Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Blogging the Bible ...

... or what happens when an ignoramus reads the Good Book. Over at Slate.
So, the tale of Dinah unsettled me, to say the least. If this story was strutting cheerfully through the back half of Genesis, what else had I forgotten or never learned? I decided I would, for the first time as an adult, read the Bible. And I would blog about it as I went along. For the millions of Jews and Christians who know the Bible intimately, this may seem obscene: Why should an ignoramus write about the stories and lessons that you know by heart and understand well? I don't intend any kind of insult. My goal is not to find contradictions, mock impossible events, or scoff at hypocrisy.
[Well, that's good! A rather hilarious (and at the same time quite depressing) example of what this could entail is given by comedienne Julia Sweeney on an episode of This American Life.] [snip]
So, what can I possibly do? My goal is pretty simple. I want to find out what happens when an ignorant person actually reads the book on which his religion is based. I think I'm in the same position as many other lazy but faithful people (Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus). I love Judaism; I love (most of) the lessons it has taught me about how to live in the world; and yet I realized I am fundamentally ignorant about its foundation, its essential document. So, what will happen if I approach my Bible empty, unmediated by teachers or rabbis or parents? What will delight and horrify me? How will the Bible relate to the religion I practice, and the lessons I thought I learned in synagogue and Hebrew School?
Well. That should be interesting to follow. Anyway, so far he's gone through Genesis and is now in Exodus. I wonder what will happen when he flounders on the shoals of Leviticus, the nemesis (or so it would seem) of anyone who tries to read the Book cover to cover?

So, at random, here's Mr. Plotz' take on Genesis 19 (Yep. Sodom & Gomorrah!)
But the chapter's not over. After the attempted mass gay rape, the father pimping, the urban devastation, uxorious saline murder, it looks like Lot and his daughters are finally safe. They're living alone in a cave in the mountains. But then the two daughters—think of them as Judea's Hilton sisters—complain that cave life is no fun because there aren't enough men around. So, one night they get Lot falling-down drunk and have sex with him. Chapter 19 poses what I would call the Sunday School Problem—as in, how do you teach this in Sunday school? What exactly is the moral lesson here?
Uxorious saline murder? ROFL! [Does every bit of the Bible have to have a clear and discernible "moral lesson?" (Of course, there's been reams of moral lessons that have been drawn from Gen. 19, but that's a separate point.) I find that this is often the first thing that students of the Book discover. That it's not one long computer printout of Rules from God. It's many things. Some mind-numbingly obscure to us moderns. But that it's not.]

I think I'll be checking in regularly on Mr. Plotz to see how he's doing.


pritcher said...

i saw this a couple months ago when i was poking around slate.com for final-exam fodder. i read his first two blog entries, but i never kept up with it, mostly because, as you say, it was too depressing.

of course, i tell all my students that only a fool (or an ignoramus) reads something once and thinks he gets it.

what i want to see is his reaction to the bible the second time through. how do sodom and gomorrah look in hindsight, after jesus?

Gashwin said...

He's Jewish -- so I don't know if he said he'd get to the New Testament at all.

Maybe I'll tire of him before he gets to Leviticus. A ver ... :)

[Now remember. No looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember what happened to Lot's wife? :-D]