The Josianic Reform: Deuteronomy, Prophecy, & Israelite Religion

Game in Development | Available to Download

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The Josiah Game, set just before a monotheistic reform of Israelite religion (622 BCE), takes up several tensions within the Bible: “the one versus the many gods,” the nature of sacred text and prophecy, and the conflict of ideas within the Bible itself. The central conceit is that the action takes place at the moment of 2 Kings 23:1-3a when all the elders and people of Judah assemble to hear a newly discovered “Scroll of the Teaching” read out to them. The de Wette hypothesis proposes that Deuteronomy is the very text found. The game makes this moment the center of gravity around which discussion of the Hebrew Bible and the practice of Israelite religion revolve. The disintegrating power of the Assyrian Empire supplies an international context for the nation to imagine recovering lost territory if it pleases God by reforming. You are a woman, the prophet Huldah, who vets the scroll: How will you defend it? You are of the royal house: Should you ally with Egypt? You are a Traditionalist: Won’t these changes “remove the ancient landmarks?” The Documentary hypothesis—the literary-historical notion that the Torah grew out of a set of traditions, documentary “sources,” and editorial activity—takes seriously the competing idea sets within the Bible. Why does the found-scroll differ in tone and ideas from the Priestly and Yahwistic traditions? The game’s factions “embody” these idea sets and play out their tensions.

About the Designers:

Adam L. Porter is an associate professor of Religion and Philosophy at Illinois College. His research specialty is Second Temple Judaism (Judaism from ca. 550 BCE to 70 CE) and has taught a wide range of courses in Bible, as well as Abrahamic religions, Ancient Near Eastern Religions, and Art and Archaeology of the Ancient Mediterranean. He is interested in new pedagogical methods and is author of Introducing the Bible: An Active Learning Approach (Prentice Hall, 2005) and has been experimenting with role-playing games in his classroom for several years.

David Tabb Stewart is assistant professor of Ancient Near Eastern Religions in the Department of Religious Studies at California State University, Long Beach (and formerly associate professor of Religion and Philosophy at Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX).  His Ph.D. was earned at the University of California, Berkeley in Near Eastern Studies with specialties in Hebrew Bible and Hittitology and particular attention to ancient Near Eastern law and ritual. He is currently working on the book, Ancient Sexual Laws. Stewart has taught a wide array of courses in Western Religions, Hebrew Bible, and ancient Near Eastern myth and ritual.