Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7
I have a great admiration for people who can speak more than one language and those who try to learn a second language. I have never been very good at languages. I find pronouncing words and sounds from other languages very difficult, especially languages that roll their “R”s or have guttural sounds.
Ironically I loved learning Biblical Hebrew while in college. Probably because I never really attempted learning to speak it but rather to read and translate it. Having said that, I recognise I do Ancient Hebrew and the biblical text a great disservice by not “hearing” it and only “seeing”, especially since it grew out of an oral tradition. It means that I don’t hear the sound of the language, the rhythm and rhyme, the onomatopoeia and the alliteration which enhance the text and help convey emphasis and meaning.
On the other hand being able to “read” and translate the text, even if it is in a rudimentary way, has enhanced my love for the Jewish Scriptures, the TANAKH or as we Christians commonly refer to them the Old Testament. I particularly love the Torah, that is, the first five books of the bible.
I have come across Christians who think that we don’t need to worry about the Old Testament or TANAKH. They consider it irrelevant to the Christian faith. I find this both surprising and sad since the Christian faith has it’s roots in the Jewish faith. Indeed the very one we follow, are disciples of, Jesus the Christ was born a Jew, grew up a Jew, read, studied, probably memorised and certainly quoted the Jewish Scriptures. He was a faithful Jewish man who was crucified on a Roman cross because he spoke out against the Empire with the title King of the Jews.
Christianity is one of the three Abrahamic faiths and this week we dive into the story of Abraham and Sarah. This Sunday we are looking at part of their story and in the coming weeks we will continue with the story of Abraham and Isaac.
As I approach these texts I like to look at them in their original language, Ancient Hebrew, and be reminded how ancient these passages are. Be reminded that they were originally written for an audience with a very different culture from ours and remember that they need to be read with a different lens so I don’t miss or gloss over important points within the story.
As I read I want to give voice to the ancient wisdom rather than superimpose something upon it. To read it with the eyes of Jesus, with awareness of the cultural context and with a Jewish way of reading the scriptures, that is a playful, open and wholistic reading of scripture. It is read not for a single meaning or truth, it is not constrained by any one interpretation, but has layers of understanding and capable of many different interpretations and is read in relation to other parts of scripture. The scriptures are read with joy, freedom and creativity including expanding upon the text through commentary and story. All of it is underpinned with the spiritual and an understanding that it is relevant, not just historical. It tells us something about our relationship with God, and to how we are to live our lives. Too often we read these living, God-breathed scriptures with the eyes of Empire, eyes of oppression that want to nail them down or dismiss them. Too often they have been approached from a position of superiority and contempt. God forgive us!
Rev Tammy Hollands