Some Thoughts on Early Christianity & Judaism

In April 2015, on the seventh anniversary of my father’s death, I gave a talk in Israel. The talk was on the Bible, Bibles, really: the Christian one and the Jewish one, and how they tell somewhat different stories using essentially the same texts.

The Bible (the books), based on stories dating back about four thousand years ago and officially compiled in the 5th century BCE, has at least four versions: Hebrew, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant.

Left to right: Hebrew Bible (in Hebrew), Protestant Bible (in German), early Christian Bible (in Greek). Sorry’ I couldn’t find a public domain image of an Orthodox Christian Bible.

Each one organizes the individual books differently–the Hebrew Bible compresses 12 prophetic books into one, for example–so that the number of “books” in each differs, from a low of 24 books in the Hebrew Bible and a high of 53 books in the Orthodox Bible. You can learn more from this chart compiled by Felix Just.

But the key difference, and the source of my talk, is in the order of the books. All versions begin with the Torah, the five Books of Moses, also known as the Pentateuch. Even here we should note that in the Hebrew Bible the Torah translates to “teaching.” In Christianity, these five books are known as “law”. So the foundations, though identical, are positioned differently.

The biggest change is the order of subsequent books. The difference, writ large goes:

1-Slide5

The key difference is the placement of the prophets. The Hebrew Bible places them in the middle of the story, so to speak, where the Christian Bible places them at the end. So placed, they are clearly positioned to herald the arrival of Jesus Christ.

How and why did this happen?

 

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