My book A Secular Bible Study is now available. I based this book off of classes that I have been teaching online to homeschooling students. My classes are for students who wanted to learn about the Bible, but without being preached at. I take the academic approach I learned at university and share it with middle schoolers and teenagers. With my book I hope to make it available to more people.
My approach to the Bible is through a historical critical approach. That means I try to look at the texts in light of their historical environment. What did they mean to their early audiences? The Bible was written over a long period of time with different parts reflecting concerns of people enduring different historical situations. Some of it was written after the Assyrians (well, neo-Assyrians) attacked. Others after the Babylonians, or during the Persian or Roman periods. The same stories were told again and again, with alterations to reflect the needs of their writers.
One of the things things that I enjoy is looking at the margins. Who are the people at the margins? Who were the neighbouring tribes, no longer talked about? Who were their gods? Where do we hear hints in the Bible of how slow monotheism was to develop? There’s subtle references to other ancient gods in the Bible. There’s subtle references to other ideas that later people decided were heretical. How do we see that even within this one text there was a diversity of beliefs? I wish so much that the beliefs of all the neighbouring tribes were as well recorded and preserved.
To me, the work of seeing the history – the history of how the Bible was written, of how it has been interpreted and reinterpreted throughout times – is very meaningful. I see the Bible as a collection of texts written by very intelligent, very thoughtful people struggling with questions about why things happen the way they do and how they should live, and I try to convey that to students. It it is one set of texts working on the same questions that other groups have struggled with throughout time, and it isn’t one unified voice either, but a mix of voices. We don’t have to agree or disagree with the arguments they make; only if we have the time and inclination we can try to understand them as parts of history and parts of culture and see that Christianity isn’t one big monolithic organism.
I know that for many people what I teach is too Christian while for others it is too secular or even offensive. I don’t want them to be offensive. The basis of my classes and my book is that the Bible is written by humans.
I have tried to write my book based on how I share stories with my children and in the classes I teach and off of the academic reading I do.