The Old Testament
(The Old Testament)

The Bible has been labeled. correctly, as the foundation document of Western thought. It is read in synagogues, temples, and churches, it is cited on the floor of the Senate and from the bench in the courtroom. Contemporary politics is inextricably intertwined with it, from conflict in the Middle East to the claim by many in the United States that a return to "biblical values" is warranted. The Bible influenced the Pilgrims to leave England in the 17th century; it inspired the founders of the new republic in the eighteenth. Missionaries, with a Bible in hand, journeyed to Asia, Africa, and South America, and among the indigenous populations they met, the Bible galvanized attempts to throw off the yoke of colonialism. Its influence permeates, Western literature, from medieval plays to modern novels, art, music, theatre, film, and dance; its prophetic calls for socialĀ  justice challengeĀ  all readers to reevaluate their own behavior even as its Wisdom literature challenges our views of God. Replete with genres ranging from myth and saga to law and proverb, containing dry political history and erotic love poetry, informed by a world view much different that our own, these texts are compendium of a people's sacred story. And that story is the foundation document of Judaism and the first part of the canon of the church.