The Bible Study Group meets weekly on Friday 10:00 a.m., over Teleconference.
(From the back cover of Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary: Joshua, by Carolyn J. Sharp, 2019)
The book of Joshua is rich, brimming with dramatic irony, heart-pounding conflict, and luminous stories of miracles. But Joshua presents serious challenges for theological ethics, giving us a deity who demands militarized appropriation of indigenous territory and extermination of Canaanite noncombatants. In this Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary, Carolyn Sharp explores archaeological, literary, theological, and ethical dimensions of Joshua in depth. Sharp honours indignity on every pages of her commentary, supplying postcolonial epigraphs, quotations of ancient Canaanite voices, and twenty-nine sidebars with insights from Native Studies. Dozens of sidebars offer suggestions for the Christian preacher. This volume is essential for those seeking to engage fruitfully with violent traditions in Scripture.
Carolyn J. Sharp is Professor of Homiletics at Yale Divinity School, where she has served on the faculty since 2000. She is the author of five books, including Irony and Meaning in the Hebrew Bible and The Prophetic Literature. She has edited or co-edited six volumes, including The Oxford Handbook of the Prophets. An Episcopal priest, Sharp serves as a general editor for the Westminster John Knox lectionary commentary series Conections. She lives in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
Introduction (from the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary)
The book of Tobit tells the story of a good man named Tobit who seems to suffer without cause. In performing an act of charity, burying a dead man, he is struck with blindness and made dependent on his wife. He is so aggrieved by a quarrel with her that he prays to die. Meanwhile, in another city, a young woman named Sarah also prays to die because she has been married seven times, and each husband has died on the wedding night. God hears their prayers and sends the angel Raphael to heal them each of their distress.
Tobit remembers some money he has deposited in another city and sends his son Tobiah to get it. Tobiah and Tobit hire a guide, the angel Raphael in disguise, who not only leads Tobiah to the house of Raguel, Sarah’s father, but also helps Tobiah catch a fish whose parts will be useful in healing both his father and Sarah. Raphael instructs Tobiah to ask for Sarah’s hand in marriage. Tobiah burns the parts of the fish to drive away the demon who is killing Sarah’s husbands; then he and Sarah pray and sleep happily through the night. Meanwhile Raguel, fearing the death of another son-in-law, has dug a grave. When he and his wife, Edna, discover that Tobiah and Sarah are well, they hold a fourteen-day wedding feast. Raphael, who has gone after Tobit’s money, returns to the feast with Gabael, who has held the money in deposit.
Tobiah’s parents are worried sick, however, because their son is late in returning. So Tobiah and his wife set out with Raphael on the return journey. As soon as Tobiah sees his father, he uses the remaining parts of the fish to heal his blindness. When the two men attempt to pay the guide, Raphael reveals his identity and instructs them to praise God. Tobit’s song of praise is the last and longest prayer in this book, which contains prayers or blessings by every character except Anna, Tobit’s wife, and Raphael. After a long and happy life, Tobit calls for Tobiah and Sarah, along with their children, to give them a final instruction. After their deaths, Tobiah gives both his parents and his parents-in-law honourable burials. Finally Tobiah himself dies at the age of 117.
After 16 weeks of studying as the group, here are some comments from the participants (as of January 28, 2022):
“The studying of this book fills in the gap between the Old and the New Testament.“
“The sacrifices of the Maccabean family ensured continuity of the Jewish nation. If these sacrifices were not made, where would the community of faith be today?”
“This book highlights the strong passion and desire of the Jewish people for a messiah to bring freedom and power back to Judea, to re-establish the ‘golden age’ of Israel, similar to that of King David.”
“We haven’t really got it! What I am reading in the 1 Maccabees is so similar to what’s happening in the world right now, with politicians lining up soldiers, eager for more wars.”
“Christianity is not immune to the same kind of horror we read in the Maccabees…with a notable of the lack of prophet voices, to stand up and speak for God.”
“The message of the Son of God seems to be very different than the God of the Old Testament.”
“It must have been quite extraordinary to see Jesus arriving shortly after the Maccabean (about 130 years afterward); to see the drastic shift from wars, battles and bloodshed to the message of Jesus, of love and forgiveness.”
“It is troubling to see the people of God so bent on separating themselves from the Gentiles in their pursuits and practices of holiness. Yet God is sovereign and in control, as to permit God’s people to work through their faith, even in disturbing history.”
Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books
Starting from September 24, the Friday Bible Study group will be looking into the Apocryphal books, beginning by focusing on the history of the Maccabean revolt (1 & 2 Maccabees). As a study guide, each participant will receive a copy of The New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, New Revised Standard Version
Although the Apocryphal materials are not recognized by the Protestants as Scripture, they are still useful to bridge the 400 year gap of the New Testament and the Old Testament. This is what the early reformer Andreas Bodenstein had to say about the Apocryphal books (De Canonicis Scripturis Libellus, 1520):
“What they contain is not to be despised at once; still it is not right that Christians should relieve, much less slake, their thirst with them…. Before all things the best books must be read, that is, those that are canonical beyond all controversy; afterwards, if one has the time, it is allowed to peruse the controverted books, provided that you have the set purpose of comparing and collating the non-canonical books with those which are truly canonical.”
Here is an interesting and helpful video showing the ebb and flow of empires in the Ancient Near East:
Psalm of Ascent
Starting from April 9, we are looking into the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). Over 15 weeks, we will be studying these psalms, much like the people of God in their ancient pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem, to the temple of the Lord. We will be using the book “A Long Obedience, in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society“, by Eugene Peterson as the main reference material to guild our journey. If you are interested to join us, contact the Rev. Paul Wu at 613-276-2551 for more information.
2020 Annual Report (submitted by Don Tate)
We meet faithfully every Friday morning to read and study books of the Old and New Testaments, chapter by chapter. We have been studying together for eleven years and, in that time, have covered a significant part of the Bible. Our average participation is nine persons. Before the pandemic, we met in person but since March we have been meeting by teleconference.
During 2020 we have studied the Book of Daniel, and 1 and 2 Samuel. At the end of the year, we were well along in our study of the Book of Isaiah.
Pastor Dan Chook Reid joined with us up until the end of August and contributed greatly to our discussions. We were delighted to have our new minister, the Rev. Paul Wu, participate with us after he arrived at the end of November.