Meme-ing the Hebrew Bible

Meme by J.W.

Today, my Hebrew Bible class reached the end of the third of four units we’ll cover this semester. We’ve discussed approaches to reading the Bible, the major narratives of the Tanakh, and the worldview and ideologies of the Hebrew Prophets and a couple of the political figures (the Prophet Daniel and Queen Esther). I wanted to see what resonated the most with them this far, so I asked them to make a meme of the story or concept that had stood out to them the most (some students did more than one). Here’s the topics that received meme-treatment:

  • The Three Hebrews and the Fiery Furnace = 5
  • The Akedah (Abraham and Isaac) = 4
  • Samson and Delilah = 4
  • David, Bathsheba, and Uriah = 4
  • David v. Goliath = 4
  • Prophetic Symbolic Acts (e.g., Isaiah’s nakedness) = 4
  • Hosea’s marriage to Gomer = 4
  • The Book of Esther (Haman’s plot; Esther’s actions) = 4
  • Noah’s Ark = 3
  • Israel breaking the Deuteronomic Covenant = 3
  • Israel/Judah being threatened by Egypt/Assyria/Babylon/Persia/Greece = 3
  • The violence of the Bible = 3
  • Jonah being eaten by the great fish = 3
  • The ethics of the Book of Daniel = 3
  • King Ahasuerus and Queen Vashti = 3
  • Adam and Even’s disobedience = 2
  • The (legged) serpent in Eden = 1
  • Cain’s rejection = 1
  • The Tower of Babel = 1
  • Lot’s Wife = 2
  • Jacob’s marriage to both Rachel and Leah = 1
  • Moses and the Ten Commandments = 1
  • Moses’s death outside of Canaan = 1
  • Israel’s dysfunctional monarchy = 1
  • Exile to Babylon = 1
  • Babylon ending the Davidic Dynasty = 1
  • Babylon v. Persia = 1
  • The prophets’ complicated relationship with God = 1
  • Isaiah’s prophetic work = 1
  • Daniel in the lion’s den = 1
  • Jonah’s disobedience = 1
  • Jonah’s sadness when his plant died = 1
  • Esther’s ethics = 1

So far, my take is this: (1) the funnier the story, the better for meme-ing…obviously; (2) the more recent the topic, the more likely it’s remembered (most recently we discussed Isaiah, Hosea, Jonah, Daniel, and Esther); (3) the more scandalous or strange the narrative, the more likely it’s remembered (e.g., the Akedah, David and Bathsheba). This makes me realize that (A) stories that are referenced and re-referenced have more staying power (e.g., the Akedah); (B) stories that are ‘surprisingly in the Bible’ are hard to forget because many don’t expect them (e.g., David, Bathsheba, and Uriah); (C) stories with cultural weight—stories heard in Church, Synagogue, or the home—are remembered because they’ve been heard other places; (D) whatever you covered most recently is what sticks the most, so you better find a way for new content to reinforce older content.

Any other interpretations?

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