(1) Where are we? Why are we here?
(2) What motivates the author to write a book about the Bible?
(3) Who is Avner Goren?
(4) What is meant by the phrase “My learning was all in my head, Avner’s was all in his feet?” (p.14)
(5) What stories provide the contextual background for the Biblical account of creation? What is the difference between those stories and Biblical account?
(6) What floods, both mythological and historical, have been cited as related to or possibly being the great Biblical flood?
(7) Contrast two ideas, “Our bibles were our day-timers. Our god was self-reliance,” and “go forth.”
“In the Land of Canaan”
(1) What is our first destination and why?
(2) Discuss the Palastinian-Canaanite connection and its contemporary political ramifications.
(3) What is Bethel and who is Fern? (note well the her quote: “God gave us this land…”)
(4) What happens to Sarah and Abraham when they enter Egypt?
(5) Describe some of the events that transpire to Abraham and his family upon their return to Canaan. (Sarah, Hagar, the visitors, Lot, his daughters, etc).
(6) Who is Professor Biran? Who is Abraham?
“Take Now Thy Son”
(1) Describe Hebron… geographically, historically, politically, biblically.
(2) Who is David Wilder?
(3) Discuss event surrounding Sarah … with King Abimelech, with Hagar and Ismael , etc.
(4) Discuss the important points of the dialogue between the author and Eliezer Oren
(5) What is Beer-sheba?
(6) Why does Abimelech ask Isaac to leave Gerar? What significance does this hold for decendants of Abraham?
(7) What is the akedah? What are its varying interpretations?
“A Pillow of Stones”
(1) Discuss the different parts of the Bible, (e.g. torah, nevi’im,
mitzvot, Hebrew Scriptures, Septuagint, New Testament, etc).
(2) Who are Jacob and Esau?…Laban, Rachael and Leah? What goes on among them?
(3) What is the Documentary Hypothesis? How does it affect our understanding of the Bible as history and as literature?
(4) Who is Gabi Barkay? What does he mean when he says that in America we view the Bible as a machine?
(5) Who are the minimalists?
(6) Who does Jacob wrestle with near the banks of the Jabbock River?
On the Banks of the Nile
(1) Trace out the history of ancient Egypt (p.133-134). How is Nile
different from the Tigris and Euphrates?
(2) Why does the author have more visceral reaction to the Nile compared to those other great rivers?
(3) Outline the story of Joseph (pps. 138-141). What does Basem mean when he says “religion is more powerful than history. I think Joseph existed.”
(4) In what way does Joseph mark a transition from the Patriarchs and in the storytelling of the Bible?
“And they Made Their Lives Bitter”
(1) Who was Akhenaten? What relationship did he (or might he) have had
(2) Did the enslaved Israelites built the Pyramids?
(3) What happens to author while waiting at the Luxor airport lounge?
(4) Is there any evidence that Israelites enslaved in Egypt? (note pps. 150 and 163).
“A Wall of Water”
(1) Discuss other myths that echo the same themes as the infant story
(2) Outline the story of Moses. What does ehyeh asher ehyeh mean?
(3) When did the Exodus take place and who was pharaoh at the time?
(4) What is the connection between Rameses II and Sa el-Hagar?
(5) Discuss some of the “naturalistic” explanations for the plagues of Ancient Egypt. How does this relate to the idea of viewing the Bible as a machine?
(6) Does the Bible say that the Israelites cross the Red Sea when they left Egypt?
(7) What is the connection between Genesis and Exodus?
(8) What is the importance of Egypt to the Bible and Judaism?
“A Land of Fiery Snakes and Scorpions”
(1) Where are we now? What is it like? Describe a little of its history?
(2) What are the three routes through Sinai? What are the pros and cons of each as the actual route taken by the Israelites?
(3) How many Israelites made the trek across the desert?
(4) What is found in the caves near Serabit el-Khadim? What effect did this have on the relationship between the Israel and God?
(5) What is manna?
(6) What is the First Lesson of the Desert? What significance might it play in history of the people of Israel?
“On Holy Ground”
(1) Where are we at now? Describe St. Catherine’s, give us some history.
(2) Describe the morning service? What purpose does it serve?
(3) What is the codex sinaiticus?
(4) On p. 243 the author says “Maybe that thing is the essence of being divine; maybe it is the essence of being human.” What is that “thing.”
(5) Who is Father Justin? Why is he at St. Catherine’s.
The God-Trodden Mountain
(1) What are the two paths up Jebel Musa? Which do they take?
(2) Why do Arabs prefer female camels?
(3) How do the Ten Commandments change the relationship between God and his people?
(4) Which mountain is believed to be the actual Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments?
(5) Why does the author think that the Bible is purposefully vague when it comes to the actual place where Moses received the Commandments?
(6) Discuss Moses’s “negotations” with God? Is it strange that God can be (must be) bargined with and persuaded?
(7) Describe their climb to the mountain’s summit and what they find there.
(8) What does the author mean when he says Moses himself became the mountain?
(1) Discuss what is meant by “…the desert wins.”
(2) What is our route from Jebel Musa?
(3) Describe the differences between the God of the Patriarchs and the God of Moses.
(4) On page 283 the authors says that this journey has been a process of “…dispelling childhood illusions…” but “discovering adult nuances…” What do supposed that means?
(5) Why is Numbers often refered to as a book of “rebellion narratives?
(6) What happened at Kibrothhattaavah?
(7) How do Bedouins “read” the desert? Describe Bedouin hospitatity?
(8) How did the discovery of the nawamis change Avner’s view of evolution? How did God affect evolution?
(9) Why is the desert a place of spiritual learning?
“And the Earth Opened its Mouth”
(1) Where are we now? What is the Ramon Crator?
(2) Describe Ezuz, who lives there?
(3) What does the author mean when he says “I expected to find the Bible in the places that I looked. What I was unprepared for was how easily I found the Bible in the people that I met.” (p.315).
(4) What happened to Miriam at Kadesh-barnea?
(5) Why does God forbid the Israelites from entering the Promised Land?
(6) What is the rebellion of Korah? Did God go to far?
(7) Describe the symmetrical relationship among God, the people, and Moses. How is it a reflection of the dual nature of creation and destruction present in both man and God?
(8) Why is it said that Exodus is not about God or the Israelites, but about how they learn to get along?
The Land of Milk and Honey
(1) Who is (was) David Ben-Gurion and why did he move to Sdeh Boker?
(2) What does David Faiman mean when he says “What is clear to me is that there is a physical world and a spiritual world, and I am sadden that our perception of the spiritual world is very primitive. It hasn’t evolved at the same rate as our perception of the physical world.”
(3) Why according to Raz has Israel lost its romantic appeal?
(4) According to Peres, why is Bible to Israel like the Pyramids to Egypt?
(5) Describe (once again) the latest rebellion of Israel against God. Why does it happen? What is it’s aftermath?
(6) How does the desert build nations?
The Wars of the Lord
(1) Describe the split role and geography of Jordan, and semi-chosen
people of its history
(2) What is the lineage of King Abdulla of Jordan?
(3) Who was Thomas Edward Lawrence and what is his connection to Jordan?
(4) Describe the Israelites strategy and the events surrounding their entry into the Holy Land?
(5) Describe the conflict the author encounters concerning the Moses of the Koran and the Moses of the Bible
Half as Old as Time
(1) Where are we now and where are we heading? Why?
(2) What is Dudu Cohen’s theory about Petra and the Bible?
(3) Who were the Nabateans? What role did they play in the elevating the significance of Petra?
(4) Discuss the significance of the line, “Because the Bible deals with life…” Is it odd that the Pentatuch mentions nothing about an afterlife? What does any of this have to do with architecture?
(5) How does the transition from nomadic existence to settled life affect a society? (p.387).
(6) How is Deuteronomy different from the other books of the Pentatuch? Why was it necessary?
Sunrise in the Palm of the Lord
(1) Describe the author’s encounter with Akel Biltaji?
(2) Who is Abu Tayeh? Constrast this encounter with that of Biltaji.
(3) How does Doug Clark reconcile his science/religion conflicts?
(4) Why must Moses die before reaching the promised land? Does this seem fair?
(5) What does the author mean when he says that the Bible lives today “not because it is untouchable but precisely because it has been touched.” (p.409).
(6) According to the author how is the Bible different from art or Greek mythology?
(7) Discuss Moses final speech in Deuteronomy? Note well its emphasis on how to live life, rather than any mention of afterlife. Note also its emphasis on the community and its relationship to God rather individuals – important contrasts to current religious thinking.
(8) In what way do the quotes from Gregory of Nyssa (p.419) and St. Agustine (p.421) encapsulate the author’s attitude toward God.
(9) Is Moses death a tragedy or a fulfillment?