Learning from “Wanderings: History of the Jews”
November 2, 2005
(I do not mean to offend anyone whenever I write stuff like this. It’s my current point of view.)
So last night I started reading Chaim Potok’s History of the Jews. Wow!
Have I told you that my stepdad is an Egyptologist? He’s been telling me for years that most of Genesis is inherited from Sumerian myths and religious traditions (they were first civilization of the world). Many religious people argue with him when he speaks his opinion. Well, seems like one person who would agree with him is Chaim Potok. A rabbi!
His book is based on years of historical reaserch. My stepdad has always told me that history enriches religion. I believe so. The author says that to read and understand ancient texts we must study ancient history.
We’re so lucky! There’s thousands of clay tablets that describe the ancient cultures of the Mesopotamian region.
Well it turns out that all of these accounts existed thousands of years before the Bible was written:
- The eating of the forbidden fruit
- The flood
- A man taken to heaven on the wings of a bird
- A boy cast into a river who grows to be king
So what are we to do? There’s been much discussion lately on The Ooze about whether the Bible is inerrant or not. From what I read in the posts I think many people believe more or less this about the Bible’s origin:
- The author of each book is the one that’s printed in the beggining of the book. (For example Moses wrote Genesis and Exodus).
- God spelled out every word for them. (I mean like in spelling class in school).
- The historical accounts of the Old Testament are all accurate and to be taken literally.
I used to believe that too. That’s what I was taught in church (Protestant). Any debate that would in any way contradict the Bible would be labeled “worldly” or simply “foolish knowledge.”
I’m hoping that from history I can learn to interpret the Bible better.
For example: Why did Abraham lie to Pharaoh? Why did he behave in such strange ways sometimes? Most of these things can be answered through the study of history. By learning about the customs, traditions and religion that Abraham grew up in I can understand him better and interpret the Bible correctly.
History has many gifts for our understanding. Many “mysteries” and “obscure verses” are still misunderstood because we do not seek the answers where they are: in the past.
As for tonight, I’ve got Abraham to meet. 🙂