Levine-names for the Bible

Amy-Jill Levine objects to Christians changing the  name of the Old Testament to the Hebrew Scriptures.  She does this partly because she says not all those scriptures were written in Hebrew. This seems minor to me.  When Protestants speak of the Hebrew scriptures, we are not thinking about Maccabees and Judith.  A part of Daniel was written in Aramaic but that seems trivial.  Anyway, Hebrew to me does not necessarily mean the language, but the people.

I think the main reason she objects is that she thinks this is a bit of hypocritical political correctness.  Christians really do think there is an old and a new covenant.  So glossing over this difference between Judaism and Christianity does not help.  Jews often just call it the Bible.  Christians need other language to clarify that they have expanded the Bible.

I am going to keep using Hebrew Scriptures.  I tried to use the term Tanakh for a while. But I felt I had to explain it every time I used it.  So it was inconvenient.

The reason I seldom use the term Old Testament is not to be politically correct (I have no problem being politically incorrect by using generic masculine pronouns).  It is not because I think it will hurt the feelings of Jews.  It is because I am sick of Christians talking about the “Old Testament God” as though this is a different God.

Saying that the Hebrew Scriptures are old might not imply an anti-Jewish replacement theology or supercessionism–the idea that the church has replaced Israel as the people of God.  But it opens the door to the Marcionite heresy–that the God of the Jews is a different God than the God of Jesus.  Whenever a Christian talks about the “Old Testament God” it implies that the God of Jesus is a different God.

On this point at least Levine is also clear.  She objects to the idea one often hears in our pulpits that the Jews were waiting for a violent, warrior Messiah and could not accept Jesus because he was so peaceful.  She notes that, especially in a book like Joshua, the Hebrew God appears warlike.  But she points out that this same “bellicose” God shows up in Revelation and some of the words of Jesus.  More to my point, she says,

“…it is not only incorrect but also heretical for Christians to distinguish between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New.  What must be noted first is that, according to Christian teaching, both Testaments depict the same God.  There is no personality shift as the text moves from Malachi to Matthew, for the same bellicose deity appears in explicitly Christian texts” (p. 128).

She is right.  I wanted to stand up and cheer when I read this.


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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