Theology for the Long Haul

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Not Even A Yod!

There is much discussion in recent decades concerning the singularity (or plurality) of thought among 1st century Jews. Some have gathered from the Qumran manuscripts and Josephus that there was an overwhelming amount of diversity. I, for one, think this is impossible to know for sure, but I am cautious to attribute too much normalcy to the beliefs of the Qumran sect, who was just that... an apocalyptic sect. Josephus was also not without his bias. I believe the more accurate rendering of Jewish theology of Scripture is found in the Bible and in sources like those quoted below.

That said, I read an interesting account in The Historical Jesus of the Gospels by Craig Keener (this one's taking me a little while) concerning the 1st century Jewish viewpoint on Scripture:

Jesus underlines the permanence of Scripture's authority in a graphic hyperbolic manner, declaring that not even the smallest letter would pass away (Matt. 5:18// Luke 16:17). His recorded language apparently alludes to a more widely known story, probably known to Jesus' original hearers, but perhaps not to most of Matthew's and surely not most of Luke's audiences. Jesus' "letter" (NRSV), "smallest letter" (NIV), "jot" (KJV) or (literally) iota (the smallest Greek letter) undoubtedly refers to the Hebrew letter yod, which Jewish Teachers said would not pass from the law. Some said that when Sarai's name was changed to Sarah, the yod removed from her name cried out from one generation to another, protesting its removal from Scripture, untill finally, when Moses changed Oshea's name to Joshua, the yod was returned to Scripture. "So you see" the teachers would say "not even the smallest letter can pass from the Bible." Likewise, sages declared that when Solomon threatened to uproot a yod from the law, God responded that he would uproot a thousand Solomon's rather than a word from his law.

Wow, many "so called" evangelicals would consider this language to be fanatical. I don't. As Christians we know that our faith is the fulfillment and consummation of the Jewish faith, and the Old and New Testaments were written by the same God and carry the same authority.

Is your Bible missing some things? What parts do you skip over? What parts do you remove? Who is God in your life? Who has the authority? Is it the Bible? Or you? If it's you, you should be scared.

But don't take my word for it. I think God would uproot a thousand Phil Vander Ploegs before He would uproot one yod from His word.

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