Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is the Bible History or Fiction? Quick Guide

As we read the stories of the Hebrew scriptures we may wonder if are reading historical reportage of events or if we are reading stories of creative imagination. We may decide that somewhere between these poles the truth is found. Most of us would see the story of Adam and Eve in the garden as a myth rather than an event of history. What about the stories of Abraham, Moses, and David?

There is much debate on this theory among biblical scholars today for both the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian New Testament. The debate is called, somewhat inaccurately, the maximalist-minimalist debate. Maximalists generally affirm that the Bible is accurate historically and minimalists affirm that it is not and that it never intended to be read as such.
Most scholars fall somewhere between these poles.

Archaeology and literary and rhetorical criticism have come of age in the past couple of decades to show that the Bible is a work of theology more than history. Archaeology has shown that there is very little evidence for the "events" recounted in the Bible. Literary and rhetorical criticism has helped us see these stories as works of art.

This may lead to the next question of realism. Is there something real and true about the theological claims in the Bible if we view them as imaginative creations? That is an important question. Do these stories in some way, tell us the truth about the human condition and about the nature of reality itself?

For example, is the character YHWH, more than a literary character, a projection of artistic imagination on one hand, and more than an actual being who acted this way in history on the other? Is their a reality to YHWH even if the stories about him are not real in the historical sense? This question will require of us who find the Bible as the normative text for the church to enter into these stories and let the Bible confront us even as we confront it.

Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, has spent a great deal of time thinking about these kinds of questions.

A helpful book is his
Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination. He goes through the Hebrew Scriptures, book by book, with a fresh look at these texts.

For more discussion on the maximalist/minimalist debate, you might find these
Essays on Minimalism helpful from the on-line magazine, The Bible and Interpretation.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Documentary Hypothesis: Quick Guide

Julius Wellhausen is famous for the Documentary Hypothesis.

He changed the way we looked at the formation of the Torah. In his theory, there was an original epic, modified by a storyteller we call J. Four hundred years later, this epic is modified by another storyteller we call P. Of course, long before anything is written, these stories are told and retold in oral form.

  • J gets her name by calling God, Yahweh. J's narrative was formed in the 10th century BCE
  • E calls God, Elohim. E represents the Northern Kingdom's view of history after the Israelite monarchy split in 922. (J represents the Southern Kingdom's view and eventually J and E are combined).
  • D stands for Deuteronomic history which accounts for the Book of Deuteronomy and the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings (7th century BCE).
  • P gets his name because he is a priest. P's narrative is dated in the 6th century BCE.
Here is a clever diagram:

There are two separate creation accounts in Genesis.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a is a later account written by P in the 6th century during the Babylonian captivity.

Genesis 2:4b-4:16 is the earlier account written by J in the 10th century BCE. This tells the story of Adam, Eve, the garden, the serpent and so forth.
Since Wellhausen's time scholars have learned more about oral tradition. We don't think so much as individual authors sitting down and writing things. It is more accurate to these as strands of different traditions. Here is that same diagram with a bit more detail that includes the Deuteronomic history or former prophets:

Creation: Genesis and Eneuma Elish

The Enuma Elish is a Babylonian epic. Enuma Elish is translated as “When on high” and refers to its opening words. The clay tablets found in the 19th century CE date to no later than the 12th century BCE. The poem itself goes back much earlier, perhaps to 1700 BCE or even 2000 BCE.

For a helpful translation with a summary of each tablet go here. A more literal translation is here.

This poem celebrates Marduk as the king of creation. It was read at yearly festivals. This poem is important for understanding the biblical myths for a couple of reasons.

First, the writers of Genesis 1 would have been familiar with it during their period of captivity in Babylon that began in 587 BCE. The influence of Enuma Elish would have likely been part of the collective mythology even before the captivity of the people of Jerusalem.

Second, Enuma Elish holds many features in common, not only with Genesis 1, but other creation accounts in the Bible (ie. Job and the Psalter). It is clear that the writers of the Bible borrowed heavily from this myth as they wrote their own myths.

Tablets four and five describe Marduk’s slaying of Tiamat, the formation of Earth and Sky from her carcass and the establishment of the stars, sun, and moon (represented as gods) who under Marduk’s control keep things going.

This is from Tablet Four:

He constructed stations for the great gods,
Fixing their astral likenesses as the stars of the Zodiac.
He determined the year and into sections he divided it;
He set up three constellations for each of the twelve months.
After defining the days of the year by means of heavenly figures,
He founded the station of the pole star [Nebiru] to determine their bounds,
That none might err or go astray.

Alongside it he set up the stations of Enlil and Ea.
Having opened up the gates on both sides,
He strengthened the locks to the left and the right. (10)

In her belly he established the zenith.
The Moon he caused to shine, entrusting the night to him.
He appointed him a creature of the night to signify the days,
And marked off every month, without cease, by means of his crown.
At the month's very start, rising over the land,
You shall have luminous horns to signify six days,
On the seventh day reaching a half-crown.
So shall the fifteen-day period be like one another-two halves for each month.
When the sun overtakes you at the base of heaven,
Diminish your crown and retrogress in light. (20)

At the time of disappearance approach the course of the sun,
And on the thirtieth you shall again stand in opposition to the sun.
I have appointed a sign, follow its path,
. . . approach and give judgement."

[Lines 25-44 are badly damaged and untranslatable. Apparently after Marduk created the moon he then created the sun (Shamash).]

After he had appointed the days to Shamash, (45)
And had established the precincts of night and day,
Taking the spittle of Tiamat
Marduk created . . .
He formed the clouds and filled them with water.
The raising of winds, the bringing of rain and cold, (50)

Making the mist smoke, piling up . . .
These he planned himself, took into his own hand.
Putting her head into position he formed thereon the mountains,
Opening the deep which was in flood,
He caused to flow from her eyes the Euphrates and Tigris,
Stopping her nostrils he left . . . ,
He formed from her breasts the lofty mountains,
Therein he drilled springs for the wells to carry off the water.
Twisting her tail he bound it to Durmah,

. . . Apsu at his foot, (60)

. . . her crotch, she was fastened to the heavens,
Thus he covered the heavens and established the earth.
. . . in the midst of Tiamat he made flow,
. . . his net he completely let out,
So he created heaven and earth . . . ,
. . . their bounds . . . established.
When he had designed his rules and fashioned his ordinances,
He founded the shrines and handed them over to Ea.
The Tablet of Destinies which he had taken from Kingu he carried,
He brought it as the first gift of greeting, he gave it to Anu. (70)

Now compare to Genesis 1:14-19:

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

A much condensed version!
Note the “demythologizing”. Shamash (the sun god) becomes shemesh (the sun). The moon god becomes the moon. Elohim seems to screw in the light bulbs so to speak.

In Tablet six, Marduk creates humans out of the blood and bone of the slain Kingu, who had helped Tiamat in her uprising:

When Marduk heard the words of the gods,
His heart prompted him to fashion artful works.
Opening his mouth, he addressed Ea
To impart the plan he had conceived in his heart:
"I will take blood and fashion bone.
I will establish a savage, ‘man’ shall be his name.
truly, savage-man I will create.
He shall be charged with the service of the gods
That they might be at ease!
The ways of the gods I will artfully alter. (10)

Though alike revered, into two groups they shall be divided."
Ea answered him, speaking a word to him,
Giving him another plan for the relief of the gods:
"Let but one of their brothers be handed over;
He alone shall perish that mankind may be fashioned.
Let the great gods be here in Assembly,
Let the guilty be handed over that they may endure."
Marduk summoned the great gods to Assembly;
Presiding graciously, he issued instructions.
To his utterance the gods pay heed.
The king addressed a word to the Anunnaki: (20)

"If your former statement was true,
Now declare the truth on oath by me!
Who was it that contrived the uprising,
And made Tiamat rebel, and joined battle?
Let him be handed over who contrived the uprising.
His guilt I will make him bear. You shall dwell in peace!"
The Igigi, the great gods, replied to him,
To Lugaldimmerankia, counselor of the gods, their lord:
"It was Kingu who contrived the uprising,
And made Tiamat rebel, and joined battle." (30)

They bound him, holding him before Ea.
They imposed on him his punishment and severed his blood vessels.
Out of his blood they fashioned mankind.
He imposed on him the service and let free the gods.
After Ea, the wise, had created mankind,
Had imposed upon them the service of the gods--
That work was beyond comprehension;
As artfully planned by Marduk, did Nudimmud create it--
Marduk, the king of the gods divided
All the great gods [Anunnaki] above and below. (40)

And from Genesis 1:26-28

26Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

Again, we have a much condensed version. Also, humans are not created from the blood of an enemy to be slave to gods, but are created by Elohim who blesses them.

Genesis 1 reflects a mature development in Hebrew theology. Genesis 1 is no earlier than the 6th century BCE. It is much more sophisticated than Enuma Elish or some of the earlier myths in the Bible itself (Job and Psalms). Genesis 1 is less “mythological” and it has a more positive vision of the creator and humankind.

But, Genesis 1 is still a myth. One of its basic functions was to tell the story of why humans are to work six days and keep the seventh day holy. It tells us nothing about how human beings, Earth, or the universe evolved. It is a myth based on the ancient understanding of the cosmos.

Ancient Cosmology: Quick Guide

Imagine if you had never been told that Earth is a globe that rotates and revolves around the sun. You would likely never figure that out. In fact, Copernicus, just over 500 years ago, through observations, showed the Sun as the center of the solar system, not Earth. Copernicus shattered what seemed to be common sense.

Just going by your common sense observations, what would you see? You would see Earth that is flat. You look up and see a big blue dome that stretches to the horizon. By day, a ball of fire moves across the dome. How does that happen? At night another lesser light moves through the dome. And what are all of those white dots at night? You can see them through the dome. They move in patterns. Who moves them? What are they?

The above image is taken from Michael Palmer's web page in the
syllabus for his Religion 103 class,
"The History and Literature of the Bible."

What holds up this dome? Probably the mountains at the edge. What holds up Earth? Perhaps pillars underneath. From where does the rain come? It appears like outside the dome is water and below Earth is water. On occasion, the spouts are opened and water flows down from the dome and up from Earth. What if it never stopped raining? The space between Earth and Dome would fill up with water. That would be scary. Everything would drown. What if you could build a tower tall enough to reach the dome? That would be awesome! You could reach the dome and talk to the gods. The ancients with variations saw their world--earth and heaven (sky-firmament-dome) in that way. Genesis 1 now makes sense:
6And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
The "waters" are the whole of existence itself. Elohim makes a living space holding back the waters above the dome from below Earth. In the earlier Babylonian myth, Enuma Elish, Marduk does the same thing Elohim does. Except in the Babylonian myth, it is even more "mythological" in that virtually everything is personified. Marduk defeats Tiamat (a personification of the watery chaos) and splits her carcass in two. Half of Tiamat's carcass becomes the dome and the other half Earth. The Babylonians and the Hebrews saw the same physical universe (the dome above and the earth below holding back waters) but they had a different mythology to explain its origins.

Obviously, Genesis 1 has nothing to say to us about the physical creation of the universe as we see it today. However, it can inform us theologically. For example, what is the difference between a god who violently creates Earth and Sky by defeating a chaotic monster versus a god who speaks and it is done and "it is good?"

Later in the
Enuma Elish, Marduk creates humans. He creates them from the blood and bone of his enemy, Kingu. These humans are created to be slaves to the gods. What is the difference theologically between and understanding of humanity this a creation of violence enslaved to the forces of the universe and between an understanding of humanity that is the creation of a god who creates humanity in the image of god, and declares humanity good?

For more detail about this, here are some websites:
Hebrew Astronomy, Biblical Cosmology, and Council for Secular Humanism. From the Biblical Cosmology website here are some wonderful quotes from Martin Luther who struggled with the Bible and the new cosmology of Copernicus who he calls "an upstart astrologer". I will close with these:

Martin Luther

Martin Luther (1483–1546) began the protestant reformations with his sincere attempts to interpret the exact meanings of Biblical scripture. Likewise, he made sincere attempts to grasp a Biblical understanding of astronomy.

  • "Scripture simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed in the firmament of the heaven, below and above which heaven are the waters... It is likely that the stars are fastened to the firmament like globes of fire, to shed light at night... We Christians must be different from the philosophers in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens, we must believe them rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding." --Martin Luther.
  • "...the whole firmament moves swiftly around, every moment thousands of leagues, which, doubtless, is done by some angel. `Tis wonderful so great a vault should go about in so short a time." --Martin Luther.
  • "People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth." --Martin Luther.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

June Quiz (Five Scrolls and Post-Exilic Writings)

June Quiz on the Five Scrolls (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther) and the Post-Exilic Writings (Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 & 2 Chronicles):

1. Who said the following: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you”?
a. Ezra to the Levites, during the reading of the law
b. Haggai to Zerubbabel during the building of the second temple
c. Solomon to Hiram during the building of the first temple
d. Nehemiah to Sanballat during the building of the wall of Jerusalem

2. To what event does the book of Lamentations respond?
a. the death of Jonathan
b. the death of Josiah
c. the division of the kingdom
d. the destruction of Jerusalem

3. “By the rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept” is followed immediately by what words?
a. in the presence of our enemies.
b. Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
c. when we remembered Zion.
d. Why do the nations conspire and the people plot in vain?

4. Which of the following is NOT a quotation from the Song of Solomon?
a. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!”
b. “My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.”
c. “I am black and beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem.”
d. “My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards.”

5. To what town do Naomi and Ruth return from Moab?
a. Timnah
b. Oboth
c. Bethlehem
d. Nazareth

6. Which saying does NOT appear in the book of Ecclesiastes?
a. "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
b. "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."
c. "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?"
d. "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting."

7. How does this statement conclude: "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful..."?
a. But the Lord rules over all
b. But the just shall live by faith
c. But time and chance happen to all
d. But the last shall be first

8. In Esther, Haman becomes furious with Mordecai because he
a. wore rich clothing
b. would not bow for Haman
c. had a higher social position than Haman
d. was Esther's cousin

9. What was Nehemiah’s great achievement?
a. rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem
b. defeating the Samaritans in battle
c. restoring the monarchy
d. teaching the law to the returning exiles

10. Which of the following statements is found in Ecclesiastes?
a. "All this I have tested by wisdom; I said, 'I will be wise' but is was far from me."
b. "Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who reverts to his folly."
c. "Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary."
d. "Zion stretches out her hands, but there is no one to comfort her."

11. Ruth deliberately presents herself at the
a. garden gate
b. city gate
c. road to Moab
d. threshing floor
e. home of Naomi

12. The writer of Chronicles condemns Saul for seeking guidance from a
a. prophet
b. king
c. medium
d. priest

13. The Persian decree permitting the reconstruction of the Jerusalem Temple may be found in the Book of:
a. Daniel
b. Ezra
c. 2 Kings
d. 2 Chronicles

14. What was Nehemiah's role in Susa?
a. eunuch
b. scribe of Yahweh
c. cupbearer to the king
d. ambassador from Judah

15. How were the words, which Daniel interpreted ("MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN"), conveyed?
a. spoken by a messenger of God
b. spoken by Daniel
c. read by a eunuch
d. written on a wall

Short Answer:

1. The Song of Songs has been interpreted as God's love for Israel or Christ's love for the Church. What is your evaluation of that interpretation?

2. The story of Esther is the reason for the Festival of Purim. Describe this festival.

3. Nehemiah condemned the powerful for charging interest and thereby keeping other Jews indebted and in poverty. Can you think of similar situations today? What does it mean when we say "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors?"

4. How are the stories in Chronicles different from the stories in Samuel and Kings?

5. What quality does Ruth possess that makes her respected?

Longer Answer:

Who caused "bitter tears" to "flood her cheeks?" (Lamentations 1:2) Do you think it is psychologically healthy to believe in a punitive God? Why or why not?

May Quiz (Poetic Literature)

May Quiz on the Poetic Literature (Psalms, Proverbs, Job)

1. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar all appear in which book?
a. Job
b. Psalms
c. Ecclesiastes
d. Song of Solomon

2. How is the following verse from Psalm 46 completed: "God is our ________, a very present help in trouble?
a. hope and confidence
b. redeemer and friend
c. refuge and strength
d. rock and fortress

3. Which words conclude the following verse from the book of Psalms: "As a deer longs from flowing streams,..."
a. "so my heart thirsts for righteousness."
b. "so my soul longs for you, O God."
c. "so longs a man for the wife of his youth."
d. "so a lion longs for his prey."

4. With what are the last six psalms of the Psalter concerned?
a. deliverance from evil people
b. the love of the law
c. the praise of God
d. the smiting of Israel's enemies

5. In Psalm 14 and 53, how is the following saying completed: “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no…’”?
a. God.
b. justice.
c. mercy.
d. salvation

6. Which statement does Proverbs 31 NOT include in its description of a “capable wife”?
a. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
b. “For her love is better than wine, her anointing oils are fragrant.”
c. “Her children rise up and call her happy.”
d. “She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

7. Which words follow this verse from the book of Psalms: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity”?
a. “…but a contentious woman breeds strife.”
b. “…working vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.”
c. “…but all day long my enemies taunt me.”
d. “…it is like the precious oil on the head.”

8. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at last he will stand upon the earth” is found in which book?
a. Job
b. Psalms
c. Proverbs
d. Ecclesiastes

9. Which of the following completes the quotation from Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of . . . “?
a. blessing
b. humility
c. wisdom
d. worship

10. Which of the following completes the challenge of Satan to God regarding Job: “stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will…”?
a. be made whole
b. curse you to your face
c. proclaim your presence
d. question your mercy

11. Which of the following completes the quotation from Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will…”?
a. learn the ways of God
b. not depart from it
c. not lack for friends
d. praise you

12. Which of the following completes the quotation from Psalms: "For as the heavens are high above the earth..."?
a. He has not dealt with us according to our sins
b. So great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him
c. So the Lord remembers that we are dust
d. The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed

13. In the book of Job, who says, "Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God ad die"?
a. Elihu
b. Job's wife
c. One of Job's daughters
d. Zophar

14. "They are like trees planted by streams of water" refers to which of the following?
a. Those who persevere against injustice
b. God and the heavenly hosts
c. Righteous kings
d. Those who do not follow the advice of the wicked

15. "O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth" begins and ends the psalm that also contains which of the following statements?
a. "May the Lord cut off all flattering lips."
b. "The enemy has vanished in everlasting ruin."
c. "The Lord is in his Holy Temple."
d. "What are human beings that you are mindful of them?"

16. About whom is the following said: "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace"?
a. Ecclesiastes' wife
b. Job's wife
c. The Queen of Sheba
d. Wisdom

Short Answer:

1. Proverbs are truisms or sayings to live by. What proverb or proverbs (not necessarily from the book of Proverbs) do you remember from a parent or other important adult?

2. What are the names of Job's three friends and what are their explanations for Job's misery?

3. Give your best answer to the question: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" or to put it another way, “What is your answer to Job?”

4. Many times in the Psalms, the psalmist prays for the destruction of enemies. Do you think Psalm 137:9 has a place in Holy Scripture? Explain.

Longer Answer:

Write a Psalm of your own:

April Quiz (Minor Prophets)

April Quiz on the Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)

1. Which of the following groups of prophets prophesied in Judah before the exile?
a. Ezekiel, Micah, and Hosea
b. Isaiah, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah
c. Zechariah, Malachi, and Amos
d. Joel, Obadiah, and Haggai

2. How does the prophet Micah answer the question: “What does the Lord require of you?”
a. “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
b. “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
c. “Rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful.”
d. “To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

3. Which prophet was directed by God to name his children “Jezreel,” “Not pitied,” and “Not my people”?
a. Amos
b. Ezekiel
c. Hosea
d. Joel

4. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This is found in which book?
a. Joel
b. Haggai
c. Zechariah
d. Malachi

5. Which prophet was commanded by God: “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom”?
a. Amos
b. Hosea
c. Joel
d. Micah

6. Which prophetic book envisions a future in which “your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions”?
a. Joel
b. Haggai
c. Zechariah
d. Malachi

7. In which book does the following appear: “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies… But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”?
a. Isaiah
b. Jeremiah
c. Joel
d. Amos

8. What was Jonah’s message to Nineveh?
a. a threat of destruction if they did not repent
b. a warning to flee from the wrath to come
c. an offer of forgiveness if they would repent
d. an announcement that the city will be overthrown

9. Which books contain the following: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks”?
a. Daniel and Joel
b. Hosea and Jeremiah
c. Jonah and Amos
d. Micah and Isaiah

10. The immanent approach of ‘the great day of the Lord’ is a major theme in which prophetic book?
a. Nahum
b. Habakkuk
c. Zephaniah
d. Haggai

11. Which prophet does the Lord command to bake a barley cake over human dung and to eat it in the sight of the people if Israel?
a. Obadiah
b. Ezekiel
c. Jeremiah
d. Hezekiah

12. Amos prophesied during the reign of which king of Israel?
a. David
b. Jeroboam II
c. Mannasseh
d. Solomon

13. "See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight. . ." is found in which book?
a. Daniel
b. Obadiah
c. Nahum
d. Malachi

14. "But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah...from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel" is found in which of the following books?
a. Habakkuk
b. Haggai
c. Joel
d. Micah

15. During whose reign did Haggai appear as a prophet?
a. Darius's
b. Hezekiah's
c. Josiah's
d. Nebuchadnezzar's

Two Longer Answers:

1. For each of the 12 prophets, determine from the book's introduction and the content of the book (and any other resources if you have them):

a) the time period the book is written and/or set...

b) the people (ie. Northern kingdom, southern kingdom, common folk, kings, people of Israel in general) to whom the prophet is speaking...

c) the issue or issues the prophet is addressing...

d) a one or two sentence summary (in your words) of the prophet's central message...

e) choose a symbol or metaphor from the prophet to help you remember the message…

2. Imagine that God has called you to prophesy. What word has God given you to speak to the Church, to the nation, to a particular group of people, to a specific issue, to yourself, etc. Pick a context then speak the Word! Write your oracle below. Be brave. Everyone has at least one sermon inside them!

March Quiz (Major Prophets)

March Quiz on the Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel)

1. Isaiah is associated with which location?
a. Damascus
b. Jerusalem
c. Samaria
d. Sinai

2. In Isaiah 7, what is Ahaz's response to the Lord's demand to ask for a sign "deep as Sheol or high as heaven"?
a. To challenge Isaiah
b. To refuse to ask for a sign
c. To request a sign
d. To walk away in anger

3. When did Ezekiel's visions occur?
a. Before the Babylonian invasion
b. During the Babylonian exile
c. Immediately following the fall of Samaria and the northern kingdom
d. Shortly after Solomon's death, when the kingdom was divided

4. What interpretation is given to Ezekiel's vision of the valley filled with dry bones?
a. A new covenant will be written on the heart.
b. The exiles will be brought back to the land.
c. The armies led by Gog will be totally destroyed.
d. This is the valley of decision.

5. “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations” is found in which chapter?
a. Isaiah 9
b. Isaiah 24
c. Isaiah 42
d. Isaiah 56

6. Who was Maher-shalal-hash-baz?
a. A priest of Assyria against whom Isaiah contended
b. A son of Isaiah
c. One who cried for the destruction of Samaria
d. The son of Baladan, king of Babylon

7. According to Isaiah, what event ends the Babylonian exile?
a. The victory of King Josiah of Judah
b. The victory of Alexander the Great
c. The victory of Pharaoh Neco of Egypt
d. The victory of Cyrus of Persia

8. What was the point of these symbolic actions of Ezekiel: lying on his left side 40 days, then on his right side 40 days; shaving off his hair and beard; digging through a wall and crawling through it with his baggage?
a. to attract attention to his words; the actions themselves had no meaning
b. to demonstrate the irrationality of Israel's behavior
c. to participate symbolically in the fall of Jerusalem and exile
d. to purify himself from Israel's uncleanness

9. What statement describes what Isaiah says about the wolf and lamb, the leopard and kid, the calf and lion?
a. "Be fruitful and multiply."
b. "They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain."
c. "Wild oxen shall fall with them, and young steers with the mighty bulls."
d. "You have given them dominion over the works of your hands."

10. What was the name of Jeremiah's scribe?
a. Balaam
b. Barnabas
c. Baruch
d. Benjamin

11. By which river did Ezekiel sit among the exiles?
a. Tigris
b. Euphrates
c. Chebar
d. Jordan

12. Where is Israel referred to repeatedly as the servant of the Lord?
a. Isaiah 1-12
b. Isaiah 13-23
c. Isaiah 40-55
d. Isaiah 56-66

13. Who brought Jeremiah from imprisonment to ask him, "Is there any word from the Lord?"
a. Baruch
b. Gedaliah
c. the princes of Judah
d. Zedekiah

14. According to Isaiah, how would Sennacherib, king of Assyria, die?
a. of a fall from a horse
b. of the same illness that threatened Hezekiah
c. by the sword in his own land
d. in the siege of Jerusalem

Two Longer Answers:

1. For each prophet, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, answer the following:

a) What is the time period?

b) To whom is each speaking?

c) What issue and/or even is each addressing?

2. Do you think there is a relationship between a nation's prosperity/peace and its righteousness/justice?

February Quiz (Former Prophets)

February Quiz on Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, and I & II Kings

Multiple Choice. Select the one correct answer:

1. What book contains the following quotation: “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes?”
a. Joshua
b. Judges
c. Ruth
d. 1 Samuel

2. “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” Who prayed this at the outset of his reign?
a. David
b. Hezekiah
c. Josiah
d. Solomon

3. In which book does David become king over Judah?
a. 1 Kings
b. 2 Kings
c. 1 Samuel
d. 2 Samuel

4. Which tribe of Israel received cities located within the territories of other tribes?
a. Benjamin
b. Ephraim
c. Judah
d. Levi

5. Who said, “Speak for your servant is listening?”
a. Abraham
b. Isaiah
c. Moses
d. Samuel

6. “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” is found in a story about which of the following?
a. Ahab
b. Hezekiah
c. Naaman
d. Nathan

7. What was Nehemiah’s great achievement?
a. rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem
b. defeating the Samaritans in battle
c. restoring the monarchy
d. teaching the law to the returning exiles

8. For what was Jehu remembered in Israel?
a. He assassinated Jezebel and her offspring.
b. He called down fire from heaven on Mt. Carmel.
c. He fought against the Babylonians.
d. He helped Solomon build the temple.

9. What role did Abner, Joab, and Benaiah have in common?
a. judge
b. king
c. military commander
d. priest

10. Which of the following did David do?
a. He took Michal again to be his wife.
b. He used his own army to seize Jerusalem.
c. He was anointed king of the northern tribes.
d. all of the above

11. Who was the first king of the Northern Kingdom (Israel), the one whose sins were said to have been repeated by every king of Israel who followed him?
a. Ahab
b. Hezekiah
c. Solomon
d. Jeroboam

Short Answer. Give a description of each of the following

1. Name 12 judges (leaders). Which one is your favorite and why?

2. Answer this riddle: "Once so strong and mighty--now so sweet and tasty."

3. Like King Lear and Macbeth, Saul is a tragic figure. What was his tragic flaw?

4. The Lord chose David to be king. What is the difference between how people judge others and how God judges others?

5. The horrible rape of Tamar by Amnon was made worse by what happened in II Sam. 13:20-22. What would have been a more just and healing response by Absalom and David?

6. How did a wise woman save the town of Abel?

7. After Solomon's death, his kingdom divided. How did this happen and who ruled which part?

Longer Answer

In the 6th Century BCE, Judah is defeated by King Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed and the people are taken into captivity in Babylon. The author of Kings suggests that these things happened because God willed it (see II Kings 24:2-4 and 24:19). What are the advantages and disadvantages of this theological viewpoint? In your view, does God intervene in human affairs? If yes, how do you know? If not, then what is God for?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Family Story Bible Quiz (December)

December pp. 269-287

1. Why were the people baptized in water?

2. What did the early Christians do to walk in God's way?

3. Why did the people kill Stephen?

4. What happened to Saul?

5. What happened to Dorcas?

6. What did Peter's dream about the animals in the sheet mean?

7. What did Lydia do to walk in God's way?

8. What did Paul mean when he wrote to his friends in Corinth about the different parts of the body?

9. What did James remind his friends to do?

10. What does John's wonderful dream mean?

Family Story Bible Quiz (November)

November pp. 248-268

1) Have you ever been worried and afraid like Jesus and needed to pray to God?

2) What did Judas do to betray Jesus?

3) Why did Peter lie and tell the people he didn't know Jesus?

4) Why did they want to kill Jesus?

5) How did you feel when you heard the story about Jesus dying?

6) Who did Mary see on Sunday morning?

7) When did the disciples on the road recognize that the stranger was Jesus?

8) According to Jesus, what is "God's story?"

9) Do you ever ask questions like Thomas? Did Jesus like Thomas?

10) How will Peter (and the rest of us) show that we love Jesus?

Family Story Bible Quiz (October)

October pp. 226-247

1) How did Jesus heal the bent over woman?

2) Why was the older brother angry?

3) Why wasn't everyone happy that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead?

4) Do you feel you are as important as a grown up? How did the story of Jesus welcoming children make you feel?

5) What did Zacchaeus learn?

6) On one Sunday a year, we have palm branches in church. Why?

7) What made Jesus angry?

8) Who is most important in God's shalom? What does shalom mean?

9) Do you think you could ever wash somebody else's feet? What else can we do to show we are servants like Jesus?

10) What is the one thing that is more important than anything else?

11) What does the bread and wine mean? When do we do something like this in church?

Family Story Bible Quiz (September)

September pp. 206-225

1) Why was Jesus happy that the woman touched Jesus' clothes?

2) Can you remember a time when you were sick? What helped you get better?

3) Jesus gave Simon a new name. What was this name and what does it mean?

4) What did Peter, James, and John see and hear on the mountain?

5) How can we be kind to Jesus?

6) Read the story of the Lost Sheep. Does Jesus care about everyone or just important people?

7) How did Jesus save the woman from the men who wanted to throw stones at her?

8) Can you think of a time that you were helpful like the Good Samaritan?

9) What kind of food did Jesus want Martha to eat?

10) What makes a person rich?

Family Story Bible Quiz (August)

August pp. 185-205

1. What is the name for Jesus' special helpers? Do you think you could be one?

2. Like Mary, have you ever felt good and strong inside?

3. Matthew and his friends knew they needed help from God. Do you think you need help from God? What kind of help?

4. How did Mary and Joanna and all of Jesus' friends help him?

5. What do you think is the most important thing that Jesus said?

6. No matter how we feel, who can make us "be happy?"

7. In church we say the prayer Jesus taught. Can you say it by memory?

8. What does the parable about the men who owed money to the banker mean?

9. What is your favorite story about God's shalom?

10. How did the child help Jesus?