Welcome to 2015. Or, as the not-as-averse-to-sarcasm-as-you-would-think Holy Spirit calls it, the 23rd Anniversary of Your Resolution to Learn More About the Old Testament Beyond Psalm 23. (The Holy Spirit is often quite verbose, as well.) And while the best way to delve deeper into the depths of divine doctrine might be to procure a good study guide, exhaustive concordance, tri-color highlighter and, you know, a Bible, I think we can all agree that the best method is rarely the easiest method. But the easiest method is often good enough. Subject to approval by our triune God. Which is still pending. So please, put down the Beth Moore Immersive Immersion Study of II Samuel 3:1-5 Volume 1 of 4 and let’s get on with the “good enough.” The Law – The first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy – make up what is commonly referred to by folks with access to Wikipedia as The Pentateuch, or The Torah for those who dance the hora. Written by Moses “Charlton Bale” Rabbeinu, this five-set series from Time-Life Books contains the framework of Creation and the foundation of, as the Sunday school teachers say, the Big God Story. First, obviously, is Genesis. Long before rising to fame as the moniker of a British prog-rock-cum-pop-band featuring synth drum aficionado Phil “Bob Hoskins” Collins, Genesis detailed the Fall of Man, possibly being your brother’s keeper, the world’s first and worst water park, the covenant and concubines of Abraham, and Joseph’s Rainbow Loom serape and rise in Egypt. Next is Exodus, starring Batman and Mr. Clean. Then Leviticus, featuring priests, ceremonies and more references to scabs than you’ll find at a union hall. And finally, Numbers and Deuteronomy which each contain thousands upon thousands of inspired words that no one has ever read. The Historical Histories – A dozen books of the OT recount much of the history of the nation of Israel: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, along with Samuel, Kings, Chronicles and their sequels. None of which include any prophets doing the electric boogaloo. Many events are recounted more than once in various passages, which can be quite confusing. So it’s advised that you just nod knowingly as if you understand what’s going on while reading. If you have a beard, stroke it. Confusion aside, there are many exciting events to learn about within these books. The walls of Jericho turning into a failed Jenga game. David the literal giant killer (good). David the metaphorical lady killer (bad). Solomon not cutting a baby in half. Sampson losing a bet and his strength by going to Great Clips. Esther sticking it to the Haman. Gideon and the Soggy Fleece of Victory. And more! Miscellaneous Poetry (and Job) – Every once in a while, the OT throws in a book of ancient poetry to cleanse the palate after serving so many grapes of wrath. Chief among these is Psalms, a book of Hebrew songs and poems written mostly by King David. These Bronze Age raps lack the whimsical wordplay and “flow” of today’s maddest beats, but are chock-a-block with a wisdom greater than a thousand Kanyes. Proverbs contains enough, um, proverbs to confuse your kids until they’re 42. Ecclesiastes sounds like a skin condition, but is actually more depressing, what with Solomon’s moaning about everything being a “vanity of vanities.” Song of Solomon gets a soft R from the MPAA ratings board for “adult situations.” And then there’s Job, the oldest book in the Old Testament. You’ve no doubt heard about “the patience of Job.” That’s not in reference to Job’s patience in dealing with Satan’s shenanigans. It’s about the patience you learn in reading 42 chapters full of whiny frenemies and a mention of a dinosaur that ain’t nothin’ but a MacGuffin. Major Prophets – The five books that make up the Major Prophets were authored by four guys who could get away with wearing robes bedazzled with “I’m kind of a big deal.” But they didn’t. But they could have. The books – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel – are full unto bursting with (elbow alert) major prophecies regarding Israel, the Messiah and, depending on your eschatological viewpoint, the end times. Some high notes include: Isaiah sprouting eagle wings and flying too close to the sun, Jeremiah lamenting four score and seven hundred woes, Ezekiel tossing a valley’s worth of bones into a first-generation Ronco food dehydrator, and Daniel chillaxing with some hep big cats while his brahs did the ultimate Tony Robbins firewalk. Also, lots of Babylonians and Assyrians. Major Pain to Pronounce Minor Prophets – Quick, name something profound Haggai wrote. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Trick question: Haggai is actually a brand of “relaxed waistband” slacks favored by men who are comfortable enough in their oldness to use the word “slacks.” The only thing you need to know about the Minor Prophets is that Jonah is one of them, and that he spent three nights in the belly of a giant fish (played by Abe Vigoda) before being spewed into Nivea where the residents turned his coating of whale guts into lotions, birthing an emollient empire that lasts to this day and is available at Target and other fine retailers worldwide and possibly Osco. That feeling you now sense surging through your marrow is called wisdom. Use it as often and as loudly as possible, preferably after Sunday services to correct the pastor. Also, you’re welcome.
This column originally appeared in the January 2015 edition of Chatter Magazine and can, if Scribd.com still exists, be found here.