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The Josianic Reform: Deuteronomy, Prophecy, and Israelite Religion

by Adam Porter and David Tabb Stewart

Politics and religion in Biblical Israel.

The Josianic Reform: Deuteronomy, Prophecy, and Israelite Religion, 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. 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.

This is a Level 3 game that is still under development but has been approved by the Reacting Editorial Board (REB) for general use. A detailed explanation of the editorial process and game levels can be found on our REB Page.



Jewish Studies; Religion; Western Civ/History

7th Century BCE; Ancient and Prehistoric Era

In a Few Words
Biblical authority and authorship, politics, economics

Southwest Asia

Themes and Issues  
Documentary hypothesis,  nature and function of prophecy in ancient Israel, nature of Israelite religion

Player Interactions 
Factional, Competitive, Collaborative

Sample Class Titles

Egypt, Israel, and the Ancient Near East; World Civilizations; Reacting to Religion

Level 3 game (what's that mean?

Physical props

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
This game is moderately chaotic and demanding on the instructor.

Primary Source Highlights
Deuteronomy, Leviticus, 2 Kg 22-23

Notable Roles

Hilkiah, the High Priest; The Queen Mother; Jeremiah

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This game has been designed to work with a core group of about 12 roles, but can be expanded to around 30. This was done intentionally, so it could be used for different sized classes. Depending on the instructor's goals/topics to be emphasized, different roles can be added to introduce different themes or issues. This is explained in the instructor's guide, with suggestions about how to add roles and maintain game-balance.

Class Time  
For this game, 10-11 sessions (2 to 3 setup, 7 game sessions, 1 debrief) are recommended.

Possible Reacting Game Pairings
This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive. The Josianic Reform may pair well with:


You can adjust the assignments to fit the desired learning outcomes of your class. This game can include traditional paper/research/thesis-driven writing. All roles are typically required to give formal speeches, although for students who cannot (perhaps for religious reasons), a "chronicler" role exists. This person takes notes and publishes the "official" record of the meetings.


Reacting Consortium members can download all game materials below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  

Please Fill out the Permissions Request Form Before Using Josianic Reform in Your Class!


All students need a Gamebook, which includes resources and historical content. Members can download the Gamebook, and provide it to students for free or at cost.

Instructor's Manual and Role Sheets

The Instructor's Guide includes guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more. Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, suggestions for further reading, and role-specific info or assignments. 

Download the Gamebook
(Members Only)
Version 2.0. Updated November 2010.


Adam Porter

Adam Porter is the Joel Scarborough Professor of Religion at Illinois College. He is very interested in innovative pedagogical methods and has been involved with Reacting for over a decade. Additionally, he is interested in digital humanities and how Satan is represented in popular culture.

David Tabb Stewart

David Tabb Stewart received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley – a degree focusing on Hebrew Bible and Hittitology in their Department of Near Eastern Studies, an M.A. in Middle East Studies-Hebrew from the University of Utah, and a B.S. in Finance from the University of Oregon. He joined the CSULB faculty in 2007. His special interests include biblical and ancient Near Eastern religion and law, the literary art of the Hebrew Bible, intertextuality, and ancient notions of disability, otherness, sex, and gender. Dr. Stewart has taught at Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, San Francisco State University, and Southwestern University (Texas). Before his life as a professor, Stewart was involved in the management and financial guidance of a number of NGOs including ones that focused on homeless youth and college students.


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


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