The World of the Bible and of its Writing
by Bobby Bruno
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What do we mean by the term “canon”? How did people know or decided which books belonged in the Bible?
The word “canon” means measuring stick. The meaning implies that the Bible is the standard by which we measure our faith and of the practices that we as Christians and Jews follow.
Those that decided what books belonged in the Bible did so by looking to see if the book was written by a prophet or a Spirit-led person of God’s choosing. Then they looked to see if the writings would be understood by all people no matter what age or generation they read the Scriptures in. Then, lastly, they made sure that no word or thought did not contradict or oppose anything written in the other books. The books together had to agree in their theology of God. Any contradictions or opposing views would make the book unusable to be used as canonical.
1. Identify the different theories of inspiration. What do evangelicals mean when they use the term “plenary verbal inspiration”? What are the implications of plenary verbal inspiration?
Neo-Orthodox Theory – Only by direct revelation from God can we know anything about Him.
Dictation Theory – God’s people played secretary as He dictated his words to the scribes.
Limited Inspiration Theory – God gave man direct word-for-word revelation of what He wanted them to write down, giving the “scribes” no voice of their own in the writing of the Scriptures.
Plenary Verbal Inspiration Theory – The Holy Spirit gave the words to the scribes, but also gave them license to use their own words while the Spirit guided them it what to say
2. Describe the process by which those who copied the Scriptures passed them down to us. Name and briefly describe the significance of the major manuscripts we have.
The Masoretes’ process was nothing short of miraculous. They devised a system by which they could guarantee that there were no mistakes made in the copying of Scripture. First, they created a vowel system for the Hebrew language to keep the oral tradition within the written words. Then they used accents to help in pronouncing the text, which also helped to provide the relationship between the words and phrases in relation to each other. Lastly, they made copious notes to help them check what they had written to ensure its accuracy. I have also read that they also counted the words systematically. For example, they would count every fifth letter to see if they matched up with the original, and then would proceed to count every sixth letter, then every seventh letter and so on to make sure there were no missed letters or numbers throughout the entire book.
3. What do Bible interpreters mean by the expression “grammatical-historical interpretation”? Why is it important to use good guidelines for interpretation? How many of those guidelines can you name?
“Grammatical-historical interpretation” helps us interpret the Bible in a way that makes the plain sense of the Scripture come alive by following the rules of grammar and syntax. It asks us to look at the words grammatically and determine what they meant historically to those who are reading them. By knowing what the author’s original intention was for saying these words we can understand what is being said and how it applies to our lives.
It is important for us to know exactly what God is saying through the author He chose to write down these words. If we just look at a Scripture and take it at face value, we may misinterpret it, follow it and find ourselves in a position we would have stayed out of if we had interpreted the Scripture properly following the rules of solid interpretation. For example, (to use an old expression of how misinterpreting Scripture could have dire consequences on your life) suppose you read in the Bible the Scripture that says, “And then Judas hanged himself”, and then you flipped the page and read the Scripture that says, “Go and do likewise”, that misinterpretation could cost you your life.
First, you need to look at the immediate context. If you were looking for a verse to help you with your finances, you wouldn’t look up a Scripture that talked about catching fish, you would look up the verse on tithing, for example. Second, you will need to look at the remote context. You would need to look at the Scriptures surrounding the verse you are looking at for answers and see if those surrounding verses are in context with your verse. If they are not talking about the same subject then you would need to seek further to find a Scripture that speaks about what your immediate need is. Then you have the historical context. Does the Scripture you are looking at compare with other verses in the Bible that speak about the same subject? If other Scriptures don’t compare exactly with what you are seeking help for then you will need to find some that do. God, thankfully, did not design the Bible for a mix and match way of interpreting Scripture. He has allowed man to find ways that help us know exactly what He is saying in His word.
4. How is the Old Testament “incarnational”?
Everything that happens in the Old Testament, in some way or another, points to Jesus Christ and the salvation He would bring to the people of earth in the future. There are “types” of Jesus all throughout the Old Testament. From Moses to David, Jesus is represented in their lives and service to the people of God -- in Moses we find freedom for the captives; in David we find a man after God’s own heart, as Jesus was in the eyes of His Father. The prophets all spoke about Jesus and the time when God would set His people free once and for all in the future, where He would live and reign with them forever.
5. Why was the location of Israel strategic in ancient times?
The land of Israel is the strip of land that connects Asia, Africa, and Europe together. It was, and still is, the best trade route between these continents. Because of this, much cultural history and valuables passed through Israel on its way to all the lands which bordered upon it, making her a very valuable piece of land. To own the trade routes of Israel is to control the lands around her.
6. Discuss the international social and political climate during the patriarchal age of Israel’s history.
It was during the Middle Bronze Age that Israel’s Patriarchs reigned. At that time, the Amorites ruled Mesopotamia, which gave way to Hammurapi and his rule of Babylon. The Canaanites were also establishing their rule over the land. The Hittites rose up as a nation and fell. It was from this that God called Abram to leave his home in Ur and to head for the land that God would show him. In the Late Bronze Age, Moses and Joshua rose up as leaders of God to bring His people into the land He had promised Abram, now named Abraham.
7. What political changes did Iron Age II bring to the ancient Near East? What ramifications did this have for Israel?
At this time, Israel was a divided country – Israel to the north, and Judah to the south. Egypt began to resurrect but failed to do so. Mesopotamia was where the biggest changes were taking place. The Assyrians, on the rise and making great changes to the political scene, were at their weakest during the first half of their reign but grew in power to be used by God to send Israel a powerful message of His displeasure at their turning away from His. But the biggest change was in Israel and Judah during the reigns of Jeroboam (Israel) and Uzziah (Judah). Their kingdoms did prosper but their turning from God decayed the moral and social fabric of their society, spawning the prophets sent by God to turn the nation back around to Him. Over time, and through many different nations, all of this led to the destruction of the temple and the total destruction of Jerusalem in 587B.C., and the scattering of her people.
Arnold, B., Beyer, B. (1999, 2008). Encountering the old testament: a christian survey. GrandRapids, MI: Baker Academic.
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