I have a coworker who is very knowledgeable on the Bible, and he told me right around the time I finished reading Mark, “Just skip Luke and go straight to John.” The reason for this is that John introduces a lot of new material per my understanding, but I’m anal retentive about this. If I’m gonna read & blog/review the Bible, I gotta read the whole thing. In order. So I went ahead with Luke, which throughout its 24 chapters demonstrated to me over and over again why my coworker had suggested to just skip it. I like to make things as difficult as possible for myself.
So, hmm. This is interesting. You may recall that in my Matthew review, I mentioned that among most Bible scholars, it’s thought that the Book of Matthew uses Mark as its source material. Matthew doesn’t have a known author, and I went into Mark thinking that its author and origin would be more clear. But, as it turns out, we’re not really sure who Mark’s author is either. Wikipedia states that Mark was likely written in 66-70 A.D., and it “appears as the second New Testament gospel because it was traditionally thought to be an epitome (summary) of Matthew, but most scholars now regard it as the earliest written gospel.”
Alright guys. So I wound up splitting my Matthew review into 2 separate posts: A recap post, which you can find here, and an analysis post, which is the one you’re reading now. The book is just so densely packed in with important stories and covers so much territory (from Jesus’ immaculate conception and birth to his death and resurrection) that I felt like I wanted to do it justice in my recap without skipping major events. But putting my analysis in the same post would be way too long, hence the split. If you’re already an expert on the book of Matthew or if you’re only interested in my takeaways from it, you can just start here and skip the recap.
OMG we finally made it to the New Testament!!! I never thought this would happen. And it only took 500 years. I have really flown right through this thing, haven’t I?
We begin the New T with the Gospel of Matthew, and we discover quickly that the New T really wastes no time jumping right into this story and all these new concepts. Last we saw God’s chosen ones, they had rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem and were already starting to misbehave yet again. We then pick up in the New T a good 450-ish years later and suddenly we’ve got some dude named John the Baptist wandering around baptizing people and … wait – what the hell does “baptize” mean? Did they even do that in the Old Testament? O.k. I just checked – it seems that baptism-like acts were performed a few times in the OT, but they didn’t use this term. An example is this passage from Leviticus: “8:5 Moses said to the assembly, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded to be done.’ 8:6 Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water.” But the Bible really hasn’t yet given an explanation of why it’s being done or what it has evolved into in terms of ritual and meaning by the time it shows up at the start of the New T. Is it weird that baptism is apparently a Christian ritual that happens without ever being defined by the Bible itself?
Hey look, it’s the final book of the Old Testament! Malachi is only 4 chapters long, but boy does it give us one final thwack of cuckoo across the face to close things out. From God’s anger at his people divorcing their spouses and offering him unsavory animal sacrifices to God threatening to smear poo on his people’s faces, Malachi really ends the Old Testament with a bang and a smash (of poo in your face).
It seems that less is known about Malachi than any of the minor prophets thus far. According to Wikipedia: “Although the appellation Malachi has frequently been understood as a proper name, its Hebrew meaning is simply ‘My [i.e., God’s] messenger’ (or ‘His messenger’ in the Septuagint) and may not be the author’s name at all.” So, not only do we have no idea when this book was written or what the context is, we don’t even know who this book’s author was or whether Malachi was even his name. Super!
Uggh. O.k. Straight up: Zechariah is the most difficult Bible book review I’ve had to write thus far, and we’re nearly done with the Old Testament. Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve written any reviews, and that is probably partly playing into this, but I swear to you this is the worst. And why is that? Zechariah is one of those books that is weird for the first half and then goes completely off the rails in the second half. And when I say off the rails, I mean really just … I’ve been banging my head against a wall trying to make heads or tails of it for weeks now. I’ve never in the entire time I’ve been reviewing the Bible had to split a review into 2 posts before. But I did it this time because if I kept this as one post, it was going to be pushing 7,000 words. Part 1 is here if you haven’t read it, and it covers all Zechariah’s visions from chapters 1-8.
O.k., well, this is not what I was expecting. First off, Hi. It’s been over a year since my last Bible book review. In case you were sitting there waiting and wondering where I’ve been, as I’m sure so much of my imaginary loyal readership has, I’ve been around. Just busy with obnoxious stuff. Well, one of the things keeping me busy was good, which was that I got a new job. Yay! The other stuff was bad. Other than the new job I got, which I am genuinely happy about, 2016 was a shitshow for everyone, right? It’s not just me? Right. O.k. let’s move on.
Haggai wants you to restore the glory of the Lord’s Temple. Why won’t you do it? Just do it, dude. K? Alright, here’s what Haggai has going for it: 1) It’s short and sweet: only 2 chapters. 2) Haggai lived in a later time period than all the other prophets so far, which makes his book juusst different enough from the same tired stuff we’ve read for the past 15 books or so, to make it somewhat palatable. Of all the previous prophet books, the one that had covered the latest time period was Daniel, which covered the period after Babylon defeated and destroyed Judah/Jerusalem, while the Jews were exiled in Babylon. Haggai comes even after Daniel’s timeframe, which I’ll get into more below. Is it interesting? Mmmm Nah. It’s still pretty boring. But at least it’s a teeny bit different.
1:2 “I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” “When I destroy all mankind on the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
1:17 “I will bring such distress on all people that they will grope about like those who are blind, because they have sinned against the Lord. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like dung.
Uuuuuggggggggggghhhhhhhh are we still not done with this shit yet!!?? How many books have I been reading now that are the same. damn. story. over and over and over again? I’m starting to feel like …
You know, all I can think of when reading some of these minor prophet books at the end of the Old Testament – Nahum, Obadiah, Habakkuk, etc. – is how the hell did I memorize all these book names for my church confirmation process when I was a teenager? I didn’t know jack shit about what any of the books actually said back then, so what was the point of memorizing all their titles? It seems ridiculous, but I can’t entirely blame the Methodist church for my lack of proper training, as I wasn’t exactly the best Sunday School student. If I had only realized what I was missing back then, maybe I would’ve been more interested. I’d be extremely curious to know how 13 year-old me would’ve reacted to these things. We’ll never know now.