Description of the Holy Bible – Part 10
Isaiah joins Deuteronomy and Psalms as one of the three OT books most often quoted and referred to in the NT.
What Is The Bible?
Although one book, the Bible contains 66 individual books. Within each of these, there is often a variety of writing such as poetry, prose, biography, letters, family trees, official records, songs and payers. It is important to recognise the type of writing when we are reading, so that we read it on its own terms. To read poetry, for example, as if it was an excerpt from an official record, would make it very difficult to understand.
Poetry: The main division is between prose and poetry. Several of the Old Testament books are written completely in poetry: Psalms, the Song of Songs and Lamentations, for instance. Most of the book of Job is written in poetic form and other poems are found in prose passages for example, Exodus 15; Judges 5 and 1 Samuel 2. Modern translations show quite clearly where poetry is used and it is easy to see that most of the prophetic books are written in poetic form.
In the New Testament, there is some poetry. For example, Mary’s Song (Luke 1:46-55), Zechariah’s Song (Luke 1:68-79) and Philippians 2:6-11.
There is an important difference between Hebrew/Jewish poetry and modern poetry. Hebrew poetry uses rhythm and not rhyme. It also uses ‘parallelism,’ which means that the idea or thought in one line is repeated in the next line in a different way and using different words. A glance at any poetic passage will illustrate this, for example: Job 33:4 ‘The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.’ There are also many different types of poetry.
The Song of Songs and the book of Job are each written as a play with various actors. In the Psalms, there are poetic songs and prayers for many different occasions: songs of thanksgiving, songs for pilgrims, songs for the coronation of a king, prayers for the congregation and prayers for individuals. In the New Testament it is probable that Philippians 2:6-11, for example, was a hymn sung by the first Christians.
Law: Israel’s laws are found in the books of Exodus through to Deuteronomy. These formed the foundation of the life of the nation and of its relationship with God. Thus, the law is regarded as an expression of God’s character and will; the law shows how God wants His people to behave, worship Him and live in society.
The best-known list of laws is the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). These are summary of the essential points of the many laws contained in Exodus through to Deuteronomy. Three groups of laws have been drawn out: Covenant Law or the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 21-23), which contains moral, civil and religious laws. The Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26), which as its name suggests, arises from the frequent statements, ‘I the Lord Am Holy — I who make you holy’ (Leviticus 21:8). This law ‘book’ sets out rules for worship, especially about priests and sacrifices.
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