Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A MOOC about the Bible's history?

Well, this looks interesting:
The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future
How and why was the Bible written? Drawing on the latest archeological research and a wide range of comparative texts, this course synthesizes fascinating recent research in biblical studies and presents a powerful new thesis: Facing catastrophic defeat, the biblical authors created a new form of community—what today we would call "peoplehood." Their achievements bear directly on modern questions of politics, economics, and theology.
This looks like another one of those MOOCS - Massive Open Online Course - only this one is sponsored by Emory, taught by someone I know, and covers a topic that interests me. I hit the "Join For Free' button, gave my bogus info, and got this back:
Welcome to The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future! 
This is an exciting course that covers a lot of ground. Our overarching question is: Why was the Bible written? 
Much of what is written and taught about the Bible focuses on matters related to the Bible’s historicity, the ethical questions it poses for modern readers, and its particular themes (very often of a theological nature). These are all undeniably significant matters, and as such they deserve attention. 
Yet the most intriguing question, the one that determines how we approach all other matters related to the Bible, is Why? Why was the Bible written? Why didn’t the civilizational centers of the ancient world produce something like it? And why has it had such a major impact on our societies. 
I’m not going to disclose my answer here. But rest assured: Even if you have already taken many courses on the Bible or follow biblical scholarship closely, you will be exposed in the coming weeks to some new ways of understanding the Bible’s origins and purpose. 
The implications of what we will be doing transcend matters of theology and ethics to touch on the grandest, most all-embracing, question of what it means to be a people. 
The course lasts just seven weeks. (Seven weeks—I thought that was appropriate for a course on the Bible!) We will spend the first two weeks considering what archeologists and historians have to say about Israel’s history, examining Israel’s origins as well as the rise of its kingdoms. 
Our focus for the remainder of the course will be not on the rise but on the fall—by that I mean the experience of defeat that wiped out the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. We will investigate how the biblical authors responded to this political catastrophe by radically reshaping Israel’s identity and by developing related strategies that would sustain their communities in a new age. 
The strategies are most remarkable, and they relate directly to enduring questions that face our own communities. The course consists of video lectures, readings, weekly assignments and discussions, and quizzes. Once you log in, you will be taken straight to the announcements page. Please be sure to check this page periodically, as it will keep you informed about all organizational matters. 
I look forward to getting to know you through your comments and questions. And I will be writing you collectively, and in some cases individually, at regular intervals. 
Provehito in altum! (That’s Latin. Your first assignment is to translate it.) 
Dr. Jacob L. Wright 
Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible Candler School of Theology Emory University
Very promising...

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