Did Jesus follow the Torah? Did he change it?
Did God actually physically write some of the Bible?
This is what we’re going to do. We are going to allow the Bible to be our guide in the first instance. We are going to allow it to tell its own story. The first thing it is going to tell us is how it first came to be written. We turn to the Book of Exodus.
Moses has led the Israelite nation out of Egyptian bondage on the night of the Passover. It is going to be seven weeks before they reach Mount Sinai. This period of time is known as the omer and it takes us to the next great Biblical feast, that of Shavuot (known to you as Pentecost), the Feast of Weeks.
While the impatient and unruly ex-slaves, stand around fidgeting, Moses climbs the mountain for a forty day one-to-one with God Himself. Now forty days is a long time. For the Children of Israel, waiting for Moses at the foot of Sinai, it is getting hotter, hotter, hotter and they are getting more and more impatient. Eventually he comes down and … oh dear!
They have built a golden calf and are offering sacrifices to it. God is most displeased and offers to blot them out and start building up a new people from Moses’ family. Moses does not take up this offer and reminds God of the great investment He has made in these Israelites, urging Him to continue with the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These are verses worth re-reading for those who believe that prayer can’t change situations!
What does Moses do? He schleps his eighty year-old bones back up Mount Sinai for another forty days and nights.
What had happened in those (two sets of) forty days and nights was the first step in the story of the Bible. The first words written are immortalised in Exodus 20. Contrary to popular thought, they are not called the Ten Commandments, but rather the Ten Words, aseret ha-devarim in Hebrew.
“And God spoke all these words saying, “I AM the LORD* your God Who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You will have no other gods before Me. You will not make any graven image for yourself, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You will not bow down yourself to them, or serve them, for I AM the LORD* your God, a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, and showing loving kindness to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments.“You will not take the name of the LORD* your God in vain, for the LORD* will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.“Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy. You will labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD* your God, you will not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your manservant or your maidservant or your cattle or your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD* made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them and He rested the seventh day, therefore the LORD* blessed the Sabbath and sanctified it. “Honor your father and your mother, so your days will be long upon the land which the LORD* your God gives you. “You will not murder. You will not commit adultery. You will not steal. You will not bear false witness against your neighbor. “You will not covet your neighbor’s house, you will not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:1-14)
Those 228 words, written in Old Hebrew script, by the very finger of God. The Bible scholars among you are probably wondering what happened to the extra three verses. Doesn’t this passage span 17 verses in other Bibles? Yes, that’s true, but the One New Man Bible is following the pattern of the original Hebrew script which does, in fact, cram this whole passage into 14 verses. Nothing has been lost, dear reader, save a tiny dent in translator’s traditions.
“And He gave to Moses two tablets of testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God when He had made an end of communing with him upon Mount Sinai.” (Exodus 31:18)
So God got things moving Himself. The first words in the Bible were His own, written on two tablets of stone, the “Ten Words”, the Testimony of God.
This is where the “Greek mind” and the “Hebrew mind” very much part company. The Hebraic mind has room for the miraculous intervention of God in the affairs of man and accepts the plain words of the narrative. If God wanted to use His finger to inscribe these words and has troubled to tell us this, what right do we have to doubt Him?
The discussions the rabbis of old had were concerned with the actual writing on the tablets - whether each tablet had five “commandments” and whether the letters were etched right through the stone, so that they could be read from both sides. They had absolutely no doubts as to how the words got there, they were content to take God’s word for it.
The Greek mind would approach things in a very different way. The documentary hypothesis, devised in the 19th Century, would declare that the “Ten Commandments” would have been written by a human, the “so-called” Yahwist writer living in the kingdom of Judah in the 9th Century BC and could have been modelled on the writings of the Hittites and other peoples living in Mesopotamia at an earlier time. There are many different theories of this ilk, and more will undoubtedly appear in the future as academic Biblical scholarship ventures relentlessly forwards. For these people, the Bible is not to be trusted alone to verify itself but should be analysed in much the same way as any other book would be.
For the previous article in this series, click here.
For the next article in this series, click here.
To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.
You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.