After spending a little over 4 years on the Old Testament, it will be fun to study the New Testament. I learned a lot about the Hebrew Scriptures. I am now able to better understand the Jewish background of Jesus. All my life I have tried to understand the Christian message of Jesus. As an emeritus professor of religious studies, I began my retirement Bible project at the age of 74 in 2013. Now in 2018, at age 78, I going to dive into the Greek New Testament aided by reading the Bible in French, La Sainte Bible: traduite en francais sous la direction du L’Ecole Biblique de Jerusalem, the 1961 edition of the Jerusalem Bible that I first studied in 1962. As a guide to help me with this translation, I will use the New Revised Standard Version of the New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha: An Ecumenical Study Bible Completely Revised and Enlarged, the 1994 edition. I will also use Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine by Eberhard and Erwin Nestle and Kurt Aland, the 1960 edition, that I used over fifty years ago. To be more precise, the 1904 Nestle Greek edition is now on line as found at Bible Hub. To help understand the Greek New Testament text, I will use The Jewish Annotated New Testament of the New Revised Standard Version, edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, 2011. As a further aid, I will use the Bible Concordance, Synopsis Quattuor Evavgeliorum, Locis parallelis evangeliorum apocyrphorum et pratrum adhibitis edidit Kurt Aland, the 1964 edition. Finally, I will use that invaluable online web site of the Bible Hub. http://biblehub.com/.
The German theologian Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932) first developed Formgechichte in an attempt to establish fixed literary patterns. These patterns then could go behind the present text to help establish the meaning and significance of the literary pattern in its original context. However, the meaning of form criticism has become fluid. The study of the biblical texts using form criticism has revealed a marvelous multiplicity of literary styles, forms, and methods used in the Bible.
Textual criticism is the study of the variants in the original Hebrew or Greek texts. This textual criticism attempts to establish the original wording of the biblical texts. There is an attempt to establish the possible formation and transmission of the texts themselves. All the original manuscripts of the Bible have been lost. Thus, the goal of textual criticism is to recover the best critical text possible, given the circumstances of today. Most modern translations are based on various Hebrew and Greek critical texts. These ancient texts were copied by hand with some possible human errors. Many kinds of copying errors have been categorized and classified. Textual criticism is known as lower criticism, because it is the foundation for all of the other kinds of critical study.
Problems of time and space
The study of words and actions, written about and by people who lived many years ago in a faraway land with a different language and symbolic structure, has inherent difficulties, as has been shown by biblical hermeneutic research. To understand the origins of Christianity, I must be cognizant about first century Palestinian Jewish cultural conditions, as well as my own biases. I need to avoid projecting my own experiences and prejudices on documents written thousands of years ago. Can I ever really fully understand the men and women of the Mediterranean area who lived over two thousand years ago? I can try. Fortunately, a few of these early followers of Jesus, among the elite literate well educated of their time, left some sparse written evidence. Their cosmology, their economics, and their sociology are not mine. I must be aware of this from the start.
No hope for the sorcerers of Babylon (Isa 47:12-47:13)
“Stand fast in your enchantments!
Stand fast in your many sorceries!
You have labored from your youth
With these actions.
Perhaps you may be able to succeed.
Perhaps you may inspire terror.
You are wearied
With your many consultations.
Let those who study the heavens
Let them save you!
Let those who gaze at the stars
Predict what shall befall you!
Let those who gaze at each new moon
Predict what shall befall you!”
Yahweh taunted Babylon by saying that they should rely on their sorcerers, their enchanters, their astrologists, and magicians. They had followed them since they were young. Maybe they will succeed. Maybe they will scare people. However, they are weary from all their consultations. Let those who study the heavens stand up and save you. Can those who gaze at the stars and the new moon predict what is going to happen to you? This is a direct challenge to the people of Babylon.
Wise sayings (Eccl 12:11-12:12)
“The sayings of the wise are like goads.
They are like nails firmly fixed.
These collected sayings were given
By one shepherd.
Beware of anything beyond these.
Many books have no end.
Much study is a weariness of the flesh.”
These wise sayings of Qoheleth were like goads that were sticks used to prod cattle and other animals to make them move. These goads were a stimulus to our mind. Thus we have the saying to goad them on. These collected sayings are like sharp nails. Here we have the allusion to the sayings of a shepherd, something that followers of Jesus will emphasis in the New Testament. Then this writer warns the readers about adding more proverbs. He warned that many books never have an end. He also remarked that a lot of study can make people weary. So watch out for too much time spent studying.
Hymn of praise for the works of Yahweh (Ps 111:1-111:4)
I will give thanks to Yahweh,
With my whole heart,
In the company of the upright,
In the congregation.
Great are the works of Yahweh,
Studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work.
His righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds.”
Psalm 111 is a hymn of praise to Yahweh because he has kept his covenant with Israel. Although there is no title, this fairly short acrostic or Hebrew alphabet psalm has a letter for every line. Like the next 2 psalms, it starts with the refrain “Praise Yahweh” or the Alleluia cry, which is the Hebrew word “Hallelujah.” The psalmist will give thanks to Yahweh with his whole heart at the congregational meeting. He talked about the great works of Yahweh that delights those who study them. Yahweh is full of honor and majesty in his work. Of course, his righteousness lasts forever because he has become well known by his wonderful actions.