The Old and the New Testament

The two major parts of the Christian Bible are the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Does this give a false impression that we have two different Bibles?  The New Testament books make references to the Old Testament works.  There was no New Testament canon until the second century, since consensus on its contents did not occur until the late fourth century.  The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible canon has an even more complicated history.  Often, people are surprised to learn that two-thirds of what we call the Christian Bible actually existed before the time of Christ, since it describes the words and actions of God’s interaction with his promised chosen people, the Israelites, the Hebrews, or the Jews.

Written Languages

Written languages are nothing more than symbols on a page to confer some thoughts or ideas.  Oral language, written numbers, and written symbols existed before written languages.  Most of the world’s ancient languages began to take shape about 3,000-1,500 BCE, about 5,000 years ago.  The Semitic languages developed in Egypt from about 1,800 to 1,300 BCE.  Thus, the Hebrew of the Bible would have been practically the only written sources.  The Greek language also stems from about the same time around 1,500 BCE.


 

The idol sacrifices in high places (Ezek 20:28-20:29)

“I had brought them

Into the land

That I swore

To give them.

Then wherever they saw

Any high hill

Or any leafy tree,

There they offered

Their sacrifices.

They presented

The provocation

Of their offering.

There they sent up

Their pleasing odors.

There they poured out

Their drink offerings.

I said to them.

What is the high place

To which you go?

It is called Bamah

To this day.”

Now Yahweh reminded them, via Ezekiel, that when he brought them into the land that he swore to give to their ancestors, they ran to every high hill or leafy tree. There they set up altars of sacrifice. They provoked Yahweh with their sacrifices. They presented their offerings with sweet smelling incense and drink offerings. This may have been some sort of Canaanite or Egyptian fertility rite, since they had not given up their old ways. There is a play on words as Yahweh wanted to know what this high place was called. Bamah meant a high place of worship that had been used by the Canaanites, but still existed at the time of Ezekiel.

The call of Cyrus to fight against the Babylonians (Isa 48:14-48:16)

“Assemble!

All of you!

Hear!

Who among them has declared these things?

Yahweh loves him.

He shall perform his purpose on Babylon.

His arm shall be against the Chaldeans.

I!

Even I have spoken!

I called him!

I have brought him!

He will prosper in his way.

Draw near to me!

Hear this!

From the beginning,

I have not spoken in secret.

From the time it came to be,

I have been there.            

‘Yahweh God has sent me.

He has sent his Spirit.’”

Second Isaiah reveals the new things to happen. Once again, everyone had to assemble and listen to what Yahweh had to say. Thus Yahweh declared that he loved Cyrus who was about to attack Babylon and use his arm against these Chaldeans. Yahweh clearly says that he has called him, but Cyrus will prosper in his own way. Yahweh wanted the Israelites to know that he had not spoken in secret, since he has always existed. Apparently Cyrus, without explicitly mentioning him by name, responded saying that Yahweh had sent his Spirit to him.

Jeshua (Sir 49:12-49:12)

“Also there was

Jeshua

Son of Jozadak.

In their days

They built the house.

They raised a temple

Holy to the Lord,

Destined for everlasting glory.”

Jeshua son of Jozadak was also known as Joshua. Jeshua is also the Hebrew name for Jesus. This Jeshua returned with Zerubbabel as the first high priest in Jerusalem after the captivity from about 515-490 BCE. Certainly, he was instrumental in the rebuilding of the 2nd Temple with all its significance. They built this holy Temple that was destined for glory, for it still existed at the time of Sirach. Jeshua or Joshua was mentioned in the books of Ezra, chapter 2, and Zachariah, chapter 6.

The sacrifices of the anointed Levitical Aaron (Sir 45:14-45:17)

“Aaron’s sacrifices

Shall be wholly burned.

This will be done

Twice every day continually.

Moses ordained him.

He anointed Aaron

With holy oil.

It was an everlasting covenant for him.

It was for his descendants

As long as the heavens continue.

They were to minister to the Lord.

They were to serve as priests.

They were to bless his people

In his name.

He chose him out of all the living

To offer sacrifice to the Lord.

He was to offer incense

With a pleasing odor

As a memorial portion,

To make atonement for your people.

In his commandments,

He gave him authority.

He gave him statutes.

He gave him judgments.

He was to teach Jacob the testimonies.

He was to enlighten Israel with his law.”

Sirach says that the sacrifices of Aaron should be completely burned, twice a day, continually. Moses had ordained Aaron and anointed him with oil, as it was indicated in Exodus, chapter 29. The Lord had an everlasting covenant with Aaron and his descendants as long as the heavens existed. They were to be the priests that ministered to the Lord. They were chosen out of all the living in the world to offer this memorial sacrifice with sweet smelling incense in order to make atonement for their people. In fact, Aaron was the brother of Moses. In the Mosaic commandments, the Lord gave Aaron and his descendants’ authority, statutes, and judgments so that they could teach and enlighten Jacob about the Israelite law.

The memory of these famous holy men (Sir 44:7-44:9)

“All these were honored

In their generations.

They were the pride

Of their times.

Some of them

Have left behind a name.

Thus others declare their praise.

But there is no memory

Of others.

They have perished

As though they had never existed.

They have become

As though they

And their children

Had never been born.”

Sirach notes that each one of these holy famous men was honored when they were alive. Their contemporaries took great pride in them. Some of these men have left behind a name or reputation, so that others can share in that pride. However, some of the others have left no memory. We do not know even who they were. They have died as if they never existed without any trace of them. Both they and their children are like they were never born. There was a great emphasis on a good name and being remembered, also a Latin and Greek ideal. Thus we do not have any memory about some good people.