Magazine article The Christian Century

Old Becomes New

Magazine article The Christian Century

Old Becomes New

Article excerpt

THE OTHER NIGHT, while doing my bathtub reading of scholarly journals, I came across two references to one subject. Taken together they almost roused me from the torpor induced by the whirlpool. Not quite. But later, when I recollected that emotionless time in tranquillity, I woke up to the import of my reading.

The subject was what to call the Old Testament. Those of us of a certain generation have always termed the Old Testament the Old Testament. We became aware that could sound demeaning to Jews when we were asked, "What would you think if your scriptures were represented as containing only the old stuff, now transformed or replaced by something else?" We answered, "Teach us what to call it, and we'll call it that."

By common consent most of us began to accept the alternative term "Hebrew scriptures." I've heard--and perhaps preached--many a sermon in which the preacher, after instinctively speaking of the Old Testament, backed off and said something like "um-ah-oops-um-ah ... the Hebrew scriptures." When citing the Torah one could always punt by calling it "Torah," One imagined all Jewish and most intellectual, in-the-know people responding, "Thanks, thanks, you politically and inter-religiously sophisticated and sensitive you!"

Now, my bathtub reading told me, Jewish and Christian revisions or reversions are under way. Friend Arnold Jacob Wolf writes in Judaism that "Old Testament" is "an opprobrium that some Jews, like Daniel Boyarin, prefer to the now more common `Hebrew Bible' or "`First Testament. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.