Shalom! It’s been awhile hasn’t it? I have recently returned home from a 4 month study trip in Israel and am so excited to apply what I learned at Jerusalem University College to the Bible.
This morning I was reading from the Messianic Parshah (weekly Bible readings which follows the Jewish Torah portion + NT) and began in Genesis 43:30-44:17. Over the last semester, I would read my Bible, but not have time to sit with it or chase the stray wanderings my brain might take from the Holy Text. Now, I do 🙂 And that is such a lovely gift. I was supposed to read the verses mentioned above, but got no further than 43:32 before I had to start digging. One of the things I learned in my “Text Studies: Shared Texts of Early Christianity and Judaism” class – taught by Rabbi Moshe Silberstein – is that the First Century BC/AD audience (of all ethnicities/religions) read texts similarly. They looked for connections between texts and used those the connections to infer meaning and deeper understanding. The Jews and early Christians both applied this reading method to the biblical texts. Jesus did this in Matthew 22: 34-40:
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Deut. 6:5).This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18). On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Notice the question asked which (singular) commandment was the greatest. Jesus instead gave him two. And it was celebrated as a brilliant reply. Why? In the Hebrew Bible the word ואהבת veahavta is only used in four places: Deut. 6:5; 11:1 and Lev. 19:18, 34. Each usage applies only to God or your neighbor. This fact allowed Jesus to connect the two together as one great commandment according to the rules of reading/understanding written texts in the First Century. Rabbinic Judaism built their religious system on connections like this. Early Christianity did so as well – as found in both the NT and the writings of early church fathers like Origin, Eusebius, and Justin Martyr.
This technique was taught to me in Seminary under the hermeneutic word called “intertestamental connection.” The Jews call it Midrash, to seek. Either way, it is a technique which allows Scripture to teach Scripture. It is founded on the belief that every “jot and tittle” was breathed with intention and purpose by God. Therefore, every question that arises from “problems” or “inconsistencies” in the text is not problematic, but a divine invitation to interact with the Text – to let Scripture teach Scripture. Through the seeking of answers to these questions, we are worshiping God through interaction. The seeking is always more important than the answers, because the seeking is time spent with God.
Beautiful, isn’t it? In our post-modern world which accepts scientific proof and single-standard answers as the attainment of perfection, God gives questions instead of simple, scientific answers simply so we might spend time with him. How I love that.
As I continue to be refreshed in spirit through time with God and His Word, I just wanted to share that it’s ok to ask questions of the Bible – more, God desires it. Use those questions as excuses to go digging around through the text, to read, to get to know God better. The Bible was never meant to give one single answer for every question, but rather to present a framework within which righteousness flourishes. Because no situation is the same, God gives us a myriad of situations and responses which present a pattern of righteous actions one can take throughout life.
What questions do you have of God and the Text? Go and seek the answers. Enter into a conversation with your Creator, that he might speak and delight in growing relationship with you.
Shalom to you, Beloved. May you be blessed as you participate in Holy conversations with the LORD most High.