Bringing King David Back to Life

Bringing King David Back to Life


King-David-Photo2013Jacob Wright has an ambitious, maybe even revolutionary agenda; simply put, he wants to change how we read, how we learn, and how we think of ourselves as Jews.

Dr. Wright, an Associate Professor of the Hebrew Bible at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, is a young, rapidly rising star in the ancient craft of biblical study. Better yet, he is passionately committed to fully exploring the very latest technology to do it.

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At Emory, he regularly brings world-class scholars from all over the globe to his graduate seminars with just a few keyboard strokes and a Skype connection.

Early next year he’ll be part of a pioneering group of a half dozen Emory professors who will teach a fascinating line-up of free courses online to tens of thousands of students from every corner of the planet.

All a student will need is a computer screen and an active internet connection.

His new book, “King David and His Reign Revisited,” is a unique partnership between Apple Computers and the world’s oldest publishing house, the Cambridge University Press.

It has just been published on the Apple ITunes website as part of a new series of Enhanced Apple IBooks that combines sound, motion graphics, text and video into a new learning tool.

When I met him recently, over a cup of coffee in the Emory Village, he was excitedly flipping through his IPad at an advance copy of his book on King David.

Like a kid with a new toy, he showed off the mini-documentary videos that introduce each chapter of his new IBook, the art and archaeological images that can be expanded and analyzed on the screen, quotes that can be blown up at will, footnotes and sources that can be examined close up – a whole new world of scholarship that comes to life with just a flick of his index finger.

All in the service of a figure who, in Dr. Wright’s opinion, is the most human of any figure in the Bible.

“David,” he points out, “is the most passionate, the most vibrant character. You see the ups, the downs, all the pain, the grief, the exultation, how the mighty have fallen. It is a roller coaster with David.”

In short he’s a character too good to leave to the Sunday school classroom or the Shabbat sermon. Rather, he’s one who has much to teach us about the human psyche, the limits of power and what it means to exercise it .

He believes him to be a character worthy of our greatest secular minds, a Shakespeare, a Melville, a Faulkner, a man whose story has, for too long, been held prisoner by the sanctimonious and the self righteous.

Although he sits with a kipah slightly askew in his prematurely grey hair and talks often about his commitment to his local orthodox shul, Dr. Wright believes that David’s story and so much of our religious literature should be claimed by us all.

“We have a generation that doesn’t know the literature very well. They have been told this literature is religion. You have to accept it as religion. It’s not for you. And,” he lifts a finger to drive the point home, “That’s B.S.”

In Dr. Wright’s view, David and his era, three thousand years ago, faced issues not unlike those we face today.

“They faced similar circumstances of rivalry, of sectarian differences, of one community from one place thinking it was better than all the others.”

The answer to all of this discord, in Dr. Wright’s point of view, is to reexamine and reclaim a literature, like David’s story, that emphasized community; that tried to bring together widely divergent viewpoints in an effort to show the importance of the values and beliefs and practices that unify us.

The time is now, he passionately believes, to rediscover David and put him not on a pedestal, but an Ipad.

Find “King David and His Reign Revisited”, an Apple IBook download through the Apple ITunes web store, $11.99.


Editor’s note: Starting in January, Bob Bahr will be teaching a course at Mercer University on “The Daylight Dream –  Fantasy and Reality At The Movies”


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