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Friday, October 3, 2014

Bible 6: More on Authors

   So last week we looked at actual authors of individual books. We identified two ways of envisioning inspiration, in both of them, the Spirit has a very high degree of control over every word (even every letter). The sole focus, though, is on the (final) written text. Is that all there is to inspiration?

3. A third approach broadens and deepens the meaning of 'inspiration' of the individual Biblical book to include far more. Certainly, somebody sat down one day and “finished” our existing text at the end of a process. [A letter may have taken days or weeks or months to compile, other works, especially historical ones, cover centuries.] The final edition is the end of a long process “guided” by God Who is the Ultimate Source and The Author. (Guided could mean totally controlled/”dictated” by Holy Spirit through a human—or—more subtly influenced by Holy Spirit with (a) human(s);and everything in between)
o   Authorship in this case, however, includes God’s controlling presence in events, memory and oral transmission and retransmission of narratives about those events (including reshaping oral tradition in light of ongoing events), written sources (collected sayings or shorter versions). [By analogy it is like what we mean that God created us; a human being from fertilized egg to adult; actively dictating each step; each step having import and value to those who are present at the time.]
§  What happened (events) matters as it is revelatory about God’s real activity. Insight into how He works with us. “Revelation” is (sometimes) the actual event and not just the narrative. [is the written Exodus account really more important than the miracle of the exodus from Egypt?]
§  As different texts were written at different times, words had different meanings. The name of God's people changed (Hebrews, Israelites, Jews). Israel was the nation before the Civil War and the Northern Kingdom afterwards. Satan (the word means "The Adversary") developed over time; in Job he is Heaven's prosecuting attorney, by Jesus' day he is the devil. Gehenna, a valley where child sacrifice took place in Kings, is later a garbage dump, and in Jesus' day an image of Hell—abode of dead and later place of torment for evil dead. The afterlife and resurrection are central in the New Testament, but in the more ancient Old Testament do not occur (which is why conservative, Bible believing Jews like the Sadducees did not believe in it). The Bible itself makes reference to cities which change names and various places/things "which are still there to this day", reflecting different times and settings.
§  The Acts of Apostles indicate some Christians did not know about baptism in Jesus name, but only John's baptism of repentance. They did not know about the Holy Spirit. One can assume that every community had its own, limited materials and  datum of faith. They also had perspectives. Jewish priests in Judah see the Temple differently than northerners. Prophetic voices compete with pro-monarch groups. Wisdom literature, prophetic literature and apocalyptic literature overlap, but one must admit that they have different modes of communication and different agendas to emphasize (partly because of their audiences and context) 
 Historical context matters because what God said “then and there” to “them” must be understood in order to faithfully “interpret” Word of God for “here and now.” (use of analogy, metaphor, simile, etc.; for example texts on Jewish circumcision might be ‘interpreted’ in today’s church as ‘baptism.’) There is a “context” for the Word which must also be considered (as well as a timeless aspect). This is a basis for particular approaches to interpretation.
IN conclusion, something to ponder is the work of the Spirit/Breath/Wind of God (inspiration) in all events, especially the billions of moving parts which came together to produce the Bible.

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