vomit, so also a fool repeats his foolishness.
Again, the goal of wisdom literature it contemplation as much or more than direct applications. You don’t walk away from that verse with the lesson, “God does not want me to eat vomit”. 😊 You are being asked to consider if you keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again, acting like a fool. This is what Israel did that got them sent into exile and this is the tendency of all mankind as we struggle in this life with sin.
Each type of literature we read creates a different experience and solicits different responses, emotions and thoughts.
AND, as the Bible Project video brought up, each book of the Bible can contain a mix of these different literary styles.
V CHART: Book of Mark – I took some time to go verse by verse through the book of Mark and for me, it broke down like this…
So, you might be thinking, “Why did you bring this up, Pastor Mike?”
Well, it is not so that I can give you 3 application points to take home with you 😉
The Bible is one of the greatest compilations of literary styles you will find in a single volume!
But what makes the Bible even more amazing, is that all of these books were written over hundreds and hundreds of years with a bunch of different authors, and YET they all tell one story – God’s story.
I wanted to share what God has been teaching me about the gift that He has given us in his Word. Though I went to Bible college and have been an elder at NCF since 1990, I feel like the more I read and study God’s word the more I found out I do not know! And yet I also learn more about God and his heart.
As we continue to study God’s word together in the years to come, that we would re-discover the wonder of God and his word. In the words of Paul:
Ephesians 1:15–19 (CSB) — 15 This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.