Two Books on Biblical History


Baruch Halpern is well known and is always enjoyable to read. His book, The First Historians: The Hebrew Bible in History, is an excellent introduction to the ideas of this important textural critic. Halpern describes the “Deuteronomist,” a person (or group) that has collected together the material that forms the bulk of the Biblical histories of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. His thesis is plausible and consistent and has been supported by recent archeological work by Finkelstein and others. His writing is detailed and specific but his wit and humor always keep the reader interested.

Due to their subject matter, biblical archaeology and criticism have been alternately plagued and supported by religion and politics. Halpern, Finkelstein and their associates are often under attack, not always because of their arguments and research, but rather on the basis of religious beliefs and Middle Eastern politics.

Time will tell if further developments will support or contradict Halpern’s position. Nevertheless, whether you agree with his position or not, Halpern’s book gives an exciting glimpse into one of the most important current trends in Biblical archeology and criticism.

I had also heard good things about this William G. Dever and was excited to read this book, What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the Reality of Ancient Israel. I was very disappointed. Dever presents a rather emotional polemic against what he, somewhat unjustly, refers to as “revisionists” at the expense of presenting a well-reasoned argument of his own point of view. The book had disappointingly little to say about the subject of its title. If you would like to read a book that actually examines “What the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It” I would recommend Richard Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible.


~ by severalfourmany on December 21, 2001.

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