Thursday, June 14, 2012

Additions to our Timelines for this week and next

Our reading schedule this week and next introduces several new books from both the Old and New Testaments. Those of you that are following the modified 18 months (well, 19 months, actually) schedule will notice that I placed Psalms and Proverbs within the proper chronological context for Moses, King David, King Solomon, and the Babylonian captives instead of following the New Testament books in the published schedule. For everyone else, here's an introduction to the books we'll be reading this week.

Old Testament

I Kings - This is the third volume that relates the Jewish kingdom years. I Samuel tells of the transition between the last judge, Samuel, and King Saul. II Samuel details the rocky transition between the reign of Saul and that of David. I Kings then continues the Davidic dynasty with the transition of power to his son, Solomon. This transference of power was not without its problems either!

One of the fascinating things about this book is that it gives us actual timeline information. I Kings 6:1 says that Solomon began the building of the Temple 480 years after the beginning of the Exodus. It also states that it was the fourth year of Solomon's reign so this would place the date of building at 1011 BC and Solomon's coronation at 1015 BC. It took 11 years to build the Temple (6:38) which would put the date of completion at 1000 BC.

The book relates more than just the 40 year reign of Solomon. It also introduces the division of the kingdom into Judah and Israel in approximately 975 BC and covers the ministry of Elijah to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. All told the book covers approximately 130 years of history.

Song of Solomon (this week) and Ecclesiastes (next week) - Unlike the books of Psalms and Proverbs which have been placed in the New Testament column of the 2012 reading schedule due to the availability of pocket-sized New Testaments containing those two poetic books, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes were inserted to be read after the summary of their author's life. The narrative of I Kings is interrupted for 8 days as a result. Although Ecclesiastes precedes Song of Solomon in scriptural order I have reversed them to mirror the normal phases of Solomon's life. It seems natural to me that he was the loving bridegroom before he was the retrospective preacher.

There is no way to know the dates of writing for either book, but if Song of Solomon was written when he was the young king that would place it nearer the 1010 BC mark and if Ecclesiastes was written toward the end of his life the date would be near 975 BC.

New Testament

Titus- This is another of the pastoral epistles written by the Apostle Paul toward the end of his life. Like Paul's first letter to Timothy, he addresses the qualifications of Godly pastors and the qualities of good church members. As in all of his letters, Paul specifically names his fellow-laborers. In this case we again see the name of Tychicus, the deliverer of his letters to those who resided in Colosse.  This letter was written circa AD 62-64.

II Timothy - This is the second inspired epistle written by the Apostle Paul to his son in the faith, Timothy.  Like all pastors, Timothy seemed to need encouragement every so often. This letter is the equivalent of a spiritual pep rally! The father in the faith exhorts his convert to keep preaching and to train others to carry on the work also. This was especially important for two reasons. First, Paul was reaching the end of his own ministry and needed good men like Timothy to continue spreading the gospel to the unconverted. Second, even some of Paul's trusted fellow-workers were falling away.

One of the saddest verses is 4:10 where we learn that Demas abandoned Paul (cf. Colossians 4:14 and Philemon verse 24). The others who left, Crescens and Titus (the same as the one who received the above-mentioned letter), were not given the same sad epitaph as Demas but neither was it said that Paul had sent them to minister elsewhere like he had Tychicus, another name we've come to recognize from these letters. Only Doctor Luke remained with Paul at that time and it was Paul's hope that Timothy would come and bring Mark (the same man who wrote the gospel) with him.

This letter was written close to the time of Paul's death. This would place its time of writing at approximately AD 65-67.

Hebrews - This book is unique in that it opens boldly with the name "God" and because no author takes credit for it.  There are many theories concerning the authorship but not even tradition tells us who it was although the early recipients knew (see Hebrews 13:18,19). Perhaps one of Paul's coworkers wrote it. A likely possibility would be Apollos. It certainly wasn't Timothy as he is mentioned by name as "our brother" in 18:23. Many have ascribed it to Paul but this doesn't seem likely. Among other things, Paul called Timothy his son, not his brother.

The time of writing is not certain either, however, the fact that Timothy had been imprisoned (again, see 18:23) would suggest approximately AD 67-68.

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Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Psalms 19:14 (KJV)