Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Chronicles

My study of God's authority in the Bible is bogged down. It was going well until I hit Deuteronomy, but I balked there knowing that it's the most important reference point so far. If I have any hope of finishing this I'm going to have to rescope the project to limit myself just to the use of scripture within the Bible. My original scope was too ambitious for a short study. Hopefully with that in mind, I'll be able to return to Deuteronomy next Monday.

Why next Monday? The other reason I've made no progress in this study is that I've been tied up studying 1 & 2 Chronicles in preparation for a session I'm leading in a Crossways Bible study this Sunday. You might think the Chronicles are boring. I did before I started this. I basically saw these books as stripped down versions of Samuel and Kings with a few hundred genealogies and descriptions of the Temple thrown in. Show me just what the Chronicler has brought that was new, and there you will find things only boring and tedious.

But, O, not so. That's just the shell. As I've dug into it I've discovered a deep message of hope to people returning from exile. Right now I'm at Hezekiah's passover celebration. Far from being just a notice that "Hezekiah followed the rules," it paints a beautiful picture of a king rallying the Jewish people (both Israel and Judah) around the hope of God's deliverance that is the deep message of Passover even while the people face the imminent threat of destruction by Sennecherib (who has by this time conquered Israel but not yet invaded Judah).

It's a well known fact that the Bible repays serious study, but it always surprises me to find that that's even true of the dusty old books like Chronicles.

3 comments:

LutherPunk said...

I always saw Chronicles as a piece of ancient political spin doctoring. I just could never really enjoy it or even see the point of it, especially given the power that the narratives from Samuel held in my mind. The truth is, however, I haven't revisited the book much since I graduated from seminary 5 years ago, and I have found that I am not quite as jaded about these things now as I was then. Maybe it is a worth a return visit.

Andy said...

Yeah, that's just the problem I was having. I couldn't read it without thinking, "That's not really the way that happened, is it?" But this time around I decided to try to listen to what it was saying.

The report of Manasseh being taken to Babylon by the Assyrians is very reminiscent of the book of Judith wherein Nebuchadnezzar is the king of the Assyrians. As in Judith, I have to wonder if this doesn't represent an intentional conflation of the Israelites' two great oppressors. I think there's something similar in Isaiah too.

Clearly, we're here drifting into that stage in Israelite literature where the difference between history and story is becoming secondary to the theological goals of the author. And, basically, I'm OK with that.

Mata H said...

OK so maybe you aren't called to parish ministry -- but maybe you ARE called to teaching religion, or theology at a college or seminary. (push push nudge nudge)