• Biblical history,  homeschooling

    More notes on attempting to secularize Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World.

    This is the second part of a series of articles exploring the way that Susan Wise Bauer presents Biblical stories in her Story fo the World curriculum. In chapter six of volume one she presents the stories of Abraham and Joseph. In chapter twelve she recaps this briefly while talking about the Hyksos invasion of Egypt: These enemies were from Canaan. Do you remember reading about Canaan? In your story about Abraham, Abraham heard the voice of God, telling him to go to Canaan. And do you remember what he thought? He thought, “Why would I go to a wilderness filled with strange, wild tribes?” It is important to note…

  • The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer and one of many academic books on the topic of the early Hebrew religion
    Biblical history,  history,  homeschooling

    Notes on the Story of the World – from a secular academic perspective

    The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer is a very popular history curriculum amongst homeschoolers. However, one complaint frequently made is that the book presents Biblical stories as if they were history. In chapter six of volume one it tells the story of Abraham and then the story of Joseph, both embellished from the Bible. Here are some notes on how I would approach these. Placement of the Story The Story of the World situations the story of Abraham as taking place shortly after Sargon the Great. Sargon the Great lived over two thousand years before the Common Era (CE or, as it was known in my childhood,…

  • Biblical history,  politics

    Biblical history and Israel

    Did you know there’s a political component to the question of the literal truth of the Bible? There are people who argue for it being true not just because they want it for a spiritual guide, but also because they want justification for the nation of Israel to be a Jewish nation? Part of the politics of the question of “was there a King David?” and “How much land did he control?” is about whether or not that land should be Jewish now and how much land. I don’t talk about this much in my classes, partly because the situation with Israel is incredibly complex. I want to comment about…

  • Biblical history

    Teaching a Secular Bible Study class on the New Testament

    In some ways a New Testament class feels harder to make secular than an Old Testament class, and I’ve noticed people are much more willing to sign up for the Old Testament class. I think this has to do with the idea that more people view stories of Moses, Noah, David, etc, as stories, and absolutely any story about Jesus in inherently theological. (Or maybe I’m over thinking this and people just think they need to take the Old Testament class before they take the New Testament class.) Anything I could say about Jesus is in some ways a theological statement about him. Was Jesus a man? A god? A…

  • Biblical history

    Origins of the Judeo-Christian Monotheism.

    I am reading a book called Monotheism and Yahweh’s Appropriation of Baal. It is a fascinating little study adding more details to some theories about the origins of monotheism. Those familiar with the Bible might know that Baal is one of the gods that the Biblical writers are incredibly critical of. However, this book points out the little ways in which the Bible references to Yahweh having the powers of Baal. For example, in 2 Kings 7.2 there is a reference to making windows in the sky. Many Bibles translate this as opening the storm gates of heaven, making a flood, but one of the Baal myths specifically speaks of…

  • Biblical history

    Looking very closely at Bible translation questions

    One of the things that fascinates me about the Bible is that there is no one definitive translation. There are parts that are unclear. For example, take Genesis 49:10. It can be interpreted in different ways, each with their own potential meanings. The verse is part of Jacob’s blessings to his sons. The oldest three sons are given criticism for previous behaviour, and the bulk of the honour goes to Judah. This reflects or predicts – depending on whether one believes the Bible was written by man or God – the idea that King David was said to be from the tribe of Judah, and that Jerusalem is within that…

  • Biblical history

    Why secular parents wishing to teach their children about the Bible should avoid children’s Bibles.

    I teach secular Bible studies classes online. This means I teach children and teens to read the Bible and look at the Bible stories as literature written by people over a specific period of time, a couple thousand years ago. I ask students to have a copy of the Bible available during class and for their homework. I encourage them to have a study Bible. I strongly discourage the use of children’s Bibles. Children’s Bibles are retellings of the Bible stories meant for children. The stories are often arranged in the same order the stories appear in the Bible, but with only specific stories included. First, I’ll admit there are…

  • Biblical history,  history,  religion

    Comparing the Bible with Mythology

    I’m reading Charles Penglase’s book Greek Mythology and Mesopotamia: Parallels and Influence in the Homeric Hymns and Hesiod. The heart of Penglase’ book is the idea that myth writers took motifs from other stories. He identifies rough motifs such as the goddess-and-her-consort stories where there is a journey to the underworld and a return and then he argues that those motifs show up even in unusual places. For example, pointing out how Apollo’s birth could be seen as fitting the goddess-and-consort-and-underworld myth. It has a wandering mother searching for (a place to bear) her child. It has the personified Island being scared it will be pushed down into the (underworld?)…

  • Biblical history,  history,  religion

    Bible stories according to a knight in 1372

    I’m reading the book Book of the Knight of the Tower by Rebecca Barnhouse. This is a translation and commentary of a book of the same name by Sir Geoffery in 1372. Sir Geoffrey’s book was written in France, but became popular in both England and Germany as well. It was translated into English by William Caxton, the printer who brought the movable type to England. The knight and his priests wrote the book for the knight’s daughters, so that they would know how to act. It included stories about his life as well as stories ‘from the Bible.’ Except the Biblical stories are just barely recognizable: I’ll tell you about…