The Bible: What Is It?

Posted on January 17, 2021


Good Sunday Morning, Freethinking Friends! Welcome to the Sunday Service.

I hope you are in good health and in good spirits on this fine day.

It was a beautiful sunrise.

I went, as I often do, for a hike in the woods to greet the dawn. It’s my favorite way to start the day.

Another favorite way to start the day for me is by learning new things. Before I hit the trail, I watched the first 40 minutes of this excellent conversation between Joshua Bowen and Megan Lewis, hosts of Digital Hammurabi (Youtube channel), and their guest, Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou of Exeter University, on the subject of The REAL Israelite Religion.

Early in the interview, Josh asks, “What is the Hebrew Bible (OT) doing? How is what it says different from the reality of the world from which it originates?”

Stavrakopoulou explains that the Hebrew Bible is a huge compilation of literature, myth, poetry, religious law, tradition, and other genres that were collected and reproduced by various scribal groups over a period of centuries.

The reason, she cautions, why readers must not view it as an accurate HISTORICAL text is that it is NOT a primary source. The Bible is a secondary source; it is a cultural artifact, it is literature, and it was created in the human imagination, like all such texts. Therefore, it should not be considered either a historical text or a moral authority for contemporary society, any more than Homer’s Odyssey should be.

That’s a great lesson right there! For researchers, primary sources reveal historical realities; literature is produced as a response to reality, in the human imagination. A secondary, literary source should not be mistaken for accurate historical record.

I am going to finish watching the video, and I’m going to write at least one more blog post about what I’m learning from it. I encourage you to watch it. Stavrakopoulou is a gifted communicator with encyclopedic knowledge of the cultural context from which the Bible comes, and she expresses appreciation for the text and the Peoples who produced it–while rejecting all supernatural claims therein. She’s playful and funny: one of my all-time favorite teachers. Enjoy!

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Thanks for coming to today’s edition of the Sunday Service at Citizen Teacher, friend.

Peace & Love. See you next week! Be well.

lisa eddy is an ATHEIST writer-for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

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