An online odyssey to better understand the Bible

Professor Marc Brettler provides academic perspective to Biblical text

Photo/Mike Lovett

Marc Brettler

Few books in history have had the same impact on society, culture and faith as the Bible; and until now, biblical scholarship on the Internet has been the province of individual blogs, religious groups or simply hard to find.  
Bible Odyssey, an online project launched by the Society of Biblical Literature with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, seeks to change that by offering the public multiple scholarly perspectives on arguably one of the most important books ever assembled.
Marc Brettler, the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies, is a contributor to Bible Odyssey and a member of its editorial board.
“The goal of this project is to increase biblical literacy,” says Brettler, an expert on Psalms and biblical historical books, who is currently on a research leave in Israel. “Most of the websites that discuss the Bible are from particular religious perspectives. An academic perspective can add a new dimension to people’s appreciation of the Bible as well as their belief.”
Professors teaching biblical studies at a variety of colleges, universities, and seminaries worldwide provide Bible Odyssey’s content. Site visitors can search a range of biblical people, places and passages and find videos, articles, maps and interactive timelines that offer scholarly perspectives on biblical texts. Brettler’s contributions have included providing commentary on biblical passages, as well as soliciting articles for the site and editing his peers’ articles.
“Every text needs to be interpreted, and the Bible is no different,” Brettler adds. “But the problems with interpreting the Bible are especially complex, as everyone has strong feelings about what these texts mean, and the Bible has had a long and complex history of interpretation within different religious traditions.”
Brettler has involved some of his Brandeis students in the website as well. Jamie Bryson and Esther Brownsmith, Ph.D. candidates, have designed maps, timelines and quizzes, which provide an interactive learning experience for all Bible Odyssey visitors.
“To be a graduate student and be part of such a massive project is amazing,” says Bryson, who is from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and wants to study the Dead Sea scrolls in the future.
Brettler has written or edited 10 books that interpret the Bible, including the recently published second edition of "The Jewish Study Bible," and is excited to continue both his more technical scholarly publications, as well as his work aimed at the broader public via Bible Odyssey and other venues.
“Every day brings new discoveries,” Brettler says. “Sometimes ancient documents or artifacts surface, or as a result of careful research or new methodologies, we better understand the words or events depicted in the Bible.  It is a very ancient text, but our understanding of it is never static.”

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, Research, Student Life

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage