Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Biblical Chronicler

In Jewish tradition, Chronicles is classified as Wisdom Literature, not a
Historical book.
What’s the first thing you do when you pick up a new book? Do you take the time to read the introduction and the author’s biography, or do you just dive right into the text? I know I’m usually eager to “get to the good stuff,” but it isn’t the best way to get the most out of what I’m reading.

One of my favorite authors is Paulo Coelho, but that wasn’t always the case. Several years ago my best friend encouraged me to read The Alchemist. The whole time I was reading it, I remember thinking, I should be loving this…but I’m not. I could tell the text was full of symbolism and depth, but all the meaning was escaping me. I was bored.

I hadn’t read the introduction. I didn’t know the author.

Last fall Melinda thrust another Coelho book into my hand, insisting I read it. She knew how I’d reacted to The Alchemist, but she persisted. This time I read the introduction and learned a bit about Coelho’s background. He spent his young adulthood as an activist and songwriter in Brazil, but he had a “spiritual awakening” on a pilgrimage when he was 36. That knowledge colored my interpretation of The Devil and Miss Prym, and it is one of my favorite books of all time.

Have you read the introduction to your Bible? The introductions to the books in your Bible? I know: they are dry. They talk about when the Bible was formed, who recorded the ancient text, where the multiple manuscripts came from to create the canon, and how modern translators went about their work. It’s no “David and Goliath” story, but it’s just as important. If you don’t know where your Bible came from, can you really understand and appreciate it?

Let’s consider one of the most under-appreciated books of the Bible: Chronicles. (The introduction will tell you that 1 and 2 Chronicles were originally one book!) If you’re just reading the text, you might think:

  1. This is just a rehashing of Samuel-Kings (also all one book!).
  2. Chronicles leaves out a lot of Israel’s history.
  3. It’s a waste of my time.

But if you read the introduction, you’ll learn:

  1. Chronicles was never intended to be a history book. It is a description of Israel’s spiritual legacy.
  2. The author intentionally highlighted all the good parts of Israel’s past to inspire the returning exiles (his audience) to recommit to God and rebuild Jerusalem.
  3. The Chronicler wrote a generation after the last events of Samuel-Kings, so he recorded the 20/20-hindsight view of Israel. And what was important to him? Not facts and dates about kings, but fidelity and dedication to God.

I’m only hitting the highlights, so I hope this teaser encourages you to read the “boring” parts of your Bible. They will give you a new appreciation for and understanding of God’s word…maybe even of Chronicles!

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