Cell Group Study: Merrill, The Word and the World

This is how our cell group studied through Eugene Merrill’s book The Word and the World.

Week 1 Study

Read the Preface by Yamauchi

(skip the previous works by the authors)

Chapter 1

Read “The Old Testament and the Christian” near the end
Q: What are key points we need to record here in our notes?
Q: Can you relate to his points about viewing the OT as irrelevant?

Part 1 – The World of the Old Testament

Read all of this
Q: What are key points we need to record here in our notes?

Chapter 2

This should be skipped for now. It’s got the different foreign empires and kings throughout the OT. Consider reading some of this along the way as we get to the appropriate era in OT history.
  • E.g. read the part on 2nd millennium Egypt later – before we read the Exodus chapter

Chapter 3

  • Read the stuff on climate/geography and bring a topographic map to point things out
  • There are several good maps in the appendices of this book. Also bring Bietzel atlas. A projector or monitor would be helpful here for showing the maps
  • For our notes
    • What are the four major land strips of the land of Israel?
    • Q: What are other key points we need to record here in our notes?

Week 2 Study

Chapter 3 – Pick up at “Archaeology”

  • Read the stuff on archaeology (method and key discoveries)
  • Also religion
  • Record answers to these study questions:
5. Who was the foremost biblical archaeologist of the twentieth century?
6. What is the contribution of the Tel Amarna letters to biblical studies?
7. What has been considered the most significant archaeological find of the twentieth century?
8. Where is the location of the earliest biblical verses that have been discovered?
9. What contribution has archaeology made to biblical studies?
10. In what two regions did writing begin?
11. Where did the alphabet emerge?
12. In what way is Israel’s view of God different from pagan perceptions?

Chapter 4 – ANE Literature

Keep an eye on the time here. Some or all of this may need to carry over to next week. Make sure to leave time to answer the discussion questions to the parts we’ve read this week.

  • Read the intro paragraph and look at the list of finds
  • Skip “Overview of Ancient Near Eastern Literature”
  • Read “Survey of ANE Literature”
    • Stopped right before “Rituals and incantations.”

Study questions from the end of the chapter:

1. What are the most commonly used sources for studying ANE literature?
2. What are the key categories of ANE literature (based on genre and content)?
3. To which Egyptian wisdom composition do scholars often compare Prov 22:17–24:22, and why do they do this? What should we learn from this?

Week 3 Study

Finish Chapter 4 – ANE Literature (pick up where we left off last time)

  • Finish reading “Survey of ANE Literature”
    • Pick up with “Rituals and incantations.”
  • Read “The Importance of Ancient Near Eastern Literature to Understanding the Old Testament”
  • Read “Methodology for Comparative Study—Key Definitions”
  • Read “Methodology for Comparative Study—Guiding Principles”
  • Read “Interaction between ANE and Biblical Worlds”
  • Read “A Word of Caution”
  • Work through most or all of the study questions:
 4. What are some key differences between ANE incantations and rituals and activities of biblical priests and prophets?
 5. What are some key differences and similarities between ANE and biblical creation and flood accounts?
 6. How do we explain the abundant similarities between ANE law codes (e.g., Code of Hammurabi) and the Law of Moses (which predate the Mosaic law)?
 7. What are the extremes of explaining the relationship of the Bible and ANE literature?
 8. What are the three broad levels of interaction between the biblical and ANE world?
 9. What is the first of three key areas in which biblical writers interacted with the surrounding ANE world?
 10. What is the second of three key areas in which biblical writers interacted with the surrounding ANE world?
 11. What is the third of three key areas in which biblical writers interacted with the surrounding ANE world?

Week 4 Study

Intro to Part 2 – The Text of the Old Testament

Study questions:

  1. What do conservative evangelicals suggest as the time frame for the composition of the OT?
  2. What are some of the nations or cultures with which the biblical writers interacted?
  3. What are some of the key writing materials used in composing and copying biblical books?
  4. What did the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran indicate about the way in which the OT books were transmitted?
  5. What are some evidences of a very faithful transmission of OT books?
  6. Did writing develop fairly late in biblical history, creating the need for oral transmission as the primary means for passing on biblical traditions?
  7. What are some of the ways people define the expression “oral tradition”?
  8. Archaeological work at what location demonstrates the existence of a highly literate pre-patriarchal society?

 

Chapter 5 – The Composition of the Old Testament

We read up to the heading: “Possible Examples of Inspired Textual Updating”

Week 5 Study

Pick up at Chapter 5: “Possible Examples of Inspired Textual Updating” and read the rest of chapter 5. Answer these study questions as a way of reviewing the chapter, and leave some time for discussion of the points raised.

This week didn’t work out quite as well because most of the reading from this chapter came from the previous week, but we were trying to answer study questions from that material. Some guys weren’t here for the previous study, and a few weeks had passed since that study, so the material was a bit fuzzy in our minds. Try to line up the study questions with the reading material in the future while still leaving time for discussion at the end.

Study Questions:
1. How have evangelicals customarily defined the following: inspiration, autographa, and canon?
2. What are some of the ways God revealed what He wanted biblical writers to record?
3. Could biblical writers make use of non-canonical written records or oral tradition in writing a biblical book? Why or why not?
4. What is the significance of a thousand-year period during which time biblical writers composed OT books?
5. What are the five propositions offered in this chapter?
6. What are two examples of inspired textual updating?
7. What is the basic idea of “redaction”?
8. What kinds of redaction do evangelicals have concerns with and why?
9. Were biblical writers totally objective or given to bias (tendenz)?
10. Does any bias by biblical writers undercut the infallibility of the biblical books they authored?
11. How does recognizing the theological agenda of a biblical writer enhance our exegesis of a biblical text?

Week 6 Study

Chapter 6 – The Canonicity of the Old Testament

Read and answer all discussion questions. The chapter looks longer than it is because it lists five different versions of the list of books in the OT Canon (Jewish, LXX, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant). Some of this will get pushed back into next week’s study.

1. What are the Hebrew and Greek etymologies of the term “canon”?
2. What early Jewish council was alleged to have dealt with the issue of the OT canon?
3. What is meant by the Antilegomena?
4. When was the issue of the extent of the canon settled by Roman Catholicism?
5. Define the term “apocryphal.”
6. How many books are in the Hebrew canon?
7. Name three of the five books whose canonicity was questioned by early Judaism.
8. In the Hebrew canon what is meant by the “Former Prophets”?
9. What is another name for the book Ben Sirach?
10. What is meant by the term “pseudepigraphical”?
11. To which book is Ruth attached in some lists of the Hebrew canon?
12. What was troublesome to the rabbis about the book of Proverbs?
13. Identify Melito.
14. List at least two criteria by which a book was tested for canonicity.
15. The order of the “English” canon is based on which ancient canon?

Week 7 Study

Chapter 7 – The Transmission and Textual Criticism of the Old Testament

  • This is dense stuff, but we decided to go for it.
  • Read up until the heading “From Third Century AD to Medieval Times” Need to explain and summarize along the way, including a diagram to show all the different witnesses that go into making our Old Testament today.

Week 8 Study

This was a bit too much for one week, but here’s what we did:

  • Chapter 7: Read from “The Practice of Textual Criticism” to the end of chapter 7 (2 pages). Don’t worry about discussion questions.
  • Part 3 Introduction: Read all of the intro to Part 3 (4 pages) and discuss
  • Chapter 8:
    • Read the first 7 pages of chapter 8 and discuss. Stop when you get to “Source Criticism Beyond the Pentateuch”
    • Also read the one paragraph conclusion to chapter 8
    • Discuss and answer relevant study questions if you have time.

Week 9 Study

Read all of chapter 9 and discuss (less than 10 pages)

Week 10 Study

Part 4 – The Pentateuch Introduction

  • Read everything except for the parts titled “Thompson, Van Seters, and “Minimalism””, “Rolf Rendtorff” and “R.N. Whybray”
  • Total reading = ~3 pages

Chapter 10 – Genesis

  • Read and discuss everything through the end of the section titled “Is Genesis 1–11 Myth, Fiction, or History?” (6 total pages, including a half page table comparing Genesis with Enuma Elish)

Relevant study questions:

  1. What is the impact of source, form, and tradition history criticism on the understanding of Genesis?
  2. Whom does this volume present as the author of Genesis?
  3. What expression serves as a structural key to understand the layout of the book of Genesis?
  4. How do evangelicals who believe in divine inspiration of the Bible explain their view of Genesis 1–2 as myth?
  5. How do evangelicals who reject the idea that Genesis 1–2 are myth support their view? What similarities and differences exist between the biblical and ANE accounts of creation?

 

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