• Biblical history,  books

    Book Review: Josiah and the Theocrats

    If the Bible was written by humans, would it not be susceptible to the same corruption that drives so much of human existence? Different groups of Christians will argue others have twisted it for political purposes, but what if the texts themselves arose from political purposes, and what if those purposes were neither noble nor loving? That’s one of the questions that seems to underly the plot of Josiah and the Theocrats. The book is set in 623 – 622 BCE, at the time of King Josiah of Judah. The book is written with a focus on Shaphan, the king’s secretary, charged with bringing a long-lost religious text forward to…

  • A 15th century picture of Adam and Eve after they are kicked out of the garden of Eden.
    Biblical history

    Exploring the story of Adam and Eve, and how it changed over time.

    Genesis 2:15 – 3:22 tells a story of Adam and Eve, supposedly the first humans to exist. In the story God puts these first humans in a garden. There they have plenty of food for only one tree is off limits to them. This one tree, God says, is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He says the humans will die the day they eat that fruit. Then a crafty serpent speaks to Eve and tells her that eating from that one tree will not kill her but open her eyes and make her like God. She eats it and gives some to Adam. They realize they are…

  • Biblical history,  homeschooling,  Houseful of Chaos Press,  religion

    Being Non-Religious in a Christian Context

    The question was posed to me recently about how one might go about explaining Christianity to an atheist or agnostic child who will be exposed to Christianity in a homeschool co-op or local community. I assume we have several goals in mind. The first is to keep everyone safe. Another goal is to be respectful. The other is to be truthful. This can be tricky if the Christian community is actively teaching that it is the only path to salvation or other exclusionary language. It can be tricky if the children are really young, and have difficulty dealing with the idea that these friends and teachers are correct about some…

  • Biblical history

    Reading the Deuteronomic Histories

    I’ve been reading the Deuteronomic history very closely, reflecting on the stories from my rather atheist, somewhat heathen point of view. The Deuteronomic history is made up of the Biblical books of Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. Those books may have been compiled and edited together sometime around the time of King Josiah or sometime later and share a theological viewpoint that resembles that of the book of Deuteronomy. They tell of kings that rise and fall, making frequent complaints about those not deemed to worship one god properly. They are at times rambling and sometimes confusing, but they show an amazing literary skill.…

  • Biblical history

    Reading Nadav Na’aman’s essays on Canaanite history

    Over the last week I’ve been reading from the book Canaan in the Second Millenium BCE by Nadav Na’aman. It is a collection of essays, many based on the Amarna texts. The one I read last night has profound implications for my understanding of Canaanite history and so I’m using the break time to reflect on it. The essay in question deals with the Akkadian word “Habiru,” which some people interpret as being connected with the word “Hebrew.” Apparently some interpret the Habiru as being the origins of the Hebrew people. Na’aman argues instead that the term was borrowed. The older term was used for uprooted migrants. Na’aman argues that…

  • Biblical history,  education,  history,  politics

    Sophists And Today?

    Aaron Sorkin’s television show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip aired in 2006. Already, the show feels somewhat dated and when watching it with our children my husband and I found ourselves trying to explain how the public debate was different at that time. (Just as one example, these days we hear more about the white supremacists than the religious right, but the show focuses on the latter, not the former.) There is something fun about stepping outside of the time period and thinking about the debates of other time periods. It is part of what I do in the secular Bible studies classes I’ve been teaching. I try to…

  • 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 of 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…