1. WHAT FOLLOWS THE TORAH (JOSHUA THROUGH KINGS): HISTORY, FICTION, OR SOMETHING ELSE?
How should we read The Early Prophets: as a factual record of the past or as a made-up story with no basis in archaeological or historical past? Who wrote this part of the Bible and why? The answers may not be self-evident. But the way we read these books tells us a great deal about who we are.
2. FINDING CLUES, CRAFTING WORDS: RE-TRANSLATING THE BIBLE
Since the 1970s, I have been creating a radically different Bible translation that, like its predecessor, the Buber-Rosenzweig German translation, seeks to echo the Hebrew text in its use of sound and structure. Starting with The Five Books of Moses in 1995 and now continuing with The Early Prophets, the translation has enabled individuals, study groups, and congregations to become active participants in the ongoing Jewish process of wrestling with the Bible.
Using some familiar biblical stories, I’ll share my own journey through the Hebrew text, and how such an approach can help us become front-line interpreters ourselves.
3. SAMSON AND DELILAH: SEDUCTION AND SENSE IN A BIBLICAL TALE
Samson is one of the most enigmatic characters in the Bible–a holy man who is anything but holy, and a leader who never leads. Using Samson’s final astounding adventures, we will unpack a story full of wrong turns and secrets, to see how it fits at this point on the Bible and what it says to us today.
4. DAVID AND BATHSHEBA: WHY BIBLICAL CHARACTERS AREN’T PERFECT
The Bible’s greatest pure hero, King David, commits the double crime of adultery and murder in II Samuel 11-12. How does the Bible treat the crime and the punishment? What does this story mean for the rest of David’s reign and for his name in history and tradition? And why doesn’t he lose his throne? We will probe the art and meaning of the story for both ancient audiences and our world today.
5. A BIBLE SCHOLAR GOES TO HOLLYWOOD
What happens when we transfer a well-known biblical story to modern media? We’ll look at selections from two movies, The Prince of Egypt (for which I was a consultant) and Noah, to see how creative decisions affect the original text, and how this process resembles the making of Midrash, ancient and modern.
6. THE GLORIOUS TEMPLE OF SOLOMON: WHAT ARCHAEOLOGY AND SCHOLARSHIP CAN TELL US ABOUT AN ICONIC BUILDING
Although virtually nothing remains of the First Temple, modern scholars can tell us a great deal about its structure and meaning. Using the tools of comparative archaeology, and reading the text of the Bible closely, we can get a glimpse of the Temple’s significance for biblical Israel, and see how its image has persisted over the centuries, inspiring contemporary Jewish and Christian groups.