Wednesday, March 24, 2010

1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings

Tonight at church, we're going to be talking about all 4 of these books.  Yes, I recognize that I'll spend 30 minutes preaching on 1 verse at times, and covering 4 books in one night seems a tall order.  It'll be fun.

These 4 books are also called by some 1,2,3, and 4 Kings, because they contain the records of the kings of Israel.  It starts with the origin of the monarchy, then covers the 120 years of united monarchy.  By the time we're 12 chapters into 1 Kings, we're into the divided monarchy.  Then we're into the decline and fall of both countries, Israel and Judah.

Authorship issues for Samuel and Kings (they're each 2 books because of the original medium: scrolls. Well, scrolls without vowels.  Insert vowels and then put it all on 1 scroll each and you'll kill yourself carrying it about) abound.  First of all, they cover a substantial portion of history.  True, Genesis contains more, but many conservatives have embraced a Moses as final compiler of records viewpoint of the authorship there.  The likely solution to understanding authorship of Samuel and Kings is similar. 

A word here about Biblical inerrancy:  We have generally held, as Baptists and a "people of the Book" that the original texts the Scriptures are without error.  There are some who take further steps to hold to a divine textual transmission, that the copies available at certain times (up until 1611) or continually until now are also without error.  There are also those who hold that the text is without error in its intent or its theology, while allowing for errors in history or science.

I, for one, accept that the original text said what God intended it to say.  As He does not lie or mislead, where the text contains obvious history or science, there are no errors contained.  Theology is understood as explained by the special revelation that is Scripture.  Now, the idea of an error-free text bears a special mention of quotations: where people speak, their words are recorded accurately.  Whether or not they were correct in what they said has to be established through their credibility and other statements.  It's much like a court transcript: the court reporter is not determining if the witness is honest or not, just recording what the individual said.

That being said, I do not hold that there has been perfect textual transmission.  I believe that God has preserved the general accuracy of the text, but He has left it to people to respectfully examine the available texts and determine the most likely textual reading to utilize.  Also, I don't think any specific translation is inspired or perfect, and if there was adequate evidence that portions of the NT, like the Gospels, were definitely originally written in Aramaic, that would extend to the Greek translations that top the textual tree.

Not wanting to bore with too many details, keep in mind that the vast majority of the text is without dispute among the available variants.  If I recall correctly, we're talking something on the high side of 90% agreement.  As a comparison, FedEx delivers packages on time and undamaged around 80% of the time, and they're considered reliable.  (ahem, there's another package company that hits 98%, and it's not the Postal Service). 

Of the variances that make up the less than 10%, most are things like spelling of names.  A quick illustration: my full name is Douglass.  Not Douglas, as most names that get shortened to Doug are.  Douglass.  Now, if you read an official story about me, say one that referenced my stellar work on jury duty last week, what would name would you see?

Most likely John, which is my official first name.  (Got you!)  However, one of the local media types in court knows me as Doug.  I signed in as John Douglass Hibbard, and you might find me referenced, as Mid-America Seminary has me down as, "Douglas."  So, name variations aren't major.

The biggest issues are where meaning is confused by textual questions.  There are not very many of those.  Generally, anything that would be called into question by a textual variant should not be the sole basis of any doctrine of the church, and fact is, they are not.  Typically these variances go to different expressions of time and place.  A major example is found in 1 Samuel, where there are additional explanations of the behavior of Nahash the Ammonite that Saul defeats. 

The books of the Kings contain the greater proportion of variances in the Old Testament.  This is likely because of the age of the sources and because of alternate texts available, like Chronicles, that discuss the same material. 

In person, we'll try to hit some of high points of what is contain in these 4 books.



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