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Presentation: Teaching the Cultural Background of the Bible



Learning about ancient worldview and cultural practices is an essential component of understanding biblical literature. The Lexham Cultural Ontology (LCO) is a novel classification of concepts relevant to the cultural world of the Bible. Using a model similar to Yale's Outline of Cultural Materials (OCM) but adapted to biblical studies, the LCO identifies, describes, and organizes over 1100 different concepts. We have annotated passages throughout the entire Hebrew Bible and New Testament with concepts from the LCO to make it easy to find information on the cultural background of thousands of different biblical passages. Additionally, we have annotated more than 20 important secondary sources like the Amarna Letters, the Context of Scripture, Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, etc. (millions of words in total) with the same concepts. This links biblical passages to relevant examples from the historical context of the Bible. These resources are integrated for search, reading, and study as part of Logos Bible Software's digital library for biblical studies.

This new and unique resource can be used in classroom teaching to aid understanding the scope and structure of cultural practices across the biblical text and other ANE literature. For example, a discussion on 'interpersonal relations' could begin in a top-down fashion by displaying and defining more specific concepts in the hierarchy (age roles, family relationships, tribal relationships, inter-ethnic relations, etc.). This could be followed by drilling into biblical examples of a particular concept like 'age roles' and discussing their significance in a bottom-up fashion, then broadening into other examples in Philo or Josephus. After demonstrating this process, students could then work on their own to explore the secondary literature on another concept under interpersonal relationships, and comment on the related texts.

This presentation will demonstrate how the Cultural Ontology in Logos Bible Software could be used in a classroom setting to:

  • find relevant cultural concepts for a biblical text
  • discover other examples (both in biblical and secondary texts) of the same concepts
  • find reference information to help understand more about the cultural concepts
  • show the relationships between concepts (more general or specific, or domain relationships like marriage), other topics in biblical studies, and lexical senses of specific terms

Presentation at the Society of Biblical Literature 2015 Annual Meeting, in a joint session of two units:

  • Academic Teaching and Biblical Studies
  • Global Education and Research Technologies (GERT)

Presentation (PowerPoint): Teaching the Cultural Background of the Bible