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Faith and History in the Old Testament

Faith and History in the Old Testament

R.A.F. MacKenzie
Copyright Date: 1963
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 132
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  • Book Info
    Faith and History in the Old Testament
    Book Description:

    This absorbing and readable account of the religion of ancient Israel is presented against the background of other cultures of the time. Father MacKenzie traces the development of Israel’s belief and draws upon modern knowledge of the cultures of the ancient Near East to illuminate the history. But the main stress is on the religious meaning which the Israelites themselves perceived in the events they experienced, a meaning which is accepted and extended in different ways by modern Jews and by Christians. The author explains, in non-technical style, the distinctive features of the faith of the Old Testament as evident in such themes as covenant, creation, retribution, the pursuit of wisdom, and the hope of salvation. At the outset, he defines the study of theology and places the study of Chrisson with that of Israel. He analyzes Israel’s concept of God and the character of the covenant between God and the people of Israel, discusses the Israelite literature on the creation of earth and its creatures, and considers the interrelationship between myth and history. He discusses the search for wisdom in Israel, the public prayers, and the concept of a promise from the deity. In conclusion, he presents the interpretation by the Old Testament authors of these distinctive features of Israel’s religion. The book is intended for lay people interested in modern Bible interpretation, as well as for priests, ministers, and rabbis who wish a general survey of the Old Testament. It is suitable for use as a text or supplementary reading in religion or theology courses.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6354-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  3. I The Quest for Salvation
    (pp. 3-17)

    It may not be out of place to begin with a word in defense of the claim of theology to a hearing, among all the manifold intellectual activities that are represented on a university campus. In the College of Science, Literature, and the Arts, is there a place for theology, and what should that place be? Is theology to be ranked with music and dance and sculpture among the arts? Or is it, as a body of written material, part of literature? The answer is, it belongs properly to neither. Confidently the theologian will affirm that his specialty finds a...

  4. II God: Power or Personality
    (pp. 18-31)

    In the preceding pages we considered the quest for salvation in the ancient Near East, and some characteristic attitudes of men toward the gods. Taking the two great civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt in the second and first millennia B.C., we saw how their religions could in practice be understood and analyzed as a seeking after salvation, in the widest sense. The existence of gods and goddesses, of a superhuman world of knowledge and power, was completely unquestioned; the belief in such a world belonged to the fundamental categories of their thought, and was their frame of reference for all...

  5. III Israel’s Covenant with God
    (pp. 32-45)

    In the previous chapter I drew a comparison, which turned into a contrast, between the normal concept of divinity in the polytheist religions of the ancient Near East, and the concept of the personal and unlimited God so firmly and consistently presented in the traditions about Abraham. The latter appears curiously distinctive, in fact unique. Personality, vividly realized, is the mark of Abraham’s God, and he is quite independent of, in fact he transcends, the various special functions and activities to which the other gods are dedicated.

    I now come to speak of the divine image, the concept of the...

  6. IV The Question of Origins
    (pp. 46-60)

    In the preceding pages I have tried to show what were the distinctive marks and content of the religion of ancient Israel, not only in the later forms of the postexilic age, or even those of the eighth-century prophets, but at the earliest stage that is accessible to us. Fundamental is the realization of a completely personal God, a super-Person with mind, feelings, and will, who chooses of his own initiative to enter into a personal and moral relationship with them. But along with that fundamental and central belief, almost everything else in Israel’s culture was held in common with...

  7. V The Problem of Myth and History
    (pp. 61-74)

    The title of this chapter indicates a vast and ambitious subject, and it is well to specify from the outset that I intend to treat of only one special case of it, namely, the form that the problem assumes within the context of this discussion of theological significance of the Old Testament. As we have seen in considering the creation narratives, there undoubtedly are myths contained in the Old Testament, not of course polytheistic myths but narratives invented to explain the ultimate reasons of things, and to express the mythmaker’s faith in a particular divine activity. Once such an explanation...

  8. VI The Search for Wisdom
    (pp. 75-89)

    The twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Job contains an independent poem whose refrain is “Where can Wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” With haunting imagery, the poem goes on to deny wisdom’s accessibility to all things created: “Man knows not the way of it, nor is it found in the land of the living. The abyss says, ‘It is not in me’; the sea says, ‘I have it not.’” For wisdom is uniquely a divine possession: “Only God understands its way, and he knows its location.”

    We have here described one of the great searches...

  9. VII The Prayer of Israel
    (pp. 90-101)

    As has been stressed more than once already, all the religions that men have ever practiced offer some form of salvation, promise some well-being that cannot be achieved or assured by men’s own unaided efforts. This is just as true of revealed religions as of “natural” religions. The Christian believer sees a distinctive mark of his belief, not in the mere fact that it does hold out a promise and a hope, but in the fact that the salvation thus proposed is of a kind that man could never have thought of by himself. It surpasses natural dreams and aspirations....

  10. VIII The Hope in Israel’s Future
    (pp. 102-114)

    The title of this chapter is concerned with the ancient Israel of pre-Christian times; the hope referred to is the hope that was then entertained of God’s future action, of definitive salvation. Thus our field of interest remains the people of God, as we find them in the world of the Old Testament. We have been considering the many distinctive characteristics of that people’s culture and beliefs, all of which, as I have tried to show, depended on their peculiar and unparalleled concept of a covenant deity. The last such characteristic to be discussed is their hopefulness, their confident, forward-looking...

  11. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 117-117)
  12. Index
    (pp. 118-119)