First Step in Understanding
the Linguistic Method of Bible Study
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Insofar as we know, descendants of Abraham, herein called Jews although that title is not appropriate before the 6th – 5th centuries BCE, wrote 64 of the 66 books of the Protestant Bible.  The only exceptions are the Gospel of Luke and the Acts.  This means that about 97% of the Bible was written by Jews.  The intended audience of the 66 books was predominantly Jewish.  The only exceptions to this would be the letters of Paul to Gentiles and possibly the Gospel of Luke and the Acts, which were written to Theophilus, whoever he was.  Therefore, it is significant that we understand the culture of the Jews in the geographical location of the writings and in the historical time periods of the writings.

According to the accounts recorded in the Bible, the “father” of the Jewish people was a certain Abram.  Abram was a Mesopotamian, the son of Terah, who lived in Ur of the Chaldeans.  According to the account in Genesis 11:31-32, “Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there.  The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.”

The theoretical time period for Abram was about 2,000 BCE, give or take a couple of hundred years.  Consider the following statement.

Abraham or Abram, biblical patriarch, according to the Book of Genesis (see 11:27-25:10), progenitor of the Hebrews, who probably lived in the period between 2000 and 1500BC. Abraham is regarded by Muslims, who call him Ibrahim, as an ancestor of the Arabs through Ishmael. He was once considered a contemporary of Hammurabi, king of Babylonia. Because the biblical account of his life is based on traditions preserved by oral transmission rather than by historical records, no biography in the present sense can be written.[1]

When Abram lived, many cultures already existed.  Significant archaeological finds in the past 100 plus years have shed new light on the stories in the Bible.

Since the 19th century extensive investigations have been carried out throughout the Middle East, as well as in Greece and Italy, that have made the larger world of the Bible living and real. During a series of expeditions by the British in the mid-19th century, the great library of the 7th-century BC Assyrian king Ashurbanipal was uncovered at the site of ancient Nineveh (near modern Mosul, Iraq). In this library were found tablets with the Babylonian stories of creation and the flood, a discovery that set the biblical accounts in Genesis in a wholly new light. Cuneiform documents from ancient Mari (modern Tell Hariri) in western Syria have clarified the origins of Old Testament prophecy, the identification of place names, and the concept of tribal nomadism. The tablets of ancient Nuzi (modern Yorgham Tepe) in northern Iraq have provided scholars with information concerning legal customs of the 15th century BC, customs with parallels in the patriarchal narratives. Letters from Canaanite kings to their Egyptian overlords, found at Tall al ‘Amârinah in Egypt, have shed light on the political situation in Palestine about 100 years before the Israelite conquest. Numerous law codes from the libraries of great Assyrian and Babylonian kings have provided analogies and parallels to the law codes of the Old Testament.

 

From 1929 to the present, excavations by the French at Ra’s Shamrah (ancient Ugarit) in western Syria have produced thousands of tablets belonging to the period between 1400 and 1200BC, written in Ugaritic (see Semitic Languages). Many of these are literary in character, describing the exploits of the gods of the Canaanite religion, among them the storm deity Baal (title of Hadad) mentioned frequently in the Old Testament. Moreover, the poetry of Ugarit has strong affinities with that of the Bible. They share much in the way of vocabulary, structure, and the use of figures of speech and other literary devices.

Special Note: The quotations have been taken from Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99.

© 1993-1998 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

To see a parallel between one of the writings discovered and the account in Genesis about the creation, go to our web site…

http://www.biblicalheritage.org

 

…and click on “Genesis Parallels”.

 

These insights into the linguistic method will be continuing.

 

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