Sam Harrelson

Sam’s Bible Read Through Plan

I’m making something for you that’s available here for you to make a copy of for your own use, download, print, or save for your own additions and edits. It’s a work in progress and will be continually worked on in the coming weeks. But you can start using it now.

Over the last several months on Instagram, I’ve been posting images and short thoughts that come to me during or after my daily Bible studies, mostly with my old and rapidly deteriorating Harper Collins Study Bible I bought as a college sophomore in 1997 and continued to use to store notes from classes there and at Yale Divinity and then Gardner-Webb as well as the various classes I’ve taught and Sunday School series I’ve led over the years.

These Instagram pictures started as a quick way for me to share something personal in a format that I thought others might enjoy. Over the last few weeks as I’ve continued to post these, I’ve had a number of people ask if I’m using a certain plan or just going through the Bible and picking out my favorite passages.

These questions have caused me to formalize my approach and finally take the time to write it down. The attached read-through here is a work in progress but I wanted to go ahead and post this so that people can follow along in the New Year if they’d like (I’ve got January and February finished that includes Matthew – Mark in the New Testament and Genesis – Leviticus in the Old Testament). I say this is a work in progress because I’ll be continuing to add texts for March – December in the coming weeks. I’ also will be adding notes and thoughts directly on the document as I do my studies and interesting links and images that are relevant. But make a copy and make this yours as you see fit.

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We Christians love Matthew (Sweet Baby Jesus) until we get to the Beatitudes in Chapter 5. How do we process this? I still wrestle with it greatly, especially when taken over and against Paul.

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The read-through is the product of studying the Bible for the last twenty-two years from a Liberal Arts College perspective as well as an Ivy League Div School and a Baptist Seminary. Part of it is based on an old Cokesbury Bible reading guide that I picked up at the United Methodist General Assembly in 1999 shortly before I went into the woods to be a counselor at Asbury Hills UMC Camp in Upstate South Carolina. I fell in love with their reading guide while at Asbury and in the years after. I’ve certainly made alterations based on my own studies and connections I’ve made. But I’ve kept the overall structure of a yearly Bible read-through cover-to-cover.

Ultimately, we can all agree that we need to read more in 2019. I would argue that Americans can benefit a great deal personally and as a country, if we “read the Bible” more often. That doesn’t mean it has to be with a lens of a certain theology or with an aim to save souls. The Bible is a fascinating collection of stories of people wrestling with God and with each other and with the land and with the seas. We would all benefit to turn attention to these with the goal of understanding and making connections rather than just finding snippets of text that confirm our preexisting biases and unexamined privileges.




Mary’s ‘Magnificat’ in the Bible is revolutionary — so evangelicals silence it

I certainly had never heard of the term “Magnificat” until college. It’s difficult to divorce biblical passages such as these from contemporary politics when we are in a season of listening to footsteps. Good read in these closing days of Advent 2018:

Why has this song been forgotten, or trimmed, for so many people who grew up evangelical? It could be a byproduct of the Reformation, which caused Protestants to devalue Mary in reaction to Catholic theology. Or a lack of familiarity with liturgy, and an emphasis on other texts. Or perhaps the song doesn’t sound like good news if you are well fed, or rich, or in a position of power and might — or if you benefit from systems that oppress. How does the Magnificat feel if you aren’t one of the lowly, if you aren’t as vulnerable and humble as Mary?

— Read on www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2018/12/20/marys-magnificat-bible-is-revolutionary-so-evangelicals-silence-it/




“God said to Abraham give me a son…”

In Genesis, God prevented Abraham from carrying out the act. However, the papyrus text tells the story differently, suggesting that Isaac was indeed killed. This echoes the way the story is told in a number of other ancient texts, Zellmann-Rohrer said.

— Read on www.newsweek.com/1500-year-old-ancient-egyptian-papyrus-contains-stories-biblical-human-891667




“Where did Angels come from?”

I got asked that question during a Sunday School class on Old Testament conceptions of the divine a few years back. I struggled to gather my thoughts quickly and do that Middle School Teacher “Well, actually… it’s very interesting you see…” thing.

But it is a long and interesting history to process how we went from the regional deity of Yahweh to having monotheism to having the middle tier of gods deleted and the lower tier of gods transformed into individual angels with specific names and identities etc.

It’s hard for modern Christians to hear, but we shouldn’t always take the easy route of reading our own modern conceptions of the divine spheres back into texts like Genesis…

Good post here with more of the history behind the concept:

Since they no longer posed a threat to Yahweh, angels began to gain individuality, leading to the explosion of interest in the angelic and demonic worlds in late Second Temple times. The shift to a single-god system led to another late Second Temple split with seeds in Genesis 6 and a full flowering in the Christian New Testament: the lowest divine tier further divided into good angels and bad angels or demons (see, for example, Matt 25:41; Rev 12:7-9). These beings fight not over supremacy in heaven, but rather over the souls of humanity. This final movement established the basic framework shared by Christian and Islamic monotheism—a single, universal god whose rule is contested by demonic figures.

— Read on www.asor.org/anetoday/2018/06/Making-of-Monotheism




Bible Domains

When the society — which lists several conservative Christian “founding partners” on the get.bible website — first applied for the rights to .bible, it pledged to provide wide access to “all qualified parties” interested in Bible issues. Soon after acquiring the domain name, though, ABS barred publication of material it defined as “antithetical to New Testament principles” or promoting a secular worldview or “a non-Christian religion or set of religious beliefs.”

Source: Who owns the .bible? – Religion News ServiceReligion News Service




“to queer the prophetic body”

Rather, she is interested in how queerness, in all of its polysemy, “works” in the prophetic texts. Her aim is to “trace the prophetic body as a queer object and to queer the prophetic body” (p. 7)—a project that is both queer and feminist. The result is an imaginative, illuminating investigation into the bodies of various Hebrew Bible prophets.

Source: Book Note | Are We Not Men? Unstable Masculinity in the Hebrew Prophets — ANCIENT JEW REVIEW

Interesting… will definitely read!




Wrestling With the Text

I’ll be preaching on Genesis 32:22-31 (Jacob wrestles God / Angel / River Demon / Jungian Archetype … depending on your persuasion) at First Christian Church Columbia, SC on August 6. This is probably my favorite text in the entire Bible and I’m excited that it comes up in the lectionary next week.

I always wonder how others read this story. Leave me a comment here or on Facebook, Twitter, email etc and let me know.

I’ll post the sermon when I’m done, but maybe you can impact in how that turns out.

“The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’

So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him.

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.”

 




Thinking Religion 115 and Hermeneutics

Thomas is in Philadelphia this week but we still managed to sneak in a podcast episode. We start by going over the very important but often-overlooked general idea of hermeneutics and why we should take them seriously in the Age Of Trump (AOT from here on out). Then we hop into the Bible Bracket Challenge. Sorry, Ruth.

Dr. Thomas Whitley and the Rev. Sam Harrelson discuss the concept of hermeneutics and continue their ongoing quest to decide the best book in the Bible from the Thinking Religion Bible Bracket Challenge.

via Thinking Religion Episode 115: Your Hair Is Like a Flock of Goats




Is the Original New Testament Lost?

House of Cards is fun, but take a few mins to watch something a little more substantive this weekend (like this):

As you might expect, I argue that even though we have thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament,  we do not have many *early* ones — and hardly any *really* early ones.  That is why we can not (always? ever?) know with absolute certainty what the authors of the New Testament originally said.   That matters for lots of reasons, one of which is that fundamentalist Christians but their faith in the very words of the Bible.  But what if, in some passages, we don’t know what those words were?   Dan, also as expected, argued that we have such extensive evidence for the New Testament — more than for any other book from the ancient world — we can trust that we have what the authors originally wrote.

via My Debate with Dan Wallace: Is the Original NT Lost? – Christianity in Antiquity (CIA): The Bart Ehrman Blog.