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Why Do We Have a Bible?

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By: Jacob L. Wright 

A new phenomenon is changing the face of education, making first-rate courses from the world’s best universities available to all, wherever they live. The phenomenon is often subsumed under the umbrella term “Massive Open Online Course” (MOOC). Emory University professor Jacob L. Wright will be teaching the free seven-week Coursera course “The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future” beginning May 26. More information is provided at the bottom of this page.

Discovered in the caves above Qumran, the Dead Sea Scrolls have provided scholars with important information about the Bible in the first century. How was the Bible formed, and why did a text from a defeated people blossom into the Bible?

Last fall I was selected to teach one of Coursera’s first course offerings on religion—and its very first on the Hebrew Bible as a whole. Entitled “The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future,” the course will expose students, whether they’re beginners or experts, to an abundance of new research on the history of Israel and on the formation of the Bible. But this is no typical introductory course. My objective is not simply to present various theories for the origins of Israel and the Bible, beginning with Genesis and continuing through various parts of the canon. Instead, my lectures focus on the most basic—and I think most important—question that students often ask, yet instructors rarely address: Why?

Why do we have a Bible from ancient Israel and Judah? Could something like it have existed among the Philistines, the Moabites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians or the Persians? If so, why haven’t they been transmitted throughout the ages and been translated into thousands of languages, as the Hebrew Scriptures have been? And why would such a sophisticated corpus of literature as the Bible have its origins in a remote region of the world (the southern Levantine hill country), rather than at the centers of ancient civilization (Mesopotamia and Egypt)? After all, these civilization centers boasted technological supremacy and military superiority. They were the ones who invented writing and easily conquered the population that produced the Bible. Finally, why has the Bible had such a huge impact on world history, shaping the identities of a very wide array of societies across the globe?…

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  • grassroot

    We have the Bible as God Himself ordained that we should have one and is given by him
    for his people to read and learn from it. It was written that ” These things happened so that
    others who will come after will learn about thme and how God deals with his people.
    So it becomes an example to others.”

  • victorbarney

    Another irony with the Hebrew(not Greek)-inspired scripture is that without the reader given the “predetermined” spiritual understanding necessary to understand scripture given by the Hebrew-inspired Creator, the verses lose their real meaning almost always! Without having the “set-apart” spirit even a genius in academia will not understand the spiritual meaning of any text in scripture. It’s exactly why there are so many denominations following the same scripture with different understand of the same verses over & over by so many readers! That also is another reason for so many different takes by all the different denominations in both “Christianity” and “Judaism.” Just wait until the end time prophetic two-witnesses arrive on a coming Annual Feast of trumpets(War) and even with a multitude of miracles they will be hated and eventually killed after 3 1/2 years of witnessing against us revealed in Revelation, chapters 7 & 11, so I hope your one of the 144,000 from either the Spiritual Assembly, or the 144,000 evenly divided members from the 12 tribes of Israel being kept alive in the end days, also as revealed in Revelation, chapters 7 & 11!~ The chapter numbers 7 & 11, wow! Watch…

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