Intellectual attacks on the Bible

Until the 18th century, there never was any question about the historical validity of the Bible.  Both Protestants and Catholics took it for granted that whatever the Bible said happened, actually happened.  The only dispute was as to the meaning and significance of the stories.  A new historical skepticism from the French Enlightenment and the German Rationalism began to question whether the events as described in the Bible ever took place.  First there were questions about events in the Old Testament, about Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Moses.  Then in the 19th century, the problem of Jesus and his miracles came into question.

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The deuterocanonical Septuagint additions

The Roman Catholic Bible editions usually include seven other books that are from the Septuagint, but not in the Hebrew Bible.  On the other hand, many of the English Protestant Bibles, particularly the King James Bible used only the Hebrew texts.  These later Greek works became known as deuterocanonical or apocryphal works of the Bible.  These post-exilic books tell the stories of various Israelite figures.  These seven extra books have the story of Tobit, the story of Judith, as well as the stories of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees.  However, they also include writings the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus or Sirach, and Baruch.

The example of Jacob (Hos 12:2-12:6)

“Yahweh has an indictment

Against Judah.

He will punish Jacob

According to his ways.

He will repay him

According to his deeds.

In the womb,

He tried to supplant

His brother.

In his manhood,

He strove with God.

He strove

With the angel.

He prevailed.

He wept.

He sought his favor.

He met him

At Bethel.

There God spoke

with him.

Yahweh!

The God of hosts!

Yahweh is his name!

But as for you,

Return to your God!

Hold fast

To love!

Hold fast

To justice!

Wait continually

For your God.”

Here Hosea referred to the stories about Jacob in Genesis, chapters 25, 28, 32, and 35. Somehow, this is an indictment against Judah and not Israel. Jacob should have been punished and repaid for his bad deeds. He had tried to supplant his brother. He actually tricked his father, but there is no mention of that. He wrestled with God or an angel, and won. Yet he wept and sought out God at Bethel. There, God spoke to him to tell him that his name was Yahweh. He wanted Jacob, Judah, Israel, and Ephraim to hold fast to love and justice. They were to continually wait for God.

Caravans from the east (Isa 60:6-60:7)

“A multitude of camels

Shall cover you.

The young camels of Midian

With the camels of Ephah

Shall cover you.

All those from Sheba

Shall come.

They shall bring gold.

They shall bring frankincense.

They shall proclaim the praise of Yahweh.

All the flocks of Kedar

Shall be gathered to you.

The rams of Nebaioth

Shall minister to you.

They shall be acceptable on my altar.

I will glorify my glorious house.”

The caravan trade had been very lucrative. Thus the camels with all their goodies would travel to Jerusalem from eastern Midian and Ephah that were in Arabia. Sheba was in southern Arabia, prominent in the stories of King Solomon. They were bringing the traditional gifts of gold and frankincense, which was an expensive spice. They were going to proclaim the praises of Yahweh. So too, the flocks from the eastern desert area from the Arab tribes of Kedar, as well as the rams of the Nebaioth tribe, would be gifts for Jerusalem. These would be acceptable at the altar of Yahweh in his house.

The holy prophet Moses (Wis 11:1-11:4)

“Wisdom prospered their works

By the hand of a holy prophet.

They journeyed through an uninhabited wilderness.

They pitched their tents

In untrodden places.

They withstood their enemies.

They fought off their foes.

When they thirsted,

They called upon you.

Water was given them

Out of flinty rock.

A remedy for their thirst

Was from hard stone.”

Based on the stories in Exodus, chapter 17, here we see that Moses is called a holy prophet (προφήτου ἁγίου), not just a servant. Wisdom will now work through the hands (ἐν χειρὶ) of Moses. The Israelites pitched their tents in the stark wilderness or desert (ἔρημον). They were able to fight off their enemies and foes. When they were thirsty they got water (ὕδωρ) from the hard stone rocks.

The righteous Joseph (Wis 10:13-10:14)

“When a righteous man was sold,

Wisdom did not desert him.

She delivered him from sin.

She descended with him

Into the dungeon.

When he was in prison,

She did not leave him,

Until she brought him

The scepter of a kingdom.

He had authority over his masters.

Those who accused him

She showed to be false.

She gave him everlasting honor.”

Without mentioning his name, this section talks about the righteous Joseph, based on the stories in Genesis, chapters 37-41. Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery. However, wisdom did not abandon this righteous man (δίκαιον). She stayed with him when he was imprisoned in Egypt. However, due to his explanation of dreams, he received a special role in the Egyptian government. Thus he has an everlasting honor or eternal glory (δόξαν αἰώνιον). Of course, all this was accomplished because of wisdom.

The call to listen (Ps 78:1-78:4)

A Maskil of Asaph

“O my people!

Give ear to my teaching!

Incline your ears

To the words of my mouth!

I will open my mouth in a parable.

I will utter dark sayings from of old.

These are the things

That we have heard and known.

Our ancestors have told us these things.

We will not hide them from their children.

We will tell them to the coming generation.

These are the glorious deeds of Yahweh,

These show his might.

These are the wonders that he has done.”

Psalm 78 is one of these long didactic psalms that relate the whole history of the Israelite people, like Psalms 105 and 106 as well as Psalms 135 and 136. This psalm is also a maskil of Asaph as the others in this series. We will learn the lessons of Israelite history, with a special emphasis on particular favorite heroes. There is an initial call to listen with care to the teaching of this psalmist, Asaph. He was going to speak in parables like the wisdom writers. These are the stories that were passed on to him by his ancestors. Now he was not going to hide it from the current children and the generations yet to come. All this shows the glorious deeds of Yahweh and his strength in the wonders that he has done for Israel.