Dr Joshua Bowen is a fascinating guy. He’s awesome for a bunch of reasons. First, he has agreed to write the foreword to my forthcoming book (with archaeologist Rebecca Bradley) on the Exodus. Second, he is just a really nice guy. Third, with his wife Megan Lewis, he has a brilliant YouTube channel, Digital Hammurabi. Fourth, he has a great new book out called The Atheist Handbook to the Old Testament Vol 1. And so on.
But here’s another interesting nugget that has really hit me and I only realised it when watching this video below – Dr Bowen also has multiple sclerosis (MS). This fascinates me because, as you know, so do I (I have primary progressive MS, the worst type because it just gets progressively worse until you die – which is why I had stem cell treatment, in part with thanks to some of you lovely people). I don’t know what type he has, but I am interested to find out. We are due to have an interview together at some point to discuss all manner of things, this included, so I’ll keep you posted.
It makes sense of his struggling to find words and losing the thread on occasion, with Megan providing the answers for where he was. I get this so much! I will be fascinated to talk to him about the particular struggles he might have in juggling MS and an academic career, teaching writing books, doing vodcasts, etc.
As a side note, and I know he mentioned it in this video that he shouldn’t do it, but I love his self-interjections. It makes it really original and personal, and they make me laugh.
Anywho, there is actually a much more particular reason for posting this video, and it concerns the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, and how, when you start pulling the foundational bricks away, it all comes tumbling down. For Dr Bowen, it fell fast. And there is no way you can be one of those evangelicals or believers who accuse apostates of never really believing in the first place. Just listen to his evangelical background and how knowledgeable and involved he was right from an early age.
It’s a truly fascinating story, but it also shows how dependent on certain epistemological foundations such a worldview is. If, suddenly, you realise and understand the real context of your holy book, and if, suddenly, you realise exactly how it was written and came together, and if… then you realise, suddenly, that everything built upon it is as broken as the foundations.
Bowen lost his huge, huge faith within the walls of academia (Assyriology) in about an hour and a half.
It is why I see my forthcoming book (The Exodus: A Critical Examination of the Moses Story) as pivotal, as equally pivotal as my books on the Nativity and Resurrection of Jesus. Without the Mosaic Law that Jesus was fulfilling (every jot and tittle) and the Exodus, what do you have left? What can Christianity build itself on – since Jesus and his followers were Jews – if the Hebrew Bible is exposed for what it really is?
There is the realisation that when you look at the mythological texts of the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Babylonians and so on (such as the Epic of Gilgamesh), and see these reflections taken on and used and manipulated and changed in “just another ancient holy text”, you understand that the Hebrew Bible is a parochial text firmly embedded in the parochial geography and history of the region, and not the historically accurate and unique universal text you always thought it was.
I see a correlation here between historians and psychologists. It turns out that psychology is the discipline of science that has the lowest proportion of believers. This is because when you understand how and why people believe, you understand the causality, it takes a large amount away from the force of the content as intrinsically belief-worthy. The parallels to historians understanding how a holy text was put together – the history, cultural and geographical contexts, the influences and so on – with psychologists understanding how the holy beliefs in someone’s mind were put together – the history, cultural and geographical contexts, the influences and so on – are obvious.
See what you think. Particularly marked was his anecdote about meeting the father of a girl he wanted to date. That would never happen in the UK.
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