A Secular Bible? talk by Dr Hannah Strommen at Chichester Humanists on 20th March 2018

Hannah began her talk by questioning the assumed decline in public knowledge of the Bible, demonstrating it's prevalence in society today, through art, films, music, literature, advertising, popular culture and politics.

She went on to define religion and described the decline of Christianity in the UK.

Hannah described the various ways the Bible can be viewed: word of God, moral instruction, ancient literature, stories and myths, documents of ancient history.

She challenged the notion in the West that Christians consider the Bible to be the literal word of God. Although some fundamentalist Christian groups hold this view, they are in the minority. Rather the Bible is a work of culture.

Hannah went on to discuss the various ways that modern scholars approach the Bible, including Philological (studying the languages used), Pedagogical (what the Bible teaches), Literature, Historical, etc.

She used an amusing set of cooking instructions from Ezekiel to demonstrate that the Bible is not as pious and sacred as people may think.

She ended by challenging the idea that the Bible is a monolithic tome used for a single purpose. Rather it is a varied collection of books, each with its own character, dealing with many aspects of the human condition and used throughout the ages in different ways.

Hannah summarised her view of the Bible as "a multiple, varied, and ever-adapting archive, rather than a clunky, solid and ancient artefact".

After a break there were a number of questions from the audience. Here are a few.

Q: Hasn't the Bible mainly been used as a method of social control? What is its relevance for atheists and Humanists?
A: Yes it has been used for social control but also as a source of inspiration for others throughout the ages, e.g. fictional authors.

Q: The Bible is patriarchal and yet feminist Christians use it to justify feminism.
A: The Bible reflects the patriarchal societies of the time. People can cherry pick the Bible to justify many causes.

Q: Were the famous colloquial sayings from the Bible, such as "Bite the dust" and "Drop in the bucket" in the original manuscripts or were they added to the St James' Bible?
A: These are original sayings although the language used was chosen for the time. Also remember that there are many Bibles, e.g. German Lutheran, each with their own national idiosyncracies.

Q: Do Biblical scholars like you face any hostility from theologians?
A: I have not. [Author note: For an explanation of the difference between Biblical Scholars and Theologians, see here.]

Here is a link to her PowerPOint presentation (copyrighted images removed).



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