The Rediscovery of the World of the Old Testament Screencast

I’ve presented a version of this as a fireside in Paris (in French!) and Jacksonville, Fl, and promised to make it available online. It’s the first screencast I’ve ever done, and I made it between finals and leaving the country for several weeks, so it’s a little rough.

How can we contextualize the Old Testament, and understand it? Most people are unaware of the major discoveries of the last 150 years which have revolutionized our knowledge of Israel’s neighbors and Israel itself, Israelite scripture. In the screencast, I answer three questions.

1) Why “Rediscovery”? In short,  the full “World of the Old Testament” was lost. We had nothing but the Bible. It was akin to having a deep textual tradition about Cuba (like Israel, a relatively small, powerless, and insignificant country) but knowing nothing about Spain, Russia, or the USA, the major influences on it, then discovering their own massive records. Israel was surrounded by much larger and influential nation-states and empires, like Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.

2) What Have We Discovered? Here I picked 7 major rediscoveries of a textual or linguistic nature, e.g. The Behistun inscription, which cracked open Akkadian; the Lachish Letters; The Elephantine Papyri; The Rosetta Stone, and so on. We have hundreds of thousands of non-Biblical texts that we can read today. Most are only of interest to specialists, but all tell us something.

3) How Have these Discoveries Changed our Understanding? Here I gave several specific examples of things we now understand in the Bible thanks to these discoveries, divided into general areas: Linguistic, Literary, Historical, and Cultural/Religious/Weltanschauung. (BTW, I can’t writeWeltanschauung without linking to Calvin and Hobbes. The first time I wrote it on the board in an Institute class, I also misspelled it, and a German-speaking RM corrected me. )

The whole thing is about 55 minutes, so consider it a Gospel Doctrine lesson that runs over a little.  Enjoy.

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