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Friday, September 3, 2010

Scripture class!

Today and Saturday morning, Fr. Michael Patella, OSB, Scripture scholar from St. Johns University in Collegeville, MN, spoke to a gathering of Maryknoll Fathers, Brothers & Sisters in the Asia Room on the Wisdom literature.

Wisdom books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs , Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Ruth, Esther, Lamentation, Judith, Baruch and additions to DanIel.

Why were the Wisdom books neglected for so long?

For years scholars dismissed Wisdom books as having no great theological depth or revelation with pithy sayings having little relevance for today.

Recently scholars are discovering a new depth and profound teaching in Wisom books which greatly influenced the early Church.

Tradition gave birth to the Bible, not the other way around.

Babylonian exile compelled Jewish community to write their stories and traditions down lest they be lost through assimilation and intermarriage. Most scholars believe the bulk of what we call the Old Testament was written during the Babylonian Captivity.

The intelligentsia, the artisans, the craftsmen were taken away; the poor were left behind, not fit even to serve as slaves.

Cyrus the Great allows the Jews to return and is hailed in Scripture as a man of God, although he wasn't Jewish.

Alexander the Great overthrows Cyrus. Alex dies and his empire is divided with Seleucus and Ptolemy take up territory north and south of Israel. Generally the Jews faired better under the Ptolemies. The city of Alexandria was the crown jewel of their empire with its magnificent library which was to contain all sacred  texts of all religions.

More Jews lived in Alexandria than in Palestine (like New York City). King Ptolemy asked the Jews for their Scripture, but in what language, Greek or Hebrew? Thus we get the Septuagint. The Greek and Hebrew texts often do not match at all. Some modern scholars contend they came from two completely different, although perhaps interrelated, sources. It was the Greek Scripture that formed the basis for Christian spirituality.

Christianity's sacred stories start out as an oral tradition.

The earliest preaching of Paul follows the pattern of preaching in the synagogue, stirring people up, causing a riot and ends up in jail. After getting out, he goes to another town and starts all over again.

Paul fails to impress the Jews is Jerusalem so he goes to the Gentiles and first preaches to the Diaspora---in Greek. The version of Scripture quoted by Paul is the Septuagint.

The people in Diaspora had different and more books and much of this was the Wisdom literature. It made more sense "connecting the dots" that Jesus was the anticipated Messiah in the Greek Scripture.

Our Old Testament is NOT the Hebrew Scripture and calling it that is nonsense. Jews don't care what we call our Old Testament as long as we don't try to force them to call their Scripture that. The Old Testament contained many Greek texts as well as Hebrew books.

St. Jerome labored to translate the Septuagint into Latin and struggled to reconcile the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures.

Martin Luther concluded much of the Catholic Bible was a gloss if not a distortion of the original Hebrew to justify much of the abuse of power he saw all around him. Many of the books omitted from the Protestant Bible were Wisdom literature. 

When we talk about the Hebrew Bible we refer to the Leningrad Codex, a ninth century Massoretic text that added vowel points to the Hebrew.

With the discovery of a complete book of Isaiah among the Dead Sea Scrolls, a comparison with the Massoretic text could be made and it was discovered it was spot on.

New attention, then, was given to the "Catholic" books of the Bible as being instrumental in development of early Church's understanding of Jesus.        


After coffee break, Mike continued:

Dabar and Logos---how to these Hebrew and Greek word for Word influence the development of Christianity.

Alexander the Great wanted to impose Greek culture on the entire empire. Greek was to the ancient world what English is today. With the language came the culture and with that came conflict. Hellenistic culture influenced the world. This became a big problem in Israel because it was monotheistic and modest and the Greeks were polytheistic and elevated the cult of physical beauty. Circumcision was repulsive to the Greeks and tried to suppress the practice among the Jews, thus undermining the sign of the covenant.

Greek culture fostered learning. Gnosticism came with it as a religion-philosophical movement.

The word Dabar (Word) spoken is of primary importance especially in an oral culture, even more son than the written word. In the ancient world, the spoken word stays forever. This is the opposite of our way if thinking. The dauber has a life of it's own.

Once a word leaves one's mouth it cannot be recalled.

The dynamic Word of God suffices to create. "Let there be light!"

Naming things establishes supremacy over them. Name equals being. The word posits the reality it signifies.

"Thus says the Lord...." means the spirit of God impowers the prophet.

Logos is used rarely in Matthew and Mark. Luke uses it more. 

Logos is a loaded word in Greek.  It means cognitive thought, reasoning, rationality, logic, logistics, philosophy. 

In the NT it carries both Dabar and Logos 

John uses it far more differently than the Synoptics. The word is Jesus himself. He formats the great incarnational principle at the heart of Christianity. Paul and John are thinking alike.

This is foolishness to the Greeks and scandal to the Jews. The Greeks understanding of Logos is tied with Gnosticism, a secret knowledge given to only a select few. Paul had to contend with this, as did John.

To Gnostics considered the body as a prison at best and a hindrance at worst.

Christians proclaimed the Logos as the connection between God the creator in Genesis and the Savior in Jesus and his physical life, death and resurrection.

Gnostics provided the vocabulary and intellectual traditions against which Christian were forced to articulate their incarnational and Trinitarian theology.

John's prologue answers the Gnostics and lays the groundwork for belief in the preexistence of Christ and belief in the Trinity.

For Paul, the Logos is the Gospel which is the Word of God which is Christ which is eternal life. It is a distinct dynamic reality. Paul often talks about the Word, without "of the Lord" for it refers to an eternal reality.

Philo wrote a treatise connecting Dabar with Logos. Logos is neither created or uncreated but rather mediates God.

The Hebrew word "ruah" connects the breath, wind and spirit. The Greek word "pneuma" means the same thing.

Hokmah (wisdom) in Hebrew becomes Sophia in Greek. Both are feminine nouns. This will influence the development of Christian theology.        

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