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Old 03-09-2007, 12:29 PM   #16
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I find it interesting that people assume that "Bible as literature" classes would be taught from one side only. I had a New Testament class my freshman year of college that was taught by an atheist, whose primary aim was to contest the traditional understanding of the Bible. (At times using scholarship that even the Jesus Seminar people would find suspect.) I participated in a Great Books program in high school where the Bible was taught as literature by people keen to debunk it as both history and as literature. I'm not against such agenda-driven indoctrination -- it just goes to show that the knife does cut both ways and that "fundies" are not the only ones who approach the Bible with an agenda.
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Old 03-09-2007, 12:39 PM   #17
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Originally posted by nathan1977
I find it interesting that people assume that "Bible as literature" classes would be taught from one side only. I had a New Testament class my freshman year of college that was taught by an atheist, whose primary aim was to contest the traditional understanding of the Bible. (At times using scholarship that even the Jesus Seminar people would find suspect.) I participated in a Great Books program in high school where the Bible was taught as literature by people keen to debunk it as both history and as literature. I'm not against such agenda-driven indoctrination -- it just goes to show that the knife does cut both ways and that "fundies" are not the only ones who approach the Bible with an agenda.

i envy you these classes. i would have loved to have taken them, and one of my biggest collegiate regrets was not being able to take The Historical Jesus my Junior Year.

i think the assumption that it will be taken over by "fundies" -- at least for me -- stems from the politics surrounding this particular initiative.

i'm curious about the notions of atheist "debunking" of the Bible. if someone doesn't hold the view that it is the inerrent word of God, and doesn't present the materials as such, is that, by definition, a "debunking"?
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Old 03-09-2007, 01:24 PM   #18
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Originally posted by nathan1977
I find it interesting that people assume that "Bible as literature" classes would be taught from one side only. I had a New Testament class my freshman year of college that was taught by an atheist, whose primary aim was to contest the traditional understanding of the Bible. (At times using scholarship that even the Jesus Seminar people would find suspect.) I participated in a Great Books program in high school where the Bible was taught as literature by people keen to debunk it as both history and as literature. I'm not against such agenda-driven indoctrination -- it just goes to show that the knife does cut both ways and that "fundies" are not the only ones who approach the Bible with an agenda.
That's very interesting. I went to a Catholic college (Augustinian) and the religion courses I took weren't like that at all (indoctrinating, one religion, our religion is infallible, etc). People do have preconceived notions about it, taking a college class can shatter some of those notions.
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Old 03-09-2007, 01:49 PM   #19
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Isn't the Talmud the Old Testament - or part of it anyway?
I don't want to derail the thread with unrelated digressions, but since you asked...briefly and roughly:

No, although there is significant overlap between the core layer of the Talmud--the Mishnah--and some of the legal sections of the OT. (I think you might be confusing it with 'Torah', aka Pentateuch.) Like other Ancient Near Eastern cultures the ancient Hebrews had both a written legal code (torah sh'bikhtav) and an oral one (torah sh'bal'peh) transmitted through legal authorities, regents and/or priests (and, later, rabbis) expanding on and detailing what was left terse, vague, or just in general unexplained in the more abbreviated written law. Although committing the oral law to print was frowned upon as direct teacher-student interaction was the preferred method, the Zealot Revolt (66-70 AD) whose putdown ended the Second Temple period, the Bar-Kokhba rebellion (132-135 AD), and the subsequent fragmenting of the Jewish community into numerous diaspora groups scattered at increasingly far-flung intervals meant the destruction of all the major rabbinic academies, the deaths of many scholars, and just in general endangered the continuity of the traditional method of teaching torah sh'bal'peh. Therefore, beginning in the second century it was written down as the Mishnah ("recitations"), 63 tractates systematically codifying Jewish law according to subject matter and adding in bits and pieces of commentary, debates, dissenting opinions etc. from famous earlier rabbinic authorities. (It should be noted that of course the manner it which it was organized, as well as what precisely was included, reflects the specific customs of the rabbis who compiled it; it's impossible to say exactly what the oral law might have consisted of in earlier centuries, as well as what precisely the nature of the debates known to have existed among the various Jewish factions in the Second Temple period over whose interpretive methods were correct was. Unfortunately, the Talmud is the only extensive source of information on those debates available today, so there are invariably self-referentiality and bias problems involved.) Over the next several centuries, subsequent rabbis continued to compile and add in the most significant of their own discussions and rulings on specific cases, sometimes including broader exegetical commentary on the Tanakh (OT) at large. This process continued off and on until the early medieval period, although not all contemporary editions include exactly the same commentaries.

A typical Talmud edition, depending on language of translation and precise range of commentaries included, runs about 10,000 pages and makes for an extremely difficult read--I most definitely wouldn't recommend it for high school literature class! Although it includes snippets of everything from folklore to homiletics to hermeneutics to exegesis to historical accounts and even the occasional dirty joke, for the most part it's bone-dry, often cryptically written, dialectical-method analysis of what for most modern readers would seem like suffocatingly tedious and arcane legal questions. Here's a nice color-coded sample Talmud page (scroll down) showing the various textual layers a typical Talmud has.


************************************


As far as the thread topic, I think it really depends on who's teaching it and how. It's not uncommon for small portions of the Bible to be read in public high-school literature classes, I've known several people who did that, but I've never heard of devoting two entire courses to it before. From a literary perspective the main reason for including it would, or at least should, be a canonical one: as a text it's obviously integral to the "Western tradition," although clearly written by people living outside it, and you would miss a great deal of the context for many, many other "Great Books"--Milton, Dante, Dostoevesky etc. etc. etc.--if you know nothing of it (or, just as importantly, how it's been interpreted and expanded upon within Western Christianity). On the other hand, realistically most people today will never read most of those works anyhow, and a good literature teacher or professor will be able to provide much of that context through their lecture (just as, for example, they might provide an overview of Elizabethan history, culture and thought when teaching Shakespeare). So, I am skeptical as to what the "true" intent of these courses is. IMO, for the purposes of a high school literature course, the focus ought to be on the Bible as a source of important concepts, characters and imagery within the Western tradition, not a theological approach focusing on the world of those who wrote it as they weren't themselves part of that. If you're going to do the latter, then it's de facto religion class and while that too can certainly be done in a 'non-indoctrinating' manner, at that point it becomes necessary to justify why not provide the same coverage for all major religions.
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Old 03-09-2007, 01:54 PM   #20
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Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen

People do have preconceived notions about it, taking a college class can shatter some of those notions.
True, that. I went to a Christian Reformed (Calvinist) college, but all of my religion and Bible classes were taught by profs of other denominations, each ordained in their own respective denomination. In my history class, we read many religious documents containing their own creation stories and mythic narratives (the Enuma Elish, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the bhagavad gita, and others from eastern religions).

We also studied these same things (not as deeply) in my high school religion and theology classes. Funny how the public schools have to be so careful about being all or nothing (usually nothing) that many of the private schools expose students to more varying schools of thought and interpretations of religious literature.
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Old 03-09-2007, 02:13 PM   #21
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Originally posted by yolland


No, although there is significant overlap between the core layer of the Talmud--the Mishnah--and some of the legal sections of the OT. (I think you might be confusing it with 'Torah', aka Pentateuch.) ....Unfortunately, the Talmud is the only extensive source of information on those debates available today, so there are invariably self-referentiality and bias problems involved.) ..... Although it includes snippets of everything from folklore to homiletics to hermeneutics to exegesis to historical accounts and even the occasional dirty joke, for the most part it's bone-dry, often cryptically written, dialectical-method analysis of what for most modern readers would seem like suffocatingly tedious and arcane legal questions.
Ahh, got it. I was confusing it w/ the Torah. Thanks, Yolland.
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Old 03-09-2007, 04:21 PM   #22
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Originally posted by Irvine511

i'm curious about the notions of atheist "debunking" of the Bible. if someone doesn't hold the view that it is the inerrent word of God, and doesn't present the materials as such, is that, by definition, a "debunking"?
Hardly. One doesn't have to "believe" the Bible to respect it. There are a number of scholarly approaches to the good book, however, both liberal and conservative -- and when you casually disregard conservative scholarship (dating methods, historicity, archaeology) on the grounds that it conflicts with your liberal scholarship, you have the makings of a problem. I'm all for studying the Bible critically -- I think there are too few conservative Christians who really evaluate Jesus' take on women, other cultures, etc. Heck, I'm all for studying the Bible subjectively. But let's not confuse the one for the other. If we're going to study the Bible critically, let's do so -- but give everyone a voice at the table.

At the same time, however, I have to admit that the class forced me to read the Bible at a much greater depth than I ever would have without it. For me, the class forced me to think bigger about certain issues, and actually reinforced my faith. (Though I know it had the opposite effect on some other students.)
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Old 03-09-2007, 04:33 PM   #23
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Originally posted by nathan1977

There are a number of scholarly approaches to the good book, however, both liberal and conservative -- and when you casually disregard conservative scholarship (dating methods, historicity, archaeology) on the grounds that it conflicts with your liberal scholarship, you have the makings of a problem.
Agreed.

My favorite series of books is one of the most anti-Christian pieces of literature I've ever encountered. Most of my other favorite books have nothing to do with religion. I've also enjoyed reading many other works upon which religions different than my own were founded. My religion has never gotten in the way of what I read and how I read it, one way or the other. It seems odd that non-Christians would refuse to consider the Bible as a literary source, just because it's a religious work. You can choose to believe it or not, but just because you don't believe something doesn't mean it has no literary value.
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Old 03-09-2007, 04:37 PM   #24
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Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
But it wasn't the idea of fundies, Democrats were the first to suggest it. Unless even the Democrats in Georgia are fundies..

What if the Koran and other religious texts were also studied as literature?
Trust me, plenty of Democrats in Georgia are fundies.
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Old 03-09-2007, 04:51 PM   #25
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Originally posted by UberBeaver B]

Isn't the Talmud the Old Testament - or part of it anyway?[/B]
No. The Talmud is a completely different Jewish holy book.
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Old 03-10-2007, 01:50 AM   #26
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What if the Koran and other religious texts were also studied as literature?
Then you run into danger, just look at the case of "Christoph Luxenberg".
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Old 03-10-2007, 02:39 PM   #27
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I wish the Bible were taught as literature more often--objectively, without the fist-pounding-on-pulpit requirement that it must all be unquestionably true. It's too good of a book to be kept out of classrooms.

I was raised somewhat Catholic and my parents sent me to Catholic school. I read pretty much the entire Bible at some point in high school, and I even had to memorize passages. I was also reading everything else I could get my hands on, but I found that I really enjoyed reading the Bible. Even later, when I gave up on Catholicism, I held on to my well-read and highlighted copy of the Bible.

It doesn't matter to me at all now whether or not the Bible is true. What does still matter to me, as a writer and soon-to-be English professor, is the Bible's use of rhetorical devices, imagery, and symbolism. I've always had a strong understanding of metaphor, and it took me awhile to figure out how that happened. Then I realized a lot of it stemmed from how closely I studied the Bible. I mean, Jesus turns bread and wine into his body and blood. Literally, if you think about it, that's kind of creepy, but it's an amazing metaphor.

Think about what any really good writer can do--get you to suspend your disbelief and draw you into the story so much that you can't help thinking it's true. What if that's what the writers of the Bible did? What does it really matter if it's all a true story? What if all religion really is is a bunch of people who like the same stories?

I used to get yelled at a lot when I asked questions like this in high school
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Old 03-10-2007, 02:45 PM   #28
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^Loved that post.
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Old 03-10-2007, 08:28 PM   #29
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On the other hand, how do you ignore it as literature? How ever much I like Mark Twain (and I do, hugely), it beats the hell out of
"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" for complexity, although Twain is much funnier.
actually, Mark Twain wrote a very hilarious take on the Adam and Eve story. it was in my "The Bible As/In Literaute" book for my AP English class

I think a basic familiarity with the Bible is a good thing, as it's pretty much ingrained in our culture, and has influenced so many classic literary works, as others have already stated here. but having an entire class dedicated to it seems a bit much... it'd be an elective I assume, but still, something about it seems not quite right. I think if they were going to do a class like that, they should include other religious writings.
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Old 03-10-2007, 08:36 PM   #30
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not all that surprising.
fuck, at my high school the Fair Tax book is in the cirriculum for Economics (a required class).
objective analysis my ass, they're not reading the Communist Manifesto anytime soon.

by the way, I live outside of Atlanta.
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