‘Archaeology and the Bible’ course gives students new perspectives on religion – The Sunflower


In many religions courses at WSU, students will learn about a specific religion or study a specific text related to a religion. For Rannfrid Thelle, professor of women’s studies and religions, it’s important to teach a course that can delve into different intersections of religion.

In Thelle’s course ‘Archaeology and the Bible’, students discovered the intersection between the Bible as text and the material relationships of archeology as signifiers for the past.

“There’s a long history of why people are interested in Middle Eastern archeology or biblical lands,” Thelle said. “It would have only had this kind of interest in the last two centuries because of the Bible and the importance of the Bible in Western culture.”

Thelle said this was the basis of the course and the students then created a final project where they compared the actual artifacts with what is said in the Bible.

Rachel Yanko, a graduate student in anthropology, chose the subject of the Wall of Jericho to focus on.

“I really wanted to show what Jericho meant in the landscape of the time rather than just the biblical reference of it,” Yanko said. “Then I discovered that the Bible reference was so iconic in our daily lives, politically, not just religiously, and in song, that there was so much more than the actual story in the Bible and then what the archaeologists have found.”

For the finale, the students created posters showcasing their research on each topic and then held a lecture at Ablah’s library. During the conference, students could come and chat one-on-one with the presenters to learn more about their projects and research. Thelle and Nathan Filbert, a research assistant at the library, were also available to speak with passers-by about the class and the project.

“What I really took away from the class and these presentations was that it opened up a whole new perspective to look at things,” said psychology student Carly Bahner. “A lot of times people get so focused on trying to prove or disprove things, but that’s not the point of archaeology. It was cool to realize that’s not always the point.

Both Yanko and Bahner hope that students will take the time to examine their projects and gain a new perspective on the relationship between the biblical text and actual archaeological finds.

“We tried to make the posters as obvious as possible,” Yanko said. “We’ve gathered enough information for students to drop by and stop and read without being too inundated with details, so hopefully students enjoy the work.”


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