TIP of the day: Getting to know the people part 1: place in time

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Aug 31 2016 10:39 PM

1. The first task in dealing with the people within a passage is to determine how much detail is appropriate. As described in Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated Approach, Adele Berlin provides one possible approach inside a particular narrative.

Adele Berlin identifies three kinds of characters in Hebrew narrative: Full-fledged, the type, and the agent.8 The full-fledged character is multi-dimensional and complex, manifesting a range of character traits. This character confronts the reader with psychological, emotional, and spiritual complexities. David’s wife Michal is a full-fledged character. The author goes to great lengths in presenting her as a woman with her own emotions and opinions.
A single character trait distinguishes the type. Such a type is Laban. From the first time we meet him in Gen 24, we are struck by his distinguishing materialism. In Gen 24:28–31, the author hints at this trait:

  Then the girl ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban; and Laban ran out to the man, to the spring. As soon as he had seen the nose-ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and when he heard the words of his sister Rebekah, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man; and there he was, standing by the camels at the spring. He said, “Come in, O blessed of the LORD. Why do you stand outside when I have prepared the house and a place for the camels?” (emphasis added)

Laban’s materialistic motivation is sustained in 24:47–51 and in his dealings with Jacob in Gen 29.
The agent type of character is nothing more than a functionary which the author uses to fill out the narrative. This character is usually not characterized at all, but simply serves the purpose of providing the necessary characters for a story. Depending upon the narrative and the purpose of the narrative, however, a single character’s role may change. A full-fledged character may thus become an agent or a type in another narrative. What are the techniques of characterization in Hebrew narrative? To this repertoire of poetics we now turn.

W. Randolph Tate, Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated Approach, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 112–113.

Obviously you want a "full Biblical biography" of full-fledged characters; with types you need to identify the character trait; with agent you need to identify the function they serve in the narrative.

But often, what we have is a simple reference back to a character that expects us to recognize the reason that person is relevant in this context.  This is similar to being able to recognize the characters in a Jesse tree by their symbols.

from http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2014/11/root-of-jesse-christmas-lesson.html

Sometimes we have access to Bible dictionaries or similar resources that give us an outline of an individual in a set format. As an educational tactic it is better to build your own such resource rather than blithely accepting someone else's work. But as a practical matter such standard summaries are useful.

from https://www.christcenteredmall.com/profiles/abishai.htm

What we are not talking about is Biblical Character Studies that move beyond the character themselves into application or even, sometimes, making judgments about their behavior or character.

from https://s3.amazonaws.com/p31obs/mendedheart/Character+Study+(1).pdf

2. The first element to have in your mind is when they lived. By "when" I don't mean to get involved  in the precise years; I mean knowing

  • what era of the timeline of the plan of salvation they belong to
  • some contemporaries or predecessors

Cavins, Jeff, Tim Gray, and Sarah Christmyer. The Bible Timeline: The Story of Salvation. The Great Adventure Bible Timeline. Ascension Press, 2011. provides a 12 era timeline distinguished by color. Here Moses falls in "Egypt & Exodus".

To access this resource,

  • Type "Open The Bible Timeline" in the Command Box at the top center of the window,
  • Select "Open The Bible Timeline: The Story of Salvation".
  • If the option to select this resource does not appear, assume you do not own it.

3. The Biblical Event Navigator Interactive uses a similar high level division. One can find an event including Moses as a way to determine/verify what era he is placed in. Here Moses is in "The Exodus from Egypt" era.

To use this resource:

  • Click on the Tools button.
  • Click on "All interactive resources" at the bottom of the Interactives menu in the rightmost column.
  • In the Library, click on "Biblical Event Navigator Interactive" to open the resource
    • Alternatively, one may drag-and-drop the Bible Event Navigator Interactive from the Library panel to the panel in which you wish to have it open.
    • A third alternative is to omit all the above steps and simply type "Open Biblical Event Navigator" into the Command Box.
  • Click on the Biblical Era one wishes to expand.
  • Continue drilling down through the events until you hit the desired event.

4. The Timeline Tool uses a similar Biblical Eras division but attempts to assign dates. Early and Late referring to the estimates of scholars who set early dates vs. estimates of scholars who set later dates.

To access the Timeline Tool:

  • Click on the Tools button.
  • Select Timeline under Bible Reference.
  • To filter for a particular individual, type the name in the filter box at the far right.
  • One may need to adjust the time frame to display the selected data.

One can then filter the Timeline by the name "Moses"  and find alternative of 1526-1406 BC or 1350-1230 BC which puts Moses firmly in the "The Exodus Period".

5. When you cannot find an event for a person or an entry in the timeline, one can go to biographical references or Bible dictionaries to find a date to convert to an era.

Moses (Hebrew origin: Drawing out)
(Exodus 2:10). 13th century B.C.E.
Moses is the leading figure in the Bible. Religious tradition considers him to be the author of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Moses, the man who freed his people from slavery and led them to freedom, was a unique leader; founder of the community; and organizer, legislator, and intercessor for the people. One of his most remarkable characteristics was his solicitude for his people, in spite of their obstinate and contentious ways.
He was the greatest of prophets, the only person in the Bible to whom God spoke personally, face to face, in contrast to other prophets to whom God spoke only in visions and dreams. The nation that he molded has now survived for over three millenniums, based on his teachings.
About 400 years after Joseph settled his father, Jacob, and his brothers in the fertile land of Goshen, the small group of seventy Israelites who immigrated to Egypt had now grown to many thousands, living in peace and prosperity all over the land. A new pharaoh came to the throne who didn’t know who Joseph had been or what he had done for Egypt. Alarmed that the Israelite population had grown so large, he feared that, if there were war, they would join his enemies, fight against the Egyptians, and escape from the country.

David Mandel, Who’s Who in the Jewish Bible (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2007), 277.

6. Another way to get to dates is via Factbook.

  • In an open Bible, select the name of the individual
  • Right-click to open the Context Menu.
  • Select the person entry on the right-hand side of the Context Menu.
  • Select the Factbook entry on the left-hand side of the Context Menu.
  • In the Factbook panel, expand the Events Section.
  • At the bottom left of the section, select "Open in Biblical Event Navigator"
  • This puts you at the same place as if you had opened the Biblical Event Navigator directly (see above)

7. In some situations you may wish to get a secular evaluation of the date. This is easily done via Wikipedia.

  • In Factbook expand the See also section.
  • Near the bottom of the section under Further Reading, select Moses wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia will open to the article on Moses in a separate panel.

Note that with the release of Encyclopedia Britannica there will be another similar option.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 809
Cynthia in Florida | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Sep 2 2016 8:15 AM

Oh my goodness!  This is fabulous!  I LOVE the tips of the day!



Romans 8:28-38

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