What is Bible Brisket?
Bible Brisket is a secular website dedicated to spreading a scholarly understanding of all things biblical in an interesting and entertaining manner. Here one can find educational resources on the Bible and the study of religion in a variety of formats, including lectures, documentaries, books, study guides, and my own material – the star of which are Bible Readings. Other personal contributions include articles on controversial topics, art selections, blog posts on current affairs, and just about anything else relevant to the study of religion that I believe is worth sharing.
You may be asking, however, “Why bother with the Bible?”
How Bible readings are set up
At the top of each blog entry will be a tl;dl (“too long; didn’t read”) list of the most important and interesting things from the reading. Next, we will begin with a casual, comedic review of a number of chapters from the Bible, allowing you to get the gist of the text from a fresh perspective. Since a webpage full of text probably comes off as dull to you as it does to me, I’ve collected artistic renderings of biblical scenes accompanying each entry. Following my informal review are the following supplementary discussions:
Here shall be addressed the historical context of the text, i.e. where it was written, when it was written, and within what sociopolitical and/or theological framework it exhibits. This is highly important when dealing with the Bible, as taking it out of context can quickly turn one into a conman. Ha.
This is where things get highly exegetical; that is, where critical explanations and scholarly interpretations are presented. Having reviewed the chapter(s), it’s time to dissect the verses and learn important and interesting information that you’d routinely find in scholarly commentaries. At the bottom will be links to additional resources relevant to the reading, including books, journal articles, and videos.
The Bible wasn’t written in a vacuum. Surrounding the authors were other cultures of the Near East which already had an abundant amount of myths and sacred concepts which proved quite influential, making their way into the Bible; much of this influence came when biblical authors were forced to live under a culture that had conquered them (i.e. the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans). As you’ll discover, many of the Bible’s most familiar stories contain ancient motifs taken from these previous cultures. It is here where they will be compared and contrasted in a historical framework.
In Deleted Scenes you’ll read about additional texts that extend upon a particular story of the Bible, derived from two types of noncanonical sources.The first is literature written during/shortly after the formation of the Hebrew and Christian canon but which didn’t make the cut; this includes a group of writings known as the Pseudepigrapha (e.g. Book of Enoch, Life of Adam and Eve, Apocalypse of Abraham, Testament of Solomon) as well as the Christian Apocrypha (e.g. The Gospel of Peter, The infancy Gospel of Thomas, The Acts of Pilate). These are works which the Orthodox Church and Rabbinic officials chose to exclude from the Bible despite also being in circulation at the time (some of these Jewish texts are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Essene community). The second noncanonical source I reference is Rabbinic literature (i.e. the Talmud, Midrash, and Zohar), composed largely during the medieval period for the purpose of providing supplementary information and exegesis on the Torah. For instance, what are we to make of the two creation accounts in Genesis? Some writers solved this discrepancy by claiming that God had created two wives for Adam – the first whose name was Lilith. Many are surprised to learn about such unorthodox stories, but the truth is that Jewish thought didn’t cease development after the Hebrew canon. Indeed, the ambiguous and inconsistent nature of the Bible put such writings in high demand throughout the centuries.
What’s behind the site name? A mission statement
As a native Vermonter, I’ve found that the cow serves as a strong metaphor for the Bible and the way it is commonly used:
We can agree that the world is full with people who eat beef as well as those who do not. We can also agree that those of us who do eat beef hardly ever consume every cut that a cow has to offer. Even though we may sometimes say, “I eat beef regularly” or “I love beef!”, the fact is that we tend to only eat from certain sections (the brisket, sirloin, ribs, etc.) that we’ve found to be the most enjoyable; the kind we grew up with and were fed at a young age by our parents, and which we still find regularly presented to us. While we may recognize that there are other parts of the cow which are edible, we prefer to ignore them as they seem less tasteful and harder to digest. Even the sections we do routinely eat are not the same across providers, as people diverge widely on how it should be prepared and presented. Furthermore, most consumers are unaware of the horrific procedure cows undergo before ending up in supermarkets – the knowledge of which subsequently causes people to discontinue their dietary practice and become vegetarians every year. And so for a carnivore to make the claim that beef is “the epitome of great food”, “completely perfect” and “superior to all other food” is to be dishonest – not just because of the subjectivity of taste but because we only process and consume a small percentage of it while knowing little about the controversial facts behind it.
A similar thing can be said about the Bible and its common consumer. More often than not, those of us who do say that they read the Bible and make claims to its superiority as a sacred object do so while being ignorant of many of its contents and historical background. Instead of actually reading every or even most of the books, we choose and stick to portions that we’re commonly exposed to and probably have been since a very young age (Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, the Exodus, the Miracles of Jesus, etc.). We know that the Bible contains other books and narratives but tend to avoid them due to their reputation of being dry (e.g. the genealogies in Numbers), unsatisfying (e.g. the existential philosophy of Ecclesiastes ), and in many cases just hard to swallow (e.g. the genocide of countless men, women, and children in Joshua and Judges). Even the sections of the Bible we do hold dear are interpreted and presented in a huge variety of conflicting ways across congregations. Lastly, most adherents are unaware of the scholarly consensuses that surround the Bible. Upon academic investigation they are often surprised to learn, for example, that
1. The Bible did not drop from heaven in the form we have today; it was composed over many centuries by many different authors.
2. These authors often disagree with one another on important theological subjects, creating discrepancies and contradictions.
3. The Bible contains forgeries – texts not actually written by the famous figures to whom they say they are or attributed to.
4. We now have textual and archaeological evidence that refutes many of the historical claims of the Bible.
Upon learning and acknowledging such information, many end up either adapting their faith to fit the facts or losing it all together. And so for a Christian or other theist to make the claim that the Bible is “the epitome of a moralistic book”, “impeccable in its entirety”, and “superior to all other texts” is to be dishonest for the same reasons as it is for a carnivore to preach the superiority of beef. Both types of consumers, more often than not, stick to the satisfying sections they’re familiar with and neglect the rest – all while remaining ignorant of the controversial yet important information.
What’s the point? The point is that the Bible is not perfect. But that’s OK, which is my second point. We shouldn’t expect it to be inerrant; whether inspired by God or not, the fact remains that it has human finger prints all over it. As an anthology of ancient scripture by dozens of separate authors writing in different contexts, it’s the Bible’s multiple voices and theological ideas that makes it special and downright fascinating. Furthermore, accepting the facts listed above as derived from scholarly consensus doesn’t therefore mean the Bible must cease having spiritual value. Indeed, the scholarly community is packed with Christians and Jews who readily acknowledge such information. Many don’t see it as a damper to their faith and even sometimes a reinforcement. For an excellent read on how this is possible, I highly recommend The Human Faces of God by Thom Stark.
And so, my mission here is not to convert nor deconvert but merely educate – in a fashion more attractive than your average college textbooks. It is my hope that by simply sampling the biblical material taught on this site, fellow readers will walk away both entertained and a little less ignorant.
About the author
Alexander is a graduate of the University of Vermont where he received his Bachelors in Religion with a focus in Biblical studies. He also enjoys long walks in the Sinai Desert and getting caught in a rain of manna.
Messenger pigeon him at email@example.com