A Different Order (February 1, 2012)

…Opening To…

The Bible is a harp with a thousand strings. Play on one to the exclusion of its relationship to the others, and you will develop discord. Play on all of them, keeping them in their places in the divine scale, and you will hear heavenly music all the time. (William P. White)

…Listening In…

The proverbs of Solomon, King David’s son, from Israel: Their purpose is to teach wisdom and discipline, to help one understand wise sayings. They provide insightful instruction, which is righteous, just, and full of integrity. (Proverbs 1:1-3; context)

…Filling Up…

Jews and Christians share the texts found in the Hebrew Scriptures. For the Jewish faith, these texts are the Bible, and for Christians, they are most of the Bible. (Ever notice just how short the New Testament is compared to the Hebrew Scriptures?) While some early Christians ignored the Hebrew Scriptures completely, the vast majority recognized that they were the Bible for the people who wrote the New Testament and therefore they were the Bible for them, as well. (Next week we’ll talk about the fact that the writers of the New Testament didn’t know they were writing the Bible when they did it.)

So we share these texts with our Jewish brothers and sisters. But, you know what’s a bit strange? We changed to the order. The Jewish Bible, on the one hand, puts the books in a categorical order, with each book fitting into one of three broad categories. The Christian Bible, on the other hand, attempts a rough chronological order. (The broad reason for this was that the Christian Bible drew on a Greek source called the Septuagint, which was ordered differently from the Hebrew texts.)

The Jewish Bible is known as the “Tanakh,” which isn’t really a word at all, but a Hebrew acronym. The acronym stands for the three categories that make up the order of the Bible. First, there’s the Torah, which is the first five books of the Bible (Genesis through Deuteronomy); oftentimes, Torah is rendered as “law,” but “teaching” is a better translation. Second, there are the books of the prophets (“Nevi’im” in Hebrew). Third, there are the books of writings (“Ketuvim” in Hebrew).

By organizing the Hebrew Scriptures into these broad categories, the Jewish order makes a point to show the varied ways that our common ancestors in the faith experienced the movement of God. This movement didn’t just happen in a linear, chronological progression: rather, it happened in poetry and prophecy, in tales of slaves and kings, in advice and song. Is this not how we understand God’s movement in our lives, too?

…Praying For…

Dear God, you revealed yourself to your people Israel in many and varied ways. Help me to participate as they did in your movement in my life, that I may have stories to tell generations yet unborn. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, grateful for your presence throughout time and space, as recorded in the Bible and lived in my life.

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