Anthropological Aspects of the Bible:
Ancient ‘scecs’ Influence Biblical Understanding
To have more than an ecclesiastical understanding of the Bible, one needs to gain a better understanding of what the Bible says or does not say about any specific topic as opposed to gaining a better understanding of what any particular religious group says or does not say about any specific topic.
How does one gain a better understanding of the Bible?
One, acknowledging that the Bible includes ancient Near-Eastern ‘scecs’ perspectives, ancient Israelite ‘scecs’ perspectives, and ancient Jewish ‘scecs’ perspectives. Those ancient ‘scecs’ perspectives shape the Bible’s presentation of its contents and its notations about the world around those Semitic peoples.
Two, acknowledging that the Bible is specific, in the sense that the Bible comes from an ancient Near-Eastern and an ancient Israelite and an ancient Jewish ‘scecs’ perspective, and in that specific sense the Bible is presented within those ancient ‘scecs’ perspectives to a group of people within those perspectives.
Three, acknowledging that the New Testament unfolds with ancient ‘scecs’ perspectives being brought forth into the early church.
With specific reference to the topic at hand, the personal relationship and the Private Contract, I offer the following:
One, acknowledging that the Bible does not reveal to any significant detail what the nations outside of Israel specifically thought about the personal relationship or the Private Contract; or what the nations outside of Israel perceived the personal relationship or Private Contract to be.
Two, acknowledging that neither Church History nor the socio-economic-political historical development of the west, or east for that matter, are recorded in the pages of the Bible.
Three, acknowledging that our own SCECS influences our reading and understanding of the Bible.
Those things are accomplished, not by English Bible translations, but by archaeological and historical studies into the culture and society (the ancient ‘scecs’) of the Biblical persons, places, and events.
Those types of studies are found in books, journals, and other materials that discuss the contextual issues – the historical, social, and cultural situation(s) (i.e. the ancient ‘scecs’) found within the Bible.
Importantly, English Bible publishers have incorporated information about the ancient ‘scecs’ into the published Bible in order to convey information about the ancient ‘scecs’ found within the Bible.
An example of such a Bible publication is the NIV Archaeological Study Bible. While the NIV Archaeological Study Bible is from an ecclesiastical point-of-view, it does convey important and relevant ancient ‘scecs’ information.
Here are four examples from the NIV Archaeological Study Bible (p. 27):
[Genesis] 15:2 The term servant in ancient times applied to anyone under the authority of another, implying that not all servants were domestics or slaves. …
[Genesis] 15:3 Ancient Nuzi law permitted a childless man to adopt one of his own male servants to be heir and guardian of his estate. …
[Genesis] 15:7 Ancient royal covenants often began with the self-identification of the king and a brief historical prologue.
[Genesis] 15:17 In ancient times parties solemnized a covenant by walking down an aisle flanked by the pieces of slaughtered animals…, perhaps signifying a self-maledictory oath. …
As my reader can see, three of those four examples have been abbreviated, and thus those notes within the NIV Archaeological Study Bible contain additional information.
As my reader can see, two of the ancient ‘scecs’ explanatives provide information that relate back to my section: Ancient ‘scecs’ and The Royal-Vassal Contract (Covenant).
Importantly, in the ancient ‘scecs’ information for Genesis 15.17, the NIV Archaeological Study Bible refers to additional information on page 146. After presenting on that page a lengthy piece about the ancient ‘scecs’ the Archaeological Study Bible stated “…it is important to recognize that the [ancient] Israelites followed customs [i.e. ancient ‘scecs’] common in their day.”
That is all I have been establishing. Much to the dismay of some (many?) believers, the Bible did not develop in a vacuum. Biblical people, places, and events, do reflect the ancient ‘scecs’ of their day.
That does not negate the righteousness that is conveyed in the Bible.
But it does reveal that God communicated Divine concepts to ancient humanity through social and cultural items and normatives that they had awareness of and intuitively understood.
Yet their cultural and social customs and normatives are so far removed from our own SCECS experiences that we have to study their ancient ‘scecs’ in order to better understand that which is being presented within the Bible.
 New International Version; NIV Archaeological Study Bible, An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture; Zondervan; 2005; ISBN 978-0-310-92605-4.