Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book: The Bible: A Bio Ch. 2 - Scripture

Woot. Saturday mornings are for yard work. Yard work is done. Now I shall do laundry and type, so this'll take me to the afternoon to finish...

Right then. So, the returning Jewish exiles (known as the Golah) completed the new temple in Jerusalem around 520 BCE, making Yahwism a temple faith once more. The exiles encountered opposition to their form of Yahwism, since it had developed along different lines from the Yahwism of those Jews who had remained in Judah.

In about 398 BCE the Persian king dispatched Ezra, his minister of Jewish affairs to Jerusalem with the mandate to enforce the torah of Moses as the law of the land. Ezra's fulfilment of his mandate would make the 'miscellaneous teachings' into the Torah, a guide for Jewish life.

At this time the Persian empire was reviewing the legal systems of their various subjects to make certain that all of them were compatible with the laws and security of the empire. Ezra, as an expert in Torah, had probably worked out a satisfactory compromise between the Persian law and Mosaic law that would satisfy both 'masters'.

When Ezra arrived in Jerusalem he was horrified by what he found. The Jews were not maintaining the holy separation that had been developed in exile. For an entire day the inhabitants watched in shock and dismay as the king's envoy sat in a public street in mourning, weeping and tearing his garments. Ezra (presumably after getting ahold of himself), called for a meeting of the entire community - anyone who did not attend would be cast out and have his property confiscated.

Ezra stood at the Water Gate, on a raised dias, and read aloud from the Torah, translating and 'giving sense' so that the people understood what was being read, as Levites circulated among the crowd and supplemented his instruction. Essentially he was teaching the Torah, I suppose. Reading and then offering his commentary on what was said, telling the people how to understand what they were hearing. Whatever it was he read and explained, the people had never heard it before. They fell to weeping in the face of these unfamiliar demands. However, Ezra commanded them not to weep, that they now understood the meaning of the words that they had heard, and could proceed from there.

Ezra was crafting a spiritual discipline based on the sacred text, and for the first time the Torah was elevated above the other writings, and was called the Law of Moses. However, it could not just be read like any other text. It needed to be heard in the context of rituals that separated it from ordinary life, otherwise it could seem demanding and disconcerting. It was less the content of the Torah so much as the way that the people were beginning to treat it that elevated it to sacred scripture.

It's likely that the most important part of this new spirituality was Ezra himself. He must have been a charismatic and forceful man to lead everyone into a new and strange seeming manner of worship. He was not only a priest, but one who had set his entire being to the practice of investigating the Torah and to teaching the law and ordinance of it to Israel. Ezra eventually commanded the removal of the foreign wives from Israel. Membership was now confined to the Golah and those who submitted to the Torah.

Ezra's prophethood marks the beginning of classical Judaism.

At this point there were two established categories of scripture: the Torah and the Prophets (Neviim). After the exile, though, another category was born, the Writings (Kethuvim) which were sometimes merely reinterpretations of older works. Chronicles, for example, was essentially a commentary on the older Deuteronomic works Samuel and Kings. Some of the Writings, though, were distinct from the Law or the Prophets. They were considered the Wisdom (Hokhmah) writings: Proverbs, Ecclesiates, the Song of Songs, Job, and Sirach, for example.

The Hasmodean dynasty (established by the Maccabees in 143 after they threw of Selucid rule), turned out to be cruel and corrupt. They were not descendants of King David, and took on themselves the office of the High Priest in the Temple, even though they were not of priestly descent. During their reign there was a seeming explosion of apocalyptic literature, as the people projected themselves out of the disappointing present and into the future where God would intervene and destroy the present, corrupt order, restoring His true kingdom and will for the people of Israel.

The late second century saw the rise of many sects within Judaism: the Essenes, the Pharisees, and the Saducees being the three major ones.

Until the conquering forces of Rome arrived in 63 BCE, there was no expectation of a human messiah who would come and put things to rights. It was believed that God Himself would simply take care of matters in His own sweet time. However, once under Roman rule, there appeared individual men who attempted to lead the Jewish people in revolt, and a new expectation for one of them to be the messiah cropped up in the people. A prophet Thadeus led four hundred men into the desert, claiming that God would save them there. One known as the 'Egyptian' convinced thousands to follow him on the Mount of Olives to attack a Roman fortress positioned next to the Temple. John the Baptist, while we don't know of any anti-Roman preachings, was executed by them. And, of course, Jesus, whom Ms. Armstrong refers to as a 'Galilean healer and exorcist'. His sect was considered unusual in that it welcomed non-Jewish believers.

After the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, only two of the Jewish sects that had proliferated during the Late Second Temple period were able to find a way to move forward. 'The Jesus movement' was the first to do so, inspired by the disaster, they were moved to write an entirely new set of scriptures.


So, I'm not sure if I should finish this chapter by chapter thing, since I'm about 20 pages away from finishing the book, and all I'm really doing is restating historical facts, which Ms. Armstrong herself got from someone else's work. Meh. I'll probably just do one post on the over all book, rather than drawing this out anymore than I already have.

Also, *why* am I watching DragonBall: Evolution? Because it's James Marsters as Piccolo, and I'm an obsessed crazy person, that's why.


  1. Thanks for what you shared. Yeah, no need to drag it out if you are nearly finished with the book. Did it get any better once you progressed through it?

    I appreciate you sharing all this. I always find your summaries interesting.

    Happy Saturday! Sounds like you are getting a lot done!

  2. 'Did it get any better once you progressed through it?'

    Not so much, no. :p

    Yeah. And then my parents brought home a 'present' for me. A new edger! Just what I *always* wanted. *snicker*


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