Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bible and Interpretation has a great video about the bread culture of Jordan.  While this is not strictly about the Bible or biblical times, it is a great example of how social scientific studies can benefit those who study these things.  By studying customs and behaviors that are practiced in societies which are more similar to those found in the Bible, we can learn a great deal about how to read the biblical accounts better.  

For example, just in this video, there is a description of the types of bread that were used in traditional Jordanian societies (found at 8:18).  One is shrak, an unleavened, quickly cooked bread, which should sound familiar from the Exodus tradition.  Another is called tabun, which is cooked in an oven also called a tabun. Tabun style ovens are found at excavations all throughout Israel and the Palestinian Territories.  We can assume that the usage is the same, and that the culture around it has similar qualities.  

One aspect that social scientific criticism brings up is how quickly these societies are evolving.  In this video for example, there are women lamenting the fact that their daughters buy bread and don't know how to bake.  We could argue whether the westernizing of middle eastern societies is advancement or an unfortunate side effect of globalization, but this is really a value judgment that doesn't belong to the process of studying these societies.  What is problematic is the very real danger that we will lose access to societies which can provide us with new information about the biblical world.  


Isaac M. Alderman
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