Throughout my church career I’ve heard the phrase more than once that such and such a book is the Chief Jewel of the bible. On most occasions this special place has been given to Saint Paul’s epistles to the Romans. To be fair, Romans is a pretty decent book, but should the title jewel go there? Then again I’m not really into labeling one book of the Bible as more important than another, (not to say that I don’t have favorite books, or passages). But should be okay with labeling one part of the Holy Scripture over another part? Certainly at times that might seem easier, what with books like Song of Songs. But to fair while one might not make a point out of the Jewel, we still choose books almost to be more important than others, like John’s Gospel over that of the others.
So I’ve decided to have a little fun.
Starting with the New Testament I’ve decided that the title of Jewel of the Epistles goes over to Romans and to the Gospels over to John. These, I would assume would be the naturally placement for someone to say is the Jewel.
Firstly, the gospel of John is usually where a new Christian is directed to read, or someone whose not done their reading right. Moreover, I have not seen any other book of the Bible separated into its own little book, except John. Now John is fun, I like the gospel, but there are, naturally three other gospels. As an aside has anyone ever poured through the Church Fathers and/or Reformers and see which Gospel is quoted from the most?
Romans, as I have said, is by far the one book I have heard time and time again referred to by pastors as a jewel of the Bible. Romans is a good book, it’s one of the longest of Paul’s and also one of the oddest. I recently took a class on Romans and I’ve discovered how hard it is to really interpret that in parts. I mean its hard enough just trying to figure out the original audience of that book. Since Luther, however, tI would say that Romans has took its special status in the church.
The Old Testament
The Old Testament is a little harder to figure out. It’s not something I have ever heard someone say man this OT book is a Jewel of the Bible. Why? Probably because there isn’t enough reading of this section of the Bible for a variety of factors.
But let’s assume several books would fit, The Torah, because of its importance in Judaism, and well Moses is awesome in Christianity, The Major Prophets, because we all love prophets, and Psalms and Proverbs.
Firstly, Psalms and Proverbs, together, why because whenever you see a pocket New Testament those are the two Old Testament books placed together. In one sense, I suppose it makes great sense, I mean you get random words of wisdom and praise to God and not have to deal with some of the sticker issues of the OT. (Except Proverbs does do that fun don’t do that, do that sort of thing). But logically, why not something more crucial? When Jesus or Paul speaks of Moses, which they are often want to do, wouldn’t it be nice to have at least Deuteronomy to refer to? Nah, that’s just extra law right? I suppose I could go on, but it would just lead me to say, it’s dangerous to split up the Bible. I understand why, but I think we forget the importance of the OT.
Anyhow, back to Jewels, moving onto the Torah. This is a piece that is certainly important, hard to pick out one book, but I would probably do Deuteronomy. After all, it’s a retelling of the Law, so Moses hits the important points. I could probably come up with a better reason, but well, eh… can’t be bothered.
Now the Prophets, specifically the major. They certainly receive a place of importance, specifically Isaiah and Daniel (Ezekiel loses out because well, he’s fun but odd and Jeremiah is depressing). Isaiah I have referred to as a snapshot of the Bible. I dunno I guess people see 66 chapters, think 66 books of the bible, and have preached a series like that. Seems a little odd to me and I wonder if there’s some stretching there.
Daniel is also a crowd favorite, but the same crowd probably places Revelation at the top of the Jewels too. Daniel has a lot of fun narrative stories (more if you’re Catholic) and then the prophetic pieces. With world empires, antichrists, and all of that fun stuff. Yay Daniel.
The Apocrypha, I would assume this title would go to either one of the Maccabees, Tobit, or the Wisdom books.
For Protestants, the two books of Maccabees are usually brought up quickly. These are, after all a great source of history, they tell us about many things happening between the testaments. And the list of their usefulness could go on. Both books are certainly of use in history, more 1 Maccabees than the second book, but the other works of the Apocrypha are certainly useful in learning about cultural and theological developments.
Tobit will also be referred to quite often. In fact, one author, Dancy, referred to Tobit as the Jewel of the Apocrypha. The simple tale, filled with treasure, love, demons, and dogs is enough to win anyone over. I mean, when you find out that instead of having say all of those fancy words, you just need fish guts to rid yourself of demons, you have a win. Not to mention, Tobit has an awesome dog ally. Forget Raphael, he’s got his faithful dog, who travels with him to find treasure. (I digress a little and give more credence to the pet than needed, but I follow Jerome in this).
The other book, which should honestly be considered in the Wisdom of Solomon. Wisdom, is important for the role it played in the Christological debates. If anyone takes the time to study the Church Fathers and their debates on how Jesus fit into the Godhead (which they should), they’ll noticed a lot of references to Wisdom. Specifically about Sophia = Jesus.