Updated: June 8, 2003

Class Notes

(for further thoughts only)


1.                      A few things to bear in mind

A.        It is strongly recommended that the NRSV be used for all citations.  If you want, you may use other translations in addition to the NRSV, not in lieu of the NRSV.

2.                     What is the text of Samuel?

A.        For our purpose it is the text of the NRSV, since we need a common text.  The NRSV is only a translation produced by the NRSV translation committee.  As of now, it is arguably the most updated critically sound translation.  It is a version based on important manuscript witnesses, which include the Masoretic Text (MT), the Septuagint (LXX), and the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS).

                                     i.              The Hebrew text

                                   ii.              The Greek (older one and latter one)

                                 iii.              The manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls

B.        One should weigh the witnesses.

                                     i.              External witnesses: manuscripts

                                   ii.              Internal witnesses: grammar and other scribal matters

3.                     Who were the Hebrews?

A.        A most debated issue is whether the term refers to an ethnic group or a social group.

B.        The notion of an ethnic group has become a very complicated issue.  At least in most cases, an ethnic group is a sociological construct.

C.        Still, one can conceptualize í░ethnosí▒ and í░class,í▒ and the question remains which category has more explanatory power in our study.

4.                     The Historiography of 1 and 2 Samuel

A.        1 and 2 Samuel represent a part of a longer historical work in the Hebrew Bible called the Deuteronomistic History.  It covers from the book of Deuteronomy all the way to 2 Kings (except Ruth, which was not yet written when the DH was put together.)

B.        All histories are written from a certain perspective, which requires assessment.

C.        Do we accept the historical viewpoint of the historian?  Or, should we suspect that there was something that has been suppressed (not out of malice or intent to deceive).

D.        I have already noticed that many of us are adopting the historianí»s perspective as well as his/her bias.

5.                     The Kingship

A.        Many scholars argue that the introduction of the monarchy to Israel was a betrayal.

B.        Actually, the accounts of 1 and 2 Samuel about kingship are ambivalent.

6.                     El Shaddai

A.        This is not the Deuteronomistic way of rendering the name of God.

B.        It is arguably the oldest name of God in the Hebrew Bible.

C.        It is usually translated as í░God Almighty,í▒ which follows the practice of the LXX.  It is not clear how the translators of the Greek Bible got the meaning of the phrase, and most probably, they had no idea of what the word í«Shaddaií» meant, and did their best on the basis of the literary context of the places where the name of God appears.

D.        Some scholars have argued that the phrase is related to the Amorite expression of bel shade, the lord of the mountain.  In one inscription it appears as an item in the luggage of the people who wandered around.  That should remind us of the God of the patriarchs in the Hebrew Bible.

E.        The best source on this topic is T.N.D. Mettinger, In Search of God.

7.                     Politics and Religion

A.        We tend to make a clear distinction between politics and religion.  Such a practice is actually cultural-specific, and we should not assume that the people in the biblical times made the distinction in the way we do.  Certainly, this does not mean that they had no concept of politics and religion.   Simply, we should not impose our own way of conceptualization upon them.

1.                      í░Like Godí»sí▒

A.        Whenever we use a theological category as an illustration, we are assuming that our readers subscribe to the same theology.  In a seminary setting, it is not farfetched to do that; however, in a class discussion it is not a good practice to assume that our audience will have the same understanding of God.

B.        The metaphors of God are often loaded, and need a somewhat lengthy explanation.  I wonder whether our illustrations can be really effective when they themselves require a lot of explanation.

C.        I will not stop using the metaphors of Godí»s ways, but will always ask myself about others who might have a different theological understanding.

2.                     When they talk about GodíŽ.

A.        When commentators talk about God, they are usually talking about the way God is presented in the narrative account.   They are not necessarily making ontological statements on God.