Did God Have a Wife? William Dever on Mrs God

Professor William G. Dever (Lycoming College; University of Arizona) presented the 2014 Tenenbaum Lecture on February 3, 2014 at Emory University.

His illustrated lecture showcases recent archaeological evidence that reveals the differences in beliefs and practices of ordinary people in ancient Israel compared to the elitist, idealist portrait in the Bible, particularly the ongoing veneration of the Canaanite Goddess Asherah.

The lecture begins at 16:05.

Carol A. Newsom: Demons and Evil Angels in Early Judaism

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Professor Carol A. Newsom (Emory University) gives a lecture on “Demons and Evil Angels in Early Judaism”, delivered on April 22, 2013 at The University of Texas at Austin:

Although classical Israelite religion has very little to say about demons and other evil forces, but popular religion took it for granted that evil demons existed, haunting desert ruins and sometimes preying on people. In the late Persian and Hellenistic periods (4th—2nd centuries BCE) speculation about these types of figures proliferates. Incantations against demons, protective amulets, and practices of exorcism are all attested. Mythic accounts of the origin of evil spirits are developed, and the names and occasionally even the appearance of the demons are described. This talk will examine the origins and functions of speculation on demonic forces in early Judaism, a worldview with profound and lasting cultural effects. Although rabbinic Judaism largely rejected it, this worldview strongly shaped Christian religious beliefs. And while modernist Christians do not take the mythology of evil spirits literally, variations on these beliefs remain common among conservative evangelical and Pentecostal Christians throughout the world.

The lecture is available in mp3 audio format. It is also available on video, at an earlier rendition of the paper, at the Carolina Centre for Jewish Studies, November 2012:

Carol A. Newsom is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Old Testament at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. She has written seven books and scores of articles, book chapters, translations, encyclopedia articles, and reviews. She has received several prestigious research fellowships, including grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Henry Luce Foundation, and has won several awards for excellence in teaching and mentoring. She recently served as president of the Society of Biblical Literature and is a senior fellow at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

Free Online Course: The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future, with Jacob L. Wright

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Professor Jacob Wright of Emory University is to present a 7-week Coursera MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on the development of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: “The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future”.

The course will commence Monday, May 26, 2014, and enrolments are now open.

About the Course

The objectives of the course are to show:
—how the Bible emerged from large-scale corporate crisis and rupture;
—that in our present state of uncertainty and instability we have much to learn from the various strategies the biblical authors adopted to create an enduring “people of the book”;
—that one doesn’t have to believe in God or accept the historicity of the Bible in order to appreciate its profound political messages;
—that the Bible offers modern societies a model for creating communities around a shared collection of texts, songs, and laws;
—and that the Bible itself has a major role to play in our futures.

Course Syllabus

Week 1: The Riddle That Has Yet To Be Solved
The Bible’s Purpose
Books in Ancient Religions
Between “Church and State”
Theologies of the Bible
A Shared Text
The Bible as a “Pedagogical Program of Peoplehood”

Week 2: The Rise and Fall
Israel’s Place in the World of the Ancient Near East
The Emergence of Two Competing Kingdoms
Military Triumphs
The Onslaught of Imperial Powers
Defeat and Deportation
Conditions of Conquest

Week 3: The Making of the Bible as a Response to Defeat
Diaspora and Divided Communities
Creating a Shared Past and Common Ancestors
The Pentateuch and Historical Narratives
One People with Multiple Law Codes
Creating a Collection of National Songs and Laments
Reinterpreting Prophecies
Comparative Cases: English and German History

Week 4: Reinventing the Hero
Martial Valor, Masculinity, and Martyrdom
Long Life versus Glorified Heroic Death
The New Role of the Family
From Battles to Building
Comparatives Cases: From the Crow Nation to Jane Austen

Week 5: A Wise and Discerning People  
The Role of Education
National Education Programs: From 19th Century Germany to the Dalai Lama
From Deuteronomy to Ezra-Nehemiah
Freedom of Information and Open Access
Making Priestly Knowledge Public
The Attempts of the State to Control Prophets
Divine Knowledge for the People, Not Solely the King
The Reason Why Biblical Writings Survived Catastrophes

Week 6: Covenant and Kinship
The Rise of Empires
One God
A New “Political-Theology”
Covenantal Ethics of Peoplehood
The Power of Law
Protecting the Individual and Defending Difference
Caring for the Land

Week 7: The Bible’s Future
The Bible’s Pedagogical and Political Purpose
The Bible’s Radical Theology
The Bible as an Attempt to Unify Rival Communities
The Bible’s Impact on Political Identities Throughout the World
The Bible’s Role in the Public Sphere and in Secular Society
The Bible as a Model for New Forms of Community

Jacob L. Wright on Aronofsky’s Noah and Flood Traditions

In the latest episode of Emory Looks at Hollywood series, Jacob L. Wright, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Emory’s Candler School of Theology, discusses the various Flood traditions which lie behind and within, and which were inspired by the biblical Flood story, including one of the most recent developments in the unfolding tradition, Darren Aronofsky’s film Noah (2014).

Wright also has a short article on the same subject in Sacred Matters, “Noah: An Unrighteous Man”.

See also:

Cathleen Falsani, interview with Darren Aronofsky, “The ‘Terror’ of Noah: How Darren Aronofsky Interprets the Bible”, The Atlantic, March 26, 2014

Annette Yoshiko Reed, “Who Gets to Decide if Noah is Biblical?” Religion Despatches, April 1, 2014

h/t: Jim West