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Thread: The Bible, in Order: but on whose orders? Some significant reorganizations of Scripture

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    Super Moderator Atheos's Avatar
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    I wonder why everyone assumes JC was a carpenter. It only ever says he was a carpenter's son. If he practiced what he preached he didn't have a job at all. He would be like the lilies of the field, not toiling nor spinning.

    If he even existed at all. He could have just been another Paul Bunyan for all we can tell.

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    Veteran Member Sarpedon's Avatar
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    Because, traditionally, trades were inherited.

    You are correct in saying that the phrasing implies he wasn't a carpenter himself. Though it would be extremely likely he would have helped his father growing up and learned the skills regardless of whether he made his living from the trade himself.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Stage 3: The New Testament

    The Hebrew Scriptures underwent a series of further revisions as history rolled on, most significantly at the hands of Christians, whose view of them came to be so dominant as to replace Hebrew perspectives on the global stage.

    Christianity began as a Jewish sect, and the Hebrew Scriptures remained "the Scriptures" for its first few generations. There are a number of reasons why this might be so, ranging from the ethnic background of its membership in the first generation to the importance of antiquity in establishing a religion as legitimate. From a classical perspective, "new" was not generally considered "better", and if the early Christians wanted to evade persecution under new Roman Empire, it was critically important that they demonstrate some connection that would make them the legitimate inheritors of Jewish tradition, not a new cult or offshoot that would run up against state laws against unsponsored voluntary associations. Judaism was on tense footing with their Greek and later Roman rulers due to their exclusive monotheism, but they at least had the antiquity of their rituals to fall back on, and this resulted in tenuous (if not eternal) acceptance. The Hebrew Scriptures themselves were Exhibit A for this argument for acceptability and tolerance. The Christians were obliged on an existential level to not just respect but actually claim the Hebrew Scriptures as their own, a project which has come to be called supercessionism.

    This had two practical results:
    1. The Hebrew Scriptures had to stay
    2. But they also had to be interpreted in such a way as to make Christianity look like the natural inheritor of Jewish tradition.

    Most Christian congregations had at a copy of at least the Torah and likely some of the other Scriptures during the persecution years, but our windows onto their textual practice are few and far between. We know that a theological education in Hebrew Scriptures was integral to Christian training at least for the wealthy, because we see quotations from the LXX playing a critical role in the writings of authors from this period, such as Origen, Irenaus, and the pseudo-Clement.

    Meanwhile, the books which have come to be known as the New Testament were also entering circulation. These fell into four basic classes:

    1. Gospels
    A literary genre seemingly unique to Christianity itself, falling somewhere in between the "lives" (biographies) of antiquity and reflective theological works. They are quite diverse in form and argument, but united by the common topic of representing the life and teachings of Jesus.
    2. Acts
    Usually copied the general format of the Gospels, but usually concerned the lives of the earliest Christian missionaries and martyrs.
    3. Epistles
    Letters written by the early apostles to one another and to distant congregations to whom they had a connection, conforming more or less to the normal standard of letter-writing in that era.
    4. Apocalypse
    tr: "That which is revealed"; a literary borrowing from the Persian world, in which an author recounts a "trip" or vision of the otherworld/afterlife, from which he is allowed to return bearing a message about the end of times.

    I have listed these in the order in which they usually appear in Christian canons, despite the many variations of organization that exist. By far the most influential Christian reorganization was that of St. Jerome, which became the "Latin Vulgate" and the mainstay of Roman style Christianity up to the present. It popularized (though did not invent) the use of "Old Testament" and "New Testament" as the basic textual division, and its basic ordering of the texts has often been echoed even in subsequent and even opposed canonical creations. Some observations about the most common variations of the Christian canon:

    1. It is based on the LXX, and therefore contained several books that were present in the Greek Jewish canon, but not in Hebrew language versions. These include the books of Tobit, Judith, 1st and 2nd Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch. This creates a noticeable difference between modern Jewish Bibles and Catholic-influenced Christian ones.

    2. The categorical arrangement of the HS was broken, with all books placed into something approximating (ie. as well as contemporary scholarship knew enough to tell them) chronological ordering of the events they describe. So for instance, the book of Ruth, which is placed among the Ketuvim in the HS, is moved by Christians to a much earlier spot, between Judges and 1st Samuel. Rather than being seen as a parable of sorts and part of the cycle of holiday-only readings, therefore, the reader is instead given the impression that Ruth is a book of history bridging the gap between the end of the tribal era and the beginning stages of monarchic rule. This helps to characterize the entirety of the HS as having a linear trajectory of historical presentation that points, not so coincidentally, toward the start of the NT, as though the one were only picking up where the previous had left off. The Christian HS isn't a topically organized collection of Jewish stories; it's an argument about the inevitable trajectory of time and prophecy.

    3. The books are used differently liturgically. Christian worship services always include a reading from the "old testament", but this is chosen without preference to type, one is likely to hear a reading from the Ketuvim at any time of year, rather than in connection with the Jewish holidays, or with the books of the prophets being given as much if not more weight than the Tanakh. Christian readings from Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and Numbers are pointedly rare, in stark contrast to the Jewish reading cycle which includes the entirety of the Tanakh during a standard year. Christian readings were also in Latin (and later, other vernacular languages) rather than in Hebrew as in a synagogue community.

    4. Because of the re-ordering, the last line of the OT differs from that of the HS. In the HS, it is 11 Chronicles 36:23, which can be translated "Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up." In the Old Testament, it is Malachi 4:6 "He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse." Both are Messianic verses, but the one seems to imply that Cyrus of Persia was said Messiah, whereas the Malchi verse is referring to Elijah's second coming (a prophet, and the "he" referenced in the verse. If you're reading the Christian Bible in order, this is followed directly by the genealogy which connects Jesus to Elijah's tribe at the head of Matthew, a book which features a miraculous visit from Elijah himself to endorse Jesus during an event Christians called the Transfiguration (Mt 17). Malachi is also, as a whole book, openly critical of the Hebrew priestly hierarchy centered in Jerusalem and its perceived failings. So the rhetorical effect of the re-ordering is almost certainly not accidental.

    5. The New Testament canon shrunk considerably over time, and by Jerome's era was tiny compared to either the HS or to its own earlier drafts. Two of the genres mentioned above have only two entries. Acts were once abundant, and treasured by individual communities since they usually described the founding of their congregation. The Orthodox canon was serving the empire, not tiny communities, and includes just one master work, the "Acts of the Apostles" which in practice concerns mostly the careers of St. Peter and St. Paul respectively. Even some very popular works, such as the "Acts of Paul and Thekla", did not make this cut. Also noticeable, no careers of female apostles or deacons are described in detail, despite having been quite popular during the pre-legalization years. Similarly, the Apocalypse genre is left with only one entry in most Christian canons, the Apocalypse or Revelation of John. It nearly got cut as well, but it had the prestige of having one of the twelve disciples (as was claimed) as its author, and many passages already had a well established place in the liturgy. Some Christian communities include an additional apocalyptic work, most importantly Shepherd of Hermas, which seems to have been considered canonical by most of the earliest Church Fathers. The Epistles are greatly reduced in number as well, and edited to heavily favor (again) Paul and Peter who were both strongly connected to the establishment of the Roman church and from whom the Holy See is said to derive its lineage and authority. The Gospels narrowly escaped being reduced to one abridged work, the most popular version of this was the 2nd century work called the Diatesseron, which harmonized the gospels around a mostly Lukan framework. Though extremely popular in its time and considered canon by the Syriac church for more than a century, the Diatesseron was eventually rejected by the orthodoxy in part due to the declining reputation of Tatian, it's author, who came to be labeled as a heretic by later generations. By that time, the popularity of the four-gospel canon was so enshrined in both theological circles and popular liturgy, there was no unseating them.

    6. The Protestant Canon resulted in further variations. Martin Luther rejected the works present in LXX but not the Hebrew Bible, and initiated the practice of referring to those seven books as the "Apocrypha'; they were still reprinted in many Protestant Bibles over the ensuing centuries, but usually as an appendix clearly delineated from the rest. American Bibles and translations, which have the longest global reach in the world today, seldom include them at all, even in commentary.

    So there you go! "The Bible" can seem like it is "a book" when you refer to it that way, and compared to some other religious works in history, it could be truly observed that its actual content has changed surprisingly little over the years. Of the books that made the cut, the textual differences between one version of their text and the next are seldom extreme (unless you are enough of a literalist to be deeply alramed by a missing preposition!). But which books were included, and in what order, changed considerably over time and the order in which they were presented meant that the transition of the Bible first from an oral tradition to a scriptorium, and then again to a block-printed codex, was always a dynamic and highly charged political act.

  4. Top | #24
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    Carpenter is an artifact of translation. I heard it said a better approximation would be 'handyman'

    Paul is translated as saying something about homosexual sex. From what I read it was more likely a general reference to pagan libertine sex.

    As has been stated before, we have no idea what the cultural context was. What was literal and what was colloquial.


    .

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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Stage 3: The New Testament

    The Hebrew Scriptures underwent a series of further revisions as history rolled on, most significantly at the hands of Christians, whose view of them came to be so dominant as to replace Hebrew perspectives on the global stage.

    Christianity began as a Jewish sect, and the Hebrew Scriptures remained "the Scriptures" for its first few generations. There are a number of reasons why this might be so, ranging from the ethnic background of its membership in the first generation to the importance of antiquity in establishing a religion as legitimate. From a classical perspective, "new" was not generally considered "better", and if the early Christians wanted to evade persecution under new Roman Empire, it was critically important that they demonstrate some connection that would make them the legitimate inheritors of Jewish tradition, not a new cult or offshoot that would run up against state laws against unsponsored voluntary associations. Judaism was on tense footing with their Greek and later Roman rulers due to their exclusive monotheism, but they at least had the antiquity of their rituals to fall back on, and this resulted in tenuous (if not eternal) acceptance. The Hebrew Scriptures themselves were Exhibit A for this argument for acceptability and tolerance. The Christians were obliged on an existential level to not just respect but actually claim the Hebrew Scriptures as their own, a project which has come to be called supercessionism.

    This had two practical results:
    1. The Hebrew Scriptures had to stay
    2. But they also had to be interpreted in such a way as to make Christianity look like the natural inheritor of Jewish tradition.
    I'd wonder: Which are the true heritors of the Hebrew scriptures .. the Judaic real Mccoy? Judaism as according to the various groups, mainly the Priestly class - Maccabees , the Rabbinics, or the Essenes? Why wouldn't the Saints - the followers of Christ, who were themselves Jews, have any lesser inheritance to the Hebrew scriptures than any other group of Jews?

  6. Top | #26
    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Learner View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Stage 3: The New Testament

    The Hebrew Scriptures underwent a series of further revisions as history rolled on, most significantly at the hands of Christians, whose view of them came to be so dominant as to replace Hebrew perspectives on the global stage.

    Christianity began as a Jewish sect, and the Hebrew Scriptures remained "the Scriptures" for its first few generations. There are a number of reasons why this might be so, ranging from the ethnic background of its membership in the first generation to the importance of antiquity in establishing a religion as legitimate. From a classical perspective, "new" was not generally considered "better", and if the early Christians wanted to evade persecution under new Roman Empire, it was critically important that they demonstrate some connection that would make them the legitimate inheritors of Jewish tradition, not a new cult or offshoot that would run up against state laws against unsponsored voluntary associations. Judaism was on tense footing with their Greek and later Roman rulers due to their exclusive monotheism, but they at least had the antiquity of their rituals to fall back on, and this resulted in tenuous (if not eternal) acceptance. The Hebrew Scriptures themselves were Exhibit A for this argument for acceptability and tolerance. The Christians were obliged on an existential level to not just respect but actually claim the Hebrew Scriptures as their own, a project which has come to be called supercessionism.

    This had two practical results:
    1. The Hebrew Scriptures had to stay
    2. But they also had to be interpreted in such a way as to make Christianity look like the natural inheritor of Jewish tradition.
    I'd wonder: Which are the true heritors of the Hebrew scriptures .. the Judaic real Mccoy? Judaism as according to the various groups, mainly the Priestly class - Maccabees , the Rabbinics, or the Essenes? Why wouldn't the Saints - the followers of Christ, who were themselves Jews, have any lesser inheritance to the Hebrew scriptures than any other group of Jews?
    An interesting question. It seems to me that all those mentioned are inheritors of the Hebrew Scriptures, to say nothing of Neoplatonism, the Persian faith, and many other traditions - clearly, these works are fundamentally interlinked with the social identity and character of all those traditions which trace their lineage back to the wandering desert tribes of Ur. Most of the world, by numbers.

    But whether or not you are a "true" or "natural" inheritor seems more like a question of dueling stories. People are not generally convinced of the value of stories by their contents, but by their degree of social connection to the storyteller. It should be expected, in any religious schism, that people on either side of the divide will be apt to persuade themselves and others that theirs is the only legitimate evolution of the tradition.

    I note that though the Scriptures themselves were kept, nearly all Christians had rejected Judaism qua Judaism, quite violently and vehemently, by the end of the first Christian century. They might wish to see themselves as valid inheritors of Abraham, but the average Christian in the wake of the destruction of the Jewish state, had no desire to be seen as Jews. They were, we might say now, post-Jews, not Jews. By their own account. Indeed the majority of Christians alive at that time are thought to have been Gnostics (whose scriptures I omitted for space and brevity's sake) and many believed that Jews were lost in service to a wicked false god known as the Demiurge, or corrupted godly emanations called the Archons. A difficult bridge to gap, though the modern movement of Messianic Judaism has tried to span it.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    In part the books are dated by things like language and word usage, references to architecture, and references to known history.

    From the Oxford Comment ray there is an architecture reference in the NT that is out of date with the alleged time.
    Many feel that the many references to the then-future destruction of the Temple are evidence that the Gospels themselves must post-date the historical destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, and furthermore see the writing of the gospels a kind of response to that event. You don't feel the need for a written Scriptural tradition if you have disciples running around who knew Jesus personally and are telling you he'll be back within your lifetimes. But after thousands of people have died, and the Temple that Jesus was meant to inherit has been torn down brick by brick, the refugee community may have realized that they were in for a longer haul than originally promised.

    I'm a bit agnostic on this point. I don't think it is inconceivable, looking at the wider perspective of revitalization movements across history, for the prophet of a new faith to predict the violent physical dismantling of their source tradition, and if Jesus made such a prediction one can imagine it hit people a bit differently when it seemed to come true just forty years after his death.

    From a recent show it looks like the exodus story of Moses parting the sea and a battle is two stories conflated from different times.
    As noted in section II, nearly all of the HS is compiled from at least two sources, which often overlap but don't always agree. And then we have the documentary hypothesis...

    The Jewish cannon was created around the second century by diaspora Jews.
    This is not the case. The Masoretic Text, now considered more or less canonical , was formed sometime after the 7th century. But the books thereof were already "The Scriptures" by the time the Second Temple period began in earnest. The LXX, which we also discussed above, was in widespread distribution by the end of the 2nd c. BCE.

    The Christian cannon came out of Nicaea I believe.
    This is a myth or misconception popularized by the fiction writer Dan Brown, who claimed this in a series of adventure/puzzle novels called Robert Langdon Series. In truth, the formation of the various Christian canons (there are several) is a much more complicated story, in which the council of Nicaea was not much involved, though the publication of the Constantine Bible in its immediate aftermath probably helped to cement certain ideas in the Roman public mind.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atheos View Post
    I wonder why everyone assumes JC was a carpenter. It only ever says he was a carpenter's son. If he practiced what he preached he didn't have a job at all. He would be like the lilies of the field, not toiling nor spinning.

    If he even existed at all. He could have just been another Paul Bunyan for all we can tell.
    Indeed it is quite clear in the narrative itself that he was not regularly employed during the time of his ministry; he is, if anything, quite dismissive of such tradesmen as he encounters in the story. The original communist really, but don't tell the Protestants, they'll blow a gasket!

    That said, if your translation mentions a son, it's adding a word out of whole cloth. As far as I know, the only reference to Jesus' profession is Mark 6:3, in which the hill-folk of his home town call Jesus "the carpenter/craftsman" without any modifier. If anything, it's the other way around, that Joseph was assumed to be a carpenter because his adoptive son was, and trades are inherited.
    Last edited by Politesse; 09-29-2019 at 05:46 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Carpenter is an artifact of translation. I heard it said a better approximation would be 'handyman'
    The word is τέκτων, used just once in the NT (in Mark 6:3). τέκτων
    does have the literal meaning of "craftsman" or "maker", though in the context of the ancient world, it generally referred to workers of wood, wool, and other organic products, rather than blacksmiths or metalworkers of any sort. We get our term "architect" in English from this root word; literally, an architect is a "master maker of things". τέχνη , from which we get "technology" and "technical", is a etymological close-cousin, meaning "the practical crafts".


    Paul is translated as saying something about homosexual sex. From what I read it was more likely a general reference to pagan libertine sex.
    The word is arsenokoitai (pl.), and as the letter in question is the only historical text to include the phrase, no one now living can say authoritatively what it means. Given that it seems to have been a neologism of Paul's, I would say that either of these interpretations is plausible. The reason it was originally translated as buggery is because of its root words: "Arsenos" is "a man" in Koine Greek, "koites" is laying with someone, with the implication of sexual intercourse. So, "laying-men". Personally I could easily imagine this as a reference to anal sex regardless of number or gender of participants, though I have not seen that interpretation pondered much in the scholarship. But anal sex played such an important role in establishing the divine hierarchies of the Greek and Egyptian religions that I can imagine it playing a role in Corinthian religious life as well.

    As has been stated before, we have no idea what the cultural context was. What was literal and what was colloquial.
    A modern distinction in any case. While many classic philosophers talked of literal vs metaphorical meaning, these did not have same connotations then that they do now.

  10. Top | #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    This thread does not attempt to be a comprehensive guide to all of the books of the Bible, their composition, or the many, many competing canons that have existed over the centuries. Rather, it is a beginner's introduction to the creation of the "Good Book" and a discussion of why the order in which the Scriptures are presented might be important. Because the Bible is such a frequent and indeed unavoidable symbol in our society, I hope both religious and non-religious readers might find this thread interesting. I have no particular goals in terms of an ensuing discussion, but welcome your thoughts on any portion of the post that strikes you as interesting. I plan to present this in three segments: The Pre-Monarchic HS, the post-monarchic HS, and the New Testament.
    No thank you, I have no more time to devote to the bible.

    I've given it too much already.

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