I found this project by David Plotz on Slate.com this morning (I’m already behind the curve as he started this weeks ago), but it’s interesting to me since I started reading The Bible Unearthed by Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finklestein over the weekend. The Old Testament (as you non-Jews call it) is not history . . . but it is, sort of. On the other hand, it’s not mythology . . . but it is, sort of. And it’s not rules and regulations on how to be a decent person (but it is, sort of.) And the archaeological record deals with all of it, but not in the way the raw text of the bible leads one to expect if one takes it as a completely reliable history book.
I’ve started to read the Torah portions at home on Shabbat, like a good Jew is supposed to. Technically, I’m supposed to study with a group, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet. But all things in time. And it’s interesting to me to do this because it’s the first time I’ve actually sat down to do this, so I see where Plotz is coming from in his own research. It’s especially interesting having grown up the only believer in a family of Jewish atheists. However one feels about religion in general, I think the bible is still a powerful cornerstone to Western Civilization (notice the capitalization there) and it’s worth a read. That is, the bible (as we Jews call it) and Silberman and Finklestein’s book on the archeology of ancient Israel and Judah are worth a read. I find it’s handy to keep the bible nearby as one goes through the other book too; that’s a trick I learned dealing with Joyce in college: when reading Ulysses, have a copy of the Odyssey handy.
Updates as they happen.