Preview of Oct 19, Week 4

After the hiatus, we’re back!  Our goal this week is to explore the central idea of covenant.  I assert that the idea of reciprocal responsibility with a selected people makes perfect sense in the context of polytheism and especially monolatry and very little sense in a world presided over by a single, universal God.  We’ll discuss the extent to which this assertion is plausible starting with Morton Smith’s engaging description of the function of the gods in all ancient middle eastern civilizations.  If successful, we should end up with the fundamental notion propounded by the prophets: Yahweh rewards those who keep his commandments (the righteous) and punishes those who fail to do so.  Note that the relevant scope of responsibility was originally corporate: all Israel would be judged for the sins of the idolators.  (This is the most important of what I’ve been calling “the anthropomorphic expectations.”)

A heads-up!  I recently viewed the recently-aired NOVA program Secrets of Noah’s Ark online and found that it avoided all of my complaints about previous biblically-oriented material.  It’s main story line is an attempt to build a large boat according to the description contained in a cuneiform tablet which predates the Noah story.  You’ll learn a lot of important additional information as well, including defenses of the notion that the flood story we have was written during or following the exile.  Extremely well-done and highly recommended: (link)