The Old Testament in the News

These are some of the articles written this past week in which the Old Testament was mentioned:

History of Ancient Judaism

Amy-Jill Levine, a professor of Hebrew Bible at Duke University is teaching a course in the history of ancient Judaism.

This course, offered by the Universal Life Church Academy contains multiple interesting topics and facts that include Ancient Israel’s religion, history, and literature.

Judaism is a religion that many people find interesting. It is described in the Holy Scripture and expresses the relationships between God and His children on the earth. The Jewish calendar contains some very important religious holidays that Jews strictly observe. These are:

– Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year, which is a symbol of creation of the world and reminds Jews about the coming judgment day.

– Passover is a holiday, which origin dates back to the liberation of Israel from Egypt, described in the Biblical book of Exodus.

– Shavu’ot – known also as the Festival of Weeks is conducted a week after the Passover and celebrates giving the Law by God on Mount Sinai.

– Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement, which is the holiest holiday of all. During this day, Jewish people fast, do not work and lift their prayers to God in the synagogue, repenting for their sins and asking God for mercy and purification.

– Sukkot – Feast of Tabernacles or Booths is a holiday that celebrates the joy of harvest. It takes place five days after Yom Kippur and during it, Jews build the so-called sukkahs, where they live and eat for the period of the holiday.

NFL Great Reveals Biblical Meaning Behind His Jersey Number

The New York Jets retired former running back Curtis Martin’s number in 2012, but the story behind how he ended up wearing “28? on his jersey in the first place isn’t widely known. As it turns out, a pastor’s advice – and Old Testament scripture – led him to adopt the two digits.

“I was speaking to someone about what numbers, what options I had and at the time I was speaking to a pastor and I told him what numbers were available between 26 and 28, and he said 28,” Martin told NBCSN’s “Pro Football Talk.” “He said because that is a really important Bible verse. It’s Deuteronomy 28, and he said that it talks about the blessings for obedience and all that.”

After hearing the pastor’s recommendation, the former football great decided to adopt the number along with a special ritual: before every game, Martin would read Deuteronomy 28 in preparation.

“That’s the reason why I wore number 28,” he proclaimed.

Deuteronomy 28 has 68 verses. This chapter is divided between blessings and curses: verses 1-14 deal with the blessings; verses 15-68 deal with the curses. More curses than blessings.

I wonder which section of Deuteronomy 28 Martin read in preparation for the games.

Creedalizing History

Peter J. Leithar, at First Things, has an interesting perspective post on Martin Noth’s view on how history developed in the Old Testament:

Martin Noth claims that historical accounts in the Old Testament arose from cultic contexts and creedal statements. He claims to be tracing the “historicizing” process.

Jeffrey Niehaus says that the process is actually the opposite, a “creedalizing” one (God at Sinai, 77): “Leviticus 23:42-43 tells Israel that at the Feast of Booths all native-born Israelites must live in booths for seven days . . . so that their descendants will know that Yahweh had the Israelites live in booths when he brought them out of Egypt. . . . According to Noth the reverse is true: because a Festival of Booths existed, somehow a `historical’ account arose” (77-8).

This “uproots biblical passages from their literary and historical context and attributes them to a later, cultic setting.”

Leithar says that Niehaus applied Noth’s principle to a narrative of Tiglath-pileser’s victory over Ishdish. Niehaus’ conclusion: it does not work. And Niehaus believes that the same procedure cannot be applied to the Old Testament.

The Heart of the Bible

In his column, Steve Lingenfelter, Pastor of the New Life Community Church, encourages believers to read the Bible:

Let me encourage you to open your eyes and look for Jesus on every page of your Bible. If you do, you’ll find him there.

A simple way to read your Bible is to see it simply divided into Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament can be divided into two segments – Law and Prophets. The books written within the category of the Law establish the foundation for Jesus Christ. The books associated with the Prophets are about the expectation of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Lingenfelter’s intention is very good and I commend him for encouraging people to read the Bible. However, Lingenfelter forgot the third division of the Hebrew Bible: the Writings.

If we divide the English Old Testament into sections, then, in addition to the Law and the Prophets, we still have the Historical and the Poetic books. Thus, if people only read the Law and the Prophets, they will fail to read a large portion of the Old Testament.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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