Friday, October 07, 2011

Our first Zephyr Class: Reading Bible....

Wednesdays in October, 7 PM in the upper conference room in the Rectory. All are welcome!

The First Class:

Zephyr Class: Reading the Bible

Zephyr: A refreshing west wind. Zephyr classes are intended to offer light, focused and brief series that are designed to give you tools to further the spiritual development of you and your household.

Geography of the Bible

The Bible you use will inform your experience of Holy Scripture. There are many translations of the Bible, dating in English from the first, “Authorized” version commissioned by the English King, James I in the early 1600s. That Bible is commonly referred to as “The King James Bible” (KJV, or NKJV)and is one of the most popular translations to date. More contemporary versions used in the Episcopal Church include the Revised Standard Version (RSV), The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the New International Version (NIV or TNIV) and the Contemporary English Bible (CEB). In the end, whatever version you have, the important thing is to pick it up and read it! J

The basic structure of the Bible includes the Old (Hebrew) Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT) books. As well, there is a section that rests between these two books called “The Apocrypha.” This is a collection of books called “Deuterocanonical,” or, secondary to the main canon (or body) of scripture in the OT and NT.

The Old Testament books include:

The “Books of Moses,” or the “Torah” (Law), also called the Pentateuch (which means, “Five Books”)

·         Genesis (the story of creation and the beginning of the people who would be “Israel”)

·         Exodus (the story of God freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt)

·         Leviticus (expanding on the journey in the wilderness and the giving of the Law)

·         Numbers (expansion of the Law and worship practices of Israel)

·         Deuteronomy (expansion of the Law, worship and Israel’s arrival in the Holy Land)

Then come the books referred to as the Histories:

·         Joshua (the conquering of the Holy Land for Israel’s use)

·         Judges (a period of time after the invasion, when Judges led the tribes of Israel)

·         Ruth (an “historical novel” teaching us a lesson about human relationships)

·         I and II Samuel (the beginning of the “age of the prophets and kings of Israel”)

·         I and II Kings (continuing the story of the age of Kings in Israel and Judah)

·         I and II Chronicles (the end of the age of Kings, and the beginning of the Exile)

·         Ezra, Nehemiah (books that chronicle Israel’s return from Exile in Babylon)

·         Esther (another “historical novel” from the age of the Exile)

The Wisdom literature (also called Poetry):

·         Job- an exploration of human existence and human suffering

·         Psalms- songs of hope, anger, celebration, lament, praise and consolation

·         Proverbs- teachings how to live wisely

·         Ecclesiastes- reflections of the writer, called “the Teacher” on life

·         Song of Solomon- a collection of hymns, songs and poetry about love and intimacy

The Major Prophets:

·         Isaiah- in 3 sections, relating God’s words about Israel’s exile and return

·         Jeremiah- a prophet’s experience in Judah leading into the Exile in Babylon

·         Lamentations- reflections on the loss of the Temple, Jerusalem and the Holy Land

·         Ezekiel- mystical visions of Israel’s place in God’s plan for the world

·         Daniel- Daniel’s visions of God’s plans for Israel during the Exile

The (12) Minor Prophets:

·         Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi- each minor prophet was from a different era in Israel’s history. All relate their words to what is going on in Israel at the time of their active ministry.

The Apocrypha: Tobit, Judith, Esther, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Prayer of Azariah, Susanna, Bel and the Snake, I and II Maccabees, I Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, III Maccabees, II Esrdas, IV Macabees (These books reference characters and events in the period of Exile, several wisdom books, and the history of the Macabean revolt after the invasion of Alexander the Great, before the Romans entered the Holy Land). They “bridge” the time between the Old and New Testaments.

The New Testament books include:

Gospels (also known as Life of Christ):

·         Matthew- a gospel aimed at a Jewish community, explaining Christ as a “Messiah-King”

·         Mark- the earliest Gospel, quite “spare” and simply focused on Jesus proclaiming God’s kingdom

·         Luke- a later Gospel, written more for the wider, Greek-speaking world

·         John- the “youngest” Gospel, deeply theological

The Acts of the Apostles:

·         Acts (translation of the Greek title of “praxis,” or practice)- the narrative of the formation of the Church from the day of Pentecost to Paul’s journey to Rome; seen as picking up after Luke  ends (after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, he tells them to wait in Jerusalem for the Spirit’s arrival. Acts begins with the arrival of the Holy Spirit.)

Epistles ascribed to St. Paul:

·         Romans-Paul’s “theological guide book” to the Romans, a rich treasury of Christian thought

·         I and II Corinthians- “Disciplinary” Epistles to the Church in Corinth

·         Galatians- an exposition on the freedom in Christ given to the Church

·         Ephesians- a reminder not to let pride get in the way of faith

·         Philippians- encouragement for the church to continue to grow and mature in Christ

·         Colossians- the marriage of work and worship, faith in reconciliation

·         I and II Thessalonians- the struggle of the Church to hold on to Christ’s teachings

·         I and II Timothy- encouragement to a disciple

·         Titus- encouragement and advice to one who follows Christ as an apostle

·         Philemon- a short letter to a member of the church seeking clemency for an escaped slave

Epistles “General,” or, to the whole Church:

·         Hebrews- a deep exposition to a Jewish community on the nature of Christ

·         James- the call to community, and the discipline of life in Christ

·         I and II Peter- Peter’s words to the Church about leadership, and on being an apostolic faith

·         I, II, and III John- on Christian Love, and conflict

·         Jude- protecting the Church from division, preserving a Gospel under attack

Apocalyptic literature

·         The Revelation to John- referred to commonly as “Revelations,” a vision of John received while in exile on Patmos about the Church in “latter” days

Using the Bible as a reference library

The Bible is not so much one large book, it is a collection of books, a whole library of stories, reflections and expositions on humanity’s relationship to God. Often, the Bible is referred to as the guide for us to understand “salvation history,” or the effort of God to draw us back into relationship with the Divine after our departure from that first intimacy we shared with God at the beginning of creation. Humanity was separated from God after Adam and Eve choose the fruit of knowledge of Good and Evil, learned shame and hid from God. For Christians, the experience of Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Son reconciles us to God after that “Great Divorce” for all time. “As in Adam, all die, so also in Christ are all made alive” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 83)

Using the Bible as a spiritual guide book

The Bible is not only an exploration of how humanity gets along with (or fails to get along with) God: it is also a powerful tool for reflecting on how we live with each other. The stories teach us about the best and worst that we have to offer to each other. Using the Bible to reflect on experiences we are having now helps us to navigate our way through any existential waters…troubled or calm.

Scripture reading as prayer

Ways to use the Bible in Prayer: the Daily Office readings for Morning and Evening Prayer can be found on page 936 of the Book of Common Prayer. The Psalms can be read on a 30 day rotation (follow the italics above the numbered Psalms from page 585 on).

To keep the Daily Office online:

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