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Light unto my path. I shall light a candle of understanding in the sign heart which shell not be put out. Light unto my path an exploration of the books of the Old Testament from these books through the ages has come our concept of man born in the image of God and made to have dominion over all things. The Bible is the record of man's understanding of the role of the divine in human life. We
now examine that record when it was written. How it was preserved. And why it ranks first. In our literature. Light unto my path produced by radio station WAGA of the University of Wisconsin under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. These programmes are planned and prepared by Dr Menachem Mansoor chairman of the department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the University of Wisconsin. Professor Mann sword. The Bible as literature. Is this a misnomer. The Old Testament is of course a religious book. First and foremost any study which does not take this seriously into
account is doomed to find only a partial appreciation of its greatness. Yet with the Bible as with other classics the dictum is very true that great thought demands great art. Does this mean we reduce it in stature. Do we presume to add or subtract from such passages as these. The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want he make it for me to lie down in green pastures he leads me beside the still waters He restores my saw. He guided me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me thy rod and by staff they come for to me thou prepare us the table before me in the presence of mine enemies that were noticed my head with oil my cup runneth over Surely goodness and mercy shall
follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. It's just true. Nothing can be added here today to this ancient poem of God's goodness which will follow a man of the days of his life. The meaning is clear. The promise is joyful. The heart hugs this lovely sound and through many centuries man has treasured and kept it as a beloved inheritance. The beauty of the words the perfection of thought expressed. This is why it is loved and remembered. This is why it's great literature because the Bible is great literature. It appeals even to those who do not wish to study religious thought. Literature is the record of man as he lives in this world. His struggles his longing says loves and hates hopes and fears manage his best and at his worst books are his record of life and great books link you and me. It's individual man to all humanity
to common human experience and give us insight into that experience. It is therefore timeless revealing the roots of man's being the essence of his experience which changes a little through the centuries. It is currently the fashion to praise science to place science in the front and the front ranks of knowledge and to make it the stick by which we measure the value of other arts. I hope the scientists who are listening will forgive me for saying their great field has one great weakness. It perpetually equates itself. The science of today continually outdates that of yesterday. The teachings of Newton which plays so brilliantly in his time are today replaced by those of Einstein. The science of the past loses its power and becomes only a matter of historical interest. Not so in the field of literature there is equality of
permanence and poetry philosophy history or drama. Time does not diminish the power of great literature. Shakespeare will remain Shakespeare and damed for generations perhaps for eternity. And so with the Bible the glory of this writing will be incomparably unchanging liberally and through the ages. It is altogether fitting that we analyze the Bible as literature. It is not actually a book. Rather the Bible is a unique library of books 39 books as we generally count them what we call the Old Testament was written by many different men reflecting the different personalities the different circumstances in which they lived. Over a period of about 1000 years this library contains essays Battle Hymn gods of love love poems intensely personal prayer histories biographies short stories
or rationed. Almost every literary genre can be found between the covers of our Old Testament. Let us take a sample from this library and see what characteristics are typical of the Bible's marvelous literary quality is. Here is a story a written about a thousand years before Christ and the hero is well known to us. It is David not in his youth as a shepherd poet but as a king a father and a leader of armies. When the nation was torn apart by civil war David's son the handsome dashing young Absalom has led an army against his father King David. Then David mustered the men who were with him and said over them commanders Joe Webb and his brother and it-I and the king said to the men. I myself will also go out with you. But the men said You shall not go out if half of us die they will not care about us. But you are worth ten thousand
of us. Therefore it is better that you send us help from the city. The king said to them. Whatever seems best to you I will do so the king stood at the side of the gate while all the army marched out and the king ordered Joab Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom and all the people heard when the king gave orders to the commanders about Absalom. So the Army went out into the field and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword and Absalom chanced to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding upon his mule and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak and his head caught fast in the oak and he was left hanging between heaven and earth while the mule went on. Then Joab said to the question I'd go tell the king what you have seen. The question I bowed before Joab and ran.
Now David was sitting between the two gates and the watchman went up to the roof of the gate by the wall and looked and saw a man running alone and the watchman called out and told the king and the king said If he is alone there are tidings in his mouth. And behold the question came and he said good tidings for the king. For the Lord has delivered you this day from the power of all who rose up against you. The king said to the question is it well with the young man Absalom. And the question had answered. May the enemies of the king and all who rise up against you for evil be like that young man and the king was moved deeply and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went he said My son my son my son Absalom would I had died instead of you Absalom my son my son.
The cry of King David the rings down through the centuries. My son my son and the name of Absalom has come to symbolize for us all grief of fathers who have lost their sons especially those sons was folly and disloyalty have broken their father's heart. Why is this all the Hebrew story to be remembered. Because it has all the elements of good literature. The strong sympathetic character of David the suspense and swift movement of the story. Civil war David's charge to deal gently with his son the young man's horrible death. The waiting for news and the heartbreak of the father when the news comes the words come sharp and clear. We see the gates of the city with the army marching out the accident under the oak tree.
The watchman peering from the city walls to see two runners approach. No wasted words no vague or weak construction. A vividly bone bare narrative style and in the Kings questions to the runners and his final outcry as the story ends. We find poetic expression of paternal grief. Here are three great elements of biblical writing vivid style dynamic motion and memorable point three. Let's examine each style means words and how they are used. No other book has given us so many quotable words and phrases as the Bible nor has any book provided so many titles and ideas for modern authors to use. Here is a partial list of such titles and their authors. The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck valley of decision Marcia Davenport a lion in the street Langley
days of our year passes and in the field of drama writers for the stage have used the silver cord and the little foxes alien Cohen the voice of the turtle the green pastures Inherit the Wind. Not only modern of course but modern Americans in all walks of life find that biblical words and phrases are very useful. They express the thing exactly as in such bits as these out of the mouths of babes by the skin of my teeth. Pride goes before a fall. There is nothing new under the sun. How are the mighty fallen. The art the man. Can the leopard change his spots. Vivid words and phrases picture language instead of vague obstructions. We might say something is inconsistent with
inherent qualities. But how much more effective it was for the prophet Jeremiah to speak of the leopard and his spots by such language the great ideas and lofty thoughts of the Bible are brought down to earth and painted in colors of speech which the man in the street can understand. Jeremiah was speaking of the people's wrongdoing how they had sinned for so long that they had little hope of changing. Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots. Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. So it is that another prophet writes of war and peace and turns it to a single potent phrase they shall beat their swords into plowshares and more from the same prophet. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who bring good tidings the heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. We
all like sheep did go astray. The list is endless. The words and phrases as brilliant now as in the long ago days when they were first written. We will hear much more in future broadcasts of this series but nothing short of a reading of the Old Testament could exhaust the material. What now is the second literary quality the dynamic movement of the Biblical writings. We mean by this the pace or tempo of the style which keeps the story from bogged down even in translation where the English language must add words and phrases to the crisp and streamlined Hebrew originals. There is dynamic motion and the narratives a single line of dialogue shoots like a flashing spear directly to the heart of the matter as in this bit from the story of young Benjamin. His brothers want to take him to Egypt.
His father cannot bear to let him go. He still grieves for his lost son Joseph. He cannot run the risk of losing his brothers to the old man sais My son shall not go down with you for his brother is dead and he only is left if harm befall him by the way in which you go. Then will you bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. We find this quality of movement again in the famous story of Ruth how she a stranger begged to go with her mother in law Naomi to Bethlehem entreat me not to leave the or to return from following after the thought Whither thou goest I will go and where the largest I will lodge thy people shall be my people and thy God my God where thou diarist when I die. And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me and more also if aught but death part the end of me. Little wonder the truths love so expressed has become a classic of devotion artless simple compact a vivid and pictorial. It says more than volumes written about love. Even the books of the law the legal literature of the Bible has a simple clarity and quality of action about it which makes the law far more interesting reading than I believe most lawyers achieve today. The biblical law is full of pictorial images and enhanced by religious idealism. Here is a passage from the vet accosts. When you reap the harvest of your land you shall not repeat your field to its very border. Neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest and you shall not strip your vineyard bare neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner. I
am the LORD your God. You shall not steal nor deal falsely nor lie to one another and you shall not swear by my name falsely and so profane the name of your god. I am the Lord. You shall not oh press your neighbor nor rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning. You shall not curse the deaf nor put a stumbling block before the blind. But you shall fear your god. I am the Lord. When a stranger so journeys with you in your land you shall not do him wrong. And you shall love him as yourselves for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. Thus far we have been sampling elements of biblical literature of more or less at random. If we were however to attempt to give a kind of literary chronology we should place he report three at the beginning
before the settlement of Palestine before this stablish mint of kings and kingdoms from the very earliest beginnings of these engine Shephard peoples. They had a point re. It was in their very breath and blood long before the writing of their books. The Hebrew people sang and in their songs they kept the stories of heroes in history chanting and singing them from generation to generation for unknown centuries until they were finally written down. Some of these songs have been lost to us. Others are inserted into the historical books of the Bible. One is called the tone song against the Amorites and it can be found in the Book of Numbers. Chapter 21. Another song more famous is the victory song of Moses sung after Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the Red Sea. The third song celebrating victory in the land of Canaan is a tribute to
women. Deborah was the prophetess who have to unite our people in the struggle against the Canaanites. Another woman load the enemy general Cicero into our tent and killed him. The victory song is so realistic in detail that it suggest an eyewitness wrote it. Probably the prophetess Deborah herself. Here it is in part here OK. Give your all princess to the Lord I will sing I will make a melody to the Lord the God of Israel. The King's Cave in. They fought then fought the kings of Cain in a tunnel by the waters of the ghetto. They got no spoils of silver from heaven fought the stars from their courses they fought against Cicero or march on my soul with my most blessid of women be jailed the wife of Heber the can I have 10
dwelling women most bless he asked water and she gave him milk. She brought him curds in a lordly Bowl. She put her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workman's mallet. She struck sister r blow she crushed his head. She shattered and pierced his temple. He sang. He fell. He lay still at her feet at her feet he sang. He fell where he sank. There he fell dead. Out of the window she peers the mother a sister and gazed through the lattice. Why is his chariot so long in coming. Why tarry the hoofbeats of his chariot so perish all the enemies O Lord. But thy friends be like the sun as he rises in his might.
In contrast to this primitive violent song is the Biblical poetry of sorrow or lament we find one of these songs of grief written by that sweet singer of years around the young David Clementine the death of Jonathan whom he dearly loved and of Jonathan's father King Saul. Both died in battle with the Philistines and David was left to weep. Glory O Israel is slain upon high places. How are the mighty fallen. Tell it not in Gath publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult ye mountains of job. Let there be no duel rain upon you nor up surging of the deep for there the shield of the Mighty was defiled. The shield of not annoyed with oil.
From the blood of the slain from the fat of the mighty The bull of Jonathan turned not back and the sword of Saul returned not empty saw and Jonathan the love and lovely in life and in death they were not divided they were swifter than eagles they were stronger than lions. You daughters of Israel weep over Saul who clothed you daintily in Scarlet who put on a month of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle. Jonathan lies slain upon thy high places. I am distressed for you my brother Jonathan very pleasant Have you been to me your love to me was wonderful. Passing the love of women. How are the
mighty fallen. Perhaps half of the entire volume of the Bible can be called portray Hebrew poetry has a special quality or relationship between lines not syllables. Often it's written and two lines couplets the lines reinforcing each other's meaning. Sometimes the second is an echo of the first and different phraseology we call the synonymous parallelism as we find it in song 19 The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament show with his handiwork. Day unto day out of speech night done tonight reveal its knowledge. And again 8 when I behold the heavens the work of thy finger the moon and the stars which thou hast established. What is man that are mindful of him and the Son of man that thou think a sed of him.
In contrast to this synonymous parallelism we sometimes find the opposite. A second line is the anti-thesis of the first good and evil black and white Proverbs Chapter 10 begins. A wise son make of the glad father but a foolish son is the grief of his mother. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. A slack hand causes poverty but the hand of the diligent makes rich still at third kind of parallelism occurs when the Lions following the first line do not restated nor contrast with it but rather go on to expend it. This is called progressive parallelism and it occurs in Psalms 93. The Lord reigns. He is robed in majesty the Lord is robed. He is guarded with strength. Yea the world is established it shall never be moved Thy Throne is a stablished from of
old dull art from everlasting floods have lifted up oh lord the floods have lifted up their voice the floods lift up their roaring mightier than the thunders of many waters mightier than the waves of the sea. The Lord on high is mighty. All these elements of parallelism are often combined in various units. And to them a massed indefinable sweep and majesty of portray the Bible has such majesty and it is rich in the beauty of nature of man sensitive awareness of creation around him. All of these elements will explore more fully in future broadcasts. But now we may perhaps summarize our venture into the Bible as literature with a passage from this is memorable poetry. It has a vivid style and though its not narrative it moves with dynamic motion. Perhaps we do wrong even to attempt to analyze it. Let it suffice
that here we find the writing of power and beauty which uplifts the human spirit and lingers in the mind. This is great bible literature. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked of the heavens with a pan and closed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance. Who has directed the spirit of the Lord. Or as his counselor has instructed him. Whom did he consult for his enlightenment and who taught him the path of justice and taught him knowledge and showed him the way of understanding. Have you not known. Have you not heard. Has it not been told you from the beginning. Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth.
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to dwell in. Who brings princes to not and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. The Lord is the everlasting God the creator of the end of the earth. Light unto my path. Radio programs exploring the Old Testament.
The series is planned prepared and narrated by Dr Menachem Mansoor chairman of the department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the University of Wisconsin. Script writing by Helen Stanley. Music by Don Bigley production by Carl Smith. Light unto my path is produced by Radio station of the University of Wisconsin under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the Radio Network.
Light unto my path
The Bible as literature
Producing Organization
University of Wisconsin
WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program looks at the Bible from its position as a piece of literature.
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This series explores the books of the Old Testament, how they were written, how they were preserved, and why they continue to have influence.
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Bible as literature.
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Composer: Voegeli, Don
Host: Grauer, Ben
Narrator: Manning, Dean
Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Production Manager: Schmidt, Karl
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-50-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:38
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Chicago: “Light unto my path; The Bible as literature,” 1960-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2024,
MLA: “Light unto my path; The Bible as literature.” 1960-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Light unto my path; The Bible as literature. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from