The Bible of Christianity & Christianity of the Bible

The Bible of Christianity

The Bible of Christianity refers to how the Bible came to be: the selection, adaptation and redaction of the books that form the Bible.

1) Genesis: The primeval account of the origin of the universe, of life and of humanity is followed by the ancestral account of Abraham’s migration from Mesopotamia to Canaan, where his son, Isaac, and grandson, Jacob, raised their families. During a time of famine, Jacob’s family settled in Egypt.

2) Exodus-Deuteronomy: Pharaoh subjected the descendants of Jacob to forced labor. Around 1300 BC, under the leadership of Moses, they and other tribes who joined them escaped to the Sinai desert. Here, these various tribes became a community with a single religious allegiance. After 40 years, they managed to enter Canaan from the East through Transjordan.

3) Joshua-Judges: Under the leadership of Joshua, this group, now called Israel, crossed the Jordan River. They carried out a military conquest and claimed the land as their own. During the period of the Judges, they waged many battles to hold on to their captive lands, which they called the “Promised Land.”

4) Samuel, Kings and Chronicles: Under enemy pressure, this tribal confederacy formed a single monarchy, and Canaan became an Israelite nation. Following Solomon’s death, it split into the kingdoms of Ephraim and Judah. The nation of God became two kingdoms. Their strategic location drew them into the Near Eastern power struggle between Egypt and Mesopotamia. By 722 BC, Ephraim fell to the Assyrians, while Judah became a vassal state. But by 586 BC, after Babylonia wrested control from Assyria, Judah itself fell to Babylon, with the collapse of Jerusalem and the destruction of its temple. The First Temple Period (960–586 BC) was over.

5) The prophetic books: Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and twelve other divine messengers announced God’s word from the 8th to the 6th centuries BC, before the emergence of the Hebrew Bible.

6) Ezra-Nehemiah: The Babylonian Empire gave way to the Persian Empire. The exiled Israelites returned to restore the city walls and rebuild the temple. The temple was rebuilt by 516 BC.

7) 1, 2 Maccabees: By 332 BC, Palestine came under Greek control. Alexander’s successors continued the policy of imposing Hellenistic culture on their captives. A Seleucid ruler of Syria who inherited Alexander’s empire forced this policy on the Jewish community. This resulted in an open revolt led by the family known as the Maccabees in 168 BC.

8) Wisdom Literature, the Psalms, Lamentations, Ruth, and Esther provide richness to the fabric of timeless, theological narrative.

9) Gospels, Acts, and Revelation: John and Jesus ushered in a new age of YHWH worship. The long-awaited Messiah has arrived and fulfilled the expectations of ancient prophecies. But His kingdom is not of this world.

10) Epistles: Paul, Peter, James, John, Jude and others wrote letters that became a part of the Holy Scriptures. The revelation of God that began with the patriarchs (Abram, Isaac, and Jacob), continued with the prophets, who were succeeded by rabbis and apostles. Jesus’ resurrection and the establishment of the Church ushered in the close of the apostolic age.

Christianity of the Bible

The Christianity of the Bible is a theological account of God’s relationship with creation, with special reference to humanity through the eyes of Israel.

Israel’s story in the Bible did not begin with the Genesis creation account but, rather, with the founding of Israel in Exodus. This event first defined a People of God. Five important historical markers establish what Old Testament (OT) Israel means to New Testament (NT) Christianity.

1) Around 1300 BC: The Exodus event marks the first time a concept of the “People of God” arose. By the 6th century BC, Babylonian Jewish leaders wrote the history of Israel centered on the Exodus event. Several Egyptian tribes joined the Egyptian Hebrews (’Apiru) or desert nomads in a daring escape led by Moses. In the Sinai desert, they became Israel. This account of Israel’s founding was told and retold down the generations to explain how they came to be God’s people. Genesis 12–50 was written to tell the story of Abram the Mesopotamian, who migrated to Canaan around 2000 BC. His wandering descendants settled in Egypt. But Babylon’s creation account did not speak of Jewish Israel as God’s people. So, Genesis 1–11 was written as a cosmic account of the reason their God, in fact, created the Babylonian gods. Together, Exodus, Genesis 12–50 and Genesis 1–11 were forged into the national, prehistoric and primeval accounts of Israel’s epic story.

2) Around 1200 BC: The Canaan event marks the formation of a “People of Israel.” The book of Judges tells of an Israelite tribal confederacy whose battles with other Canaanite tribes led to the political need for nationality. The nationalistic aspirations were justified by a divine promise of the Promised Land to Abraham. The Prophet-Judge Samuel anointed Saul as their first king.

3) Around 1000 BC: The David event marks the emergence of the “Nation of Israel,” a successful nation-state.[1] The division after Solomon’s death led to the two “kingdoms of Israel.”[2] Saul’s failure to establish a viable nation-state paved the way for David to emerge victorious as leader of the nation of Israel. Henceforth, all nationalistic claims hark back to the Davidic covenant. The line of David became the authority of choice for this new nation.

4) Around 700 BC: The Assyrian event marks the demise of the “ten lost tribes of Israel,” subsequently called the “Samaritans.” The loss of Ephraim to Assyria, the fall of Samaria, and the dispersal of the northern tribes created a crisis of faith. A generation of Seers (prophets) arose to call the people back to repentance. They explained why God had punished Ephraim.

5) Around 600 BC: The Babylonian event marks the fall of Jerusalem, and the remnants of the people of Judah came to be known as “Jews.” The loss of Judah and the deportations of Jews created a crisis of faith. The Adamic and Noahic covenants, the Abrahamic promises, the Mosaic laws and the Davidic privileges seemed meaningless. Pharisees arose to reshape new expectations of God’s promises without Jerusalem or the temple. By the Persian period in the 5th century BC, political and religious leaders adapted to new conditions with fresh writings to assure the people that YHWH of Abraham, Moses, and David was still their God.

These five events of the Jewish faith were the basis for the emergence of the Christian faith during the Roman period, when most Palestinian Jews spoke Aramaic,[3] some knew Hebrew and Latin, and many wrote in Greek. The 1st century after the death of Jesus saw the writing of accounts remembering His life, works and teaching. Some of these writings came to be known as the NT and shaped the self-understanding of this global faith called Christianity.

[1] One that Saul failed to establish.

[2] Modern Israel is the political “State of Israel.”

[3] Aramaic was the official language of the Persian Empire since the 7th century BC. It replaced Hebrew as the official language of the Jewish community in Persia. The Aramaic script adapted to the Hebrew script and eventually replaced it.

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Ron Choong

Ron Choong

I am an independent, interdisciplinary investigator of the geohistory and philosophy of science and religion