Ancient Literature

Ancient Literature & the Bible: 

Prophecies, Stories, and Proverbs Through Their Eyes

Sometimes the Bible message gets lost in translation. This can be due to nuances of meanings in Hebrew or Greek vocabulary, or untranslatable grammatical forms. Usually the confusion is insignificant, but some key insights into the text can be lost. Occasionally sexually explicit language is  deliberately obscured by translators to make the Bible suitable for reading in church. 

Some laws and actions commanded in the Bible are regarded as barbaric or meaningless today. Ancient legal codes and other literturate reveal the real-life problems and the solutions they used to try and fix them. In this light, the laws of the Bible can be seen as necessary, and usually they are much more humane than the laws of other nations at the time. We find that the was Bible always advancing morality in the same directions that we still strive for today.

Myths and superstitions that shaped ancient world-views were countered by Israelite prophets and scriptures.
Stories and names that we find obscure, were familiar  to the first readers, and they can come to life again for us.

Even when the words have been translated, the message may still be obscured in a strange idiom or a legal phrase. For a non-native English reader, an performance that "raised the roof" may seem disastrous and a "hung jury" sounds like a row of corpses. Similar problems are found in the Bible: some issues are theologically significant, some are fascinating, and some are just hilarious.


• Millions living in the wilderness

The Bible is full of numbers that appear to be too big, and new research has found a likely reason for this.


• Does God hate sinners?

God's wrath is easy to ignore, but neither should we characterise God as wrathful. His love and offer of forgiveness extends till judgement day. As the psalmist says, if on that day we still reject God's love, there is only wrath left.
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• David's Contradictory History

In 2Sam.21.19, Goliath is killed by Jair, not David. Apparent contradictions like this show that the Bible has been transmitted without too much editing. A novel or a highly polished history wouldn't retain such problems, but real historical documents always do.
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• Jonah as History or Story?

Whether or not it actually happened, Jonah is written like a moral story.  If we miss this, we will miss the moral it delivers – that even bloodthirsty evil Ninevites can be saved if they repent. Unfortunately, they didn't.
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• Was Judas Iscariot Guilty?

Prophecies about Jesus' betrayal make Judas look like a predestined puppet. However, they weren't specific enough to identify who or how it would happen. But can we still find mitigating circumstances to explain what he did?
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• Mary Magdalene's fan fiction

Fictions such as 'other' gospels of later centuries got confused with 1st century facts, so that Mary became an immoral woman instead of someone troubled by her demons.
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• Ruth, the Man-Trap

She came with nothing, and joined the family of King David. Her match-making mother urged her to use dubious methods like sneaking into her intended husband's bed when he was drunk. The potential disaster didn't happen, and they fell in love.
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• Sarah's Ribald Joke

When God said she'd be pregnant at 99 years old, Sarah responded with a sexually crude pun which is difficult to translate. And yet Peter regards her as a model wife, and God told Abraham: " Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you" (Gen.21.12, ESV).
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• Song of Songs About Joyful Sex

Why is this love song with thinly disguised erotic sections in the Bible? The low-born woman who dreams of being a princess, and her lover who treats her like one, warms our hearts. Instead of allegorising it, we can embrace its celebration of human love.
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• Promises made by God

God promised to never leave us, but not to always heal us. Some phrases sound like promises when translated into English, because of the way that Hebrew verbs work.
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