Before starting at the beginning

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

This blog series now moves on to the longest section, as much intended for repeated reference as reading immediately. Nonetheless, I hope each post will be interesting enough to read in its own right as it is blogged. Since I am going (with one or two extras here and there) to blog my way through the books of the Bible in their canonical order, you might expect that to begin at the beginning would mean starting with Genesis. However, I want to take a couple of steps back, and begin with another word starting with the same three letters: genre.

At this point, though, I need to enter a caveat. I blog these posts on books of the bible not as an expert, but as a fellow reader. I venture to claim a degree of knowledge, and a reasonable depth of study for much of (but not all) the New Testament books. But when it comes to the Old Testament I have no particular expertise. I’m simply another reader sharing something of what I read. My reading always begins by asking what sort of book I’m reading.

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When is a law not a law?

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

The first broad genre a Christian reader encounters in a description of the bible’s contents is “law”. Whenever the scriptures are referred to in the pages of the New Testament by genre, it is nearly always “the Law and the Prophets.” (I discussed this language a bit here.) And many people are used to hearing references to the books of Moses, or the law of Moses, in relation to the first five books of the bible.

However, what the reader finds when starting these books is not laws, but stories. It takes 50 chapters of Genesis and 19 more chapters of Exodus before we get to the giving of the law. This alerts us to a certain problem with the language of “law”.

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