The Promised Land

A Twenty-First-Century Bible
Part 1—The Promised Land

(from Abram to Joshua)

To improve the flow of the narrative, Part 1 has been divided into two sections: A. The Narrative; and B. YHWH’s laws. This has allowed the historical narrative to flow more freely whilst at the same time maintaining the importance of YHWH’s laws.

As the narrative is presented in historical order, it does not follow the traditional biblical book format (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, etc.). So the story of Job, which may have been written later, is to be found in the period in which it is set. In addition, Psalms, which have been attributed or fit into the period, have been included at the appropriate points.

YHWH’s laws have been collected together and presented in a new and meaningful way. Although the laws were given to his people over time, they are set out in a way that mimics the Ten Commandments. In doing so, the idea that the Ten Commandments are principles and not simply laws to be applied literally becomes very apparent.

507 pages.
Published: 18th October 2013, through Xlibris
Hardcover – ISBN: 978-1-4836-9431-3
Softcover – ISBN: 978-1-4836-9430-6

Comment: Why Begin with Abraham and not Adam?
I have been asked why the first volume of A Twenty-First-Century Bible begins with the story of Abram/Abraham and not Adam. This is a short summary which might help explain. 1. To place Genesis 1-11 in context The first five books of the bible are compilations of stories, documents, poems, songs and family history derived from a number of sources. They were most likely compiled sometime after Moses’s death. But whilst the stories in Genesis 1- 11 most likely pre-date Moses, the versions the compiler(s) used include material that would have been unknown to the patriarchs (e.g. the use of the name of God, YHWH). So the telling and retelling of these stories would most likely have taken place in Moses’s time, as the people wandered in the wilderness. 2. To emphasise Hebrew thinking: In Hebrew circles, Abraham was considered to be the father of the Hebrew nation, not Adam. As a consequence, Matthew begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1). And in the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen responds to the high priest by referring to the time when God called to Abraham in Mesopotamia, to leave his country and go to a place he would show him (Acts 7:2-3). 3. For literary reasons: There is a challenge by Joshua at the end of his ministry, which refers back to Abraham’s father, Terah (Joshua 24:2-3a). As a consequence the final pages of chapter A9. Hoshea/Joshua, refer back to the very first chapter, A1. Terah – thus rounding off this part of the Israelites’ story. Posted: 17th September 2015 © 2015, Brian A Curtis
Excerpt: Chapter A2. Abram/Abraham (2166-1991 BC)
Abram’s Call In contrast to the dominant worship practices of the people of Ur and Harran, Abram exercised a strong devotion to God Almighty. Abram was seventy-five years old (and Sarai sixty-five) when God Almighty spoke to him. He said, ‘Go! Leave your land, your people, and your father’s house. I will show you a land where I will make you the father of a great nation. I will bless you. I will make your name great. I will make you a blessing to others. Those who bless you, I will bless. Those who curse you, I will curse. Through you, all the peoples of the earth will be blessed’. So Abram did as God Almighty told him. He left Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and everything they had accumulated there, including servants. They then set out on their way to the land of the Canaanites. As he journeyed, Abram lived a nomadic existence. He looked for water and pasture for his flocks and herds. He also avoided major population areas. In this way he arrived in Canaan and travelled through the land until he came to Shechem, at the holy tree of Moreh (‘teacher’ or ‘diviner’)—a Canaanite shrine to other gods. Canaanites were living in the area, but despite that, Abram stopped. There, God Almighty appeared to him and told him, ‘I will give all this land to your offspring’. In response, as an expression of faith and integral to worship—as was the custom, Abram built an altar to God Almighty, who had appeared to him there. From there, Abram moved on to the hills east of Luz (later to be renamed Beth-el). He pitched his tent, with Luz on the west and a nearby town (later to be renamed Ai) on the east. There he built another altar and again worshipped God Almighty. After this, Abram continued his journey to the Negev, in southern Canaan. Abram And Sarai In Egypt Now there was a famine in Canaan. At the time it was known that the Nile delta provided a much more certain food supply than the fluctuating rainfall of Canaan. So despite God’s promise to Abram and because the famine was so severe, Abram travelled south to Egypt to live. As he was about to cross into Egypt, he feared for his own safety. So he said to his wife, Sarai, ‘I know you are a beautiful woman. When the Egyptians see you, they will see that you are my wife. They will then kill me, but you will be allowed to live. Tell them you are my sister. Then for your sake, I will be treated well and my life will be spared’. When Abram arrived in Egypt, the Egyptians did indeed see that Sarai was a very beautiful woman, just as Abram had predicted. When Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they sang her praises to Pharaoh. She was then taken to Pharaoh’s palace to be part of his harem. For Sarai’s sake, Pharaoh treated Abram well, and Abram accumulated cattle, sheep, donkeys (male and female), men and women servants, and camels. But God Almighty inflicted serious illnesses on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife, Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram and asked, ‘What have you done to me? Why didn’t you tell me that she was your wife? Why did you tell me that she was your sister? I took her for a wife because of what you told me. Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!’ Pharaoh then gave orders concerning Abram to his men, and they sent him, his wife, and everything that he had on their way. Whilst in Egypt, Abram had become very wealthy in livestock, silver, and gold. So when he left Egypt, he took his wife and all his possessions; and with his nephew Lot, they returned north to the Negev. From the Negev, Abram travelled from place to place, until he eventually returned to Luz, to the place where he had previously pitched his tent, between Luz and the other town. This was the place where he had already built an altar, so he called on the name of God Almighty there. Posted: 15th March 2015 © 2013, Brian A Curtis
Excerpt: Chapter A6. Job (Between 2000 and 1500 BC)
A Man Named Job The location of the land of Uz is currently not known. It has been identified with a number of sites, including an area south of Damascus and an area between Edom and north Arabia. Wherever it was, it was likely to have been on the eastern fringe of Canaan. There a man named Job lived. He was blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. He had seven sons, three daughters, and possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 donkeys and a great many servants. He was the greatest of all the men of the east. Now each of his sons took it in turns to a hold a feast in his home: each one on his own special day, possibly their birthday. They would invite, and send for, their three sisters to eat and drink with them. Their celebrations would often last several days. As a consequence, Job was concerned that his children may have sinned or cursed God in their hearts. So, when a time of feasting had ended, Job would send for his children and purify them. He would get up early in the morning and would sacrifice a number of burnt offerings for each of them. It was something that Job practiced all his life. Job’s First Test Now there came a day when the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before God Almighty. The Satan (‘the adversary’) was also among them. God Almighty said to the Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ The Satan answered God Almighty, ‘I have been roaming about the earth; I have been walking backwards and forwards on it’. God Almighty said to the Satan, ‘Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one like him on all the earth. He is a man who is blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil’ The Satan replied to God Almighty, ‘Does Job fear God without reason? Haven’t you placed a fence around him, his household and all that he owns? You have blessed everything that he does; his flocks stretch out over all the land. But stretch out your hand, strike out against all that he owns, then he will undoubtedly curse you to your face’. God Almighty said to the Satan, ‘Look, all that he owns is in your hands. But do not lay a finger on Job himself’. Then the Satan left the presence of God Almighty. Now one day, as Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the eldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job. The messenger told him, ‘The oxen were ploughing and the donkeys were grazing at their side, when Sabean raiders (from Tema or Dedan, south of Edom) attacked and carried them away. They killed the servants looking after them by putting them to the sword. I alone escaped to tell you’. While the first messenger was still speaking, another messenger came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from heaven, burned the sheep and consumed the servants who were caring for them. Only I have escaped to tell you’. While the second messenger was speaking, a third messenger came and said, ‘Three parties of Chaldeans from the east raided your camels and carried them off. They killed the servants who were with them by putting them to the sword. I alone escaped to tell you’. While this third messenger was speaking, a fourth messenger came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the eldest brother’s house. Then suddenly a great wind, which had been sweeping across the wilderness, came and hit all four corners of the house. The house collapsed on your children and they are all dead. I alone escaped to tell you’. Job immediately stood up, tore his robe and shaved his head. He then fell to the ground and worshipped God. He said, ‘I came naked from my mother’s womb and naked I will return. God Almighty has given and God Almighty has taken away. May the name of God Almighty be praised’. Through all this Job did not sin by blaming God. Posted: 4th October 2015 © 2013, Brian A Curtis
Review - Kirkus Review
Kirkus Review – January 2014 An ambitious reordering of the Hebrew Bible. Recognizing that many people find the Bible to be strange, difficult or unapproachable, Curtis decided to create a new version of key sections of the Old Testament to allow readers an easier introduction to Scripture. His resulting work draws upon standard translations as well as modern scholarship to present the most ancient Hebrew Scriptures in a way that is at once familiar as well as engaging and explainable. Readers already well-versed in the Bible will be surprised to find that the order Curtis uses is notably different from the actual texts. Instead of starting with a creation story, Curtis begins with the stories of Terah and Abraham. The early tales of Genesis appear much later in a chapter called “Wilderness Stories,” told during the wandering of the Israelites. Similarly, the Book of Job appears between the stories of Joseph and of Moses, a new placement that may seem somewhat jarring to many readers. Curtis often inserts commentary to explain a situation in the text. For instance, when Joseph’s father suspects that his son has been eaten by a wild animal, Curtis adds, “Public displays of grief typically included tearing one’s clothes and wearing sackcloth,” and later, in the tale of Job’s woe, he writes, “The behemoth…was an animal not unlike a hippopotamus.” Such comments are reminiscent of the simple explanatory footnotes found in many editions of the Bible, but they appear here within the text. Curtis avoids being technical or utilizing cross-references, but his charts showing family trees, details of laws, etc., are helpful additions. Readers won’t find the complete Old Testament in this work; instead, Curtis strives to present only the most ancient texts, culminating in the laws given by God through Moses. Familiar works, such as the Psalms and Proverbs, as well as historical and prophetic books of the Bible are not represented. An original concept that yields a commendable, approachable reworking of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures. Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Rd., Austin, TX 78744
Review - Catholic Life
Catholic Life – April 2014 This is an interesting book because it is basically a reworking of the Old Testament to present the books in a more logical historical order to make it easier to understand. The author is an ordained Anglican minister who ministers and does social work in Tasmania. When reading the Hebrew Scripture in a standard Bible, one often comes up against obstacles which prevent us from understanding the narrative. Customs of the times and geography are rarely provided in Biblical text because the people for whom these stories were originally written knew the information already. A parallel in today’s world could be that when we say that someone flew from Melbourne to London, everyone would know that it means they travelled in an aeroplane from airport to airport, without providing the detail. But 4000 years from now will people understand that aeroplanes are our normal means of inter-city travel? Normally, one would have to undertake Bible studies or further reading, or have the stories explained from the pulpit, to really understand what is happening. However, the author has overcome this problem by adding his own narrative to the stories in italics to help us gain the full picture. This book does not follow the traditional order of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus etc., and the Psalms have been separated and fitted in at appropriate parts. The first 11 chapters of Genesis have been slotted in as wilderness stories, a collection of the stories repeated over and over by the Israelites and finally written down as some time after their arrival in the promised land. YHWH’s laws have been presented in table form and cover the second third of the book. The treatment certainly makes the Old Testament easier to understand and this book will no doubt be discussed in theological circles for quite some time. Catholic Life, Catholic Diocese of Sale, Victoria, Australia
Review - Midwest Book Review
Midwest Book Review- May 2014 Synopsis: Who has tried to read the Hebrew scriptures from cover to cover and fallen short at one of the many hurdles? Who really understands them? This book takes the reader on a journey from Abraham to Joshua and deals with these very issues. Based on the complete Hebrew text, the narrative is presented in a more logical historical order, dealing appropriately with many of the obstacles. At the same time, YHWH’s laws are treated with the seriousness that they deserve. Additional comments in italics are interwoven into the text to enhance the readability and understanding of both the narrative and the laws. Critique: In “The Promised Land”, author and theologian Brian Curtis draws upon his years of study and expertise to provide contemporary readers with a modern English translation of the biblical record from Abraham to Joshua. Of special note is the Curtis provides an historical cultural context to explain biblical events (some of which he has rearranged into a more accurate chronology of presentation). Informed, thoughtful, and extraordinarily ‘reader friendly’, “The Promised Land” is very highly recommended for community and academic library Biblical Studies reference collections, and personal biblical studies supplemental reading lists. It should also be noted that “The Promised Land” is also available in a hardcover edition (9781483694313, $56.07). Midwest Book Review, 278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575-1129 e-mail:
Review - Rainbow Connection
Rainbow Connection – May 2014 If you’ve ever struggled with understanding the Old Testament, stumbling at one of the many hurdles, this book is for you. Brian Curtis, former Cursillo Tasmania Diocesan Spiritual Director and parish priest, takes us on a journey from Abraham to Joshua in plain English. Based on the complete Hebrew text, the narrative is presented in a more logical historical order, dealing appropriately with many of the obstacles. At the same time, YHWH’s laws are treated with the seriousness they deserve. I remember when I first started my ministry education, spending the entire first year on the Old Testament, one of the difficulties I found was the presence of so many parallel passages; the same events told in different ways in different books of the Old Testament, often with different names for the same people and places. This book is a must have in the library of any serious Bible student. And for those less committed to study, it is also interesting and involving reading. This is a book that brings the Old Testament to life. To improve the flow of the story, the book is divided logically into two parts. Part One deals with the narrative—the story of the Old Testament from the migration from the Fertile Crescent to the taking of the Promised Land by Joshua. Part Two brings together God’s laws and presents them in a new and meaningful way. Although given over time, the laws are set out in a way that mimics the Ten Commandments, bringing them together and making it easier to understand how the individual laws amplify and relate to the Ten Commandments (the Decalogue). I heartily recommend this book to any who desire a deeper understanding of the story of God’s people—and isn’t that every Christian? Rainbow Connection, Magazine of the Anglican Cursillo Movement in Tasmania, Australia