|Book(s)||Brief overview||Application today|
The Creation. Humanity's role is to represent God to, and thus bless, the Rest of Creation. Yet early humanity refused this role (what is usually called the Fall). |
The promise of a special people to represent God to the rest of the peoples, eventually to occupy the land east of the Mediterranean.
|Exodus||The separation of God's special people, Israel - biologically, culturally, politically, physically and religiously - as God rescued them from oppression in ways that all nations came to know about, sent them travelling alone in the wilderness so they were separated from all other peoples, looked after them and taught them, and gave them special dignity as God's people.|
The law God gave to his special people. |
New View sees this as follows:
|Deuteronomy||Second giving of the law, not long before the special people entered the land God had promised them. The bulk of it is Moses speaking to the people, first reminding them of their past and their position, then giving laws, some of which repeat what is found in earlier books. The thrust of the laws seems to be to ensure the very character of the people represents Yahweh God. Some laws grow dependence on, and trust in, Yahweh, when in precarious situations. Some grow a society of justice, mercy and humility. At the start Moses emphasises loyalty to Yahweh. Some cater for future possibilities, such as the people asking for a king. By following these laws, the people will represent Yahweh properly to the peoples around, in a way that they would understand, and Yahweh will bless them.||For many years, I found Deuteronomy a difficult and boring book. But recently, in seeing the laws as about building character of the people, rather than about detailed actions, I have fallen in love with it, because it shows a character of love, justice, mercy, trust, and goodwill, which reflect the character of Yahweh God in contrast to the gods of the nations around. So, I do not see the laws necessarily as applying in detail today, but the spirit behind them does. For example, chapter 11, 10-15 contrasts the land with that of Egypt. There the people had to work hard to irrigate it, but in this land they will not have to, but may trust Yahweh to send appropriate rain - a long as they obey the laws (aka represent Yahweh properly).|
God's people get their promised land. |
God helps them, but also punishes them when they become arrogant, complacent or unfaithful.
God's people settle ... |
... and interact with other people - often in ways inappropriate to their role as God's special people: they keep wanting to worship the gods of the nations around.
God's people are a fraternity led (not ruled) by individuals, who would act as judges and arbiters as well as leaders and military deliverers.
|Ruth||One example of an interaction with other people that was as God had intended: a girl from Moab wanted to align herself with Israel's God and his ways.|
The first major prophet to lead God's people. |
God's people hanker after the political structure of the surrounding nations: kingdom. Their first king, Saul, does not take God very seriously.
|II Samuel||David, who does take God seriously, becomes the second king. He has a humble character and a strong view of justice, and the people of Israel still look back to him as their hero. He establishes the people of Israel politically, giving them dignity among the surrounding nations. Though a great war leader, he is not so good dealing with his family, and leaves a divided family.|
The kingdom passes to David's son, Solomon, after some court intrigues. Solomon starts well, asks God for wisdom and builds the great temple in Jerusalem. Becoming affluent, treats the people badly and turns away from God. By rebellion, the kingdom becomes divided into Israel and Judah, and a succession of kings follow in each. |
Throughout this time, the people of both kingdoms fail to represent Yahweh God, always being attracted to the religious practices of the surrounding nations. A few of the kings of Judah try to bring the people back to God, but most actively lead the people away.
God starts to send prophets to warn the people and leaders of both nations, especially the prophet Elijah, from whom a lot can be learned.
After Elijah is taken away by God, Elisha succeeds him as prophet, performing many miracles. Other prophets are raised up by God. |
During the reign of a succession of kings in both Israel and Judah, the people increasingly ignore God's prophets, who begin to warn that God will bring disaster on them. Occasionally, under the leadership of a few wise kings, the people repent for a time, but usually they ignore the warnings, and resort to political and economic means, coupled with religious syncretism, which ultimately prove their undoing.
Israel, finally conquered by Assyria, has its people scattered, and their land is settled by others, to form the land of Samaria.
Later, Judah is finally conquered by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, who takes the people into exile in Babylon, though some try to escape to Egypt, and the temple is destroyed.
|I Chronicles||A summary of I and II Samuel, interspersed with many genealogies, and accounts of details of worship. A rather inward-looking account.|
|II Chronicles||A narrative of the kingom of Judah, from Solomon to the exile. Mostly repeats material in I and II Kings, with a little extra detail of half a dozen 'good' kings. Little is said about the prophets. Little is said about how well or badly the people represent God to the surrounding nations; for that we learn from the books of the individual prophets.|
|Ezra||After 70 years of exile, the Persian king, Cyrus, orders the return of some people of Judah to their land. The temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem.|
|Song of Songs|
|Isaiah||The 66 chapters of Isaiah read like a collection of prophecies with a few pieces of narrative included among them. The messages are mixed, some being warnings to repent, some being warnings about coming destruction, some referring to Yahweh's love for his people and his restoring them after destruction. Some of these are to do with Assyrian domination, some Babylonian and some seem to point to a future Messiah, an Anointed One. Sometimes several messages are intertwined in rapid succession, maybe indicating tiny prophecies, but more likely are part of a single prophettic passage. The largest narrative section is about Hezekiah and the Assyrian threat, in which Isaiah was called upon, and is almost identical in wording to II Kings 20 ff, though Isaiah's version has a few extra pieces.|
Minor Prophets Concerned with Israel and Neighbours
A collection of prophecies Yahweh God gave to the people of Israel (rather than Judah) through the prophet Hosea. It is a living metaphor, in which concept and target are tangled together, so it's often difficult to distinguish which is which. (e.g. adultery: is it what was rife among the people, or a metaphor of the people's unfaithfulness to their God, or both?) More, it is a lived metaphor, in which the prophet is called upon by God to experience the love, agony and anger of God. CHapters 2,10,11 show emotional ups and downs and even irrationalities that accompany love. Hosea marries a wife who turns away to other men, and, after her resultant degradation, God tells him to show love to her and buy her back (Chapters 1,3).
Whereas Amos is about justice, Hosea is about love, intimacy and unfaithfulness; the anger here is agonising love-anger rather than juridical anger. Do not seek clean logical lines of reasoning in Hosea - which is like an impressionist painting in which a picture emerges from a plethora of brush strokes that, individually, are all messy.
Application: We find, echoed and re-echoed through the collection, the cycle of wedding (God's choice of Israel), unfaithfulness (the people turning to idols and seeking help from Egypt and Assyria rather than from God, and God's love-anger because of this), consequences of unfaithfulness (on all aspects of life from the natural world, land, animals and food [4:2-3], to national life, of economy, morality, politics and security), eventual degradation (God exiling his people), and eventual redemption (God's love rekindled for his people). In chapters 4-9 we find several threads of this intertwined, such as the responsibility of leaders, that quality knowledge and understanding of reality links with faithfulness to God, unfaithfulness of God's people who should represent God, consequences thereof permeate all aspects of life, importance of heart-attitude, which makes the people incapable of purity, "I desire mercy [attitude] rather than sacrifice [action]." (6:6) God is not a pagan slot machine, repaying 'acknowledgement' with blessing, but the Living God, who calls people to the privilege of representing God in the world.
The word of Yahweh God via Joel seems to be about two Days: 'the Day of Yahweh' and 'the great and terrible Day of Yahweh'. The first, depicted in chapters 1-2, seems to be a great locust invasion on top of devastating drought, worse than anything before. The second involves not just terrestrial nature, but the sun and moon being darkened too. The first Day is part of God's judgement on His people (Israel or Judah) at the time of the prophet, while the second Day is "afterwards" - possibly still to come, though Peter applied it to the era that Jesus brought in with His death (when indeed the sun darkened). The first Day is an invitation to repentance, and we find the same emphasis as in Hosea on inner reality rather than outward appearances ("Rend you heart, and not your garments" [2:13]); on genuine repentance there will be full deliverance, and even a restoration of "the years which the locust has eaten". The second Day is when Yahweh God sends His Spirit on all peoples, and it involves His people engaging in prophecy and receiving His Word whatever social or religious status they hold. But it also involves judgement on all nations, a judgement in which His people are involved in helping to execute - a theme echoed in Zechariah and others.
|Application: If the second "great and terrible Day of Yahweh" was indeed the era introduced when Jesus died, then we are in that Day right now, and perhaps we await its full and final manifestation. What can we learn? We can learn from the first Day that God's people are not immune from disaster - which Hosea and Amos have revealed was due to God's people being unfaithful to Him and allowing injustice to flourish. We can learn that genuine repentance, of the heart, brings about restoration. Perhaps the environmental, economic and security problems we now and will face are a result of humanity's turning from God's Plan of a rejoicing reality, and that God's people are also implicated in this. But if God's people repent genuinely, then the Living God will not only forgive, but might actually restore. Perhaps, if we, God's people, turn away from our desire for convenience, comforts and pleasures, and expend ourselves on behalf of the world He loves (both the non-human creation and the human poor) He will act to prevent disastrous climate change in ways that we cannot conceive. Remember that God has already acted in this way when Britain repented of slavery despite warnings that its economy would collapse; in fact the opposite happened over the long term; see 'Climate Change Like Slavery'.|
|Amos||The book starts with a list of punishments on various peoples. What Yahweh God finds wrong in other nations is different from what He finds wrong in His own people, Israel and Judah. Other nations are punished for war crimes; God's people are punished for turning away from Him, for spurning His law, and perpetrating injustice. Why is this so, when the other nations also fail to follow God's ways or worship Him correctly? It seems that what is important in God's eyes is not primarily evil as such, but that His people who are meant to represent Him refuse to do so. This is supported by a passage that promises a famine of the Word of God; had God been concerned only about preventing evil, would He not have increased rather than decreased His communications to His people? His people perform the rituals but their heart is orientated away from Him. They see Him not as the Living, Loving God Whom they have the privilege of representing, but as a kind of talisman for prosperity, pleasures and victory. So God will decimate the nation of Israel by pagan nations, and exile them way beyond Damascus. Yet, in some future time He will gather them back, because God does not abandon His people utterly.||
Application: Surprisingly, while God condemns his people for failing to live by the law and taking other gods, he does not condemn the other nations for these, but for the more obvious things like war crimes. So, do not worry so much about falling moral or religious standards in society as a whole ('the other nations' to us); worry much more about how well we truly represent the Living God within that context.
But just like the rest of society (the 'other nations'), do we seek our own convenience, comfort, pleasure, and ignore justice to the world, especially the Planet? Christians even take sides against climate concern. Does this not misrepresent and dishonour God? If this is so, perhaps God is as angry with us as with Israel.
Obadiah's short prophecy was not to God's people, but to one of the neighbouring nations, that of Edom. Several other books are also to other nations.
The people of Edom were descended from Esau, the brother whom Jacob tricked - and quite naturally might have seen the people of Israel (Jacob) with bitterness. The prophecy is Edom will be destroyed because of two things: pride and taking cynical advantage of the misfortune of others (their brother's people). Confirming the Word via Amos, Yahweh God does not punish them for having other gods, but for what all people would know, deep down is wrong. Nevertheless, at the end, Edom will be incorporated into God's kingdom (which we can see as God's Plan) - perhaps because they too were descendants of Abraham.
|Application: Perhaps we should expect God to speak to 'other nations', i.e. the people around us who are secular or adherents of other religions. Maybe we should expect 'prophets' today, not just to people within the church, but to others - such as the City of London? Are we called to this? It is challenging.|
|Jonah||Like Obadiah, Jonah's prophecy was not to God's people, but to one of the surrounding people, those in Nineveh - though he also is recorded as prophesying to Israel (II Kings 14:25), when Yahweh God had compassion on the suffering of the people of Israel. Whereas most prophet books are filled with messages from Yahweh God, that of Jonah is an account of what happened: God sent Jonah to Nineveh, but Jonah tried to flee from this responsibility, God sent a storm against his ship, the sailors recognised this was no ordinary storm and eventually throwing Jonah into the sea - and then recognising Yahweh God - a great fish swallowed Jonah, and then spewed Jonah onto land at God's command. When God sent him to Nineveh again, he went, proclaiming a very short message, "In forty days Nineveh will be overturned!" The people and even their king took it seriously and repented. God relented. We are not told the reason why, but the people knew; presumably it was something that people intuitively knew was wrong, like pride, as revealed via Amos and Obadiah. Jonah was angry at God for sparing them, but God explained His love for the impoverished people and for animals.||
Application: From this account we learn as much about God as we could from verbal messages: Yahweh God's concern for all peoples, especially the poor, and for animals; that God can control weather and also command fishes; that what turns others (e.g. rough sailors) to Yahweh as God is not our talk but when He acts (so should we pray for that?); that Yahweh is merciful, giving even the disobedient a second chance, and even speaking gently to them; that God's warnings invite response; and that God relents when people repent.
In this account we see Jonah as representative of God, in the proclamation role, and as a sinful human being. We also see something of God's interaction with those who are not His people. (A hundred years later Nineveh was utterly destroyed because of cruelty, pride etc. as prophesied by Nahum.)
A book of prophecy, mainly about the nation of Israel but also about Judah. It seems to be composed of fragments that are all over the place, but together speak the same theme that is found in all prophecies: the people's sin, God's judgement, God's future deliverance. But Micah provides two more things in the middle of his book that some others do not: about the far future and the Messiah.
Chapters 1-3 recite the people's and leaders' falseness and injustice, and Yahweh God's judgement on them, with a short piece about deliverance in its midst. The middle chapter, 4, is a prophecy about "the last days", in which all nations will seek Yahweh God, in His land. Chapter 5 speaks of a coming ruler from Beth Lehem with ancient roots, who will shepherd the people in the power of Yahweh (which Matthew cites in relation to Jesus the Christ), God's people will be among the nations, representing Him and purified from their idols. Chapters 6, 7 return to God's case against His people. However, the final part is of restoration and vindication because of the forgiving mercy of God.
Application: What brings God's judgement are: an attitude of taking cynical advantage of others by all the people (c.f. Obadiah), injustice by leaders, and false prophets who keep the people complacent. That this is not just a matter of actions but of attitude of heart is clear from the famous passage (6:7-8), in which what Yahweh wants is not religious rites but to "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God". The scattering of God's people among others (5:7-8) does not seem to be solely punishment but in order that they might again be God's representatives, in two ways:
- perhaps fulfilling the sixfold responsibilities of God's people.
After scattering, God's representatives are eventually vindicated with dignity. In the last days, all nations will seek Yahweh God via His people (a theme also found in Isaiah later chapters). The bringer of this will be the promised Ruler, with strength, majesty and peace. We can see this fulfilled in Jesus, who indeed came from Beth Lehem and was born as a baby, as Micah says and, though in his life on earth his strength, majesty and peace were hidden except to a few disciples. Today these are those who truly follow him find these. These speak of salvation's second dimension.
|Nahum||The 'oracle' of Nahum is a statement against Nineveh, the greatest city in the Middle East. In this sense, it is like Jonah and Obadiah, who prophesy not to God's people but to neighbours - Jonah also to Nineveh. It speaks of Nineveh's utter destruction, in highly graphic terms, but first introducing the power of Yahweh God, as the One Who can control all. This occurred in 612 BCE, such that the city was completely destroyed. The reason why Yahweh destroyed Nineveh is given as: "blood", lies, wanton lust and witchcraft by which Nineveh enslaved the nations, endless cruelty. All these go with pride of supposed greatness. (About 100 years earlier, Jonah had preached in Nineveh, they had repented, and God had relented - but perhaps it did not last.)||Application: As was noted with Amos and others, the sin of those who are not God's people is not the same as the sin of God's people. God does not destroy Nineveh for worhsipping other gods or going against Yahweh's law, as he does His own people, but for those things that all peoples would recognises as evil. The worship of the True God and the keeping of His law is not a requirement, so much as a privilege to which God's people should invite others; it is freedom, joy and justice; it is gift rather than a burden. A century earlier, Nineveh had been willing to listen to God speaking through one of God's people, Jonah, but it seems that this time they were too 'great' to listen to someone from a small vassal state, and did not.|
Minor Prophets Concerned with Judah and Later
Habakkuk's oracle has a different style and feel to other prophecies. The prophet poses two questions, God gives two answers, then the prophet gives a response.
||Application: God's Plan or Mission is long term, but will surely occur. So we need not be worried if either evil seems dominant, or disaster occurs.|
These prophecies seem to have been given after Northern Israel was scattered but before Nineveh was destroyed. So its message is centred on Judah - but in the context of other nations, with specific messages for Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Cush, Assyria. All will be devastated. For what is Judah devastated? For polluting their commitment to Yahweh with that to other gods and their religious practices (chapter 1) and for corruption in society, for pride and refusal to accept correction.
Two themes occur for the first time among the minor prophets. One is the 'remnant' of Judah, who will survive and Yahweh God will cleanse from all their wickedness, and they will be His instrument in destruction of some of the neighbouring peoples. The other is Yahweh's devastation of the entire world, sweeping away animals and birds as well as humans; indeed the prophecy begins with this, and it occurs in a couple of verses in later chapters. Whether this speaks of the end of time yet to come or not, is not clear, because the prophecy speaks of peoples after such destruction. (The Great Day of Yahweh, a day of wrath, in chapter 1, is in the middle of material about destruction of Judah, so is probably about the coming fall of Judah to Babylon.)
The final chapter, however, is filled with the promise of salvation for Judah and Israel, with the other nations involved too.
Application: The sins of Judah are of those who should represent God but refuse to do so. That this theme is also found in Amos and Zechariah suggests it is important. We today should be careful that we properly represent God, and do not go after our own conveniences, comforts and pleasures.
The salvation spoken of shows Yahweh God's long-term love; it seems the first two dimensions of salvation are mentioned, being made right with God, and experiencing God's now-presence.
Minor Prophets after the Return from Exile
Four prophecies occurred over a four-month period, mostly about one topic: the attitude of the people and its leaders, but with a tiny piece about the promised Messiah.
The account shows people responding to God's message and changing their attitude. The people had returned to Jerusalem after exile, and had made efforts to establish homes for themselves, but they had stopped rebuilding the temple of Yahweh God (as the Persian Emperor, Cyrus, had ordered should be done), because of opposition (see Ezra, which mentions Haggai by name).
Haggai's first prophecy was to tell the people to start building again. because they had stopped building the temple, the people had been subjected to drought and economic failure. The leaders obeyed, taking God seriously. Yahweh God sent the encouragement "I am with you" to the leaders, and stirred up their spirits, so they restarted building three weeks from the first prophecy. The second prophecy, a month later, reiterates "Be strong, for I am with you". Does the new temple seem paltry? When "the desired of all nations" (the Messiah) comes, the new temple will be glorious. Three months later, Yahweh spoke about the feeling of defilement that seemed to oppress the people, saying that "From this day on, I will bless you." The final short prophecy, given on the same day, was to one of the leaders, whom Yahweh would make his 'signet ring' on the coming great day when nations would be shaken.
|Application: Challenge, stimulation and encouragement for God's people. If things are not flourishing among God's people, perhaps they should see if there is something God is waiting for us to do. If we launch into it with faith, God will bring blessing - but often in ways we did not expect. That which seems paltry to us is glorious in God's eyes, because God's Plan is longer-term than we know.|
A long book with many portions. Some of them are visions, others are narrative and yet others are messages especially for individuals at the time who were doing God's work, such as Joshua the Priest.
Chapters 7,8 are about restoration of God's love for Israel-Judah. Again they will be God's representatives on the earth. Powerful nations and many peoples will "take hold of the hem of a Jew" and say "Let us go with you because we have heard God is with you" (a theme also found in later Isaiah).
Application: There is a lot in Zechariah about the people of God as His representatives on the earth, and to other peoples:
|Book(s)||Brief overview||Application today|
|Matthew||A detailed narrative account of the birth, life, teaching, trial, death and resurrection of Jesus, probably from the point of view of Jewish culture.||Much|
|Mark||A narrative account of the life, teaching, trial, death and resurrection of Jesus, probably from the point of view of Roman culture.|
|Luke||A detailed narrative account of the birth, life, teaching, trial, death and resurrection of Jesus, probably from the point of view of the ordinary person, including women.|
|John||A reflective account of selected episodes of the life, teaching, trial, death and resurrection of Jesus, probably from the point of view of Greek culture.|
|Acts||A narrative of what happened among the followers of Jesus after Jesus rose and ascended. The work of God among and through those followers, and how the message of Jesus spread into southern Europe.||We can take note of how God interacted with his people and what lessons were learned from experience in a move away from traditional Judaistic mindsets. Many surprises, such as that miracles did not stop with Jesus, that Jesus chose one the arch-enemies, Saul of Tarsus, to be his foremost propagator of the message, or that God showed clearly that the message was as much for Gentiles as for Jews.|
Paul's Writings: I take the letters of Paul to be the writings of a person who is completely dedicated to Jesus Christ, much more so than most Christians today, and in whom the Holy Spirit inspires sometimes with ideas, who is steeped in Jewish understanding of the world, good and God, someone who is humble and yet courageous, someone who had amazing intellectual powers and yet engaged fully in 'real life' and was subjected to massive struggles and challenges in that life.
I take his letters to express his understanding, motivation and feelings at various times and in various contexts. Sometimes he writes reflectively, sometimes passionately, sometimes with generic understanding and sometimes with reactions to specific situations and emotions. Paul was not a static repository of theological or moral logic, but he changed during his life and varied with situations and how he felt at the time. So I do not take his letters as textbooks of theological truths to quote in arguments or to apply to every situation regardless, but as expressions of deep understanding and response of a really godly person filled the the Holy Spirit.
Paul's Writings and the Natural World: Whereas the four gospels were written from the perspective of a rural-and-town lifestyle, Paul's letters were written from an urban perspective - that of the Roman city and Greek culture in which 'civilised' life, and especially the life of aesthetics and the mind, were valued much more than the life of the soil. Thus it is not surprising to find fewer references to the natural world in Paul's (and Peter's and John's) letters than in the gospels and the Old Testament. Therefore I do not take the relative lack of reference to the natural world by Paul, Peter and John, to indicate that it is to be less important in God's eyes, and the eyes of Jesus Christ, than it was in the Old Testament.
|Romans||A systematic attempt to present God's Plan, for humanity, both Jewish and non-Jewish, but with personal touches, such as Paul's near-despair at the end of Chapter 7 leading into a summary and glorious climax in Chapter 8. After that he deals with a specific intellectual problem that he has to face, the role of his own race, the Jews (Chapters 9-11). Then he moves into practical and challenging implications of all that he has written, with some personal messages at the end.||Traditionally, this letter has been taken as almost a theological textbook, especially beloved of Calvinists and those who emphasise only Dimension 1 of Salvation. I find, instead, a deep and complex understanding of the whole Creation especially of humankind, and of God's Plan therein, in which those who are in CHrist (including Paul and those he names at the end) are representatives of Christ in the world. The practical implications are not commands we must follow so much as an exhortation to live worthy of that role.|
|I Corinthians||A letter by Saul/Paul to the Christians in Corinth, that deals with a number of issues, some they asked about, others he felt he needed to correct them about.|
James is very 'bitty', and has been criticised for lacking a strong message about justification by faith. However, if we see the whole letter as about maturity in those who have been justified by Christ, then it all makes sense.
Right at the start (1:2-4], James says that maturity is the glorious result of persecutions, making the suffering all worthwhile. Then the rest of the letter is about maturity as followers of Jesus is like [Note]:
|Application: James has many practical advice for those who wish to represent Christ in the world in mature ways.|
NotesNote re James: This idea that James is about various characteristics of maturity is from Richard Curry, Main Street Community Church, Frodsham, UK, and most of the items are from his talk on 3 April 2016.
This page, URL= "http://abxn.org/nv/bible-smy.html",
is part of the on-going work in developing a 'New View' in theology and practice that is appropriate to the days that are coming upon us. Comments, queries welcome by emailing
Compiled by Andrew Basden as part of his reflections from a Christian perspective. Copyright (c) Andrew Basden to latest date below, but you may use this material for almost any purpose, but subject to certain conditions.
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Started: 30 April 2012. Last updated: 23 January 2014 .nav, .end; Amos - but lots still to do. 24 January 2014 Hosea. 25 January 2014 Joel. 28 January 2014 Obadiah. 1 February 2014 Jonah, name-labels. 3 February 2014 Micah. 6 February 2014 Nahum. 11 February 2014 Habakkuk. 26 February 2014 Zephaniah, mp groupings. 20 March 2014 Zechariah, most. 6 April 2014 columns, and applic. 13 June 2014 Isaiah bits. 27 July 2014 rewrote some bits in minor prophets. 5 October 2014 a little addition to Habakkuk. 3 April 2016 names on NT, James, and first few NT briefly. 13 January 2021 Paul's letters, more on Romans. 13 February 2021 Paul's letters and natural world, new .end,.nav. 4 February 2022 Deuteronomy, bgc, canonical.