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Sitz im Leben

Sitz im Leben (Sitz for short) or the life setting of the passage is a key tool in understanding the text. The following passages give some insight into this concept.

Psalm 60 Darby Translation (DARBY)

60 O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased: restore us again.

2 Thou hast made the earth to tremble, thou hast rent it: heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh.

3 Thou hast shewn thy people hard things; thou hast made us to drink the wine of bewilderment.

4 Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth, (Selah,)

5 That thy beloved ones may be delivered. Save with thy right hand, and answer me.

6 God hath spoken in his holiness: I will exult, I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth.

7 Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine, and Ephraim is the strength of my head; Judah is my law-giver;

8 Moab is my wash-pot; upon Edom will I cast my sandal; Philistia, shout aloud because of me.

9 Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me unto Edom?

10 [Wilt] not thou, O God, who didst cast us off? and didst not go forth, O God, with our armies?

11 Give us help from trouble; for vain is man's deliverance.

12 Through God we shall do valiantly; and he it is that will tread down our adversaries.

 

Some feeling of what is happening in the Sitz can be gained from the text itself. What do you think is the Sitz of this psalm? What kinds of things are happening?

1Chron 18 5 

And the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadarezer king of Zobah, and David smote of the Syrians twenty-two thousand men.

6 And David put [garrisons] in Syria of Damascus; and the Syrians became servants to David, [and] brought gifts. And Jehovah preserved David whithersoever he went.

7 And David took the shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadarezer, and brought them to Jerusalem.

8 And from Tibhath, and from Chun, cities of Hadarezer, David took very much brass, of which Solomon made the brazen sea, and the pillars, and the vessels of brass.

9 And Tou king of Hamath heard that David had smitten all the forces of Hadarezer king of Zobah;

10 and he sent Hadoram his son to king David to inquire of his welfare, and to congratulate him, because he had fought against Hadarezer and smitten him; for Hadarezer was continually at war with Tou; [he sent] also all manner of vessels of gold and silver and bronze.

11 Them also king David dedicated to Jehovah, with the silver and the gold that he had brought from all the nations: from the Edomites, and from the Moabites, and from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines, and from the Amalekites.

12 And Abishai the son of Zeruiah smote of the Edomites in the valley of salt eighteen thousand.

13 And he put garrisons in Edom; and all they of Edom became servants to David. And Jehovah preserved David whithersoever he went.

 

Ps 60 To the chief Musician. On Shushan. Testimony. Michtam of David; to teach: when he strove with the Syrians of Mesopotamia, and the Syrians of Zobah, and Joab returned, and smote the Edomites in the valley of salt, twelve thousand.

 

How close was your guess at the Sitz to the reality – that of David consolidating his borders and conquering other nations? How does having this understanding help add texture and depth to Ps 60? Does it help you understand it better?

 

What is the Bible?

Here are some questions to reflect on. Frequently there isn't a right answer.

  1. If the bible was created for the covenant community, which covenant are we talking about?
  2. Today who is that covenant community?
  3. Read Gal 3:6 – 8. Do your answers change or are they confirmed?
  4. Looking at the list of books in the bible and considering the many ways of dividing them up: is there any best way?
  5. What ways are useful in which contexts ie where would you use some of the ways of dividing up the bible?
  6. Which material in the New Testament was written first? Which was written last?
  7. Which material is most used in the Christian Church?
  8. Some scholars date 2Timothy to around 170 A.D. How do you deal with or feel about the late dating of 2Timothy?
  9. Other scholars date 2Timothy to just before Paul’s death around 66 – 67 A.D. Do you prefer this dating and why?

 

What is the Bible?

In many cases there are no correct answers. Below are my answers.

  • If the bible was created for the covenant community, which covenant are we talking about?

We are talking about the Old Testament and New Testament covenants between the community and God. In one sense it is the same covenant, with the new covenant being the update or fulfilment of the first. In this way the bible as a whole speaks to the current people of God.

  • Today who is that covenant community?

The covenant community is the universal or holy catholic church. Within all denominations but not defined by those denominations rather by entry into covenant. Some theology specifies baptism for that entry. I personally specify relationship/lordship/reliance with the outward expression of this being baptism.

  • Read Gal 3:6 – 8. Do your answers change or are they confirmed?

No change to my answers.

  • Looking at the list of books in the bible and considering the many ways of dividing them up: is there any best way?

No, different ways have different emphases and give different insights What ways are useful in which contexts ie where would you use some of the ways of dividing up the bible? Canon history would be best with Torah, prophets, writings then gospels, epistles and lastly revelations. This is essentially the historical path of acceptance of works into the canon. Looking at text types helps with understanding the text. We don’t read poetic psalms the same way as prose.

  • Which material in the New Testament was written first? Which was written last?

First were the Pauline epistles and other early epistles, then Gospels and then the rest.

  • Which material is most used in the Christian Church?

Many churches use the Gospels vastly beyond any other part of the bible.

  • Some scholars date 2Timothy to around 170 A.D. How do you deal with or feel about the late dating of 2Timothy?

The authority of the bible in my life is not based on date or authorship. It is not based on someone in authority saying it is authoritative. Rather it is based on the word of God that speaks into my life.

  • Other scholars date 2Timothy to just before Paul’s death around 66 – 67 A.D. Do you prefer this dating and why?

Yes, it solves a lot of issues and I don’t find the arguments for a late dating to be convincing.