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Voices of Faith Old Testament refers to missing texts; is it incomplete?

  • Published Saturday, April 20, 2013, at 7:29 a.m.

‘Scriptures containeth all’

The Rev. Betty Hanna-Witherspoon, Ebenezer AME Church, Kansas City, Mo.: African Methodists respond “No.” We say “No” because these books that are referred to in the historical writings do not keep us from the reaching the ultimate purpose of the Holy Scriptures.

The purpose of scripture, African Methodists believe, is to bring us to an understanding of God’s work in the lives of human beings and the universe so that we might better understand how to interact with God. For African Methodists the scriptures provide an opportunity to come to know God so that eventually we can elect to enter into a relationship with God in Jesus the Christ.

God’s work in the history of the Jewish people is foundational for African Methodist interpretation of Jesus’ entry into the history of human beings.

These books, referred to in the question and by the compilers of Hebrew history, are not considered central to Hebrew history by the compilers themselves (see for example 1 Chronicles 29:29 and II Chronicles 12:15).

While it would be interesting to read all the texts that were used to compile the history found in the Hebrew texts, these books are not required to come to saving knowledge of Jesus the Christ, and therefore, the Old Testament is complete.

Our fifth Article of Religion states it this way: “The Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation.”

God does not err

Rabbi Mark H. Levin, Congregation Beth Torah, Kansas City: Orthodox believers consider the Bible to be direct divine revelation, the literal word of God. By definition, it cannot be incomplete.

Scripture perfectly reflects God’s will. Whatever God included, whatever the grammar, whatever apparent errors there may seem to be from a historical or linguistic perspective, the Bible is absolutely complete. It’s the job of the believer to discover God’s meaning and intention. If God excluded some things and included others, there must be a reason. God does not err.

Actually, there are individual letters written both smaller and larger than normal in the original Hebrew text, and clear errors known traditionally as “k’ree u’khtiv,” meaning “read and written.” Those sections are spelled one way but read differently. Each of these are explained by believers as intentional and not in error. They often are interpreted as having a hidden meaning. Whatever God included was purposeful, and it is the believer’s job to understand the deeper connotation.

One traditional, 20th-century scholar, Umberto Cassuto of Hebrew University, wrote about the foreign cultural stories included in the Bible, like heathen creation narratives and parallels to Babylonian myths. (See Genesis 6:1, for example.) Cassuto felt that God included these references intentionally, utilizing stories already known to the people but changing them to reflect actual divine truths.

Thus God accommodated the people to improve their comprehension of the divine word.

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