In this episode of The Bible for Normal People, Jacob L. Wright joins Pete and Jared to discuss the origins of the Hebrew Bible, moving beyond just the “how” and asking the deeper question of “why” the Bible began, revealing the quest to unite a people group in the midst of defeat. Join them as they explore the following questions:
- What is the conventional history of the “why” of Scripture?
- Is there a Bible during the periods of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel?
- Why would defeat lead to a people devoting themselves to a text?
- Where in the Bible do we see the “all pervasive presence of defeat”?
- How do power dynamics play into the emergence of the Bible and the why behind it?
- Do we have any evidence that there was a real exodus, or is it just a narrative?
- What are some practical benefits to reading the Bible differently and seeing it outside of a devotional context?
- How do female characters in the Bible play a part in the “why” of the Bible?
Pithy, shareable, sometimes-less-than-280-character statements from the episode you can share.
- Texts that we have in the Bible…have been much more dramatically and deeply redacted and revised for the needs of a conquered community, a community living in exile after the destruction. — Jacob L. Wright @theb4np
- [After exile] the Torah becomes the center of life. If you want to envision something concrete, I think Ezra-Nehemiah might provide some perspective on the needs of a society that was rebuilding. — Jacob L. Wright @theb4np
- The wonderful thing about the biblical story is that that narrative really is placed in a concrete public document. And that becomes the center of a society that has lost its palace, has lost its Davidic kings to define its destiny. — Jacob L. Wright @theb4np
- Connecting the dots and telling stories about how we can be one family, or go back at least to one family, is an attempt to firm an identity that is beyond statehood. — Jacob L. Wright @theb4np
- We see the emergence of the people of the book in Ezra-Nehemiah where they are looking for something to be the center of their lives in a world that is no longer recognizable to them. — Jacob L. Wright @theb4np
- There’s an exodus perhaps, and there’s a story, but what does it become? And why does it become it? And that adds a deeper appreciation away from the kind of, “Well, if it didn’t happen, well…” — Jacob L. Wright @theb4np
- When we reduce [the Bible] to a code of morality, we lose so much, because now we enter into cultural wars over whether we’re for or against some biblical morality. And we’ve lost the kind of appreciation for the grandness of this project. — Jacob L. Wright @theb4np
- We need to spend time with the text. What is it? It’s a text. How do texts work? Well, how does literature work? Move from the kind of message that is somehow communicated to the text, to the text itself. — Jacob L. Wright @theb4np
- Creeds may be important, but what really draws people to text are the questions—the unanswered questions, the unanswerable questions—because that really is at the heart of coming together and discussing. — Jacob L. Wright @theb4np
- What we have in the Bible is, what I argue, the world’s first nation. This is the first attempt to ask what it means to be a people. A kingdom has a king, has a palace, has soldiers. But what is a people? — Jacob L. Wright @theb4np
Mentioned in This Episode
- Revelation for Normal People out November 24th
- Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and its Origins by Jacob L. Wright
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You’re listening to the Bible for Normal People, the only God-ordained podcast on the internet. I’m Pete Enns.
And I’m Jared Byas.
Intro[Intro music begins]
As many of you know, I grew up being taught that the Left Behind series was accurate biblical interpretation. That microchips and barcodes are signs of the antichrist, and conspiracy theories that to this day have real political and social implications.
And so much of that came from a certain reading of the book of Revelation. Reading Revelation well continues to be so important, and that’s why I’m really excited to unveil the next book in our Bible for Normal People commentary series, Revelation for Normal People. In this book, New Testament scholar Robyn Whitaker uncovers the real world context behind this ancient apocalyptic text, helping us find meaning for our own time.
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On today’s episode, we’re talking about understanding why the Bible came to be, with Jacob Wright.
Jacob is associate professor of Hebrew Bible at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. And he has an extensive and impressive list of publications but most recently, he is the author of “Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and its Origins.”
Alright, let’s jump into the episode.
Intro[Highlight of Jacob speaking overtop of music begins]
“There would be no Bible—why do we have a Bible?—is the defeat. It’s the destruction of those kingdoms. The downfall of those kingdoms. The trauma that empires inflicted on populations far and wide. But what’s really relevant is when were these texts starting to take hold in communities of faith? When do texts start to get traction? That’s a more interesting historical question, I think.”
Jacob, we’re excited to have you on the podcast. Welcome.
It’s great to be on the show, guys. Jared, Pete, thank you for having me.
Well, listen, Jacob, the topic today is one that Jared and I both resonate with, I think it’s hugely important. So let’s get right into it. You’re proposing an alternative history of how scripture began.
So let’s walk back a little bit first and explain to us what you’re responding to, you know, what’s the conventional history? If there’s more than one, I don’t know. But just lay it out for us.
Okay, so the subtitle is “An Alternative History,” but the main title is why the Bible was written. So and the way I go about answering that question, “why?” Why do we have a Bible in the first place? I then present an alternative history of Scripture and its origins. And the alternative part is that, whether you’re really conservative or whether you’re really quite on the spectrum of critical kinds of scholars like Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist in Tel Aviv whom I respect and adore, actually, but he would also date texts just like conservatives in many ways by saying a lot of the main parts of the Bible go back to the periods of statehood. When there was a kingdom, a kingdom of Judah, a kingdom of Israel, and like Josiah, right? All of that being kind of the moment where the Bible comes to be. That was the pivotal moment.
Now, I don’t deny that there are texts that go back to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, yes, many. But what my point is—is there would be no Bible. The why we have a Bible is the defeat. It’s the destruction of those kingdoms, the downfall of those kingdoms, the trauma that empires inflicted on populations far and wide. And here we have one case in which a community, learning from each other, it’s not just one community, it’s a northern community that the kingdom had been destroyed by the Assyrians in 722, and then the southern kingdom lasts about another 130 years or so. But they both realize that they can’t survive in a world of really strong, powerful empires from the east, in Mesopotamia, and from North Africa and Egypt.
So just to clarify, so what you’re saying is that there really functionally is no Bible during the periods of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, right?
That’s one way of saying it. There’s no Bible. There are texts that we have in the Bible. What my point is—is that they have been much more dramatically and deeply redacted and revised for the needs of a conquered community, a community living in exile after the destruction. And that the Bible is written for the age of Ezra and Nehemiah. If you think about Ezra-Nehemiah, that’s the time when they go back to Jerusalem and rebuild under the Persian sovereignty in the Persian Empire. They no longer have a kingdom of their own. But what they do is they come together as a community, they want to be in their land, they take matters into their own hands as they build and they also devote themselves to a text. And that text, the Torah, becomes the center of life. And that’s the community, if you want to envision something concrete, I think Ezra-Nehemiah might provide some perspective on the needs of a society that was rebuilding.
You mentioned you focus on the “why” question, why did the Bible arise in the first place? And you talk about this defeat. Can you connect the dots a little bit? Why would defeat lead to a people devoting themselves to a text?
Good question, Jared. One way to think about it is when you have a kingdom, a kingdom is any form, it’s one form of a state. A state is like a country, the U.S., Germany, South Korea, what have you. But when you have an ancient kingdom or a modern one, we have to pay taxes. And in the ancient world, you would have to serve an army, you’re conscripted. Whereas defeat wipes out that kingdom, and so when you’re going to be a community, you have to decide well, what basis are we going to be as a community? Who is going to really lay out the borders of this community? Well, there’s no palace to do it. You have to find some narrative, you have to find some basis. And the narrative doesn’t have to be a text. But what’s the wonderful thing about the biblical story is that that narrative really is placed in a concrete public document. And that becomes the center of a society that has lost its palace, has lost its Davidic kings to define its destiny. It has to look to something else. And it looks to a covenant with its God, but a covenant that is inscribed in something public, a document. And therewith a new reading public emerges around that, and that’s a community that is volitional and not conscripted, but a community who wants to come together and read but also participate in projects.
Pete[Hums in agreement] Jared alluded to this, I think you have a phrase that “the all pervasive presence of defeat.” So again, I’m just trying to tie some pieces together here. You’re saying that the Hebrew Bible was edited with defeat in the background. That was the impetus for it. And that defeat is pervasive. It’s throughout the Hebrew Bible. So can you just, I mean, walk us through some examples maybe of where we see that because, yeah, there’s the exile, of course, and we can talk about that. But it’s more pervasive than that.
Yeah, there are books that are clear, like Esther right? Esther is very clear. Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and some others, like Lamentations and many of the Psalms, and so forth. And then you have prophets who are after the exile, but there’s a lot of texts that present themselves before the exile. And my argument, that they’re all just made up out of thin air? Absolutely not. Some of these things are very well formulated as they’re being received and transformed. The transformation part is what makes it biblical, and the biblical identify as that kind of coming together of different pieces and parts of saying, your region, your tribe, your ancestor, your ancestor’s name is Reuben. That Reuben was a brother of another tribe, whose name was Gad, G-A-D, not God, but Gad. And we all belong to one family, and that connecting the dots and telling stories about how we can be one family or go back at least to one family, is an attempt to firm an identity that is beyond statehood.
So when I say “defeat,” don’t think in terms necessarily only after the Babylonian captivity and the return to exile. I’m not trying to downplay the text to be a minimalist. What I am saying is defeat on the horizon. Think of Jeremiah. Jeremiah gives you the great scene of the Babylonians surrounding Jerusalem, and they’re heating up the walls of the city of Jerusalem, you know, as a kettle on a fire and you see what’s going on in that society with there are some saying, “No, it’s the Davidic dynasty, we got to, you know, resist,” and Jeremiah saying, “No, bend your neck to the yoke of Babylon, and we’re gonna live.” And that’s decades before 587, and I imagined those kinds of debates happening long before Jeremiah.
I also probably can see them happening before the destruction of the northern kingdom. Because it’s really the northern kingdom that sets us in motion with its story of the Exodus, its story, it’s imagining a past, a pivotal past, a salvific past in which the king, David, is not the one who saves. It’s Yahweh. It’s the God of Israel. And removing the king out of the picture, no king would have ever wanted a grand myth that brings a people together around a deity without having him or some symbol of his palace in it, but there is none. And that is, I think—and a lot of scholars agree here—that that really makes sense coming out of a northern kingdom or the fall of the northern kingdom.
Why is it the northern kingdom? Because you can see how the Judean kingdom—the Judeans of the South—they attach themselves into that history. That Exodus is they go around the Jordan and over around Jericho, they kind of circumvent Judah. We don’t have to get into all the details, but it seems to be a northern product, [unsure of phrase]. But the Judeans say here’s the part, after their defeat, they embrace that, that notion of being a people that can survive disaster and destruction, loss of kingdom. They had resisted it for so long, think of Josiah and Hezekiah and so those are the kings with last gasp. These are strong currents as we see in Jeremiah and only after Judah falls, does then Judah start to embrace that. And that’s the amazing part, the two sided North and South part, the division. So we’re talking about defeat, but divisions, too. So, does that help?
Yeah, and with that, so—I want to make sure I’m understanding too, to help people think through how the Bible fits into this and how the text fits into this—what I hear you saying is; think about how we traditionally identify ourselves as a people. There’s boundaries, there’s a government, there’s kings, we have these markers, sort of boundary markers for us and them. But if those boundary markers go away, how do we gather as a people, we have to come up with new things. And so one of the things is a story that binds us all together. And then not only that, public readings of this story, coming together and putting the story from all these different sources into one unified story and having those read in public. And then that turns into studying these in public and we’re doing this together as a community. So does that frame the evolution?
People of the book, people of the book. We see the emergence of the people of the book in Ezra-Nehemiah where they are looking for something to be the center of their lives in a world that is no longer recognizable to them, right. The palace is gone, they do have a temple, there are things that they associate with their identity, maybe the land and so forth. But there’s also Esther. There’s no land in Esther. The Jews are all flung out across the empire. But what holds them together is some kind of exchange of text. It’s very strange that even without the Torah in the book of Esther, they still resort to text. And text, I think what’s really took on was there was, in the absence of something to hold them together, like you said, Jared, so beautifully, is that we take for granted our identity, because we have borders that protect us. We have governmental institutions that direct our lives, whether we like it or not. We have all of these things. You take that out of the picture, you take our communities, and you send them across the globe—what would be the thing that holds us together? And we would find different ways. As an American when I was in Germany, I saw that I would become more observant of kind of American identity markers. Why? Because I was not there anymore. I had to do more, to be an American. And so one has to do something to perform that, one has to create community around things, and one of them is building together. But also, as they’re building, they’re also reading and learning to place a text at the center of their lives.
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In the ancient world, so now going back to this emergence of the Bible and the why, how does power dynamics play into this? Because there’s this idea that the writing of the Bible was by the intellectual elite, very few people can actually write or read. And so how does the intellectual elite play into this, and the voice of the people because the way you’re describing it is a very unifying community activity. But there’s also this elitist part to that. So how do we put those together?
So, that’s kind of the default mode of many of my colleagues in biblical studies is like, who is benefiting from this? Why would this text be written? And they look for the power, they look for the praise, they look for the palace, and you can do that and you can find texts like that in the Bible. But there’s something more to it. What kind of text begins with the story of an aging couple trying to make their way as migrants, and trying to start a family and so forth? These are scribes who are sitting back, and first of all, discovering for themselves—and this is also the first invention of theirs, discovering for themselves how to share text amongst themselves for their own pleasure. And I think we can compare this to other times in history, not least the three crowns of Italy, where they are sharing text in the vernacular of Italian and starting to enjoy literature. But they are scribes and literacy was very, very minimal. Under 1%, probably. So how did they imagine that what they were doing could have a public role to play? That people as a whole could get around these texts?
They saw the magic in the text. They saw the, what I think of as revelation. When we study texts together, something reveals itself. They saw that happening as they worked and collaborated and kept themselves out of it and focused attention on others in this kind of collaborative move. And I think it’s not aren’t about power, we don’t always have to look at power. Because there have been so many times in history, whether it’s in the modern period or in the colonized world, where people come together and they do this in the wee hours of the night. They write poetry, they write things that will spur their peoples and their communities to be inspired. And I think that’s, these scribes that were doing that, and then they imagined that these texts could actually have some resonance in the wider community.
And then they—I love this part—you know, on Nehemiah 8 where they imagine Ezra taking the Torah and reading it to them, go back and read that scene. It’s just like a rock concert! All the crowds are there in Jerusalem, like, “Give us the Torah, give us the Torah!” And Ezra mounts the stage and he lifts the Torah up, and they all bow down and they go their way drinking the sweet and eating the fat. And they come back for study, and they surround themselves around Ezra, and they learn to read. And that’s all imagined. By the end of the month, they are reading on their own, Ezra’s gone. Did that really happen, historically? No, but that’s their vision. And you know what? That vision took hold. And you start to see over the centuries in the post-exilic period where a real reading or multiple reading communities are emerging, not in isolation, of course, to other communities. But the idea that the text would be centered? That’s not something that we have, even in ancient Greece, that we’re going to be a community dispersed, but one text, one public document that we will all share, and then we’re going to understand it as the divinely revealed will of our God. That’s something quite distinctive.
Pete[Hums in agreement] I’d like to back up to something you said before, Jacob, that is very interesting and I think it’s worth teasing out for our topic today. I was going to ask you a general question about where we see this presence of defeat in Torah. And you mentioned the Exodus story, and maybe just explain a little bit more, because you’re saying it’s of northern provenance. So maybe late eighth century BCE. So I mean, again, I’m thinking of people listening and questions that will naturally come to mind. So are you saying that the Exodus story as a whole was, does it have a reach into history in your view? Or is it something entirely different?
That’s the big question. I teach Intro to Hebrew Bible at Candler and we read together Marc Brettler’s “How to Read the Bible,” and it’s really wonderful because they are Christian students, and they’re reading from a Jewish author. But what we do—he takes on this issue, and I watch the students battle with it—but yes, an exodus, an exodus did happen. And by the way, I think that happened multiple times. Already, in the very first scenes of Abram and Sarah, when the story starts getting going, what do they do? Well, they go down to Egypt. Egypt was a place of refuge and it was—they can go back to Mesopotamia, that’s a very long trek. A dangerous one. But going down to Egypt is a safe refuge.
And we see throughout the Hebrew Bible and in order to normalize the Exodus a bit, you can see how people have gone there, and then they want to come back out and in Jeremiah, they’re going down there. So is there historical, going back to Moses and the exodus, and so forth? [?] at some level. What I’m getting at is they have seized on that story and they’ve made it into the core story. The core story is no longer David now. The core story is what’s really foundational for us as a people is that time when we were really in bondage, in slavery, and we were brought out, and it wasn’t a king who did it. So I have to imagine that that could not have been really popularized, as long as a king was on the throne. That might have been written but when it starts to take hold—and that’s for me the more important part, the reception of where texts really start getting traction, you see that it’s probably after the king is gone. And then you see how that would have resonated with a defeated community. That yes, and it still does, it still does for us, right? I mean, the exodus story is so powerful for so many communities.
No, exactly, I think the point you’re making, in my opinion, is powerful, because what we have here apparently is older traditions, but then what we have in this text we call the Bible is a thorough reworking of that, and a reshaping of it for particular communities. So it’s an interesting way to think about this—that it’s later, let’s say, eighth century issues that actually gave rise to the shaping of this ancient story. And that’s really, I think, the heart of critical reading, to just look at the context of not the events, but the writers and what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. And that gives us the Bible that we have, and that’s a big part of the why question.
That’s a big part of also just the history question and getting our students and ourselves, often, our colleagues, away from what the Bible reports as history to looking at, there might be something behind this story. But what’s really relevant is when were these texts starting to take hold in communities of faith, if you will, or in this ancient Israel, Judah, so with all of that, when do texts start to get traction? That’s a more interesting historical question, I think, because that’s the origins of things—we’ve got to get away from that more to like, this is, there’s an Exodus perhaps, and there’s a story, but what does it become? And why does it become it? And that adds a deeper appreciation, and away from the kind of, “Well, if it didn’t happen, well…” Similar to the culture wars around the morality of the Bible. When we reduce it to a code of morality, we lose so much, because now we enter into cultural wars over whether we’re for or against some biblical morality. And we’ve lost the kind of appreciation for the grandness of this project. That it’s a community coming around not a creed, but questions implanted in texts. Texts that are so interesting that they can’t help but coming together around them. And that would be really wonderful if biblical studies could focus [Laughs], if I may say this, on the larger, how the modeling of this is a case study of a community that was colonized.
Yeah, I was gonna mention that too, that whenever we reduce it, we also aren’t able then to see the text itself modeling this back and forth, and how these traditions are in tension but also in conversation, and it reminds me of what you said earlier, Jacob, about the time during the prophets, you mentioned Jeremiah, and there’s this debate going on between what is our identity and our future? Is it to fight for these boundary markers, this kingship, this thing that identifies us? Or is there another way? And so I can imagine during this time, these two narratives kind of coming head to head some people more identifying with the story of King David and the monarchy and others identifying with Moses and exile, and you, I really appreciate that—that’s a viewpoint I hadn’t thought of before, to see these two narratives in tension within a community that’s in a little bit of an identity crisis.
I think the biblical scribes are coming and saying, “We have to have a good plan B, because you know what? We’re not Babylon. We’re not Egypt. We’re small underdogs and we need a good plan B because we ain’t going to be around forever.” And that, you see that just, you know, developing in the book of Jeremiah, just like, yes, this wall is going to fall. It’s not going to stand like in the days of Hezekiah. What is going to be on the horizon? And the Bible was written for that moment.
And it’s not trying to downplay and say, “Oh, the Bible emerged,” like the minimalists would say. The minimalists can’t explain the complexity of the Bible. If it’s so complex, how could—if it’s written so, in the short period of time, so like, why is it so complex? And I would say that the main narrative that we have to appreciate is that plan B. But there’s also—and this is what gets very interesting about Judaism-Christianity is—that plan A, that plan A is the kingdom, the Davidic dynasty in Jerusalem, that gets transformed. That gets transformed and eschatologized, if you will. It gets put off into the future. It’s the already-not-yet tension that I learned from my Christian colleagues. And that is the kingdom that David has, you know, that we really wanted—that may come to us sometime. We may get that back. But in the meantime, we have to live like in the days of Ezra-Nehemiah, we have to collaborate, we have to not try to establish a kingdom that would then wreak more havoc upon us.
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What are some practical benefits in this context? Because I think a lot of people read the Bible with a particular framework, and a particular set of assumptions about what it is. You mentioned a moral code book. What’s a different way of seeing it and how can we take these themes that it sounds like—you know, it’s one thing for people who’ve gone to seminary and graduate school to wrestle with some of these things. But for others, I feel like it could be kind of abstract. So can you bring it down to kind of the practical?
One of the courses I teach at Candler is Political Theology of The Hebrew Bible, and what we try to do is look at the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, as an opportunity to practice their public facing theology. How do you talk as a minister or a Christian or a Jew, what have you, out there amongst people who don’t share your faith? And how can they learn from the Bible and bring the Bible to bear on those conversations without it being, “This is the morality that we have to follow if we’re going to do any justice to the Bible.” Does the Bible have something more than only its teachings? And what we’ve often done is, right, this Bible is a repository of revelations. So it’s the meaning that’s embedded in this text that somehow we can extract from the text and then if you’ve got that meaning you’re good to go. But if we get our communities, our students, ourselves focused on, this is not just some message, disembodied from the text that we could just like, somehow plant in our heads, and we can even sidestep the text, we need to spend time with the text. What is it? It’s a text. How do texts work? Well, how does literature work? And getting that move from the kind of message that is somehow communicated to the text, to the text itself.
That’s the genius, I think, of the rabbinic method. And that is, we have the text in front of us, they do it often and after prayers in the morning, in the synagogue, two people will come together, and they’ll have a Talmud text and the text is in front of them, and they will go back and forth around it. And it’s not about trying to get away from the text and get to the meaning, it’s the conversation. And within Christianity, the creed has become very, very central, of course, What I’m trying to bring back is creeds may be important, but what really draws people to text are the questions, the unanswered questions, the unanswerable questions, because that really is, at the heart of coming together and discussing.
And for people who may not have faith, who may not believe the stuff, the text can still bring them. And so getting away from this message-oriented to the text itself, I think is central to this. Moreover, I would say that the Bible is really relevant for our times, especially along these lines, given the rise of Christian nationalism. What we have in the Bible is, what I argue, the world’s first nation. This is the first attempt to ask what it means to be a people—not a kingdom, an empire, city, whatever, those have already been answered. Take for instance, you don’t really have to do much to understand that a kingdom has a king, has a palace, has soldiers. But what is a people? That’s the first time this question I think has ever really been asked, or at least elaborately answered, as we find in the corpus of Hebrew scriptures. And that set in motion this idea of nation. A nation can be a people, can be something without a kingdom. A people exist before they even have a state, before they may have land. What makes them a people, and that will have a huge impact in European history, and in American history.
But what happened is that within Christian nationalism, what’s lost is the biblical notion of nationhood is not about statehood. It’s actually the very opposite. Statehood, as we just discussed, is this thing that is put off in the future, in the Messianic age, when things will all be set aright. But in the meantime, we have to be a people even without a land, without a state and so forth. And what Christian nationalism is doing is kind of missing the genius of people, this project of people in the Bible, and I think that many of them are interested in learning more, and it would be nice if they would actually sit down and maybe read the Bible and try to imagine—what is this notion of peoplehood? It’s as if they skip over all the first parts and go right to King David, as if that were where Genesis begins, with King David. No, Genesis begins with average folks. King David is pushed way off in the back because what’s important is to understand that it is not about that power and kingdom and all of that. It’s about being able to survive without all of it.
Pete[Hums in agreement] Right, Jacob we’re sadly approaching the end of our time together, but there is a question I just like, maybe, our last question that interests me. You focus a lot on female characters of the Bible. So how does this work into your idea of “Why the Bible?” Right? How does that deepen our understanding of like the origins of the Bible, and the reception of the Bible over time?
Oh. Nice question. Yeah, that’s something that really struck me as I’ve worked on this—how prominent women are throughout these texts. If you would imagine a great epic narrative would begin with heroes, it would begin with the David story. And just as we just noted that these stories begin with the matriarchs, who are working together, and sometimes in rivalry, and so forth, and all the inner workings of the family. We have in Exodus, Miriam, and the mother and the midwives and all of the women at the major points of history. Deborah is the ideal leader. Why is that?
And there are a lot of problems with women in the Bible, there is no doubt that the patriarchy is alive and present in the Bible. But there is, but the biblical author is doing something very interesting with gender and with women and their place in the [?]. Esther, a whole book. The Song of Songs, a parity of relationship, it’s not one over the other. All kinds of stuff in Genesis 1 with the creation of Adam, and then male and female—really interesting stuff. Why then, why is this happening? And I can’t explain it other than this. And that is: this is a small people. Number one, there was a real demographic issue, that demographic issues you, if you’re a small people, you can’t afford to keep 50% of your people under deck, below deck. You got to get them involved, that is 50% are the women in your midst.
If you’re a kingdom, and you’re strong and so forth, either you can like, make sure that they just produce children so that, who go out and fight. But when you’re no longer fighting and so forth, women have to be a part of public life. The public life has to be part of the family, all of that comes is really takes on new dimensions. And secondly, and what’s really interesting is you see this all over the Bible, is that men have to give up their machismo and start to learn the ways of women. That’s the position of these defeated communities themselves. They are no longer the top dogs and if they look to the ways women have lived, and survived, and collaborated for generations—without power, and in a patriarchy—then they can learn strategies of survival, of collaboration, of tricksterism, all kinds of things that are necessary for a small people to survive in the world of empires.
Yeah, I really appreciate tying those themes and ideas. And there’s so many interesting dynamics at play, like that plays into it. And it’s to your point, Jacob, it just goes to show the complexity of the traditions that we’re dealing with here.
Jacob Wright[Hums in agreement]
Well, thank you so much for jumping on.
Well, I thank you guys. Yes, the complexity, the Bible is one of the things that really draws us to this and I think we could all agree that just seeing it as the work of some late author is really not doing it justice. This grand collaborative effort of generations of scribes who are working together to create something really remarkable, but something that we’re still reading today.
That’s great, and a great way to end. So thanks again, Jacob, for jumping on and just articulating some of these ideas and thoughts. I think it’s going to be a great teaching tool for people.
I appreciate it so much, guys.
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