Friday, September 21, 2007

More Fun with Fundy Fireworks!

So we didn't get the incident over the creation of the world that my subconscious was expecting. But something equally interesting happened today.

We were discussing a section of a source in the textbook, about King Solomon and his trading/labor relations with his neighbors. Pulled from the First Book of Kings, Old Testament. Conversation went well. Many people discussing it, all seemed to go fine.

After class, one student stayed behind. He asked me, "What do historians think about using the Bible as a source? Can you do that?" I replied something along the lines of how you can use it to get a picture of society without having to believe in Judaism or Christianity, and that it would be difficult to discount the whole thing. "Well, I discount the whole thing." So I got the REVERSE of what I expected... not a Biblical literalist, but someone interested in throwing out any real information stored in the Bible because he didn't believe in the religious aspects of it.

We had a nice (and peaceable) talk over the matter. I'm not sure I convinced him. I compared it to Uncle Tom's Cabin, using fiction to understand historical situations, even when you know that the author didn't witness these things first hand or indeed visit the South. But that didn't mean that everything she wrote was a complete fabrication.

I wonder how the reaction will be on the course evaluations? Will the Christian student see me as their champion and the atheists think I'm a nutjob?

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8 Comments:

Anonymous kr said...

(this is me, laughing at you ;) )

lu :).

you could really bug him and excite the thus-far-closeted Biblical literalists by suggesting he check out Biblical Archaeology. It's a magazine, and generally (at least the few issues I've gotten a hold of) pretty responsible about saying, "Now, this piece of evidence does support but certainly doesn't _prove_ (x item from the Bible)" ... which was a damn sight more honest than the editors of, say, The Five Gospels chose to be in their rhetoric ;). (I had one of the two main editors as a prof. You can imagine that went well ;). My copy is full of inserted handwritten "we THINK"s, qualifying all of their ridiculously unqualified declarations about What Jesus Really Said. Pff. Academic honesty, PLEASE!)

BTW, to all y'all who don't know me, I believe God created our reality--in the billions-of-years version ;). This seems to me more coherent wth a God who is down on dishonesty ... the "fossils planted to test our faith" literalist teaching is coherent with an all-powerful God, but not with an honest one!

Quinn (crap I'm tired, I almost used your real name!), curious, did you discuss historians using other old documents, like Josephus, Plutarch, or Hippocrates? (Not to mention, oh grey-eyed goddess of wisdom, Homer ;). )

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Prue Believer said...

Dude, I heard of a pair of archaeologists who totally used the Bible to find, like, the Holy Grail and stuff.

Jesus rawks! Tell your student and Kathy Griffin to suck it.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Jade said...

I suppose I'm more of an agnostic than I am athiest, but what you said makes sense to me. I don't think you're a nut job... and I believe your comparison to historical fiction is an excellent point.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Quinn said...

prue, was that the really hot father and son pair of archaologists? Yeah, I heard that too.

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Prue Believer said...

Ewww! They're, like, so old.

I only know about that movie 'cause I saw it in my History class. Do you teach that trilogy too?

2:34 PM  
Blogger liz said...

My history teacher last year taught using "The History of the World in 6 Glasses" as his tie-it-all-together thread. And he used the Bible.

Pretty cool all around actually.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

History, as presented in the Hebrew Bible, is pretty suspect. What was written was usually centuries after the fact and, especially with the ancient Hebrew kingdoms, the maxim that history is written by the victors is especially true.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous kr said...

mmm, Andy, I dunno ... once one has read some sort of coherent feminist presentation of possible pre-Hebrew cultural and religious norms in the Middle East, a lot of stuff that just seems nonsensical in the OT makes sense and provides interesting counter-commentary to the goddess and ba'als archaeology.

And, hem hem, it's not like the Hebrews were known to be regular "victors" ... they did record an awful lot about the periods of oppression and lament, and the heaviest times of writing were the times of most oppression (Babylonian, for most of the OT, and Roman, for the Apocrypha, I thought?). Reading the OT, one might wonder how exactly these people thought they were the Chosen People of God (or alternately, why they thought their God was in charge of everything)!

One of the prophets--I forget who, Amos maybe?--spends quite a lot of time railing against his wife going to participate in the temple rituals ... which takes on an interesting twist if one considers that that might have meant a resurgence of the indigenous fertility religions, which the writer assumed the reader knew about but over the years knowledge of the events was lost, and his railing was reinterpreted with the basic cultural (Indo-European?) "women aren't properly holy" assumption. (At least, that's the interpretation I had understood to explain it.)

I suspect there is way more in the OT than we usually give it credit for ... though yes, there was some effort to repress tradtions not directly in line with the Chosen People Of God dogma, and with a few exceptions most stuff was written MUCH later than it is portrayed.

9:37 PM  

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