Hello fellow Bibliobloggers! I had a thought and I figured I’d run with it (which, often, is not so much a good thing). Here is what I’d like to see catch on among those of us in the blog-o-sphere. I’m going to dub it, for lack of an overactive imagination, the ‘Expose the World to Minimalism’ Campaign (Okay, so ‘campaign’ is probably pushing it…but, it sounded catchy)! Your assignment, if it’s something you so choose to accept, is to pick any piece of ancient literature (for lack of a better term)—which can be a history, a memoir, a biography, or any other ancient source text (even a narrative, so long as it fits a parameter that it is often believed by the public to be historically true)—outside of the Bible (see further down), chose an event in the text which is often accepted as historically reliable (have some fun with this), and consider the following (or create your own minimalist-inspired questions):
(1) What is it?
(2) Is it written by one author or many?
(3) What, if anything, can be brought up to support its reliability?
(4) Is the event itself (i.e., its historical portrayal in the source text) more important to the author or is the function that the story serves more important (like the message; is it edifying in some way)?
(5) What other ways could the event be understood if it had not been a historical event? –which might follow:
(a) Why was it written?
(b) To whom was it written?
(6) Would the world look the same or different if the events did/didn’t happen (think ‘virtual history)?
Of course these questions reflect my own interests in historical investigations, but yours will probably be different. The object of this exercise is to reconsider, in an informal (hopefully challenging and enjoyable) manner, a different perspective on some of the ancient literature we might not be as familiar with. This brings us to the reason why we’re avoiding the books of the Bible (including Apocrypha!) for this “campaign”. However, sources that might relate to the Bible in some way are acceptable (like Josephus or Philo, any of the early Church Fathers, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi codices, anything from the ANET or related collections, any Pseudepigrapha from Charlesworth’s collection, the Talmud/Tosefta/Mishnah, etc…). It would be interesting to see someone tackle secular histories from antiquity completely unrelated (though I imagine many of you would find Thucydides boring) to the Biblical or Judaeo-Christian traditions.
What I would like to do, if I can get more than three participants to dedicate a blog post to this, is collect all the entries and make a compilation entry on my blog linking to them all. So if you can find the motivation to join in (this should be mandatory for all Biblical Minimalist Guild members…hehe), please reply to this thread or send me a private message with a link to your post and I’ll start collecting.
Sorry, I have already claimed the narrative of Alexander the Great’s march on Jerusalem found in Josephus’ Antiquities. ;-)