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The Hebrew Scriptures as Propaganda

October 19, 2009

sennacherib_louvreI was recently reading some things over at The Bible and Interpretation about the Hebrew Scriptures as propaganda. Some people, of course, objected to the idea.

If your view is that these ancient Near Eastern texts shouldn’t be taken as propaganda but as something else, the condition of possibility for me to take you seriously is for you to make the same argument about some of the other ancient Near Eastern literature. For instance, if you want me to take seriously the claim that 1 and 2 Kings isn’t propaganda, you’ve got to explain why the Sennacharib stuff shouldn’t be taken as propaganda either.

If not, you’re employing some pretty serious exceptionalism: their stuff is propaganda, our stuff is something else (history, theology, or what have you). If you’re an exceptionalist, your arguments are not worth a  hearing.

Maybe the texts you hold to be sacred receive special (and unquestioned) privileges in your community, but they won’t here.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Dr. Jim permalink
    October 19, 2009 8:50 pm

    Well said. The biggest exceptionalism, of course, deals with the Bible as (not) mythology. I can’t believe that people are still trying to defend the essential non-mythic uniqueness of the Bible by referring to Frankfort’s writings in the late 40’s and Brevard Childs 1960 book. Yet, I’m reading though a brand new bit of exceptionalist apologetics.

    Sorry, that was a rant.

  2. larry c wilson permalink
    October 20, 2009 8:18 pm

    Didn’t the word “propaganda” originate with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith?

  3. October 21, 2009 3:20 pm

    Religious “people of the book” just need to own up to the genres of their scriptures! Just because it’s propaganda doesn’t mean one can’t learn something from it (or at least from the people who wrote it, whether or not one agrees with the writers’ views).

    Propaganda has a negative connotation, but most public writing has a political agenda behind it. Wanting one’s writings to have a particular outcome isn’t bad. This is whole purpose of the prophets.

  4. October 26, 2009 7:57 am

    Propaganda can be true. I’ve written lots of propaganda I thought was true.

  5. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    October 29, 2009 7:55 am

    Sophia, me too.

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