Monday, January 21, 2019

OT Theology of God 2 (canon 2)

Continued from last week

The Christian Old Testament
The same books that are the Jewish Scriptures are also the Old Testament for Christians. It is important to understand the distinction. The ultimate meaning of words is a function of their contexts. Accordingly, the words of the books of the Jewish Scriptures and Old Testament--although they are the same words--have quite different connotations and implications depending on the canonical context in which we place them.

The meanings of words are ambiguous without context. Words tend to have multiple possible definitions, not to mention the virtually limitless metaphorical uses to which they can be put. Additionally, the books of the Old Testament are not one book but a collection of books written over hundreds of years in differing contexts themselves. When this multiplicity of factors is conjoined with the question of appropriation for today, the import of these books can vary widely depending on who is doing the appropriation.

For those who do not accept the New Testament as Scripture, the Old Testament is not "old." It is not incomplete. For Judaism, the Old Testament is the testament. For such a person, the Jewish Scriptures may not anticipate a coming king. A Jewish reader may or may not see human nature as fallen or intrinsically corrupted. Such a person may see prayer and worship as the contemporary equivalent of the sacrificial system of Leviticus.

For a Christian reader of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is the king who continues the royal line of David. The death and resurrection of Christ provides a fulfillment of the Levitical sacrificial system. For the Christian, default human nature is under the power of Sin, with Adam as either the literal or symbolic demonstration.

This biblical theology is a Christian biblical theology. That is to say, while we will try to listen to each biblical text first on its own terms, the ultimate organizing principles assume that a New Testament followed the Old Testament. Further, we assume that the Christian church followed the New Testament.

Of course Christians disagree on the precise contents of the Old Testament canon. They agree on sixty-six of those books. They agree on the five books of the Law: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They agree on the "Former Prophets" of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. They agree on the "Latter Prophets" of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

It is in the Writings that there is some disagreement. Nevertheless, even here, there is agreement on Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Ruth, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Lamentations, and Daniel. To these books, the Roman Catholic Church would add Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, as well as additions to Esther and Daniel. The Orthodox and Ethiopian churches include one or more others.

In keeping with Jerome's categorization of these as "deuterocanonical," as a kind of second canon. While we may reference them on occasion, we will focus on the books on which all Christians agree. Where these other books are most relevant for us is when they illuminate some aspect of New Testament belief or practice.

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