After the death and resurrection of Jesus, his followers expected him to return at any moment, certainly within their own lifetime. There was little motivation to write anything down for future generations. However, as the various eyewitnesses began to die, there was more concern. The missionary needs of the church grew, so that there was a demand for written versions of the founder’s life and teachings. The stages of this process included this first oral tradition stage. Then the stories and sayings of Jesus were passed on largely as separate self-contained units, but not in any order. There were some written collections of miracle stories, parables, and sayings, with the oral tradition continuing alongside these. Finally, there were the written proto-gospels that served as the sources for the canonical gospels. The final gospels were formed by combining proto-gospels, written collections and still-current oral tradition. All four gospels use the Hebrew Jewish scriptures, by quoting or referencing passages. They interpreted texts or alluded to various biblical themes. Their source was the Greek version of the scriptures, called the Septuagint, since they did not seem familiar with the original Hebrew.
A Song of Ascents
“Often have they attacked me from my youth.
Let Israel now say.
‘Often have they attacked me from my youth.
Yet they have not prevailed against me.
The plowers plowed on my back.
They made their furrows long.’
Yahweh is righteous.
He has cut the cords of the wicked.”
Psalm 129 is another in this series of pilgrimage songs or psalms on the ascent to Jerusalem. In this particular song the psalmist claims to have been attacked since his youth. This youth may be a reference to Israel in its early stages in Canaan as Israel proclaimed the same message. They tried to plow the back of the psalmist. However, his enemies have not succeeded. Yahweh is the righteous one who has cut the cords of the wicked ones.
To the choirmaster leader, a psalm of David, a song
“Let God rise up!
Let his enemies be scattered!
Let those who hate him
Flee before him!
As smoke is driven away,
So drive them away!
As wax melts before fire,
Let the wicked perish before God!
But let the righteous be joyful!
Let them exult before God!
Let them be jubilant with joy!”
Psalm 68 is a long liturgical choral psalm and song of David at the Temple. It portrays the various stages in the history of Israel where God has helped them, but it is a little disjointed in its long ramblings. This psalm begins by asking God to rise up and scatter his enemies, especially those who hate him. The wicked should flee, just like smoke that is blown away. They should be driven out like wax that melts in front of a fire. The wicked should die, but the righteous should be joyful before God.