What is Christian Literacy?

refers to the ability to use a language - to know what words means, to be able to use grammar, sentence structure, to be able to converse in that language is to be literate.

Religious literacy
means having the ability to understand and speak about our faith intelligently. It’s the ability to communicate the basic tenets of our religion.

I'm very grateful to B.U. Professor Stephen Prothero for his excellent book, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't." This book, along with my desire to teach the faith, served as the inspiration for this effort.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Understanding the Old Testament

The Hebrew Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament is the story of a People & their God. But it's also the story of a People & their Land. Therefore one of the quickest ways to understand the history and storyline of the Old Testament is to look at a map . . . or maybe a few maps.

Act I   Abraham & Sarah begin the story.    (2000 BC)

The red line below traces Abraham & Sarah's trip from Ur to the Holy Land. In Genesis 12 God calls them to leave their homeland and go to a new land where God promises to make them a great nation. They started walking . . . . and the rest is history, the history of the Israelites.

Notice that they started in modern day Kuwait and then journeyed through Iraq, down through Syria and Lebanon and then into Israel, the Promised Land.

Act II   Patriarchs & Matriarchs

Generation #1: Abraham & Sarah settle in the Promised Land, called Canaan & Palastine in ancient times.
Generation #2: Isaac & Rebekkah give birth to Jacob & Esau
Generation #3: Jacob & Rachel & Leah & 2 servants have 12 Sons.
Their families become the 12 Tribes of Israel

Act III    Jacob's Family relocates to Egypt

Joseph (Jacob's favorite son) is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers (think "Joseph & His Technicolor Dreamcoat") and he ends up in Egypt. When a famine hits Canaan the family goes to Egypt where Joseph takes care of them. They settle in northern Egypt, in Goshen. There they prosper for 200 years. But then they are enslaved for the next 200 years.

Act IV   The Exodus      (around 1450 BC)

Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt (miracle of the Red Sea). They camp at the Mt. Sinai State Park for a year, as Moses is instructed by God upon the mountain. They then journey through the wilderness for 39 years and end up on the plains of Moab, in modern day Jordan. Moses dies there.

Act V   Joshua leads the Israelites into the Promised Land

Joshua leads the Israelites into the Promised Land.
Then a series of "Judges" (military rulers, including Deborah) leads the nation.
But the Israelites want a king just like all the other nations.

Act VI   United Kingdom - Saul, David, Solomon      (1000 BC)

Israel is about the size of New Jersey, but without Newark.
Saul was a troubled king.
David was a flawed but great king, writing about half of the psalms.
Solomon was said to be the wisest man who ever lived. Israel's a great power.

Act VII   Civil War - The Nation Divided after Solomon's Reign

The Northern Kingdom is called Israel (includes Sea of Galilee).
The Southern Kindgom is called Judah (includes Jerusalem).

Act IIX   Defeat & Exile - Babylonian Captivity

The Northern Kingdom falls to the Assyrians, 734-721 BC.
The Southern Kingdom falls to the Babylonians, 586 BC.
Notice that they're almost back where Abraham & Sarah started from - Ur!

Act IX    The Return of the Exiles

538 BC 1st group returns under Zerubbabel
458 BC 2nd group returns under Ezra
432 BC Last group returns under Nehemiah
Jerusalm rebuilt.

That's the history, geography and story of the Old Testament. It's a story Christians need to know. For as Paul wrote:

These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.   - I Corinthians 10:11

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for your faithfulness to the Israelites and to us. Make us a faith-filled people who know you, follow you and make your goodness known to others; for we like the Israelites have been "blessed to be a blessing." Amen.

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