(In)Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome newcomers! October has been a great month for Coat of Many colors with many new voices on the Facebook page. Some of you are coming from an ad, some are coming from the Carnival posting, and others are just here. Welcome! I hope you stay.

Read my Infrequently Asked Questions..

What is this Blog All About?

Torah Scroll (source: Wikimedia Commons)

A few of you have messaged me asking if this is a Christian or a Jewish blog and I admit that is confusing. This is an inclusive blog, but more important a blog about scriptural texts. If I knew more about the Koran or the Book of Mormon, I might occasionally post something about that, but I don’t so you have to settle with the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, at least for now. I welcome voices from those other communities. Right now, most of my posts are on Old Testament/Hebrew Bible stories, which is what I am reading and studying the most right now.

For both Christian and Jewish viewpoints, I’m drawing from “The Bible”. Once in a while, I will look at the Talmud or other post-biblical Jewish works. For many Jews, the “Oral Torah” is almost as much a part of the scriptural experience as the New Testament is for Christians and I want to embrace and learn more about that. I’ll also occasionally pull from books which may have once been considered canonical (like the Dead Sea Scrolls), as well as ones that are only canonical to very small Christian groups (like the Book of Jubilees and Book of Enoch).

I am trying as much as I can to stay with the plain reading of the texts, but where I can I will talk about how Christian or Jewish thinkers read a specific text, especially if it is different in an important way.

 

So, are you Christian or Jewish?

Does it matter? My wife is Jewish. I was raised Roman Catholic and then converted to various forms of Protestant over my young adult life. However, I also participate in my wife’s shul (another name for synagogue) and have attended both Christian and Jewish classes on scripture. I also own more bibles and bible commentary than should be legal.

 

Why the Weird Vocabulary?

Gutenberg Bible (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Many post titles start with a Hebrew word, such as “Va-Yera” or “Bereshit”. In the Jewish tradition, the Torah (the first Five Books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy) are commonly divided into parsha, which are studied throughout the year on a calendar cycle. These are also called Weekly Torah Portions. The headword helps someone who is studying those portions find relevant posts. It also stems from my initial crazy idea that I could blog about the whole bible in a year. Once I get out of the Torah, I’ll stop using them in the titles.

Some other terms I sometimes slip in:

Torah – As above, the Five Books of Moses, considered the most holy by Jews, traditionally the ones handed over to Moses at the top of Mount Sinai.

Hebrew Bible – The Old Testament, by any other name. Jews have the same books of the Old Testament as do Protestants (but not Catholics), but they put them in a different order. So called because all of the books (except one) are written in Hebrew. The Book of Daniel was written largely in Aramaic.

Tanakh – The Hebrew name for the books that make up the Hebrew Bible, not to be confused with the Torah which is only the first part. It’s a more neutral term than Hebrew Bible, but I regret because of force of habit (and ease of understanding) I still use the other term.

Midrash – A Hebrew word for commentary or legends around a specific story.

Talmud – I once heard a rabbi refer to this as the “Jewish New Testament”, though I suspect he would never say that around other rabbis. The Talmud was written in parts. The first part, the Mishna, was written around the second century. The second part, the Gemara, was written around the fifth. Orthodox and some other Jews believe that the Talmud is a written form of the Oral Law, which God dictated to Moses on Mount Sinai with instructions to pass verbally from generation to generation and never write down… though in the years following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, it was written down anyway.  The Talmud isn’t generally stories, like the bible, but laws and commentary on laws. Just imagine an extremely long copy of Leviticus.

Apocrypha – Books of the bible believed to be true by Catholics, but not by Protestants.

Pseudepigrapha – Books which aren’t in the bible for any mainstream denomination, but written in a biblical style or claiming to be divine. Some of them may have once been in the bible, or may still be in the bible for some fringe groups. The Dead Sea Scrolls have a lot of these.

Rashi – Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki, (RA-SH-I, it’s an acronym) one of the most well known and respected Jewish commentators of the 11th century. He lived in France. I enjoy reading his commentary, but sometimes he can be quite off the wall…

 

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