Episode 28: The Secret Book of Kings

In an act of role reversal, Lex enters the role of solo host of Judaism Unbound and welcomes Dan onto the show as this week's featured guest! In this episode, Dan discusses a newly published book entitled The Secret Book of Kings by Yochi Brandes, which he has been working for three years to bring to English-speaking readers. [1] Together, Dan and Lex explore why this book's publication represents an important moment for American Judaism, along with ways in which its themes tie to many ideas that have previously been discussed on Judaism Unbound. [2] 

(0:01 - 9:54): We welcome our "guest" Dan Libenson onto the show, and he gives us some background about the process that led to the publication of The Secret Book of Kings by Yochi Brandes in English. He explains his desire for a new look at the "mythology" of the ancient Northern Kingdom of Israel and talks about how The Secret Book of Kings begins the process of tuning that longing into reality.

(9:55 - 20:33): Dan describes the Bible as a work of art. Being careful to avoid spoilers, he then alludes to ways in which The Secret Book of Kings looks at the Bible through a contemporary feminist lens. To give further perspective into the storytelling strategies of The Secret Book of Kings, Dan and Lex compare it to other contemporary re-tellings of well-known narratives (The Da Vinci CodeWicked, and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs). [3]

(20:34 - 34:35): We consider the ways in which The Secret Book of Kings both authentically includes elements of Biblical narratives and re-tells them in innovative, interesting ways. We also explore two interweaving themes of the book -- the power of storytelling and the multiplicity of historical narratives. In doing so, Lex suggests a analogy to contemporary tensions around the curriculum of the AP US History exam[4]

(34:36 - 45:04): Lex explores the idea, stemming from a recent piece in Lilith Magazine, that Judaism is about "relationship with" as opposed to "adherence to" Jewish texts, history, culture, etc. [5] Dan concludes by arguing both that Judaism has generally been an incredibly multi-vocal tradition and that its multi-vocality has been a great strength. [6]

[1] To learn more about The Secret Book of Kings, learn more about its author, explore some interesting questions for discussion, and expand your learning by exploring books and audio and video resources about Biblical history, head to the book's companion web site, which was created by the Judaism Unbound team, at www.secretbookofkings.com.

[2] Purchase The Secret Book of Kings on Amazon at this link.

[3] Learn more about The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, named in 2012 as one of the top 100 picture books of all time, by clicking here.

Bestselling author Yochi Brandes

Bestselling author Yochi Brandes

[4] Explore the recent controversy over how we tell the story of the history of the United States through our AP US History exam in this CNN article.

[5] This quotation comes from a recent article in Lilith Magazine by Amelia Dornbush, entitled "Why I Hate the Phrase 'Jew by Choice,'" which you can read by clicking here.

[6] If you missed last week's episode with Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, based on his book Who Wrote the Bible?, it is worth listening to in tandem with this episode on The Secret Book of Kings. Listen to it by clicking here. If you enjoyed that episode and would like to learn more from Friedman, consider purchasing his 27-episode online course for $19.95 on Coursecraft at this link.