A Hebrew Bible/Old Testament scholar looks at the Bible and culture…

Bible as literature

Five Months Into My Project

When I started my website and blog, it was to help launch a larger project— one originally called The Bible for Book Clubs and now Reading the Bible as an Adult. My hope was that addressing diverse topics on the blog would attract people to the site; once there, they would then learn about my project of reading the Bible as literature that engages life questions. Now, five months into the process, foreground and background are shifting.

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Choosing the Conversation

There’s an argument/debate going on among those who blog on the Bible (bibliobloggers) about why women haven’t been making it into the top 50 list.  April DeConick has taken on the quest of promoting the work of female bloggers and is encouraging others to do the same.

I appreciate April’s zeal and encourage support of all blogs that have something interesting to say.

But the popularity of my blog doesn’t motivate me to write. Of course I want readers, but what I really want is to find out if anyone cares about the questions I’m asking and wants to join me in conversation.  What I’m talking about matters to me.  And I want to spend my time here talking with other people for whom it matters rather than having debates with other bloggers about the justice of our rankings.

While I teach and speak on diverse aspects of biblical texts, what I’m interested in right now is the literary/ideological dimensions of texts and how paying attention to those dimensions can help people talk about their own experiences.  I respect people who talk about historical dimensions of the Bible, and I carry out historical work myself.  But, in my blog, I’m interested in how the Bible is playing out in the public square and hoping (maybe naively) that I can get some public discussion started about the Bible as meaningful literature.

 

 

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Reading Novels, Reading the Bible

I love to read. I read non-fiction for my professional work as a biblical scholar, and the information and new perspectives transform the way I understand the biblical text.  Learning about the pervasive malnutrition of ancient diets and the infant mortality rate in ancient Israel (1 out of 2 children died before the age of 5) changed the way I approach Genesis, the prophets—indeed all of the Bible.  I occasionally read popular non-fiction, too–related to the Bible (The Year of Living Biblically) or to issues that I care about (The Way we Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap).  Non-fiction changes my thinking in useful ways.

But I am passionate about novels.  I read them whenever I can.

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Julie, Julia, and the Contemporary Hero Quest

This weekend, my husband and I saw Julie and Julia (click for a link to the official website). The film is Nora Ephron’s adaptation of two books: Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France; and Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia, which follows Powell’s quest to prepare all 524 recipes in Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days and to blog about her experience.

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The Bible as Instructions

As long as the word “Bible” is used to mean “definitive” or “instructions,” is there any hope people will read it for its stories?  What chance do those of us who want to open up the reading of these writings have in the face of pop culture definitions?

That’s the question that ran through my head as I pondered a display outside of Borders at the local mall.

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Lock 'em up or Give Them a Book?

I’ve been learning more about the Changing Lives through Literature program, in which “criminal offenders with charges ranging from drug violations to assault with a deadly weapon read and discuss literature as a condition of their probation.”  In the program, offenders join judges and others in a democratic discussion of literature.

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The group’s website is filled with testimonies of how discussing literature in a group can lead to transformation:

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