Wednesday, September 13, 2006

He asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?

While it seems that the large majority oif the traffic I receive to this blog is coming through links from the , and doesn't really care about the "blog-ish" nature of my posts here, there may be some people who are enjoying reading this as a daily offering of opinion on the Bible. I don't know. Either way, I'd like to get back to work on completing a bit more of the Bible, as I've only gone through one and a half books of a much, much larger work.

I haven't posted here in over a month for a number of reasons. I've been busy, and while I've taken some time to post occasionally on my other blogs, I've let this one languish in the midst of my overwhelming time constraints. The other reason has a lot to do with why I've let this one in particular languish: Exodus gets a lot more boring for the most part from here on out, and throughout the rest of the books of Moses, while there is some amount of plot, it's mostly long lists of laws and their related punishments and procedural applications.

Don't get me wrong, if I keep this up, eventually I expect to cover the whole Bible, but as I've said before, I don't feel it's necessary to tackle in a straight linear fashion from beginning to end. After all, most people don't read it that way. Anyway, what I'm thinking is that in order to revitalize this a little, I could switch to another book that was a little more interesting. Judges comes to mind as very jam-packed with action, but it's honestly a very difficult book to address, due to excessive sex and violence throughout the book. Eventually, covering that cook is going to be largely a droning repetition of "The Bible records this, but does not condone it." Ruth is one of my favorite books, but the SAB has virtually nothing to say about it, so it leaves me with little to say if I'm focusing on replying to objections. I considered spicing it up with Song of Solomon, since who doesn't enjoy reading ancient Hebraic erotic poetry? Still, it seems sort of gimmicky.

So, in the end, I'm going to appeal to any readers I may have: PLEASE post comments to give me a good suggestion! What do you think I should do? Jump to the New Testament? (I was considering Matthew, but it seems like I need to maybe hit all four Gospels simultaneously with a harmonization. I don't know.) Do some Psalms or Proverbs? A prophetic book? What might be nice is if Steve Wells would let me know if he has stats on which pages on his site are most popular, and I might start there. I don't know, just give me a suggestion or two so I can feel a bit more enthusiastic about moving forward.


GlennB said...

Just encounterd your site. I've only spent a few minutes perusing your most recent posts, but seeing what translation issues you're referencing, it seems to me you might be interested in the book "Five Books of Moses" by Robert Alter. It's a very heavily annotated translation, and got a pretty good review from New York Review. The review may be found at

but subscription is required. I can send you the article text; I'm sure its listing on Amazon has a good number of informative reviews.

gsb (at) mc_lcs_mit_edu

Brucker said...

Actually, that book is already on my Amazon wish list. I already own his Genesis translation, and used it as a secondary reference when I covered that book.

Steve Wells said...

I think you are doing fine as it is, Brucker. There are a couple things I'd suggest, however.

I'd prefer a single post for each passage that is highlighted at the SAB. And I suggest that you be selective about the passages. Focus on those that you think would be most troubling for a believer (if they read the Bible, that is). Why did God send the bears in 2 Kings 2:23-24? Did David really buy his first wife with 200 foreskins? (And was that OK with God in view of 1 Kings 15:5)? What was God trying to tell us by the disgusting story in Judges 19? Did God really command Saul to kill every man, woman, infant and child in 1 Samuel 15:2-3? Did he command us to kill homosexuals in Leviticus 20:13? If so, shouldn't we do so today? What did God have in mind when inspiring Ezekiel 23:20? etc.

Start with the short lists for cruelty, injustice, sex, contradictions, etc. at the site, or choose your own. But don't do what most apologist do: ignore the worst stuff and focus on the marginal.

However you decide to proceed, I do hope you'll continue and I will provide links to your responses.

Brucker said...

Your suggestion has its merits and drawbacks, Steve.

While I like the idea of something being a little more organized through a tighter focus on one issue at a time, there's still the fact that I do like having this as a once-a-day look at the Bible, generally focused on one chapter at a time. I think it suits my personal tastes, both in writing style and in trying to do a more systematic, comprehensive approach. Still, there may be something to breaking down the chapter into several posts, and doing a chapter a day with multiple posts, one per SAB issue. I'll consider that.

Actually, maybe the best idea would be to use the style I already have been using in passages of a more narrative nature, and switching to a differrent format for stuff like what's in most of the rest of the Torah. I'll definitely give that some thought.

While pickijng out the more troubling passages also has some pull to it, as those are the passages that are no doubt the most interesting, I reluctant for purely selfish reasons: I'm sure when I hit those, there are going to be a number I simply don't have any good way of addressing. Sure, I'm bound to have that problem one way or the other, as I did in a couple places in Genesis, but the approach you're suggeting is going to up my rate of failure, so to speak.

To be on the fair side, I don't completely want to downplay that I don't have the answers. Now that I think about it, it might have been nice to have one post at the end of Genesis summarizing the issues that continue to leave me stymied. Perhaps I'll do a Genesis 1 through Exodus 20 summary instead before I plow on. I don't want you (or anyone else) to think I'm avoiding the worst stuff, but I do want to tread lightly on some issues, and not pass up the marginal in favor of the most difficult.

As far as links to specific issues, I don't know if you've noticed much (because it's not entirely apparent anyway), but I tried to use html anchors (is that the correct term?) within a post to be able to link to specific issues, such as slavery and lying. I could supply you with a list of those if you would like them.

Anyway, thanks for you suggestion, while I'm not going to follow it exactly as you put it, at least you gave me a suggestion, which nobody else did.

Anonymous said...

Book of Revelation should be a pretty hot topic. Millions of Christians are convinced that they are so special that the Apocalypse will happen in THEIR lifetimes (just as many Christians believed in the 19th, 18th, 17th centuries, and probably even before that).

Yeah, Revelation - should be fun!

Brucker said...

If I continue to go through the Bible from beginning to end, it should be a long time before I get to Revelation, especially at the rate I'm going. It will be a fun book, largely due to sorting out all the things it actually says from all the things people think it says. And you're right about Christians always thinking that the apocalypse would happen in their time. Even before Revelation was written, the first century church seemed to think it was coming right away! (See Acts 1:6)

The Brilliant Hen said...

100 posts in a year is basically two posts a week, which seems to me a respectable rate for working with something more dense and complicated than "reflections on what I did today," which is the substance of many blogs.

I wish I had some suggestion about where to go next. On a personal level, I'm interested in the gospels as sort of the "Torah of Christianity," especially in contrast to the writings attributed to Paul, but I figure if you don't get around to something now, you'll be thorough, one way or another. I don't think it has to be done in order, as long as your linking works well.

In some ways, it seems like what you're grappling with is the repetitive nature of the bible and SAB. Not only are you going to be saying more and more things like, "I already discussed sacrifices here at that link," but there's also some mind numbingly boring parts of the Torah on the horizon, like all the census material.

I would say that rather than do stuff that stymies you from Genesis through Exodus 20, why not just do Genesis, and leave an Exodus summary for when you finish it?

That Alter material is great - I have the five books on my Amazon wish list also. Putting aside those books until you have that reference seems sensible.

Brucker said...

Yeah, but since I was trying to do it as more or less a daily devotional, I wanted ideally to have five posts a week, not that I expected that, but still, less than half? I'm a little disappointed at my rate, but I think the content was mostly pretty good at least.

I'd like to go to the Gospels, and I may eventually skip forward to them, but I'm taking my time to contemplate it before I go there, as it may be that approaching the Gospels will require me to write a Gospel harmonization, which can be quite an undertaking even in the easy parts. Maybe I'm overanalyzing, who knows?

Repetition is definitely a problem, but I think my new format (if I ever get a new post going) will deal with that better. Weren't you the person who told me that you were reading through the Bible and just about gave up after getting to Leviticus? Or am I thinking of the New Testament and the Gospel of Mark, which has almost nothing that Matthew didn't already touch on, so it feels like you're reading the same book twice?

Yeah, I considered waiting on getting more Alter books, as his translation of Genesis was very helpful to me in covering that book. I pretty much limited myself to the KJV, NIV, original Hebrew text and Alter's translation when covering that book. I love his commentary, and while I think I may have said it in mentioning his books before, while I think he is an atheist, I think his commentaries are wonderfully impartial with respect to theological bias. Thanks for the book! (I believe it was a present from you, actually, as well as his translation of Samuel, which is making me look forward to that book in particular.)

The Brilliant Hen said...

Yeah, it was Mark...I'm all, "Do these crazy Christians just read the same story over and over again?!" LOL