SALVATION HISTORY: God's Plan of Salvation for Humanity from Genesis to the Birth of the New Covenant Church

The coming of God's Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over the centuries.  He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the "First Covenant."  He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel.  Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming.
Catechism of the Catholic Church # 522

Beginning with the opening chapters of the book of Genesis and continuing to the book of Revelation, God the Father reveals His plan of salvation and His loving desire to re-establish the broken relationship between Himself and man.  The promise and the beginning of the fulfillment of that plan is manifested in the Incarnation of Jesus the Messiah.  The Bible is, in fact, focused on Jesus our Redeemer from Genesis to Revelation.  The Vatican II document, Dei Verbum expresses the focus and intent of Christ in God's master plan as: "...wishing to open up the way to heavenly salvation, He manifested Himself to our first parents from the very beginning.  After the fall, He buoyed them up with the hope of salvation, by promising redemption (cf. Genesis 3:15); and He has never ceased to take care of the human race.  For He wishes to give eternal life to all those who seek salvation by patience in well-doing (cf. Romans 2:6-7).  In his own time God called Abraham, and made his into a great nation (cf. Genesis 12:2).  After the era of the patriarchs, He taught this nation, by Moses and the prophets, to recognize Him as the only living and true God, as a provident Father and just judge.  He taught them, too, to look for the promised Savior.  And so, throughout the ages, He prepared the way for the Gospel.  After God had spoken many times and in various ways through the prophets, 'in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son' (Hebrews 1:1-2).  For He sent his Son, the eternal Word who enlightens all men..." [Pope Paul VI, Dei Verbum 3-4, 1965]

It is important for modern Christians to understand that the Bible is not only a book of faith but it is also a book of history.  It was within the unfolding of actual human events that God has embodied His revelation of salvation and revealed Himself to man.  In the general audience, held in St. Peter's Square, on May 11, 2005, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, preached a message of hope by reminding the faithful of God's divine intervention in human history.  Pope Benedict told the circa 17,000 people present that "History is not in the hands of dark forces, of chance, or of merely human choices.  The Lord, supreme arbiter of historical events, rises above the discharge of evil energies, the vehement onslaught of Satan, the emergence of plagues and wickedness. He knowingly guides history to the dawn of the new heaven and the new earth, as mentioned in the last part of the book [of Revelation] in the image of the New Jerusalem."

It is the goal of this study to give a more complete understanding of God's comprehensive plan of salvation as the revelation of that plan unfolds in human time and through God ordained events. This comprehensive study outlines twelve periods of Bible history by touching on the major Biblical and historical events of each period with references to the corresponding Biblical passages.
Michal Hunt, 2005

Lesson #1: INTRODUCTORY LESSON

Beloved Heavenly Father,
In the unfolding events of the history of mankind You have revealed Yourself to us.  You have expressed through real time and real events Your desire that every human being should come to know You and to experience Your deep abiding love.  Bless us, Father, as we study Your plan of salvation and redemption for humanity--a plan in which each of us has a role to fill and a journey in time to take.  In the name the Most Holy Trinity: Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

+++

Pope Paul the VI wrote, "The history of salvation is being accomplished in the midst of the history of the world."  We usually think of the Bible as a book of faith but we seldom consider that it is also a book of history.  The New Webster Dictionary defines "history" as "That branch of knowledge which deals with events that have taken place in the world's existence; the study of investigation of the past; a narrative or account of an event or series of events in the life of a nation, or that have marked the progress of existence of any community or institution; [...] an account of an individual person."

The Bible is a record of all of these things.  It is an account of the world's existence from the beginning of creation.  It is a narrative of the events in the birth of the nation of Israel.  It is an account of the progress of a people set apart by God and of the community He established to worship and fellowship with Him.  And finally, the Bible contains the accounts of the lives of numerous individuals.  Put in its simplest terms it can be said that the Bible is the history of the relationship between humans and the divine, but it is really so much more than the simple retelling of the events concerned with that relationship.

The Bible is God's comprehensive plan of salvation for the redemption of mankind.  It is the plan that is recounted in a book we call the Bible; a book that begins in the Book of Genesis with the creation of heaven and earth, and with a bride, and a wedding –the union of Adam and Eve, and ends in the Book of Revelation, the last Bible book with a new creation, a bride and, a wedding: Revelation 21:1-2 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride dressed for her husband." (verse 9) "Come here and I will show you the bride that the Lamb has married." This is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and His Bride, the Church, "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb!" [Revelation 19:9].

In this study we will be reading Scripture passages from selected chronological books of the Old and New Testaments that correspond to the 12 major periods of Biblical history.  Scholars disagree on the date of these 12 Biblical periods prior to the split between the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel.  Most dates are taken from the New Jerusalem Bible.

THE 12 MAJOR PERIODS OF BIBLICAL HISTORY

BIBLICAL PERIOD DATE

1.  Creation and History of the Early World

? – 2000 B.C.

2.  The Patriarchs

2000 – 1675 B.C.

3.  The 12 Tribes of Israel in Egypt/ The Sinai Covenant

1675 – 1275 B.C.

4. The Conquest of Canaan

1275 – 1220 B.C.

5.  The Rule of the Judges of Israel

1220 – 1050 B.C.

6. The United Kingdom of Israel

1050 – 930 B.C.

7.  The Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah

930 – 722 B.C.

8. The Assyrian Exile of Israel and
    The Babylonian Exile of Judah

  722 – 538 B.C.

9.  The Remnant of Judah Returns/
     The Conquest of the Greeks

  538 – 323 B.C.

10. Hellenistic Period; The Revolt of the Maccabees/
The Rule of the Hasmons

323 – 63 B.C.

11. Jesus the Messiah and the New Exodus

  28 B.C. – A.D.30

12. The New Covenant Church

  30 A.D. –

Please consult the Chart of the Chronological Books of Bible History that we will be using in the Salvation History course.  Some of the passages we will be reading in this study are from the Old Testament book of 2 Maccabees, an Old Testament book not found in Protestant Bibles or in the Jewish Old Testament Tanach.  Did you know that Catholic and Protestant Bibles do not have the same number of sacred books?

THE CANON OF SACRED SCRIPTURE:

Both Catholic and Protestants divide the Christian Bible into two parts: the Old Testament, sometime referred to as the Hebrew or Jewish Bible, which is composed of the inspired "Sacred Writings" [see Matthew 21:42] before the birth of Jesus Christ, and the New Testament which is composed of the inspired writings of Jesus' Apostles Matthew, John, Paul* and Peter, His disciples James Bishop of Jerusalem and Jude [most scholars cite Jude 1:17 as evidence that he is not an Apostle], and disciples of His Apostles, Mark and Luke.   The English word "testament" that we use to define these two halves of the Bible comes from the Latin word "testamentum".  When the Biblical scholar St. Jerome wrote his Latin vulgate translation of the Bible in the late 4th century he used the Latin word "testamentum" to translate the Greek word diatheke and the Hebrew word berith, both of which mean "covenant".  Jerome's translation of the word "testament" for "covenant" has been carried over into English translations.   A Biblical covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a people or God and an individual.  The covenant relationship is a central theme of Sacred Scripture.   It is therefore probably more accurate to say the Christian Bible is divided into the sacred books of the Old Covenant, which recounts God's relationship with a chosen line of the descendants of Adam which became the Old Covenant Church [Israel], and the books of the New Covenant, which record the events of the establishment of the New Covenant Church [the "universal = catholic" Church] by the "new Adam", Jesus the Messiah, and the covenant relationship between the Most Holy Trinity'God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit' and New Covenant believers.

[*Note: St. Paul did not became a Christian until after Jesus' Ascension, however, he is considered to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ because he was personally chosen by Jesus and given his apostolic mission during his miraculous vision on the road to Damascus. St. Paul attests to his special calling by identifying himself as an Apostle especially in the beginning of each of his epistles.  See Romans 1:1; 13:11; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 9:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; 2:8; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2:6-7; 2 Timothy 1:1, 11; Titus 1:1].

Within these two major divisions are many individual books.  During the first century AD when Jesus was teaching that He had come to establish the Kingdom of God on earth Jesus usually quoted [Old Testament] Scripture passages from the first Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.  This translation was called the Greek Septuagint [sometimes expressed with the Roman symbols for 70 = LXX; a designation referring to the tradition that 70 Jewish scholars had been inspired by God to make the translation].  This translation from the Hebrew Sacred Scriptures into Greek was made in the 3rd century BC.  By that time most Jews and Israelites living outside of the Holy Land no longer spoke Hebrew, but in addition to their local dialects they also spoke the international language, which was Greek, the language spread by the armies of Alexander the Great in his conquest of the known world.  Therefore, the Greek language became the first language translation of Hebrew Sacred Scripture.

By the first century AD, at the time Jesus lived, Hebrew had become a liturgical language spoken only by scholars, priests and during the Temple liturgy [much like Latin is still the spoken and written language in the Roman Catholic Church today].  The common people spoke Aramaic and most people also spoke the international language, Greek.  At that time there were at least 46 books included in the canon of the Greek Septuagint translation [although they were not divided as we divide them today into 46 books].  Not only are most of the Scripture passages quoted by Jesus in the Gospels from this translation but the majority of other Scripture quotes found in the other New Testament books are from the Septuagint translation. The books of the Septuagint became the official Old Testament canon of the New Covenant Church and later the 27 books of the New Testament were added to give a total of the73 sacred books that are found in today's Catholic Bibles.

After the destruction of Jerusalem and God's Holy Temple by the Romans in 70AD a group of Jewish scholars received permission from the Roman government to gather at a town called Jamnia [Jabneh].  These Jewish scholars, Pharisees and rabbis, formed a religious council and a school to study Sacred Scripture.  Since the followers of Jesus were using the Greek Septuagint translation for apologetic and evangelistic purposes--using the text to prove that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Covenant and was indeed the promised Messiah-- this translation became an anathema to the Jewish scholars of Jamnia.  Christians, for example, were using the Greek text from Isaiah 7:14 "The virgin shall conceive and bear a son...", quoted from the Septuagint in Matthew 1:23 as proof of the prophecy of the virgin birth.  In response to the conversion of many Jews to Christianity through the Septuagint translation, in about 100AD the scholars of Jamnia authorized a new Greek translation specifically to hinder such "proofs" of fulfillment of Old Covenant prophecy, thereby hoping to hinder the spread of Christianity.  For example, the Jewish scholar Aquila, with the approval of the council, changed the Greek word "parthenos" = "virgin" in the Isaiah 7:14 passage to the Greek word for "young woman" = "neanis" in the newer Greek translation.  These scholars also began to debate the Old Covenant canon and began recording the Oral Law [c. 200AD], which had been passed down through the ministerial priesthood from the time of Moses.  This recording of the Oral Law would become the Mishnah. The Mishnah and its commentary, the Gemara [there are two, the Babylonian and the Palestinian], comprise the Jewish Talmud.

Even though challenges to the canonicity of Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon were debated at Jamnia, none of the 46 books of the 1st century AD Septuagint that we have in our Catholic Bibles were dropped until the early Middle Ages when the Masorites, a school of Jewish scholars, re-translated the altered Greek language Old Testament that was constructed in Jamnia back into Hebrew.  At this time 7 books which we include were dropped from the Old Covenant canon including the only books of the Old Testament that recounted the story of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah, 1 and 2 Maccabees.  The other books dropped from the Jewish canon were Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch, along with parts of the texts of Daniel and Esther.  Later in the 16th century AD, after over a thousand years of accepting the Catholic canon, Protestant Christians rejected the canon of the Catholic Old Testament and instead accepted both the translations and canon of the anti-Christian Masoretic Jewish Old Testament.

Comparison of surviving Old Testament translations:

TRANSLATION DATE

Septuagint- Greek Old Testament translation used at the time of Christ

c. 250 BC

Dead Sea Scrolls O.T. books

Oldest Hebrew texts date to c. 250 BC

Jamnia Greek Bible O.T.

2 century AD

Latin Vulgate Bible

4th century AD

Masoretic Old Testament
[used in the Modern Jewish Tanach = O.T.]
 -oldest surviving text = Aleppo codex

9th  century AD
 
 
 
 -c. 950 AD

Today the Protestant Old Testament has 39 books plus the 27 New Testament books for a total of 66 books.  The Catholic Bible has 46 Old Testament books plus the 27 New Testament books for a total of 73 books.

We have already discussed that the Christian Bible is divided into two major divisions of the Old Covenant books and the books of the New Covenant in Christ.  Although there are many books that compose the Bible and many writers who contributed to those books, Christian tradition has firmly taught for nearly 2,000 years [until the 18th century and the so called "Age of Enlightenment"] that there is only one author: the One True and Living God.  Since the Bible is divinely inspired through human writers the Catholic Church has always maintained that this Book is both human and divine just as Christ, the Living Word of God is both human and divine.  In fact, the Catholic Church has always taught that this Book is about Jesus Christ from cover to cover.  This belief has been part of the Christian tradition since the earliest years of the Church:

  1. In Peter's first letter to the Church he writes in chapter one verse 20 that Christ, the spotless Lamb "was marked out before the world was made, and was revealed at the final point of time for your sake." 
  2. St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 10 writes to them in verse 1-4 that in the great Exodus experience the Children of Israel were protected in their journey by Christ: "I want you to be quite certain, brothers that our ancestors all had the cloud over them and all passed through the sea.  In the cloud and in the sea they were all baptized into Moses; all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink, since they drank from the spiritual rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ."  And then in verse 11 St. Paul tells the Corinthians that "all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were described in writing to be a lesson for us, to whom it has fallen to live in the last days of the ages." 
  3. Jesus' testimony to the Jews of Jerusalem about what we call the Old Testament in John 5:39 "You pore over the Scriptures believing that in them you can find eternal life; it is these Scriptures that testify to me..."
  4. Resurrection Sunday Jesus appeared to two disciples who are traveling to their home in Emmaus and teaches them in Luke 24:25-27 "'You foolish men!  So slow to believe all that the prophecies have said!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?' Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself." 
  5. And when Jesus appeared that same Resurrection Sunday to the Apostles in the Upper Room in Luke 24:44-45 "Then he told them, 'This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses [first 5 books of the Old Testament], in the Prophets and in the Psalms, was destined to be fulfilled.' He then opened their minds to understand the Scriptures..."

For Christians, this is the way the Old Testament books should be studied.  St. Augustan, the great 4th century Biblical scholar, restated Jesus teaching in Luke chapter 24 by telling his students that one must be aware in the study of Sacred Scripture that "the New [Testament] is hidden in the Old and the Old [Testament] is fulfilled in the New."  This will be the focus in our study of Salvation History, to discover Christ in God's plan for our Salvation from Creation and history of the early world to the birth of the New Covenant people.  We will be focusing on the promises, prophecies, covenants, and types [people, events, or objects that prefigure the Christ] in the Old Testament that point to the coming of the Messiah and are fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament.

Please note that all Scripture references quoted in this study are taken from the New Jerusalem Bible translation, 1985 edition.  Other good translations are the St. Ignatius Bible [Revised Standard Version], and the New American Catholic Bible.  I do not recommend the Living Bible translations nor do I recommend the King James Version translations.  All English, and other language translations, are not completely accurate translations.  Translators often compromise the literal translation to make the text more "readable".  In fact all translations are to some extent an interpretation of the original text.  In this study I use an Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament text and an Interlinear Greek-English New Testament text to check for accuracy of translation.

Please consult the chart "Time Line of Periods of History in the Holy Land" as well as the Old and New Testament Time Lines found in the Charts section of this study for a better understanding of the periods of history and the related Bible stories from pre-history to the present in the Holy Land.

THE BOOK OF MOSES

"All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for refuting error, for guiding people's lives and teaching them to be upright." 2 Timothy 3:16

In the Jewish tradition the first five books of the Bible are called the Torah.  Christians often refer to these five books as the Pentateuch, a term derived from the Greek word "pentateuchos", which simply means "five-part book", a designation that came into use in the second century AD.  Christians usually think of the Pentateuch as a collection of the five books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, but the Torah [Pentateuch] was originally intended to be read as a single book.  The references in Sacred Scripture clearly indicate that it was considered to be one book, for example:

Both tradition and Sacred Scripture support the premise that the original text of the Pentateuch was intended to be read and studied as a single book.

THE QUESTION OF THE AUTHORSHIP OF
THE BOOK OF MOSES

"You pore over the Scriptures believing that in them you can find eternal life; it is these Scriptures that testify to me. [..].  Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father: you have placed your hopes on Moses, and Moses will be the one who accuses you.  If you really believed him you would believe me too, since it was about me that he was writing; and if you will not believe what he wrote, how can you believe what I say"?Jesus' discourse to the Jews in John 5: 39, 45-47

Usually when we speak of the authors of Sacred Scripture we are thinking of the individuals, the prophets and other holy men who wrote down the words of each of the books, but according to the text of Sacred Scripture these men may have been the human writers but it is God who is the author.  Both St. Paul and St. Peter testified to this belief in 2 Timothy 3:16 [see above] and in 2 Peter 1:21 where Peter wrote, "For no prophecy ever came from human initiative.  When people spoke for God it was the Holy Spirit that moved them."  This has always been the position of the Church-- that the Bible is both human and divine in its origins just as the Living Word was Himself both human and divine.  This was the belief for both Jewish and Christian scholars until the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century when the Bible began to be studied simply as literature devoid of any divine connection.

In the Jewish and the Christian tradition, and for most of the Christian era, Moses is given credit for having been inspired by God to write down the very words of God contained in the Pentateuch, and the Biblical text supports this claim.

Evidence of Mosaic Authorship in Scripture

"Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father: you have placed your hopes on Moses, and Moses will be the one who accuses you.  If you really believed him you would believe me too, since it was about me that he was writing.."  Jesus addressing the Jews of Jerusalem in John 5:45-46

Evidence within the Pentateuch

EVIDENCE PASSAGE

Passages in the books referring directly to Mosaic authorship

-Exodus 17:14; 20:22-23:33; 24:4,7; 34:27

-Numbers chapter 32; 33:2

-Deuteronomy 31:9, 24-26

Legal documents within the Pentateuch attributed to Moses

-Exodus 12:1-28; chapters 20-24; chapters 25-31; chapter 34

-Leviticus chapters 1-7; chapter 8; chapters 13-16; chapters 17-25; chapter 27

-Numbers chapters 1, 2, &4; 6:1-21; 8:1-4; 8:5-22; chapter s 15 & 19; 27:6-23; chapters 28-30; chapter 35

-Deuteronomy chapters 1-33

 

Evidence from Other Old Testament Books

Evidence from the historical writings:

-Joshua 1:7, 8; 8:31-32; 23:6;

-1Kings 2:3;

-2Kings 14:6; 23:25;

-1Chronicles 22:13;

-2Chronicles 5:10; 23:18; 25:4; 30:16; 33:8; 34:14; 35:12;

-Ezra 3:2; 6:18; 7:6

-Nehemiah 1:7,8; 8:1, 14; 9:14; 10:29; 13:1

Evidence from the wisdom books and the prophets

-Ecclesiasticus [Ben Sira] 24:23

-Daniel 19:11, 13

-Malachi 4:4

 

Evidence from the New Testament Books

Evidence found in the Gospels

*= Jesus' testimony

-Mark 12:19

-Luke 2:22; 5:14*; 16:29-31*; 20:8; 24:27*, 44*

-John 1:17, 45; 5:45-47*; 7:19*, 23*; 8:5; 9:29

Evidence from Acts, the Epistles of Paul and Revelation

-Acts 3:22; 6:14; 13:39; 15:1, 21; 26:22; 28:23

-Romans 10:5

-1Corinthians 9:9

-2Corinthians 3:15

-Hebrews 9:19; 10:28

-Revelation 15:3

M. Hunt 2004

 

Testimony to Mosaic authorship is stated as least 27 times by the New Testament writers, 7 of those affirmation of Mosaic authorship are quotations of Jesus' statements identifying Moses as the inspired writer of the "Book of Moses", also called the Torah or the Pentateuch.

 

External evidence supporting Mosaic authorship can be found in Jewish tradition, in the Jewish Talmud, the Mishnah, the writings of 1st century Jewish scholars like Philo of Alexandria and Josephus, as well in surviving pre-first century AD Jewish commentaries.  The writings of the Apostolic Church Fathers, and the lists of the early Christian canons also support Mosaic authorship.

 

Today, however, most Biblical scholars ascribe to the "documentary theory" for formation of the Book of Moses.  This theory was at first rejected by both Protestant and Catholic scholars but gained popularity in the 19th century when it was reformatted and presented by the German Protestant scholars Graf and Wellhausen.   These scholars theorized that the Pentateuch was an amalgam of different documents composed and developed from different places and at different times, long after Moses may have lived, perhaps as late as the return from the Babylonian exile in the late 6th century BC.  Today this theory, know as the Documentary Hypothesis, theorizes that four documents came together: the Yahwistic source, the Elohistic source, the Priestly source and the Deuteronomic source, which were eventually edited, centuries after they were composed, into one book.  A major weakness of this theory is that no two scholars seem to be able to agree as to which passages should be assigned to which of the four document sources.  The other major problem is that not a shred of physical evidence exists to support this theory.  An ancient document has never been discovered that even hints that any author other than God's inspired writer, the prophet Moses, wrote the Book of the Law of Moses, nor has any partial text been discovered that would correspond to any separate supposed separate strand, nor does sacred Tradition speak of any orally transmitted separate strand that refers to God by only one name [a basis of the documentary theory based on each separated strand being keyed to different names used for God].   In addition, there is no archeological evidence to support the Documentary Hypothesis.  There are no written or oral traditions in existence today that contain less than all of the supposed "four document sources."  If the Book of Moses was not composed by Moses but instead was a clever interweaving of four different oral traditions, the question begs to be asked why none of the four individual strands have survived independently in oral or written form.  Instead, source written copies and oral traditions pertaining to the writings of Moses exist in a complete form similar to that of our Bible today, not in fragmented strands. For example, if Genesis chapter I and Genesis chapter II offer two separate creation stories that originate from two separate sources, then why is there no written or oral Jewish tradition of two creation accounts that mention the content of one chapter without mentioning the content of the other?  The unification of these two elements in ancient sources supports that they were not separate in origin.

 

Other criticisms of Mosaic authorship include the argument that the text is too sophisticated to have been written that early in recorded history.  Those scholars and critics obviously are neglecting the fact that we have whole archives of court documents and literature from the Sumerian civilization that date to circa 3200BC.  We have recovered 40,000 lines of text from the Sumerians that were written approximately 2,700 years before Moses lived.   Centuries before the birth of Abraham [c. 2000BC] Samaria, Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia were full of schools and libraries that produced works of history, poetry, and theology as well as dictionaries in multiple languages.

 

Archaeological evidence supports the claim that a work like the Pentateuch could have been written in the late bronze age or even earlier, and the inscriptions of Hebrew slaves found in Bronze Age Egyptian turquoise mines in the Sinai prove there was a higher degree of literacy among the common people than scholars previously believed.

 

And then one must take into consideration that:

¨      Moses was raised and educated as a prince in the royal household of a nation that was a world super-power. Egyptians had a fully developed writing system that has been dated back to at least 3,000BC and Moses, who would have been educated in the highly developed academic environment of the Egyptian royal court, would have been preeminently prepared to write the text of the Pentateuch.

¨      Moses would have received the oral traditions of his people from his Hebrew mother who served as his royal nurse.

¨      The Pentateuch illustrates the knowledge of an individual who possessed an intimate understanding of the climate, geography, traditions, language [many words, and names, found in the Exodus account are either Egyptian or are derived from Egyptian words], and building practices of the Egyptians.

¨      The Exodus experience spanned 40 years--more than enough time and opportunity to complete the work.

 

If we assume that Moses is indeed the Holy Spirit inspired writer, then the first question we should ask is for who was this book written and why?  Let's address the "why" first. 

Question: When Moses first encountered Yahweh in the "burning bush experience" what question did Moses ask God?  Hint: see Exodus 3:13

Answer: Moses asked God "Look, if I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is his name?'  What am I to tell them?"

 

The short answer to that question was God's holy covenant name, which scholars today expresses as YAHWEH-- but the long answer to "Who are you, God?" is the Pentateuch!  The long answer includes that the God who sent Moses is:

1.      the God of Creation

2.      the God of your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

3.      the God who promised your ancestors that their children would be the heirs of a divine covenant and a future world-wide blessing

 

Questions for group discussion:

Moses became the prophet to the newly formed nation of Israel.  Moses and his generation lived the incredible adventures of the Exodus experience and so it is important to ask ourselves, before we begin this study...

Question:  If Moses' contemporaries lived the experience of the Exodus and had received the earlier history orally passed down from previous generations for whom then was the Pentateuch written? 

Answer: The first generation lived the experience and so the focus of the Book of Moses is on the future, the next generations.  They were the heirs of the Covenant who must faithful keep the commandments of God in order to fulfill their covenant obligations, to preserve the promised sacred "seed of the Woman" [promised in Genesis 3:15] and to be the catalyst of God's Plan of Salvation.  In this sense, the Pentateuch becomes a primer, a lesson book for the inheritors of Yahweh's holy Covenant.

 

Question: Why does the Pentateuch contain these particular stories out of all the events that occurred in all the lives from Adam to Abraham to Joshua?  What are the lessons to be learned from the stories of the Pentateuch from Eden to the entrance of the children of Israel into the Promised Land?  Hint: think of the human failures recounted in the Book of Moses and God's interaction with mankind.

Answer:

¨      Israel's future generations are warned through a long list of human failures, from our first parents Adam and Eve to the age of the Patriarchs, and to the two Exodus generations of the terrible toll in human suffering caused by failing to be obedient to God.  All these human failures are addressed in the 10 Commandments and the expanded Law of the Sinai Covenant.

¨      Israel's future generations are also shown evidence of God's faithfulness in spite of the failures of that first generation.

¨      These stories also contain the history of the "promised seed" of Genesis 3:15 in the line of descent that will stretch from Adam's son Seth through Abraham through King David to Jesus of Nazareth [see Luke's genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:23-38].

 

Question: What is the importance of these stories in the lives of the covenant keepers of today's New Covenant people?  How does the Pentateuch relate to you?  Hint: see what St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:11-13.

Answer: 1 Corinthians 10:11-13 concerning the Exodus generations: "Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were described in writing to be a lesson for us, to whom it has fallen to live in the last days of the ages.  Everyone, no matter how firmly he thinks he is standing, must be careful he does not fall.  None of the trials which have come upon you is more than a human being can stand.  You can trust that God will not let you be put to the test beyond your strength, but with any trial will also provide a way out by enabling you to put up with it."

 

We will begin this study with the first period of Biblical history, Creation and the History of the Early World.  Please read the Scripture passages we will be studying in this period. Keep in mind that in the original texts there were no chapter or verse divisions [added in the 13th and 18th centuries AD], so you may want to include in your reading the verses or chapters immediately before and after these passages.

 

Question: In addition to the written text of Sacred Scripture God has revealed Himself to His people through another source.  What is that source and is there an Old Testament link to this non-written source of revelation?

Answer: Down through Salvation History God has revealed Himself through a Sacred Oral Tradition handed down by men chosen by God to be the reservoir of that tradition with the responsibility of handing that knowledge on to the next generation.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies the character of this Sacred Tradition in #78: "This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it.  Through Tradition, 'the Church, in her doctrine, life, and worship perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.'  'The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.'"

The Old Covenant Church also believed in a Sacred Oral Tradition; that Tradition is recorded in the Jewish Mishnah.

 

Question: Which came first, the written sacred text of the Bible or the Oral Tradition?

Answer: In both the Old and New Testaments, the Oral Sacred Tradition came first.  For example, during the earliest years of the New Covenant people there was only the Old Testament and the teachings of Christ that were taught orally to His Apostles and disciples'the written revelation we call the New Testament would be recorded and passed on over a period of several years after Christ's Ascension.  However, one cannot receive one form of divine revelation and ignore the other.  It is as wrong for Catholics to focus on "Tradition alone" as it is for our Protestant brothers and sisters to focus on "Scripture alone".  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: "'Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other.  For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and move towards the same goal.'* Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own 'always, to the close of the age.**'" CCC#80 [with quotes from *Dei Verbum 9 and **Matthew 28:20].

 

Question: What is the Catholic Church's stand on private interpretation of Sacred Scripture?

Answer: The Church strongly warns against private interpretation of the Bible.  Our Protestant brothers and sisters teach that the Holy Spirit can guide each individual who reads the Scriptures to a private but legitimate interpretation of the meaning of the text as God intended the text to relate to that individual.  While the Catholic Church teaches that the Holy Spirit must indeed guide us in the interpretation of Scripture, the Church teaches that the Holy Spirit guides us "within the Living Tradition of the Church", otherwise as imperfect human beings it is too likely, and so dangerous, that we can and will manipulate the text to say whatever we decide it should say to us'just as Adam and Eve usurped God's sovereignty in the Fall ["Does He really means that we will we really die if we eat of this fruit?'Surely not!"].  This means for us as Catholics that the interpretation of Bible passages must not contradict other Bible passages nor must it contradict the deposit of knowledge passed down to us in our Oral Tradition. CCC# 113: "Read the Scripture within 'the living Tradition of the whole Church."  The Catechism of the Catholic Church #109-114 sets out some very important guidelines for the study of Sacred Scripture. If you have a Catechism please read those passages.   [Note: In this study the initials CCC indicate that a quotation is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church].

 

Question: Can you give some examples of the dangers of interpreting Scripture "outside" of the Living Tradition of the Church?

Answer:  The dogma of the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary and the dogma of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist are two examples.  The word "dogma" means "truth" and as it is used in Catholic theology concerns all the truths that the Catholic Church teaches to have been revealed by God as the doctrine [teaching] of salvation which defines us as the Roman Catholic Church.  For nearly 2,000 years these truths were taught consistently in the Church from the time of the Apostles.  Today, sadly, many Christians falling under the influence of the secular world doubt or deny these truths.

 

Note: in this study we will use the dated year notations BC and AD.  AD, Anno Domini, or "in the year of the Lord" specifies dates from the birth of Jesus to the present time. This designation was the invention of Dionysius Exiguus [Dennis the Short] the Abbot of Rome who lived in the 6th century AD.  The designation BC determines dates "before Christ" and was introduced in the 17th century.  Prior to Dennis the Short's designation of AD for dating years from the birth of Christ, the Church usually counted the years from the first Olympiad in 776BC, dating events as occurring during the first, second, third or fourth year of a specific Olympiad.

 

Next week we will begin our study of the first period in Salvation History:

Biblical Period #1: CREATION / HISTORY OF THE EARLY WORLD

The Bible readings for next week:

1.  Creation

Genesis 1:1-2:4

2.  Adam and Eve/ the First Covenant

Genesis 2:5- 25

3.  The Fall of Man

Genesis 3:1-24

4.  The Protoevangelium

Genesis 3:8-24

5.  Cain and Abel

Genesis 4:1-16

6.  Birth of Seth

Genesis 4:25-26

7.  The Toledoth of Adam

Genesis 5:1-32

8.  The Flood

Genesis 6:1-8:15

9.  The Second Covenant/ Noah

Genesis 8:15-9:19

10.The Tower of Babel

Genesis 9:20-11:9

 

Year?                                                   Year ?                          Year?                    c. 2000BC

Creation: ---------------------------------The Flood----------Tower of Babel---------------------

Adam--------------10 generations-------Noah--Shem---------10 generations--------Abraham-

 

REFERENCES [and recommended reading]:

1.      Making Senses Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible as the First Christians Did, Mark Shea [Basilica Press, 1999].

2.      "The Council That Wasn't", Steve Ray, This Rock Magazine, September 2004.

3.      Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating [Ignatius Press, 1988].

4.      The Origin of the Bible, ed. By Philip Comfort [Tyndale House, 1992].

5.      The Canon of Scripture, F. Bruce [InterVarsity Press, 1988].

6.      The New Webster Dictionary of the English Language [Grolier, New York, 1969].

7.      Jewish Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin [William Morrow Publishers, 1991].

8.      New Jerusalem Bible [Doubleday, 1985].

9.      Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum: from the documents of Vatican II [Pauline Books, 1965].

10.  The Ancient Near East, edited by William H. McNeill and Jean W. Sedlar, [Oxford University Press, 1968].

11.  Catechism of the Catholic Church,[Liguori Publications, 1992].

12.  Walking the Bible, Bruce Felier, [Perennial, 2001].

13.  Introduction to Christianity, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), [Ignatius Press, 1990].

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.