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Harmony of the Bible?

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Podcasts by Alex L. on December 2, 2016

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For those interested in Scripture, I highly recommend The Bible as Literature Podcast. In a recent episode (149), the hosts (whom I know personally) make the case that reading the Bible literally (though without prooftexting) is a good thing. In fact, they call out those that “[spout] platitudes about the ‘dangers’ of taking the Bible literally.” In this post, I will examine this claim and why I have a difficult time coming to grips with it.

On the surface, there are admittedly many strange and discomforting passages in the Bible, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures. The intellectual underpinnings of the exegetical view above, it seems to me, is the assumption that the unsavory parts of the Bible can be explained away by using the literary context surrounding the offending passages. In other words, if the Bible is saying something “bad,” then you haven’t read that section of the Bible correctly. The mistake that the fundamentalist makes, this view goes, is to prooftext and thereby ignore what the context of their chosen passages is, missing the greater picture. Another related axiom that can be implied from listening to the podcast (as I understand it) is that the individual books of the Bible also harmonize into a cohesive whole, producing one singular message of goodness about God.

I find these assumptions difficult to accept (though I try) for reasons of historical context. Mores change. The past seems more barbaric to us than the present as civilization progresses to reduce rates of disease, poverty, illness, homelessness, ignorance, and other ills. An alternate view of the Bible emerges than that put forward in the podcast. The Bible, rather, is a collection of works spanning centuries and the older books of the Hebrew Scriptures are murky waters filled with questionable moral standards from a time of primitive understanding and tribal justice. We should take into account not only the literary context but also the historical context and recognize that some stories in the Bible are good and others come from a time less civilized than our own. (more…)

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HC 004 – “Herodotean Studies in the Twenty-First Century” by H.J. Kim

Posted in American, Ancient, Podcasts, Politics by Alex L. on August 8, 2016

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In the fourth episode of the History Considered Podcast, I discuss new books critical of the right wing in American politics. I also conduct an overview of a new article from the Journal of Ancient History about the contemporary study of Herodotus. Please send your feedback about the podcast to historyconsidered [at] gmail [dot] com.

Listen: HC 004 – Herodotean Studies in the Twenty-First Century.mp3

The works that I mention in the podcast are as follows:
Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism by George Hawley (2016)
Why the Right Went Wrong by E.J. Dionne Jr. (2016)
Dark Money by Jane Mayer (2016)
“Herodotean Studies in the Twenty-First Century,” Journal of Ancient History, by Hyun Jin Kim (2016)

HC 003 – “Baltimore Teaches, Göttingen Learns” by Emily J. Levine

Posted in Academia, Ancient, Podcasts by Alex L. on August 1, 2016

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I have finally recorded the first publicly-available episode of my long-promised podcast, History Considered. Although I’ve recorded two episodes prior to this one (see end of this post) I have decided to feature only the third as the “first,” which I recorded today.

Listen: HC 003 – Baltimore Teaches, Gottingen Learns.mp3

The works that I mention in the podcast are as follows:

Pericles: A Biography in Context by Thomas R. Martin (2016)
Pericles and the Conquest of History by Loren J. Samons II (2016)
The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta by Paul A. Rahe (2015)
The Classical World by Nigel Spivey (2016)
The Marketplace of Ideas by Louis Menand (2010)
“Baltimore Teaches, Göttingen Learns,” American Historical Review, by Emily J. Levine (2016)

If you are feeling particularly intrepid, feel free to listen to my rough-hewn first and second episodes of the podcast (but I don’t recommend it :)).

7 years of blogging!

Posted in Blogs, Podcasts by Alex L. on March 8, 2016

HistoryJournal.org temporary logoToday marks seven years since I started blogging on HistoryJournal.org! I did have another history blog before that on blogspot, called Trojan Walls. In this post, I’ll do a bit of reflection, per tradition, on how I have been blogging lately.

The year of 2015 was very sparse for me in terms of updating my blog. But in 2016, I’ve had a recent spurt of posts about upcoming history books, which I’ve been following on Amazon and taking notes on for some time. These posts are relatively easy for me to create — and I enjoy making them — so I think I’ll be focused on them for some time. Hopefully they are of some value to others beside me, who also enjoy keeping up to date in the latest literature about U.S., Russian, and ancient history (my general areas of focus).

About my much-promised podcast… I think I’ll cease for now to make more promises about it. I have everything ready to go in terms of hardware and software, but I can never quite be satisfied with anything I’ve recorded already to bring myself to publish it here. This is perhaps, admittedly, a lame excuse. But in any case, since blogging (and podcasting) are meant to be hobbies for me, I’m hesitant to push myself too hard on content creation if I’m not naturally feeling an inclination toward creative endeavor.

So I’ll try to continue on the path I’m currently on, publishing semi-daily posts about upcoming history books. And I’ll see where it goes from here. Thanks for coming along on the journey with me for the past seven years, and hopefully there will be more to come!

New books from the Univ. of N. Carolina Press (Spring 2016)

Posted in African, American, Blogs, Imperialism, Podcasts, Politics, Storytelling by Alex L. on January 11, 2016

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Today let’s look at a small selection of upcoming new history titles from the University of North Carolina Press (UNC Press). Again, these are works that struck my curiosity from their catalog rather than books I have already read.

First up is The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century by Jon Grinspan. This one is interesting because we are in an election season, and young people of my generation don’t vote (but they should! though I am sometimes guilty of this myself) as often as their elders. I never would have thought that this was not the general trend in earlier times.

The next original work is The Voyage of the Slave Ship Hare: A Journey into Captivity from Sierra Leone to South Carolina by Sean M. Kelley. The events described in the book took place in the mid-1700s and explores an overlooked segment of African-American history: the first-generation slaves brought to the American continents.

Finally, for anyone interested in podcasts and the new upsurge in popularity of talk radio, this work by Jeff Porter could be a worthwhile read: Lost Sound: The Forgotten Art of Radio Storytelling. Today’s great podcasts have their roots in the shows of storytellers who honed this craft on the airwaves when radio first became widespread in the early 20th century. This is their story!

Thanks for “tuning in” to these new blog posts. I will continue to look at new history works from other university presses as well as from popular publishers in the days to come.

Plans for 2013

Posted in Podcasts by Alex L. on February 2, 2013

I’ve been mulling over two new ideas for 2013. First, I want to try posting more informal articles charting my day-to-day thoughts about history and the material I read about. I often put in a lot of time into preparing each blog post and have strayed from my original intention of making this blog more of a semi-daily journal of intellectual impressions. I still hope to keep the quality of writing and ideas as high as I can, and hopefully this more casual style will even help with that.

On to the second idea. It’s difficult for me to keep up a habit of research outside an academic community like a university. Nevertheless, I miss the challenge of sustaining a focused examination of a single topic like when I wrote my senior thesis in college. At first, I considered the idea of creating a history-themed website like uboat.net or The Aerodrome. I then thought that sites such as those are like a topic-specific data warehouse. I am more interested in telling the stories of the past through narratives rather than catalogs of data. But I also realize that conducting original research in the military history topics that I’m interested in would take up more time than I would like. So currently I’m toying with the idea of making a history podcast along the lines of the History of Rome Podcast or the History of WWII Podcast. The level of detail in these podcasts — in especially the latter example — gives listeners a sense of immersion in the time period and events being discussed. Making a podcast would encourage me to do a good amount of research about a single subject without the need for a comprehensive mastery of the sources. I’ve already started doing background reading on my first topic of interest: U.S. submarine operations against Japan, 1941-1945. I’ll write more about what I’ve read so far and what I will read in the future.

The next post will be about the new history books for January. I’ll also be reviewing Adam Makos’s A Higher Call, which I just finished reading. Will write again soon!

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