Thursday, January 04, 2007

Power of Story: Old Testament as Story, Jan 20 workshop SGN of KY, Saturday 10-3, potluck, at Paschal's

SGN of Ky is undertaking to use our monthly Days of Recollection to study the power of story and to begin with the Bible. This is not our first approach to this subject. some helpful notes follow. Three references will be given.

One of the most amazing aspects of the current religious scene in the United States is the growth and prevalence of the funamentalist and literalist appraches to the Bible, despite an abundance of decisive evidence against these views. Both make the Bible the literal and infallible word of God.

In contrast with this view is a critical and historial view that has evolved over centuries, to include study of the original languages, study of the text, ancient literatue, ancient history, archeology and mamy related disciplines.

Scholars asked what did the words mean in the age in which they were written? What was the author saying, and why? What was the historical background? And how does everythinmg we know now about literature, the Bible, our history and ourselves and how story shapes a culture -- help to understand the deeper meaning of the Bible?

For example, clerics, religious authorities and scholars believed for almost two thousand years that slavery was permitted because no single text could be found to challenge the practice and many biblical texts supported it.

Next: How the Old Testament came to be and when it was written. We know it is not eyewitness accounts, say of Genesis, or of Abraham or Moses, that these accounts were not intended to be history or biography as we understand them today.


Once upon a time there was a tiny group of nomads, a pastoral but fiercely warlike people wandering around the busiest crossroads of the world of that time, where empires, warrior leaders and monarchs competed for power over trade routes.

This small faith community had been conquered and reconquered by all the great empires of the age. They held two distinctions, one they believed in One God who was on their side and they had talented writers, poets and vast aspirations for survival and glory.

Beginning in 700 B.C. they created wonder-filled books of literature, documentary and poetry which gave meaning to their identity, their right to exist and to prevail. All the books of the Old
Testament date to that period.

Extensive archeology tells the story of ancient Israel and origin of its sacred texts. The great stories of the Bible: the wandering Patriarchs , the Exodus from Egypt, Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, the empires of David and Solomon were not documentaries written by observers, but written, composed an collated much later. Since the Biblical stories contradict and overlook much known ancient history, such as the existence of vast cities of the areas and era, we know they were written much later.

Early writers brilliantly re-shaped the historical core of the bible from many sources, including that of the surrounding pagan cultures in such a way that it was able to serve as the main source of identity and spiritual anchor for the Israelites as they faced many setbacks and disasters, religious challenges and p0litical twists of fate. (P. 313, The Bible Unearhed)

The power of the Biblical sage stems from its compelling and cohesive narrative expression of the timeless themes of a peoples liberation and escape from oppression and quest for social equality.

The Old Testament eloquently expresses the deeply rooted sense of shared origins experience and destiny that every human community needs in order to survive WHAT IS THE ‘MIRACLE” IS THAT A POOR AND REMOTE SOCIETY SKILLFULLY WOVE IDEAS, IMAGES AND EVENTS INTO THE SINGLE MOST INFLUENTIAL LITERARY AND SPIRITUAL CREATION IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANKIND. (P. 318)

Our sources for this study
The Historical Approach to the Bible, by Howard Teeple, Religious and Ethics Institute, Evanston, Ill, Award Winning book 1982 National Conference of Christians and Jews.

And God Said What: An Introduction to Biblical Litareary Forms for Bibler Lovers. By Margaret Nutting Ralph, Paulist Press, 1986.

The Bible Unearthed. Acheology’s New Vision of Ancient Isreal and the Origin of its Sacred Texts. By Isreal Finkelstein and Nail Asher Silberman. Touchstone 2001.

See also online at Time magazine, the article by Andrew Sullivan, “Ny Problem with Christianism.” at,9171,1191826,00.html