Week 2: The Foundation of the Jewish People
ca. 1200 B.C. and after
Please have read by your classtime this week:
- Introductory notes on the Hebrews, the Bible, Genesis, and Exodus
- From any good modern translation of the Bible:
- Genesis 11-50.
- Exodus 1-18.
You may of course read the rest of either of these books as well, but we are here concentrating on the core narratives of Abraham and Moses.
I have specified a modern translation of the Bible. There are a number available; I’m not prescribing a particular one. If you have a doctrinal preference one, go for it. I realize that some believe that the King James Version is the only real English Bible. I’m not sure why, and I disagree, but if you are among them, you may go ahead and use it: it's not a battle I'm interested in fighting. But remember that you are accountable not for the words, specifically, but for their meaning. Whatever version you use, please make sure that you are understanding what you’re reading. The archaic language of the KJV may sound cooler (I agree that it does), but if you aren't actually picking up the nuances of the story as story, you're missing what you need to be getting out of it for this class. We are not here trying to nail down any particular doctrinal points.
Consider and be ready to discuss the following.
Pick one of these and post something to the class forum with your thoughts. You may of course address more than one, but one should serve to get the ball rolling.
- Do the people in these narratives appear as complete characters, mostly as moral agents, or as pieces of a puzzle, included to further a particular goal? How are the characters drawn? What is shown, and what is hidden?
- Do you feel as though you know Abraham, or does he seem like a distant mythical character? Are his motivations always clear?
- Write a brief outline of the story of Joseph. How do its pieces fit together? Consider it for the moment as story-telling (rather than as revelation). Is it good story-telling? Why? What keeps your interest? What makes the characters act as they do?
- What would you identify as the turning-point in the Joseph story? What do you mean by this? Why?
- How does Moses compare with the rest of the characters we have met so far? He clearly has great human flaws; what are they? From a literary point of view, does it make him more or less interesting or believable?
- What is meant by the Lord hardening the heart of Pharaoh? What is the purpose of this narrative turn of events? Where does the responsibility lie?
General questions about the Biblical narratives
Specifically with regard to Genesis
Specifically with regard to Exodus
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