The common language at the time of Jesus

After the Babylonian captivity, Aramaic replaced Biblical Hebrew as the everyday language in Israel.  However, Biblical Hebrew was still used for religious purposes.  After Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies and the Seleucids ruled Israel for almost two hundred years.  Thus, the Jewish culture was heavily influenced by this Hellenistic culture.  Koine Greek was used not only for international communication, but also as the first language of some Jews.  This development was furthered complicated by the fact that the largest Jewish community in the world lived in Ptolemaic Alexandria, Egypt.  Many of these diaspora Jews would have Greek as their first language.  Thus, first the Torah, and then other Hebrew scriptures, were translated into standard Koine Greek, the Septuagint.

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The Five Scrolls

Then there are the five scrolls that includes the poetic love story the Song of Solomon, or the Song of Songs from the 6th century BCE.  The Book of Ruth was about the story of Ruth, a Moabite foreigner who came to Israel, from the 9th to the 6th century BCE.  Lamentations has usually been ascribed to Jeremiah the prophet from the 6th century BCE.  Ecclesiastes is like a book of wisdom proverbs from the 4th century BCE.  The story of Esther is about a Jewish lady who becomes a Persian queen also from the 4th century BCE.

Why are there two testaments?

The Bible is the record of the Hebrew people and the early Christians.  Thus, we have two kinds of testaments or covenants.  The historically older belief system of the people of Israel, was written from around 1,000 BCE to around 150 BCE.  On the other hand, the newer testament or covenant was written between 50 CE and 125 CE.  However, both testaments or covenants have a common base in the Hebrew Scripture.

Remember the teachings of Moses (Mal 4:4-4:4)

“Remember

The teachings

Of my servant Moses!

Remember

The statutes,

The ordinances,

That I commanded him,

At Horeb

For all Israel!”

The Israelites were to remember the teachings of Yahweh’s servant, the law of Moses.  They were to remember all his statutes and ordinances, because Yahweh had commanded him to do so at Mount Horeb or Mount Sinai.  These commandments were for all the people of Israel.

The opening oracle (Mal 1:1-1:1)

“The oracle

Of the word of Yahweh

To Israel

By Malachi.”

This opening phrase of the Book of Malachi indicates that the word of Yahweh came to the prophet Malachi, but it was for Israel.  There is no indication of a time or place for this oracle.  Neither is there any mention of biographical details.  His name Malachi means my messenger.  Thus, he is a messenger of Yahweh for the people of Israel.

Yahweh’s creation (Zech 12:1-12:1)

“An Oracle.

The word of Yahweh

Concerning Israel.

Thus says Yahweh.

He stretched out the heavens.

He founded the earth.

He formed the human spirit

Within.”

Yahweh had an oracle about Israel.  Yahweh was the great creator.  He had stretched out the heavens and founded the earth.  He even placed the human spirit within people.

The return of the prisoner captives (Zech 9:11-9:13)

“As for you also,

Because of the blood

Of my covenant

With you,

I will set your prisoners free

From the waterless pit.

Return to your stronghold!

O prisoners of hope!

Today I declare

That I will restore to you double.

I have bent Judah

As my bow.

I have made Ephraim

Its arrow.

I will arouse your sons!

O Zion!

Against your sons,

O Greece!

I will wield you

Like a warrior’s sword.”

In this oracle, Yahweh said that he was going to free the prisoners from their dungeons or waterless pits, because of the covenant or blood treaty that he had with Israel.  Perhaps, this is an allusion to the Temple sacrifices.  The former prisoners of hope or captives would return to their stronghold, since Yahweh was going to double what they had before.  He was going to use Judah in the south and Ephraim in the north as a bow and arrow against other countries, such as Greece.  Yahweh was going to wield them like a warrior’s sword.