Book writing in Old-Israel, what goal did it serve? Amusing people?
Ruth Wanted a Book
After Obed’s birth, Ruth decided to put her story down on papyrus or parchment. She went to a professional (and prophetical) writer and told her story to him. She also showed the notes at first written on her wax tablet and later copied on papyrus, and of course the document of her marriage. Each document gave her a remembrance of joy about God’s guidance, which became also the message of the book of Ruth.
Facts and Faith
It is not a bombastic book, as each chapter is built on an actual event: the journey to Bethlehem, the necessity to reap barley, the steps to her marriage with Boaz and the birth of her son, in the background Naomi with her depressive moments.
Style of Writing
The factual style of the book is fitting in the culture of Old-Israel. Writing was not to amuse people, but to establish all sort of things: arrangements, promises, prescripts, marriages, names, blessings of priests, prayers done in tabernacle or temple, ordinances of kings and magistrates, orders etc. And book writing was to preserve important moments of life, done by priestly or prophetical writers (prophetical literature).
The factual approach of book writing implied a simple presentation of the documentation of the spoken word within the course of events. For ages this was the custom in Old Israel and nobody had a problem with that. One was acquainted with it (see: Take note 1, 2).
Spirit Driven or Man Driven?
This has meaning for the subject of Inspiration. “All scripture is inspired by God.” (2 Timothy 3:16, RSV) The apostle Paul is speaking here about the Hebrew Bible and the scriptures of the Christians: gospels and apostolic letters. In the narrative parts it is all about the events and circumstances. And in the parts with the spoken word people are speaking Spirit driven, or man driven.
This last point is not against the inspiration of the Bible. The story teller gives what was said and in the course of events it has meaning: information, warning, asking for attention, etc. In a very negative way (not Spirit driven) we hear Lamech say:
“23 I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.
24 If Cain is avenged seven fold, truly Lamech seventy-seven fold.”
(Genesis 4:23-24, RSV)
Inspiration of Scripture
Does this man driven passage deny the inspiration of Scripture? No, it shows that the author is warning his readers by the Spirit through this information to not seek what man seeks, but what God seeks. Jesus later on said to Peter: “I do not say to you [to forgive] seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22, RSV)
Insight, how books were made in Old Israel, shows the modern reader what the impact was of these books. They were written to inform, and people could rely on them. Stories contained the documented words of the speakers, and therefore they were very intense.
In this tradition, also the Gospels have been written. Indeed shortly after the occurrences and depending on reports with the actual sayings of Jesus. This all happened shortly after Jesus’s ascension when the growing church needed Jesus’s teachings for the new Christians. This is in contrast with everything theology has been written about this biblical issue, as so many other issues, Christians should know, but don’t know.
The four Gospels formed the first testament of Jesus. And later all the other books added to the Gospels formed a “Testament”: the New Testament. As is said in Hebrews 9:15-17 (RSV):
“15Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. 16 For where a will [testament] is involved, the death of the one who made it, must be established. 17 For a will [testament] takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.”
(A terrible theological fallacy is the oral tradition with a late dating of the Gospels, as if there was never a serious testament. Shame on all those who say so.)
Take Note 1
A turning point came in about 300 BC when Israel was flooded by the Greek culture. It was usual for the Greeks to amuse people in amphitheaters with tragedies and comedies about the heroes of their history, together with all sorts of ‘divine interventions’, put into the words of poets and story tellers.
Take Note 2
A new turning point came with the Roman Empire. From the beginning to the end of it, Stenography existed in two languages: Latin and Greek (since 63 BC). It could not be missed in the administration of the nation, as it was the only tool to preserve orations, held in public.