Monday, December 20, 2010

putting the pieces together

More singing telegrams coming soon. In the meanwhile, I had some thoughts about SCHOOLWORK even though the semester is over.
A theme running through class this semester (and by "class" I mean the only class I cared about, my elective in Old Testament) was how to take our complex thoughts out of the academy and into the real world.

I've worked on my elevator-speech (you know, the one you give when you only have 20 seconds to speak) about what my thesis topic is, and I've settled on "analysis of the verse "She shall be saved by childbearing" through the lens of greek medical treatises on women's health in chastity and in pregnancy," which is a mouthful but it's accurate.
The paper I wrote in the Old Testament class is not so easily distilled to one sentence. The class focuses on the Persian period, post-"exile" if you choose to call it that, the 6th century BCE to the 3rd or so, as narrated by Ezra and Nehemiah's stories and witnessed in the many other Biblical texts produced during that period of time. It takes THAT complicated a sentence to even DESCRIBE the class? So no wonder the paper seems obscure. Anyway, when I started my paper, I had the idea that I would find evidence for a change in the Judean society (it's still developing and can barely be called Jewish - agh, more qualifications on my statements), a change FROM a rural society of a not very stratified social structure, with family (extended family) centered agrarian production.... TO a structure with an urban elite (those are the ones who do all the talking, and writing biblical texts) with an ignored or oppressed rural population. I looked for this change by checking the vocabulary of Biblical texts - statements such as Genesis 2's focus on the soil and its cultivation indicating a population who cared about the land - and prophets such as Hosea who call the land as partner in lament over the broken relationship between God and people. In the older texts there is a clear sense that God, land, and people are all interwoven in relationships together, and the land and its weather frequently communicate for God. We don't typically understand God that way anymore, so we go looking for when it changed, and people often point to the exile, when the Hebrew people got citified, and when they stopped understanding God as localized and saw God as universal. so that's what i went looking for.
Guess what. I didn't find it. I found that the post-exilic texts were AS concerned with caring for the land, with God's communication to God's people through the land, and with the rights of God's people to work the land and get their basic family subsistence off it (rather than working for large landholders in a more commercial arrangement.)
Conclusion: The idea of a people (and a religion) being wholly disconnected from the land that supports them is our modern fantasy, unfounded in Biblical realities. If we continue to pursue such a disconnected lifestyle we will find it unsustainable; if we continue to justify it based on the Bible’s alleged disregard for ecological and agricultural issues, we will find ourselves trapped and condemned by the very text we look to for justification – no matter what time period of text we look to.

and what, you ask, am I going to DO about this?
I'm going to start writing little bits about this, hopefully weekly, starting in January - bite-size bloggable bits about how much the Bible thinks land is important, and how wrong we are in our modern mentality of ignoring it.
coming up. more bloggage. hurray!

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