Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bible Challenge - Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon

This week we read Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon.

Ecclesiastes - the name of the book derives from the root that has to do with an assembly or congregation.  The name of the author would seem to be something like "leader of the assembly".  The book was probably written around 300 BC and the principle theme is laying out what is important and what isn't important in the life of human beings.  Many things are "vanity" - futile in other words.  But ultimately not even wisdom will save.  Main point of the book is the warn us against thinking too highly of our selves or our abilities and to remember the mystery of God's generosity.

The Song of Solomon is a love song.  Both Jews and Christians have read to work as a love dialogue not just between a man and a woman but also as a love dialogue between God and God's people - either God and Israel or God and the church.

There is nothing else in the canon of Scripture that is like this book.

This is the end of part 1 of the Bible Challenge.  Check back in the fall as we pick up the rest of the Bible.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bible Challenge - Proverbs

This week we read the book of Proverbs.

The book is actually made up of several different collections.

One is identified with Solomon (this is about the first 9 chapters).

Chapters 10 - 21 are also identified with Solomon although less convincingly

Chapters 22 & 23 are the "words of the wise"

Chapter 24 is called "sayings of the wise"

Chapter 30 is "the words of Agur"

Chapter 31 contains both "the words of Lemuel" and an acrostic poem on what it means to be a good wife.

The work was edited after the exile but some of them may have been written before the exile (a few, maybe, even by Solomon himself)

This is one of the book that features "Wisdom" personified as a woman.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bible Challenge - the end of the Psalms

This week we have the last 26 Psalms.  We have the end of the songs of Ascents - these are psalms 125 through 134.  These are the psalms that were sung as people went up to Jerusalem, for the Passover and for other religious festivals.

Psalm 134 is used at our Compline service - the late night prayer - because it puts a cap on all of the praise of God.

Psalm 137 is a lament that reflects on the time of the captivity in Babylon and other times of trial in the history of Israel.

Most of the rest of the book of Psalms is praise to God.

You may have noticed that the reading sheet tells you to read through Psalm 151 while the Bible you are probably reading ends with Psalm 150.  Psalm 151 was a part of the Christian Bible from 350 AD through the 1500's.  It was removed from Protestant Bibles when it was discovered that it was not a part of the Jewish Canon of Scripture.  It is retained in Roman Catholic Bibles.  For Episcopalians it is part of what is called the Aprocypha.  Here is the text as it is in Hebrew:

1. Smaller was I than my brothers and the youngest of the sons of my father*
Yet he made me shepherd of his flock and ruler over his kids.
2. My hands have made an instrument and my fingers a lyre;*
And so have I rendered glory to the Lord, thought I, within my soul.
3. The mountains do not witness to him nor do the hills proclaim;*
The trees have cherished my words and the flock my works.
4. For who can proclaim and who can bespeak and who can recount the deeds of the Lord?*
Everything has God seen, everything has he heard and has heeded.
5. He sent his prophet to anoint me, Samuel to make me great.*
My brothers went out to meet him, handsome of figure and appearance.
6. Though they were tall of stature and handsome by their hair,*
The Lord God chose them not.
7. But he sent and took me from behind the flock and anointed me with holy oil*
And he made me leader of his people and ruler over the people of his covenant.