Tuesday, October 10, 2006
The section of Scripture that runs from Joshua through 2 Kings (minus Ruth) is a single work of history dating to the time of the Exile that is called the Deuteronomistic History (DtH) because its theological approach to history is rooted in Deuteronomy. A number of the prophets, especially Jeremiah, is shaped by this great book of the Bible. Outside the canonical Hebrew Scripture the influence of Deuteronomy is acknowledged in such apocryphal books as Judith, Tobit, and most of the Maccabean literature.
The importance of Deuteronomy for the owners of the Dead Sea Scrolls is evident. The thirty-three copies, or portions, of Deuteronomy found at Qumran is exceeded only by Psalms (40, some of which are mixtures). By comparison there are 15 for Genesis, 15 for Exodus, 18 for Isaiah, 2 for Proverbs, 1 for Ezra-Nehemiah and 0 for Esther. Similar kinds of statistics are true for the New Testament itself. Only Psalms and Isaiah are quoted more in the NT than Deuteronomy (according the UBS Greek NT 4th Revised and Corrected edition the numbers are Ps, 79x; Isa., 65x; Deut., 50x). Indeed all three of Jesus' scriptural quotations while in the desert doing battle with Satan come from Deuteronomy.
Yet the experience of ancient biblical writers and the Essenes is most often not paralleled by many Christians who have been influenced by the Greeks and have thought less of Deuteronomy (scholarship underwent a "conversion" of sorts about a century ago). The name "Deuteronomy" comes from a mistranslation in the Septuagint of 17.18 "second giving of the law". The Hebrew title is 'elleh haddebarim or "these are the words." When I was an undergrad student I learned nothing about Deuteronomy, except that it was the "second giving of the law." In "Old Testament" survey we did not spend even five minutes on the book. This unfortunately is not a unique happening. It was not until graduate school that I learned just how fundamentally wrong headed my perspective was and how central Deuteronomy has been for "Old Testament" studies for a century or more.
Deuteronomy is anything but a mere second giving of the law. Deuteronomy is theological hermeneutics on a grand scale. The person of Moses does in the guise of three speeches takes the entire Torah and casts Israel's relationship with Yahweh into something everyone can grasp: a Covenant of Love. There are three, unequal, gravitational centers to Deuteronomy (they are the black holes that control everything). Everything revolves around these three ... or perhaps just one. Perhaps we could think of these gravitational centers as the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn in the Solar System. They are:
1) The Great Story of God's Mighty Acts (the Exodus, the grace of liberation from Egypt)
2) The Great Commandment (the response of love to Yahweh's Mighty Acts)
3) The Great Society (the redeemed community becomes the kingdom of God on earth)
Every line in the book of Deuteronomy falls into an orbit around one of these centers, including the command about boiling a kid in its mother's milk.
I began this post with a few stats and I will end with some that are amazing. The word "love" is the controlling word in Deuteronomy occuring at least 21x (for the sake of comparison "love" occurs in the NIV of the Gospel of John 27x, Acts 0x and Romans 14x); "heart" occurs another 25x; the cognates "joy" or "rejoice" occur another dozen times (always in the context of worship).
In our next installment I will list a few passages from Deuteronomy that simply torpedo that old saw that affirms the Torah is external and "fleshy" ... rather Deuteronomy is in fact Moses' Gospel of Love: God's Love for Israel, Our Love for Yahweh, and our love for our neighbor.
See Posts in this series:
Deuteronomy: Gospel of Love #2http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
People of the Great Story: Deut 6.20-25
Deuteronomy: What Does it Mean to Love God?
The Gift of Life: Deut 30.11-19