RJS writes the Jesus Creed blog at Patheos.org, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/, and copies his work to a WordPress blog, http://musingsonscience.wordpress.com/. He wrote regarding the camel archaeology I mentioned a few posts back, and he follows up here: http://musingsonscience.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/start-with-isaiah/ He reiterates that he mostly doesn’t think camels matter in context, and he goes on to address a couple of points raised by his commenters. The first point he addresses is how much fuss is made of such things. The “concern” is that unbelievers, or simply the worldly, jump at such either to deride or because they are weak in faith. RJS makes the case the problem is with education within the church, not that which is without, and he points out we need depth in our thinking. Quoting, “We have to guard against sound-bite shaped cut and dried alternatives. Anyone who argues in sound-bite shaped alternatives is almost always quite seriously wrong.”
Point two, I’m going to quote in entirety. It is that good.
2) how do we define “incidentals”? This question gets to the root of the problem. First and foremost we must be immersed in scripture. Not a theory about scripture, not a theology derived from scripture, but in scripture itself from beginning to end. There is no way to have a reasoned view of “incidental” features without a thorough grounding in the whole sweep of scripture. We need to read scripture publicly and regularly in substantive chunks as a part of our worship. Only by so doing will we build in our church an appreciation of scripture. If it is not worth a place on the stage in our worship why in the world would the average Christian in the pew or the child growing up in the church think it is an important part of Christian life? We must teach and emphasize the study of scripture in our churches. This cannot happen in the Sunday morning service. There isn’t enough time, the audience is too diverse, and it requires an opportunity for real discussion, questions, and interaction. Discipleship education is not secondary to formal worship, it is one of the most important roles of the church … for all ages … in multiple forms. In my opinion (take it for what its worth) one of the most pernicious myths in the church today is that success is measured by the number of unique spectators in the seats for a Sunday morning service. Success is measured in the formation of disciples of Jesus Christ. This doesn’t happen (often) through a fairly passive 55 minute experience. A thorough grounding in the sweep of scripture begins with a knowledge of the basic stories, the primeval history, the call of Abraham and the patriarchs, the exodus, conquest, judges, kings, exile, return from exile, John the Baptist, Jesus, the church. … But then we need to go deeper.
Then he suggests we start with Isaiah. “The prophets point to the gospel and the Gospels allude back to the prophets, constantly.”
Same for the Revelation.
His last bit is worth fully quoting as well (all the rest is his):
Back to the Camel. I don’t find the camel – whether actual or from a later fleshing out by a redactor – significant because the sweep of scripture is in the God’s call of his people and the failure of God’s people to forsake idols and follow God alone, the failure of God’s chosen people to love the Lord their God with heart, mind, soul, strength and to love their neighbor as themselves. This rests on the back of a camel?
In the story of Rachel and Jacob we read (Gen 31):
Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing. Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.
The camel and the camel’s saddle are incidental to the story – that Rachel took the household gods is not, or so it seems to me. This is a portent to the entire sweep of scripture. The impact of idols, Asherah poles, high places, Ba’als, the detestable god Molek, such as these permeate the story.
Returning to the commenter’s question, the exodus and king David are not incidental to the sweep of scripture, although we can ask questions about some of the details of the way these stories are told. The resurrection is essential to the fulfillment of scripture in the New Testament, but should we really worry about the fact that the details of the four different accounts are somewhat different?
If we get the big picture down, the details will work themselves out. Without the big picture, the details are nothing but piddling bits of irrelevant trivia.
What do you think.
Should we start with the prophets to understand the sweep of scripture?
If not where should we start?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.