Short summaries on the books of Holy Scripture

S. Jerome, the great Scripture scholar of the early centuries (Palma the younger, late sixteenth century)

The Canon of Sacred Scripture 
(according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #120)

1. The Pentateuch (the Torah)

Torah: the Law of God

2. The historical books

King Solomon has the plan

3. Traditional literature (containing much historical information)

David: the musician king, composer of psalms

4. The prophets

“What was that? What? I have to be a prophet? Oh no…”

5. The Gospels

Time for a new priesthood

6. The later history

“meeting together with common purpose of heart, we have resolved to send you chosen messengers…” – Acts, 15: 25

7. The letters of Saint Paul

“I am hemmed in on both sides. I long to have done with it, and be with Christ, a better thing, much more than a better thing; and yet, for your sakes, that I should wait in the body is more urgent still.” – Philippians, 1: 23-24

8. The letters of the Apostles

“You too must wait patiently, and take courage; the Lord’s coming is close at hand.” – James, 5: 8

9. The epilogue

The Apostle S. John writing

Some general notes:

Matthew’s clever geneology of Christ: he omits several levels to flatten the whole into three sets of fourteen: from Abraham to David (I), from David to the deportation of the people to Babylon (II), and from the deportation to Christ (III).

IAbraham – Isaac – Jacob – Juda – Phares – Esron – Aram – Aminadab – Naasson – Salmon – Booz –  Obed – Jesse – king David – 

IISolomon – Roboam – Abias – Asa – Josaphat – Joram – Ozias – Joatham – Achaz – Ezechias – Manasses – Amon – Josias – Jechonias – 

III: Salathiel – Zorobabel – Abiud – Eliacim – Azor – Sadoc – Achim – Eliud – Eleazar – Mathan – Jacob – Saint Joseph, spouse of the BVM – Christ.

Luke’s geneology, which goes back to Adam even. Let’s sequence it (3: 23-38). Let’s even give them parts I, II, etc., which Luke has not done:

I: Adam – Seth – Henos – Cainan – Malaleel – Jared – Henoch – Methusale – Lamech – Noe – Sem – Arphaxad – Cainan – Sale – Heber – Phaleg – Ragau – Sarug – Nachor – Thare – [an addition]

II: Abraham – Isaac – Jacob – Juda – Phares – Esron – Aram – Aminadab – Naasson – Salmon – Booz – Obed – Jesse – king David –  [identical to Matthew’s, since it’s in the Torah]

III: Nathan – Mathatha – Menna – Melea – Eliacim – Jona – Joseph – Juda – Simeon – Levi – Mathat – Jorim – Eliezer – Jesu – Her – Elmadan – Cosan – Addi – Melchi – Neri –

IV: Salathiel – Zorobabel – Resa – Joanna – Juda – Joseph – Semei – Matthathias – Mahath – Nagge – Hesli – Nahum – Amos – Matthathias – Joseph – Janne – Melchi – Levi – Mathat – Heli – Saint Joseph, spouse of the BVM – Christ.

The first thing to note is there are more names here. Matthew has modified the list to fit it into three sets of fourteen, and he will have dropped a few names to produce that. The second thing to note is that Luke’s primary source in his Gospel was the Blessed Virgin herself, for several details could only ever come from her. One of the Fathers of the Church (I think it was Saint Jerome) suggested that Luke’s geneology is not Saint Joseph’s line (as produced partially by Saint Matthew) but Mary’s, that the Heli given as Joseph’s Father is Eliacim, Mary’s father (aka. Saint Joacim), who may have had a stronger claim to descent from David. In marrying Mary, Joseph must have inherited from Joacim (who had no sons), as given by Saint Luke. Mary’s geneology becomes Joseph’s geneology, through marriage.

The first covenant was made by God with Noah, in chapter nine of the book of Genesis. Here is the text, with an important first prohibition against the killing of any human being. The murderer must lose his life as well. Also, here’s where we stopped being vegetarian. And rainbows!”And God pronounced his blessing on Noe and his sons; ‘Increase, he said, and multiply, and fill the earth. All the beasts of earth, and the winged things of the sky, and the creeping things of earth, are to go in fear and dread of you, and I give you dominion over all the fishes of the sea. This creation that lives and moves is to provide food for you; I make it all over to you, by the same title as the herbs that have growth. Only, you must not eat the flesh with the blood still in it. The shedder of your own life-blood shall be held to account for it, whether man or beast; whoever takes the life of his brother-man shall answer for it to me. Man was made in God’s image, and whoever sheds a man’s blood must shed his own blood in return. And now, increase and multiply; occupy and fill the earth.’ This, too, God said to Noe, and to Noe’s sons: ‘Here is a covenant I will observe with you and with your children after you, and with all living creatures, your companions, the birds and the beasts of burden and the cattle that came out of the Ark with you, and the wild beasts besides. Never more will the living creation be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again a flood to devastate the world. This, God said, shall be the pledge of the promise I am making to you, and to all living creatures, your companions, eternally; I will set my bow in the clouds, to be a pledge of my covenant with creation.” – Genesis, 9

You read through the Old Testament and you remember that 

  • Abraham had another wife (after Sara died) called Cetura, who gave him many, many sons, including Iecsan and Madian. The Madianites would afterwards become a thorn in Israel’s side.
  • that Ismael, Abraham’s oldest son by Sara’s handmaid, helped Isaac bury their father. Ismael was banished in order to preserve Isaac’s inheritance, especially the spiritual inheritance; he was not completely disowned, and neither were Cetura’s sons.

The story of Joseph, always very popular, it would have been one of those stories you’ve seen a film about. In summary:

  • Joseph is got rid off by his brothers and sold into slavery to Madianites, who carry him into Egypt; then Judah son of Jacob goes on an incestuous trip: ends up having two sons by his daughter-in-law Thamar. One of these sons, Phares, is an ancestor of Christ.
  • Joseph is favoured by Putiphar, then tossed into prison, favoured by the gaoler, encounters the cup-bearer and the pastry-cook of Pharaoh. He is already a dreamer.
  • The story of the famine; notably Simeon is imprisoned, Ruben and then Judah promise to protect Benjamin, and thus they came to the house of Joseph.
  • Joseph reveals himself and offers to set the Hebrews up at Gessen, near the mouth of the Nile.
  • Jacob makes his way to Gessen with 66 children and grandchildren (with Jacob, Joseph and his two sons, the number is 70), stopping at the Well of the Oath (Bersabee) to offer sacrifice to God, where God tells him to proceed to Egypt and that he should be set to rest by Joseph and returned to Chanaan.
  • Joseph barters grain for all the money available in Egypt and Chanaan, then for the land and the very lives of the people. He thus makes Pharaoh the only landowner and possessor of riches. Only the (Egyptian) priests are exempt.
  • Jacob gives Ephraim and Manasses equal rank with his oldest sons, Ruben and Simeon. He grants to Joseph the land he took from the Amorrhites himself, probably Sichem.
  • Jacob blesses his sons and grandsons and asks to be carried back to the Machpela, which looks over Mambre, aka. Hebron.
  • Joseph dies at 110 and asks for his body to be returned to Chanaan.

  • I used to think that Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first high-priest. And he is. But it is clear in the last part of Exodus that Moses himself is a high-priest, God’s ‘familiar friend,’ while Aaron is grouped together with the rest of the Levites. This changes later on.
  • The military registry of the tribes at mount Sinai (fighting men over the age of 20), for the time had come to assault the Holy Land and settle it by force of arms: Ruben 46500, Simeon 59300, Gad 45650, Iuda 74600, Issachar 54400, Zabulon 57400, Ephraim 40500, Manasses 32200, Beniamin 35400, Dan 62700, Aser 41500, Nephthali 53400. Total of 603,550 warriors. The military camps: Iuda, carrying Issachar and Zabulon, mustering 186400 men on the east; Ruben, carrying Simeon and Gad, mustering 151450 men on the south; Ephraim, carrying Manasses and Beniamin, mustering 108100 men on the west; and Dan, carrying Aser and Nephtali, mustering 150600 men on the north. They would march in this order, too, with the Levites in middle. The Levites are not fighting men, so not counted above. Aaron is now the high-priest. Levites are the servants of Aaron’s family, which alone provides priests.
  • The second military registry of the people on the eastern bank of the Jordan, after the long forty years in the wilderness (fighting men over the age of 20): Ruben 43730 men, Simeon 22200, Gad 40500, Iuda 76500, Issachar 64300, Zabulon 60500, Manasses 52700, Ephraim 32500, Beniamin 45600, Dan 64400, Aser 53400, Nephthali 45400, for a total of 601,730. These numbers exclude the first generation of Israelites who left Egypt (excepting Caleb of Iephone and Iosue of Nun, who had remained faithful to God and Moses), who were condemned to die in the wilderness, because of their continued rebellion against the leadership of Moses. The Levites numbered 23000 over a month old, uninherited.
  • The book of Iosue/Joshua is mostly a history of the destruction of Jericho and two coalitions of Chanaanite kings who had mistaken the strength of the Israelites and their divine Champion. A series of bloodbaths secures most of the Holy Land to Joshua, who fulfils his remit from Moses and divides it among the tribes before retiring to his own castle at Thamath-Saraa, in the hill country of Ephraim. This picture is the land, newly partitioned; it must be every thought, as some suggest, that the Chanaanite tribes were utterly exterminated; several were allowed to coexist and their presence in the land in places outlasted the Israelite kingdoms. And then, there is evidence of Chanaanite people in the New Testament.

The rather exciting and confusing movement through the four books of the Kings, as the people move from the leadership of the rather randomly (seemingly) appointed Judges of the people to the Kings of Israel, and the destruction of the unity of the people with two rival kingships, one of Judah and the other of all Israel. Up and until the almost-total destruction of the nation, the loss of the northern tribes of Israel and the exile of the Judaite nobility and royal family. This period is accompanied by the rise of the prophetic ministry as great names like Isaiah and Elijah attempt to draw the kings of Israel and Judah back from idolatry to worship of the one, true God. Their legacy will be the brief restoration of Judah and Jerusalem and the growing legend of the Messiah to come.

The common themes of the several prophecies: 
  • the Israelite kingdoms to be destroyed for infidelity to God, 
  • the condemnation of idolatry (especially of the northern kingdom, but later far worse in the southern kingdom under King Manasses of Juda), 
  • the condemnation of diplomacy with foreign countries when king and people should have turned to God in trust, 
  • the condemnation of the related religious prostitution (idolatry) that came with these foreign alliances, 
  • the condemnation of the internal political movement that glorified the king, with priests, prophets and nobles singing his secular glories and (false) prophets telling only good fortunes for king and nation; 
  • and, lastly, the persecution of the prophets of Almighty God, who foretold only doom on account of all the above.

Late Jewish festivals:
  • Channukah
  • Day of Atonement
  • Passover
  • Purim (14 or 15 Adar, February-time): the name of the festival comes from the Hebrew pur, which means lots and demonstrates the way the pogrom against the Jews in Persia began under the malicious Agagite of the time of the Achaemenid dynasty, Aman (or Haman), as given in Esther, 3:7. Aman had found his way to being the immediate adviser to the emperor, or King Assuerus (aka. Xerxes I). In the course of the book of Esther, we discover how the plot was ruined by Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechaeus (aka. Mordecai), with the later connivance of the king himself. The scroll of Esther is still read at synagogue today on the annual feast of Purim.
  • Tabernacles
  • Weeks

The Jewish calendar year

The family tree of the holy priest Mattathias of Modin, whose sons became known as the Maccabees. Their dynasty was named Hasmonean, for the surname of the family was Ha-shmona: