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


West Bank and Israel Travel Log #2: Walls

The first of many unsettling experiences during the LTS West Bank/Israel trip was my introduction to the Wall.  While I had read much about the “separation wall” between Israel and the Occupied Territories and even seen photos from friends, I wasn’t prepared for the reality.

On the bus ride from Ben Gurion airport to our hotel in Bethlehem, the wall seemed everywhere–zigzagging across the landscape, chopping up fields, and blocking roads.

We had to pass through the wall in order to enter Bethlehem, where we stayed for much of our trip.


West Bank and Israel Travel Log: Purposes

From January 6 to January 25, I joined my colleague Anabel Proffitt in leading a group of 21 students from our institution through the West Bank and Israel.  I’ve recently returned, my camera full of pictures and my head full of realities to process and responses to formulate.  In the next few weeks, I’ll be reporting on my evolving experience of the trip.


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Returning from the West Bank and Israel

I’ve recently returned from co-leading a group of seminarians on a 17-day trip to the West Bank and Israel.  It was an intense experience, and I’ll soon start blogging and uploading photos.

For now, you might want to read my first written response,  published over at Bible and Interpretation:  “Biblical Scholarship and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”

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Claims about the Bible Work Best if You Don't Actually Read It

Last weekend, two biblical scholar friends and I visited the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and spent time in an exhibit entitled “Shrunken Treasures:  Miniaturization in Books and Art.” It features tiny books and objects from the museum’s permanent collection.


In case after case, we saw all things small.  There were small mosaics, small sculptures, small shipping guides, but mostly small religious texts.  Small Psalters.  Small Qurans.  And small Bibles.

Some of these minatures were functional, actually used by readers even before the days of bifocals. They allowed people to have words that were portable and private– pocket editions.

But many were clearly too small to be read.  It’s hard to imagine how they were even produced.  These texts weren’t reading material; they functioned atropaically–as amulets , talismans, good luck pieces.  These Bibles were owned, touched, tucked away, treasured.  But not read. The idea of the Bible mattered more than its content.

From my vantage point, that attitude toward the Bible is ubiquitous, even for folks whose Bibles are big.  A lot of verbage gets thrown around about the Bible  (its perfection, its authority, its goodness) that makes sense only if you don’t read it–or read it seriously.  I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t say something about the Bible that isn’t true about all of it.  If you’re going to talk about the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice, then you should be prepared to explain why you don’t live your life by all of it.

I spend my energies trying to get people to spend less time spouting claims about the Bible and more time actually reading it, being honest about it, and valuing it for what it actually is.

The exhibit runs through Nov. 8, 2009.


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Back in the Summer of '69

The 40-year anniversary of the moon walk of Apollo 11 has me nostalgic.  I remember where I was and where I was headed on the evening of July 20, 1969.

It was the first night of a month-long, cross-country family car trip.  My father, who loved to travel, hatched the idea and planned the details with the help of AAA.  He and my mom bought a station wagon, topped it with a Sears luggage carrier, packed up all four kids, and headed out from North Carolina to California.  I was 11 at the time.


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