Portal:Bible/Featured article/2006

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March, 2006

The Bible (Hebrew תנ״ך tanakh, Greek η Βίβλος [hē biblos] ) (sometimes The Holy Bible, The Book, Good Book, Word of God, The Word Scripture, Scripture), from Greek (τα) βίβλια, (ta) biblia, "(the) books", is the classical name for the Hebrew Bible of Judaism or the combination of the Old Testament and New Testament of Christianity. Many Christian English speakers refer to the Bible as "the good book" (Gospel means "good news"). Most sects of Christianity and Judaism regard the Bible as the revealed word of God in some sense, or an authoritative record of the relationship between God, the world and mankind, or some combination of the two. Differences about what those terms mean, and even how precisely to express the idea, are some of the most important distinctions among sects.

Both Bibles have been the most widely distributed of books. They have been translated more times and into more languages (more than 2,100 languages) than any other book. It is said that more than five billion copies of the Bible have been sold since 1815, making it the best-selling book of all-time.

Because of Christian domination of Europe from the late Roman era to the Age of Enlightenment, the Bible has influenced not only religion but language, law and, until the modern era, the natural philosophy of mainstream Western Civilization. The Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution in Europe and America brought skepticism regarding the divine origin and historical accuracy of the Bible. Although some critical scholars, including archeologists, continue to use the Bible as a point of reference in the study of ancient Near Eastern history, most have come to view it as a cultural and literary document.

April, 2006

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King David (Standard Hebrew דָּוִד, Davíd, "Beloved", Tiberian Hebrew Dāwíð; Arabic داؤد, Dā'ūd, "Beloved"), was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel (c. 1005 BC - 965 BC) and successor to King Saul. His life and rule are recorded in the Hebrew Bible's books of First Samuel (from chapter 16 onwards),[1] Second Samuel,[2] First Kings[3] and Second Kings (to verse 4).[4] First Chronicles[5] gives further stories of David, mingled with lists and genealogies.

He is depicted as the most righteous of all the ancient kings of Israel - although not without fault - as well as an acclaimed warrior, musician and poet (he is traditionally credited with the authorship of many of the Psalms). 2 Samuel 7:12-16 states that God was so pleased with David that He promised that the Davidic line would endure forever; Jews therefore believe that the Jewish Messiah will be a direct descendant of King David, and Christians trace the lineage of Jesus back to him through both Mary and Joseph. The nature of his reign and even his existence have been questioned and debated, rejected and defended by modern biblical scholars, but the account given in the Hebrew Bible remains widely accepted by the majority of ordinary Jews and Christians, and his story has been of central importance to Western culture.

May, 2006

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The Binding of Isaac, in Genesis 22, is a story from the Hebrew Bible in which God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. To many readers the tale is one of the most challenging, complex, mystifying, and perhaps ethically troublesome episodes in the entire Bible. The story is referred to as the Akedah or Akedat Yitschak (עקידת יצחק) in Hebrew (the binding of Isaac) and as the Dhabih in Arabic.

Abraham agrees to God's command without argument, even though God gives him no reason for the sacrifice (called an Olah in Hebrew -- for the significance of sacrifices, especially in Biblical times, see the korbanot). The text of the story says that God wishes to test Abraham, which indicates that he does not intend for Abraham to actually sacrifice his son. Indeed, after Isaac is bound to an altar, an angel stops Abraham at the last minute, at which point Abraham discovers a ram caught in some nearby bushes. Abraham then sacrifices the ram in Isaac's stead.

According to Josephus, Isaac is twenty-five years old at the time of the sacrifice, while the Talmudic sages teach that Isaac is thirty-seven. In either case, Isaac is a fully grown man, strong enough to prevent the elderly Abraham (who is 125 or 137 years old) from tying him up had he wanted to resist.

June, 2006

The ethic of reciprocity (or the Golden Rule) is a general moral principle found in the Bible and virtually all religions and cultures, often as a fundamental rule.

In Western culture, it is most commonly rendered by the active formulations:

  • "Do to others as you would have them do to you." as given by Jesus in the Gospels, Luke 6:13, Matt7:12 popularly rephrased as:
  • "Treat others as you want to be treated".
  • "Do ut des" Latin motto meaning I give that you may give.

Most other formulations are passive/negative. e.g.,

  • "What you do not want others to do to you, do not do to others." - Chinese sage Confucius
  • "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man." - Jewish sage Hillel
  • This traditional guiding rule was (and is) so highly valued that it has for centuries been known in English as the "Golden Rule".

Its universality suggests it is related to innate aspects of human nature (see altruism).

Others hold that the Golden Rule or ethics of reciprocity may replace all other moral principles or at least that it is superior to them. The golden rule does provide one with moral coherence -- it is a consistency principle. One's actions are to be consistent with mutual love and respect to other fellow humans. Arising as it does in nearly all written-language cultures on the Earth, the ethic of reciprocity is a tool that differing cultures can readily use in handling conflicts. Given the modern global trend of political, social, and economic integration (see globalisation), the ethical Golden Rule may be becoming even more relevant and important than ever.

July, 2006

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Job is a figure in the Hebrew Bible, his story concentrated in the book bearing his name. He was "blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil".

In an assembly of angels, Satan asserts that Job does not really love God, but fears God for blessing. To show that this is not so, God tests Job by giving Satan power over his property and family. Four different tragedies strike his household. His house is destroyed, his sons and daughters and most of his servants are killed, and all of his animals are stolen. Job responds by saying, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

Job maintains his righteousness despite his loss, but Satan is still unsatisfied. Therefore, he receives permission to afflict Job's person, though he cannot take his life. So, Job becomes diseased with painful sores. His wife incites him to "curse God, and die" but Job answers "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?"

Job's friends accuse him of having sinned in some way to explain his punishment, urging him to repent, but Job argues that God sometimes tries those He loves, to allow them to grow spiritually, or for some reason unknown to mankind.

God appears in a cloud and decides in favour of Job, but He did not approve of the harsh words Job used in his suffering. Job humbly acknowledges his fault and asks forgiveness. God restores Job to good health, gives him double the riches he had previously possessed, blesses him with a beautiful and numerous family, and crowns a holy life with a happy death. Job lived 140 years after his time of trial, 248 years in all, long enough even to see his great-grandchildren.

Job is also mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel, along with Noah and Daniel, as among the most righteous men to emphasize the intensity of Jerusalem's sin.


August, 2006

The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Heinrich Bloch.

The Sermon on the Mount was, according to the Gospel of Matthew, a particular oration given by Jesus of Nazareth around AD 30 on a mountainside to his disciples and a large Galileean crowd (Matt 5:1; 7:28). It is thought by some contemporary Christians to have taken place on a mountain on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum. The recounting of the Sermon on the Mount comes from the Gospel of Matthew 5–7.

The Sermon on the Mount may be compared to the similar but more succinct Sermon on the Plain as recounted by the Gospel of Luke (6:17–49). Opinion is divided as to whether they are the same sermon, similar sermons exploring the same themes, or even that neither sermon really took place but were simply conflations of Jesus' primary teachings as put together by Matthew and Luke.

Arguably the best-known segment is the Beatitudes, found at the sermon's beginning. It also contains the Lord's Prayer and the injunctions to "resist not evil" and "turn the other cheek", as well as Jesus' version of the Golden Rule. Other lines often quoted are the references to "salt of the Earth," "light of the world," and "judge not, lest ye be judged." Many Christians believe that the Sermon on the Mount is a form of commentary (midrash) on the Ten Commandments. To many, the Sermon on the Mount summarises the central tenets of Christian discipleship. Read more...

September, 2006

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Moses is a legendary Hebrew liberator, leader, lawgiver, prophet, and historian. Moses is one of the greatest figures in Biblical history. According to the Book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible, Moses was a son of Amram and his wife, Jochebed, a Levite. Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and into the desert, and received the Torah from God on Mount Sinai.

In the Exodus account, the birth of Moses occurred at a time when the current Egyptian Pharaoh had commanded that all male children born to Hebrew slaves should be killed. Jochebed kept him concealed for three months. When she could keep him hidden no longer, she set him adrift on the Nile river in a small craft of bulrushes coated in pitch. The daughter of Pharaoh discovered the baby and adopted him as her son. After Moses had reached adulthood, he went to see how his brethren who were enslaved to the Egyptians were faring. Seeing an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand. Moses soon discovered that the affair was known, and that Pharaoh was likely to put him to death; he therefore escaped to the Sinai peninsula and settled with Jethro, priest of Midian, whose daughter Zipporah he in due time married. One day, as Moses led his flock to Mount Horeb, he saw a burning bush that would not be consumed. When he turned aside to look more closely at the marvel, God spoke to him from the bush revealing his name to Moses. God also commissioned him to go to Egypt and deliver his fellow Hebrews from their bondage. He then returned to Egypt. Moses was met on his arrival in Egypt by his elder brother, Aaron, and gained a hearing with his oppressed brethren. It was a more difficult matter, however, to persuade Pharaoh to let the Hebrews depart. This was not accomplished until God sent ten plagues upon the Egyptians. These plagues culminated in the slaying of the Egyptian first-borns whereupon such terror seized the Egyptians that they ordered the Hebrews to leave. Read more...

October, 2006

The role of Salt in the Bible is relevant to understanding Hebrew society during the Old Testament and New Testament periods. Salt is a necessity of life and was a mineral that was used in Biblical times as a seasoning, a preservative, a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a unit of exchange. The Bible contains numerous references to salt. In various contexts, it is used metaphorically to signify permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification.

Salt in the Old Testament: The Hebrew people harvested salt by pouring sea water into pits and letting the water evaporate until only salt was left. Salt had a significant place in Hebrew worship, (Leviticus 2:13, Ezekiel 43:24, Ezra 6:9) and was part of the incense (Exodus 30:35). Salt was used to ratify covenants (Numbers 18:19, 2 Chronicles 13:5).

Salt in the New Testament: The Salt and Light metaphors in the Sermon on the Mount include a direct reference to salt (Matthew 5:13, Luke 14:34-35, Mark 9:49-50). Jesus calls his disciples (and, perhaps, the crowds listening to the Sermon on the Mount), "the salt of the earth." He may be exhorting them to usefulness, or to fidelity, or referring to their role in purifying the world. In Roman times, salt was an important item of trade and was even used as money. Roman soldiers received part of their pay in salt. "Salt of the Earth" may, in this context, refer to the listeners' value. The reference to Jesus' followers being "salted with fire" in Mark 9:49 may refer, in part, to the purifying effect of salt in Jewish liturgical use. In Colossians 4:6, Paul exhorts, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you know how you should respond to each one."

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November, 2006

The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is an English translation of the Bible that was popular in the mid-20th century. The RSV is a comprehensive revision of the King James Version of 1611, the English Revised Version of 1881-1885, and the American Standard Version of 1901, with the ASV text being the most consulted. It sought not only to clearly bring the Bible to the English-speaking church, but to "preserve all that is best in the English Bible as it has been known and used through the centuries." The copyright to the ASV was acquired by the International Council of Religious Education in 1928, and this Council renewed the ASV copyright the next year. In 1935, a two-year study began to decide the question of a new revision, and in 1937, it was decided that a revision would be done and a panel of 32 scholars was put together for that task. The New Testament was released in 1946, and the Old Testament in 1952. The RSV New Testament was well received, but reaction to the Old Testament was different. Many accepted it as well, but many also denounced it. Minor modifications to the RSV text were authorized in 1959 and completed in 1962. In 1971, the RSV Bible was re-released with the Second Edition of the Translation of the New Testament. In 1989, the National Council of Churches released a full-scale revision to the RSV called the New Revised Standard Version. There have been many adaptations of the RSV over the years. 2002 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1952 edition of the RSV. To mark this event, Oxford University Press issued a special edition of the RSV.

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December, 2006

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The Nativity refers to the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary learns from the angel Gabriel that the Holy Spirit will cause her to be with child. Mary points out that she is a virgin and the angel responds that "with God nothing shall be impossible." She and her husband Joseph leave their home in Nazareth to travel about 150 kilometres (90 miles) to Joseph's ancestral home, Bethlehem, to register for a census ordered by Emperor Augustus. Finding no room at the inn, they lodge in a stable. There Mary gives birth to Jesus. An angel of the Lord goes to the fields and tells the shepherds the "good news of a great joy". The shepherds hurry to the manger to adore the infant Jesus.

In the Gospel of Matthew, magi arrive at the court of King Herod in Jerusalem and ask, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? We have observed the rising of his star, and we have come to pay him homage." Herod is disturbed by the magi's words and questions them closely, attempting to determine when the child was born. The king asks his advisors where the messiah is supposed to be born. They answer Bethlehem, which had been the birthplace of King David, and quote from the Book of Micah. "When you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage," a deceitful Herod tells the magi.

The magi follow the Star of Bethlehem, which leads them to a house where they find Jesus. The magi present Jesus with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In a dream, the magi receive a divine warning of Herod's intent to kill the child, whom he sees as a rival. Consequently, they return to their own country without telling Herod the result of their mission. An angel tells Joseph to flee with his family to Egypt. Meanwhile, Herod orders that all male children of Bethlehem under the age of 2 be killed. After Herod's death, the family settles in Nazareth.

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