Short response ‘The Bible’s Buried Secrets’

Only a short note here.  On the whole I think it was a job well-done.  The art was in fact excellent, the talking heads were recognized scholars in the field who were clear and articulate.  Given the time constraints I thought it did quite well.  It didn’t ridicule faith.  I thought it was reasonable in how it treated the Biblical text and the available archaeological data.

I taped it and will watch it again.  I’d use it to spark discussion about these sorts of issues in a class series.  But the class would have to agree to go deep into the material.  For example, whereas the film presents JEDP hypothesis in a matter of minutes, I would think that at least 45 minutes or an hour would be necessary to introduce the hypothesis to a Bible class.  Then you could spend several weeks, I think, in a very fruitful exploration of the Biblical text and perhaps some other readings.  I think a quarter (12-13 weeks) of class sessions would be a good start.

Which raises another point…where is the Bible class willing to do this?  I’ve not met them yet.  I’ve not been in one yet, and I’ve not taught one yet.  Most Bible classes aren’t structured to do this kind of deep digging, and most teachers are volunteers with no training or background (and thus little capacity) to thoroughly sift the issues raised by this program.  For that matter, most ministers who know about this sort of thing would rather (understandably) spend their time building churches or doing something else.  After all the documentary hypothesis is hypothetical and most ministers are practical, either by nature or of necessity.  And on top of that, it is controversial…no wonder we don’t hear it.

I think we sell folks short, though, by not engaging in the deep study that films like this could nudge us toward if we would let them.  So we don’t buy into the JEDP stuff…then have a good series of classes that explore the hypothesis.  The answer to a program like this that challenges traditional views isn’t ignoring it or dismissing it, but engaging it.


One thought on “Short response ‘The Bible’s Buried Secrets’

  1. Hey Mac,

    (Here’s my first official comment to your blog, though I’ve enjoyed looking through some of your entries before today).

    Good thoughts. I too saw a good majority of the program last night and enjoyed especially the visual components that did a fine job illustrating the data. I was a bit disappointed in that I myself thought it to be a bit one-sided, making some historical and archaeological assumptions without mentioning at all some of the other possible interpretations of data (e.g. the program assumed the late dating of the Exodus without exploring the other possibilities there). I was expecting this of course, since programs like this are designed to stir interest by challenging preconceived or long-held ideas/paradigms. Aside from some of my own critiques of how they presented the historical data, I too thought it was a creative and well-illustrated presentation of issues like the documentary hypothesis, the formation of the nation of Israel, etc.

    From one academician to another, yes, I wish we could see a bit more the gifts of the university (including honing our critical thought processes) spilling over into the church. Admittedly, this is a delicate process, which is why I’m sure many capable ministers/teachers avoid it sometimes. It takes a lot of practice and wisdom (both of which I am always seeking to gain more) to know how to engage critical thinking without some of the potential negative effects (e.g. hurt feelings, confusion, creation of doubt, etc.). Moreover, from my own personal experience, when I teach a class, not all the participants are on the same intellectual, spiritual, or maturity level. This presents a great difficulty in how and what I teach, as deconstructing a paradigm could cause irreparable damage to some. Thus, for some pedagogues its easier to “play it safe” with questionable issues (like JEDP) and just not go there. But is this the right thing to do? I’d agree with you and say no, but tread carefully with full discernment. I think when its done in a healthy manner, both teacher and students can reach a deeper level which helps us to engage our faith more actively, responsibly, and enjoyably. After all, we must remember that we are called to love the Lord our God with all our minds as well.

    Look forward to seeing you on Monday. Take care…

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