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A few weeks ago, Ed asked me to lead an adult Sunday school class, with a focus on the Old Testament. I shamelessly and irresponsibly agreed to do it, despite the fact that I don't know much about the subject matter at all. There is only one goal in this class: to have fun talking about the Old Testament. And I think it will be more fun if we focus on topics that we rarely talk about in church. It'll be boring if we just repeat what you've heard 10 thousand times, right? I can give you a preview of some weird topics that I can think of, they're not fancy, complicated topics, some of them are just basics.
For example, the most basic question, what's the Old Testament? The official answer: the word of God; divinely inspired, but what does that mean? You may even know that it means "God-breathed" in the Greek, I have the Greek for you there, but what exactly does "God-breathed" mean? This is the most important book in our life, can we be more specific about this? And OK, the bible is divinely inspired, but what is the bible? Why is Genesis in our bible; why is 1 Enoch, or 4 Ezra not in our bible? Who made that decision for us? Is that decision divinely inspired as well? Don't you want to talk about this in more detail?
We can also look at some interesting texts, such as this one: "Our boat stuck fast beside Mt. Nimush... I released the watch-bird in search of land. The bird came back within a day exhausted, unrelieved from lack of rest… I then released a raven in search of land. The bird took flight above more shallow seas, found food and found release and found no need to fly on back to me." Can you guess what this is? No this is not Noah in Genesis, this is the Gilgamesh Epic. If you want to know more about this, come to Sunday school.
Have you heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls? They're coming to Toronto next year, and I can tell you, they're extremely important to Old Testament studies. Such as how, you ask?
Do we have anyone who uses the NRSV bible here? Look at this passage in the NIV. And here is the same passage in the NRSV. Even if you cannot read English, I'm sure you can tell they look very different. Woo, what happened to our bibles? Didn't we hear that we can't add or subtract even a letter from the bible? It is because of the Dead Sea Scrolls. You may not know it, but the bible that you're reading changed and will change because of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Why is that? Well, come to Sunday school and I'll tell you more about it.
We may also look at some interesting bible passages, such as this one here. Bible quiz: who killed Goliath? We all know the story. David killed Goliath, a giant who is almost as tall as Karen Wong. But, a bit further in the Book of Samuel, there it says it was Elhanan who killed Goliath. Woo woo woo, this seems really wrong, well not just you, apparently the author of the Book of Chronicles also feels uncomfortable about this: he changed the text a bit, saying that Elhanan didn't kill Goliath, he just killed Goliath's brother. We can look at things like that.
We can also talk about some goofy stuff, such as the Bible Code, have you heard about that? I can tell you here and now, it is an insanely idiotic, ridiculously stupid idea, it just doesn't work. You can see I'm really angry, that's because I wasted 20 bucks on this piece of trash. I can tell you how stupid it is in Sunday school.
And we all love archaeology, I can show you a few cool things. Such as this one, the Tel Dan Inscription. Some scholars think that this is the earliest evidence of the expression "the house of David", but some others think, No, it doesn't say that. Why do they disagree on something so simple?
You all remember the amazing story about Hezekiah right? Jerusalem was under attack, so he dug a tunnel for water, and an angel of God killed his enemies for him. We have not found the angel, but we found that tunnel. In that tunnel we also found an inscription. What does it say? Of course I'm not telling you now, the whole point of this thing is just to tease you.
And sheesh there are so many things we can talk about, like all these objects that carry the names of a number of people in the Old Testament. But I think that's enough for a preview. We begin in January, anyone is welcome. Yeah, I'm sure you can tell already, we're going to touch on some sticky issues. But, in case you are, there's no need to worry at all, if you think about it, when you first became a Christian, you knew next to nothing about the bible; there's no way you'll lose your faith because you are going know more about the bible. I myself never fear to ask the most difficult questions, not just because I'm a rebellious person, but also because I hold firm to the conviction that the bible is the word of God, it is not like I'll ask a really challenging question and inadvertently destroy the bible. It just won't happen! I take this as the spiritual aspect of this class, just to have the guts to ask the most difficult questions regarding the bible is in itself a training of faith and confidence in the bible. But of course, I'm not your pastor and not your mom, I don't really care about your spiritual growth, our number 1 priority is just to have fun talking about the Old Testament. I'm pretty sure we can make that happen at the very least.