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Author Topic: Trouble Finding Inspiration in the Old Testament?  (Read 1712 times) Average Rating: 0
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raskolnikov
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« on: March 06, 2008, 11:43:58 AM »

What is the Orthodox position, or just the position of Christians in general regarding the Old Testament?  It's obviously taken to be God's word, correct? 

For my part I'm having trouble finding any inspiration in the Old Testament, anything that is truly edifying.  I think one could spend a lifetime trying to interpret Abraham's willingness to sacrafice of his son Isaac and what that says about God and humanity, but aside from this I don't see alot of depth in these stories.  I've only gotten as far as Kings so maybe this is my problem.  I'm just wondering why I can read a Dostoevsky or a Melville novel and find so much darkness and hope and depth in their works but I read the Old Testament and don't have the same experience.  The Old Testament doesn't seem to be anything other than a history of the peoples the Israelites genocided.

Am I wrong here?  Help me put the OT in context maybe.
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« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2008, 11:53:16 AM »

I've only gotten as far as Kings so maybe this is my problem.

Uh-huh.  If you're only reading the historical books, it can feel a bit like a military history.  However, once you get into the prophetic and wisdom books, you'll find much more inspiration (if that's what you're looking for) - Isaiah, Psalms, Proverbs, etc

Plus, if you look more deeply at the text, you'll also find examples of Israel being chided, conquered, punished, and even influenced by others (there are cases where the will of God is manifest through non-Jews, and even strangers, such as Melchizedek).
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« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2008, 12:09:55 PM »

Please read Jonah and Tobit, and then think of what these books are actually discussing...that should be inspirational all by themselves!
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ebpusey
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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2008, 01:22:23 PM »

Also, try to read from the Psalter as much as you can. I fail in this all too often, but I guarantee you will find peace there.
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« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2008, 01:47:37 PM »

I love reading the OT, except maybe Numbers, and have always found inspiration reading it.   In addition to the others' advice, perhaps you could find some Orthodox Commentary on the OT.   
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ebpusey
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« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2008, 02:44:34 PM »

Another important thing to keep in mind while reading the Old Testament is to read it Christologically. The Law and the Prophets speak of Christ, just as much as the New Testament does. Remember that the Apostles and Fathers, as well as our Lord Himself, preached from the Old Testament exclusively in the early days of the Church.  Our Lord's Nativity, Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension were all taught from the Law and the Prophets.  So, I would also suggest that you read the Early Fathers in conjunction with the Old Testament (you may find On The Apostolic Preaching by St. Irenaeus particularly helpful in this regard.)
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raskolnikov
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« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2008, 03:28:16 PM »

Thanks everyone.  I should note here that I'm not Orthodox but rather looking into Orthodoxy. 

What I've read is almost entirely military history, it's like reading Livy or something.  Actually it's almost exactly like reading Livy.  I'm more interested in theoretical and spiritual aspects of Christianity than I am the military conquests of the Israelites.  What should I be reading to get the essence of Christianity in the Old Testament?  Is everything from Job afterwards more what I'm looking for?

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« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2008, 03:53:25 PM »

Depends on what you're looking for...

If you are looking for meaning, you can find that in many places in the OT.  Knowing hebrew also helps because if you read it in the original it has a totally different meaning. 

Like I said it depends on what you want. 
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« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2008, 04:24:32 PM »

Thanks everyone.  I should note here that I'm not Orthodox but rather looking into Orthodoxy. 

What should I be reading to get the essence of Christianity in the Old Testament?  Is everything from Job afterwards more what I'm looking for?

May God bless you with both hands on your journey!

The heart of both the Old and New Testaments is our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ.  His life, death, and resurrection is to be found in the Old and in the New.  For example, since you seem to be reading the Law and historical books at the moment, you could look at the book of Genesis and find God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day. S. Irenaeus tells us that this is foretelling that the Word of God would one day be with men, walking amongst us, speaking with us. I strongly encourage you to read the Fathers along with your study of Scripture--by doing this, you will be reading the Scriptures with the mind of the Church, discovering Christ every place you turn.
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« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2008, 05:38:32 PM »

In my experience, I've never found anything enlightening within the OT. Not to say others cannot or that it is devoid of all meaning, but I never have the same spiritual joy as when I read the Gospels.
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raskolnikov
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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2008, 06:16:51 PM »

Knowing hebrew also helps because if you read it in the original it has a totally different meaning. 

Not exactly. 

While you're never going to find exact equivalents between two languages you can still get approximations.  Just because languages don't aren't duplicates of one another does not mean that they are polar opposites.  Besides the point really since Biblical Hebrew is significantly different from the language spoken in present day Israel.  Biblical Hebrew as I understand it was actually quite primitive which is why the Bible was translated into Greek which lent itself to abstract philosophic thought and terminology moreso than did Biblical Hebrew.
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« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2008, 06:25:53 PM »

Not exactly. 

While you're never going to find exact equivalents between two languages you can still get approximations.  Just because languages don't aren't duplicates of one another does not mean that they are polar opposites.  Besides the point really since Biblical Hebrew is significantly different from the language spoken in present day Israel.  Biblical Hebrew as I understand it was actually quite primitive which is why the Bible was translated into Greek which lent itself to abstract philosophic thought and terminology moreso than did Biblical Hebrew.

I don't think I'd classify Biblical Hebrew as "primitive".  It served its purpose quite well, preparing the Jewish people for the coming of the Son of God.  It wasn't the language's fault they didn't get it when He walked among them, but their own hardened hearts.  While I don't read Hebrew myself, I know that there are nuances that are obvious in the original language that you just can't get in any other language, even in Greek. 

AFAIK, the Bible was translated into Greek, historically speaking, because one of the Ptolomeic pharohs wanted a copy of the Hebrew scripture for his library.  The fact that Greek was the lingua franca of most of the Mediterranean world thanks to Alexander's conquests certainly influenced the decision.  Of course, one can also say that the Septuagint occurred in order to make the spreading of the Faith among the Gentiles after the Ascension that more easy. 
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raskolnikov
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« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2008, 08:00:37 PM »

I don't think I'd classify Biblical Hebrew as "primitive"

Primitive in its inability to express abstract theoretical concepts compared to Attic Greek, yes.  Try giving a lecture on Heidigger in Navaho for instance.  Not happening.  Expressing simple ideas through language is one thing, reaching higher levels of consciousness through language is something quite different and not all languages are necessarily equal in this respect. 



« Last Edit: March 06, 2008, 08:01:12 PM by raskolnikov » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2008, 08:25:14 PM »

Raskolnikov, Schultz, thank you both. Good thoughts.

I've been interested in languages for some time, and I teach two of them (English and Spanish). It's become apparent to me that one of the reasons English has served so well as a global language (other than the spread of the British Empire) is that it has the ability to incorporate new words and the knack to ascribe to each of those new words a new meaning. In a classic example, the French word "catel" entered English as "cattle," whereas the later French word "beof" (meaning "ox"; related to the English word "bovine") entered English as "beef." Though related, "cattle" and "beef" cannot be used interchangeably. This process allows English to have a great capacity for new words and nuances of meaning. Thus English serves well as a language of diplomacy and philosophy.

By comparison, Spanish, though a beautiful and romantic language, is constricted by Latin grammar. It can borrow terms, as can be seen with "el W.C." and "el ticket," but they do sound less than symphonic. Furthermore, there is no significant difference between "el ticket" and the indigenous word, "el boleto." On the other hand, words like "el crisis" and "la iglesia," obviously of Greek origin, roll off the tongue of the native Spanish speaker. So Spanish can borrow terms from some languages with less difficulty than others, while English borrows freely from all languages, incorporating "burrito" as easily as "vodka" or "sushi" (can you tell it's almost dinnertime?).

That said, I concur with your opinion that not all languages are equal in their ability to express ideas. Borrowed words are but one way to test a language's capacity for expression, and one with which I am most familiar. Philosophy, though in theory is beyond words, still needs language to convey its truths.
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« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2008, 08:56:07 PM »

The only reason that I mentioned it is because our OT professor keeps reiterating and proving to us how a sense of the OT in hebrew is completely different, and often times more correct and spiritually beneficial, than reading it in English, or any other language for that matter.  Greek is an exception I think because of the LXX (Septuagint).  This professor has said much the same. 

I believe there is a thread about MT vs. LXX on this forum...you might want to search it, see what comes up. 


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« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2008, 10:27:05 PM »

I've been interested in languages for some time, and I teach two of them (English and Spanish). It's become apparent to me that one of the reasons English has served so well as a global language (other than the spread of the British Empire) is that it has the ability to incorporate new words and the knack to ascribe to each of those new words a new meaning. In a classic example, the French word "catel" entered English as "cattle," whereas the later French word "beof" (meaning "ox"; related to the English word "bovine") entered English as "beef." Though related, "cattle" and "beef" cannot be used interchangeably. This process allows English to have a great capacity for new words and nuances of meaning. Thus English serves well as a language of diplomacy and philosophy.

Or that Pagan come from the Latin Pagani meaning rural people. Because soldiers of Rome lived in cities rather than in farms during the latter years, those outside of the urban area were called Pagani. When Christianity came along, they called themselves "Soldiers of Christ", and anyone who was not a Christian, a.k.a. a "civilian" was called a Paganus.

And that is why Latin is obviously the superior language.  Cheesy
« Last Edit: March 06, 2008, 10:28:00 PM by Simayan » Logged

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