Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham's servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac.
These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history. These camel stories "do not encapsulate memories from the second millennium," said Noam Mizrahi, an Israeli biblical scholar, "but should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period."
Dr. Mizrahi likened the practice to a historical account of medieval events that veers off to a description of "how people in the Middle Ages used semitrailers in order to transport goods from one European kingdom to another."
Archaeologists have established that camels were probably domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula for use as pack animals sometime towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE. In the southern Levant, where Israel is located, the oldest known domesticated camel bones are from the Aravah Valley, which runs along the Israeli-Jordanian border from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea and was an ancient center of copper production. At a 2009 dig, Dr. Ben-Yosef dated an Aravah Valley copper smelting camp where the domesticated camel bones were found to the 11th to 9th century BCE.
Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan) has made a movie called Noah, about Noah's ark. It stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins. Here's the trailer:
Pagels then shows that Revelation, far from being meant as a hallucinatory prophecy, is actually a coded account of events that were happening at the time John was writing. It's essentially a political cartoon about the crisis in the Jesus movement in the late first century, with Jerusalem fallen and the Temple destroyed and the Saviour, despite his promises, still not back. All the imagery of the rapt and the raptured and the rest that the "Left Behind" books have made a staple for fundamentalist Christians represents contemporary people and events, and was well understood in those terms by the original audience. Revelation is really like one of those old-fashioned editorial drawings where Labor is a pair of overalls and a hammer, and Capital a bag of money in a tuxedo and top hat, and Economic Justice a woman in flowing robes, with a worried look. "When John says that 'the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear's and its mouth was like a lion's mouth,' he revises Daniel's vision to picture Rome as the worst empire of all," Pagels writes. "When he says that the beast's seven heads are 'seven kings,' John probably means the Roman emperors who ruled from the time of Augustus until his own time." As for the creepy 666, the "number of the beast," the original text adds, helpfully, "Let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person." This almost certainly refers-by way of Gematria, the Jewish numerological system-to the contemporary Emperor Nero. Even John's vision of a great mountain exploding is a topical reference to the recent eruption of Vesuvius, in C.E. 79. Revelation is a highly colored picture of the present, not a prophecy of the future.
You'll have to read through the article to discover what early Christianity has to do with this ad for Prada perfume directed by Ridley Scott and starring Daria Werbowy:
If Gutenberg is too newfangled for you, there's also the St John's Bible, a hand-lettered illuminated manuscript that will set you back a cool $145,000 (and that's 2009 dollars.) A few months earlier, Jason assembled a catalog of some unusual Bibles, including copies in Manga and Lego.
If you actually want to read the Bible, there's the conveniently titled How to Read the Bible, by Hebrew Studies professor James Kugel, an Orthodox Jew who nonetheless dismantles most of claims of events in the Bible to be historical fact. Or if you think fresh eyes can have something more to offer than expertise, there's Blogging the Bible, by David Plotz, who writes about each book of the Old Testament having never read the book before. And if you want to close your eyes for the scary parts, here is a list of the Bible's greatest massacres.
If you don't actually want to read the Bible, at least as it is, you're in good company. Steven Johnson's Invention of Air includes a look at Thomas Jefferson, who famously crossed out references to miracles. The translators who wrote the King James Bible just made up unicorns, all on their own. And no, the Bible Code doesn't work either. It's just statistical noise.
Finally, are you into data visualization? Forget those boring "beget"s, artifact of that silly oral tradition. Have we got a family tree for you!
Jackson has brought together an incredible range of styles for the bible, from rich, lush, gold-encrusted illuminations reminiscent of Eastern Orthodoxy to crisp and spare compositions more like the modern style of the Church of England (to my mind at least).
The Green Bible will equip and encourage people to see God's vision for creation and help them engage in the work of healing and sustaining it. With over 1,000 references to the earth in the Bible, compared to 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love, the Bible carries a powerful message for the earth.
In a voice as rich as it is recognized, James Earl Jones lends his narrative talents to the King James Version of the New Testament. In over 19 hours on 16 compact discs enhanced with a complete musical score, James Earl Jones interprets the most enduring book of our time utilizing the acclaimed actor's superb storytelling and skilled characterizations. Hailed as the greatest spoken-word bible version ever, and with almost half a million copies sold, this exquisite audio treasury is certain to enthuse and inspire.
The Message Remix 2.0 is a version for young people written in "today's language". Here's the first few verses of Genesis:
First this: God created the Heavens and Earth -- all you see, all you don't see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God's Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.
The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.
Most unsettling to religious Jews and Christians may be Kugel's chapters about the origins of God and his chosen people. Kugel says that there is essentially no evidence -- archaeological, historical, cultural -- for the events in the Torah. No sign of an exodus from Egypt; no proof that Israelites ever invaded, much less conquered, Canaan; no indication that Jericho was ever sacked. In fact, quite the contrary: current evidence suggests that the Israelites were probably Canaanites themselves, semi-nomadic highlanders or fleeing city dwellers who gradually separated from their mother culture, established a distinct identity and invented a mythical past.
In going through the Bible, however, this book will focus not only on what the text says but on the larger question of what a modern reader is to make of it, how it is to be read. This will mean examining two quite different ways of understanding the Bible, those of modern biblical scholars and of ancient interpreters.
(via mr, where the normally unreserved Tyler Cowen says of the book, "[it's] so good I don't know what to say about [it]")
David Plotz has finished his Blogging the Bible series at Slate...he wrote about each book of the Old Testament. "While I've been blogging the Bible, I have tried not to take myself too seriously and not to pretend more insight than I actually have. I just wanted to read the book and write about what it's like to read it. No essays, no philosophy, no experts."
For those who are lazy about their religion, there's the 100-Minute Bible, sort of a Cliff Notes version of the Good Book. "The 100-Minute Bible is primarily intended for people who have an interest in Christianity but not the time (nor tenacity!) to read the whole Bible. As the title indicates most people will only take 100 minutes to read it, making it ideal for an upcoming rail or aeroplane journey."