Understanding the Old Testament

Don’t expect Old Testament writers to have written their histories the way we would have written them.

1. We expect an “objective” account, what someone transcribing a video recording would write; they expected an account that showed how the event they were writing fit into the overall work of the Lord.

2. For them history was meaningful to the degree that we could see patterns in it, “types and shadows” to use Book of Mormon language (e.g., Mosiah 3:15). They seem not to have assumed that the types caused the shadows in later events, but that looking backward we can see the meaning of two events by seeing the ways in which one conforms to the other or they both conform to some third type.

3. Old Testament writers liked to use word-play, puns, speech patterns (like “chiasmus”), and etymologies of words because those helped them make connections between things and events.

For example, the name “Jacob” probably means “God will protect.” However, it also sounds like the word for heel. So, Genesis 25:26 says that his name was “heel” or “supplanter” because he had hold of his brother’s heel when he was born.

We think such things are, at best, just decorations that one adds to writing. They saw them as essential to connecting ideas and meanings.

Read the rest of this story at feastuponthewordblog.org
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