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The Meaning of History


Last night’s Introduction to the Bible session (the evening course I am taking at Diocesan House this term) was another brain stretcher, touching on everything from the JEDP source theories about the origin of the Pentateuch to questions of how historical historians (ancient and modern) manage to be.

I am glad about this. I was a little bit hesitant to sign up as I’ve run introductions to the Bible for others before. However, those have been at the simpler level of familiarising people with the flow of the story, the major themes and a sense of how it fits together chronologically. It is fascinating to dig a bit deeper, into the kind of ideas I would be hesitant to raise at a house group meeting because it would be too academic.

In looking at things such as different modes of biblical criticism, such as examining sources, redaction and form, there is still of course the aspect of it being a book that looks back at you. This is an area we haven’t discussed so much but it makes a significant difference to how you approach things. If it is just the words of dead people, twisted and shaped by other dead people, it still provides plenty of interest; as the word of a living and loving God, it is a vehicle for messages to reach out and shape our present and future in a way that goes beyond how we might interact or be influenced by other documents that come to us through the paths of history.

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