The Bible Was Written by the Oppressed

I am reminded that the largest portion of the Bible was compiled by people who were deported.

Most religious scholars believe that the Hebrew Bible was written down and organized in its final form around the time of the Babylonian Exile. The ancient Babylonian Empire decimated Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah in 586 BCE. The Babylonians burned the temple to the ground and took the majority of people captive, removing them from the land of familiarity to the foreign land of Babylon. It was a large-scale trauma.

While some of the texts were written beforehand, scholars believe that until that point, many stories from the Hebrew Bible were largely oral traditions told across generations.

Think about that. . .  A displaced generation compiled these written texts and oral stories into the form we know today. I thank my friend and pastoral colleague Kathleen Henrion for using the word deported in connection to these texts recently. While deportation is a modern category with its own unique challenges, it resonates with this ancient trauma. I had not quite thought about that before.


I am reminded that the New Testament was written by people who were terrorized by the occupation of the Roman Empire. The 1st century Jews of the Jesus Movement lived under fear and economic exploitation without personal freedom or collective autonomy. Jesus himself was tortured and killed by the state.

Then later in 70 CE, the Roman Empire destroyed the temple in Jerusalem again, changing the expressions of Judaism and the formation of Christianity.

Think about that. . . Jesus and his followers daring to empower the most marginalized, right in the presence of the most powerful, threatening Roman leaders.

In our modern context, powerful people often utilize the texts of the Bible to oppress others, but first and foremost, these texts were written by the oppressed.

Renee Roederer

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