I FREQUENTLY TEACH introductory courses in what was once generally called “Western Civilization” and have often been called upon to referee all or parts of the manuscripts of new editions of “Western Civ” textbooks; I am moreover a frequent recipient of examination copies of such texts. Through my own reading, I have become aware that much current scholarship on ancient Israel and Judah is inclined to emphasize the comparative lateness of the putting together of the Hebrew scriptures, and to treat the biblical accounts of periods prior to the establishment of the Israelite monarchy—if not the united monarchy itself—as being subject to strong doubts as to their historicity. With largely disappointing results, I have searched for awareness of these scholarly developments in the chapters and sections on ancient Israel in what was at this writing the latest available edition of sixteen university-level textbooks. See Appendix for the list, with full publication data.
Scholarship, Traditional and Revisionist
Rejection of a literalist or fundamentalist reading of the history of ancient Israel as told in the Hebrew Bible is nothing new. The modern phase of biblical historical scholarship can be said to have begun with the formulation of the “documentary hypothesis” in the late nineteenth century, most notably by Julius Wellhausen. Whereas the Torah or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy) had traditionally been seen as the “books of Moses,” deriving from if not actually written by Moses himself, the documentary hypothesis held that the Pentateuch was a composite of several “documents” or “strands” produced by several different authors at different times and subsequently combined. Two of the major clues prompting the development of this hypothesis were (a) the different names provided for the deity of the Israelites in different passages within the biblical books and (b) the apparent relationship between the book of Deuteronomy and the scroll or “book” of law said (in 2 Kings 22-23; cf. 2 Chronicles 34-35) to have been found in the temple in Jerusalem during the reign of King Josiah of Judah (640-609 BCE).
Some of the passages using different divine names (Yahweh, commonly translated “the Lord,” on the one hand, and Elohim, generally translated simply as “God,” on the other, while some passages employed both, saying Yahweh Elohim, i.e., “Yahweh God” or “the Lord God”) appeared to tell the same stories twice, often in significantly varying ways. An obvious and frequently-cited example may be found in the two very different accounts of the creation of humankind in Genesis 1 and 2, first by “God,” then by “Yahweh God.” It was suggested that such variant stories, with different divine names, reflected the work of different writers. Moreover, if the book of Deuteronomy (as a whole or in part) should be identified with the scroll “found” in Josiah’s time, it was suggested that it may well have been written at that time for purposes contemporary with its production. Wellhausen and others finally suggested that many parts of the Torah, especially the laws within it, were written quite late within the history of the Israelites, during or after the “Babylonian exile” of the sixth century BCE.
Although extreme literalists have never accepted any version of the documentary hypothesis, its essential features became generally accepted among most serious biblical scholars, even those of decidedly conservative inclinations. In the most common version of the hypothesis, the Pentateuchal “strand” employing from its outset the name Yahweh (whose anonymous author is therefore called “the Yahwist”), symbolized by the letter J (the early work on the hypothesis was done by German scholars, who spelled the name “Jahweh”), was produced in the tenth century BCE, in or near the time of King Solomon. This strand, the hypothesis continues, was followed within a century or so by a second strand called E (“the Elohist,” which uses Elohim for the divine name), and these two strands were at some point combined to produce what is called JE. Then, it is suggested, in the late seventh century (under Josiah) came Deuteronomy, its earliest version being labeled strand D. The last major addition to the Pentateuch, according to the hypothesis, was the aforementioned exilic or post-exilic strand, produced by priests and therefore called P, seemingly followed by a general editing or “redaction” of the combined strands. Many, many refinements of the documentary hypothesis have been suggested over the years, but they need not be discussed because they do not affect its essentials, and those essentials have been, as said above, generally accepted.
Deconstruction of the Pentateuch naturally led to similar deconstruction of the other books of the Hebrew Bible. The “school” that produced Deuteronomy was also credited with producing the main “historical” books, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings, and with having edited and revised many other books, including the Pentateuch and the collections associated with numerous prophets. The books of Joshua and Judges were problematic, some scholars tending to associate one or both of them closely with the Pentateuch (thus positing a “Hexateuch” or even a “Heptateuch”), others attaching them more closely to the Deuteronomic or Deuteronomistic history books.
Scholarship agreed with ancient tradition in dating the core elements of the prophetic books from internal clues, with Amos and Hosea seen as quite early, Micah and Isaiah somewhat later (but all in the eighth century), then Jeremiah in the late-seventh-early-sixth century, with Ezekiel a younger contemporary among the exiles; other prophets were by the content of the books attached to their names associated with the period of “return” from exile. A commonly-accepted refinement was seeing portions of the biblical book of Isaiah (beyond chapter 39) as the work of an exilic writer much later than the eighth-century prophet, a writer unnamed in the text and therefore conventionally called “Second Isaiah.” It was undisputed that 1 and 2 Chronicles were a re-writing (a tendentious re-writing, in the opinion of many) of Samuel-Kings and even part of the Pentateuch. The so-called “Chronicler” was commonly associated with the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, internally dated to the fifth century BCE. Numerous other “Writings” (the term is ancient, applied to the latest-written subsection of the canonical Hebrew Bible, as contrasted with the Law and the Prophets) were seen as late, with varying degrees of debate about their respective dates (Ruth, Song of Songs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Esther, etc.), and the pseudepigraphic Daniel was commonly viewed as the latest book of the canon (some of the book is even written in Aramaic, which supplanted Hebrew as a spoken language), usually associated with the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes, the second-century Seleucid king. Books consisting of collections (Psalms and Proverbs) were seen as having been added to over time, perhaps over very long spans of time—Psalms having been perhaps actually begun by King David (to whom many Psalms are attributed in their prescripts), with additions down to the exilic period (Psalm 137 is the most-cited example) and even beyond.
Although the essential premises of the biblical developmental process laid out by Wellhausen and his successors were widely accepted, scholars of different temperaments and different religious leanings drew vastly different inferences. Severe textual critics such as Morton Smith found in the biblical text itself evidence of re-writing and reinterpretation so fundamental and pervasive as to make them view the extant Hebrew Bible as a falsification of Israelite history. Conservative commentators such as William Foxwell Albright, on the other hand, found the biblical accounts even of very early times (the stories associated with Abraham and the other so-called Patriarchs, the exodus from Egypt, the reception of the Mosaic law at Mount Sinai, the conquest of Canaan, etc.) to be essentially verified and supported by nineteenth-and-twentieth-century archaeological discoveries and by the preserved writings of other ancient Near Eastern societies. Such scholars argued that the biblical accounts report essentially accurate memories that had been preserved orally or in now-lost writings until incorporated into the biblical “strands,” beginning with J in the tenth century BCE. The Albrightean orientation became by far the more popular viewpoint, seeming as it did to support the main elements of the biblical account of Israelite history with extra-biblical evidence. Albright himself and his students, notably John Bright and G. Ernest Wright, have heavily influenced the way academics (especially in the United States) interpret the history of ancient Israel, relegating critical scholars such as Smith to the role of “voices crying in the wilderness.” Certainly the treatment of Israel in the great majority of the textbooks discussed in this article is primarily Albrightean, a fact clearly revealed by the frequent listing of works of Albright and his school in their recommended readings, along with the virtually complete omission of works by Smith (died 1991) and very limited citation of most other critics.
Even more strikingly, one would never know from reading most of these textbooks’ accounts that, in the viewpoint of a substantial group of scholars, during the last two or three decades of the twentieth century a virtual “paradigm shift” in the treatment of the Hebrew Bible’s relationship to the history of Israel has been occurring, one that involves a far more basic rejection of traditional interpretations than the essentially text-critical approach of commentators such as Morton Smith. By those who disapprove of their work and their influence, members of the current generation of severe biblical critics are called revisionists, biblical minimalists, deconstructionists, even ideologues and nihilists. They themselves, of course, reject such labels, except possibly revisionists, offering far less value-laden terms, e.g., biblical scholars, historians, etc. Although this scholarly movement is international, with some of the most pointedly critical work emanating from and written in the languages of Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Israel, a great proportion of the work (even from the places mentioned) is available in English, either having been translated or having been published in that language by bilingual or multi-lingual authors. My own recent reading of this literature has been entirely in English, and I am not a trained specialist in either biblical history or Near Eastern languages (I know only the most basic rudiments of Hebrew). Everything I have consulted is as readily accessible to the textbook authors as to me. Nor are these developments known only to professional academics. In addition to many popularly-intelligible articles written by specialists during recent years in widely-read periodicals, reference may now be made to an excellent new book intended for the general educated public, The View from Nebo: How Archaeology Is Rewriting the Bible and Reshaping the Middle East (2000), written by Amy Dockster Marcus, a former Middle East Correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.
The revisionists (minimalists, etc.) agree in emphasizing the unreliability of the biblical text as evidence for the history of ancient Israel, some of them going so far as to put “ancient Israel” in quotation marks that imply that it is the creation of the biblical writers, not an entity whose true history can ever be known. Whereas most scholars since Wellhausen have agreed that many biblical books were edited or revised during and/or after the “Babylonian exile,” the revisionists tend to see such late periods as the periods of the essential creation of those books, with perhaps very minimal use of pre-existing source materials. Moreover, by “late,” some of these scholars (not all of them) mean as late as the Persian—or even Hellenistic—period. In terms of the traditional Pentateuchal strands, not only is D earlier than P, but it is suggested that it may well be earlier than J, whereas E is generally denied the status of an independent strand at all, but is treated as a mere revision of J. Conservative arguments that traditionally-dated J and E had preserved somewhat reliable oral traditions of pre-monarchic times are denied and dismissed as essentially impossible. Moreover, even if D is earlier than the other strands, it is suggested that D may still be quite late, e.g., from the Persian period.
Such conclusions are not offered arbitrarily. The findings of Levantine archaeology over the last couple of decades are cited as showing that the biblical “conquest of Canaan” never happened, nor does archaeological evidence permit belief in anything like the biblical exodus from Egypt, and of course the even earlier patriarchal stories are now widely seen as creative fiction. Moreover, in the eyes of several minimalists, and increasingly in those of an important faction of archaeologists, physical evidence for the existence of the united monarchy of (Saul? and) David and Solomon is seen as conspicuously lacking. The very milieu necessary for a “Solomonic enlightenment” that might have produced J, it is suggested, may be the literary creation of late authors. The surprising consistency of the biblical viewpoint (despite all the visible seams) is itself seen as evidence for late authorship, and it is sometimes suggested that the Hebrew Bible makes most sense as a body of literature designed primarily to justify the takeover of the territory that had once been the kingdom of Judah (and more territory, if possible) by persons coming in from outside, denying the claims of those who had been present in the land all along.
Any short list of revisionists’ names would include Thomas L. Thompson and Niels Peter Lemche (sometimes referred to as “the Young Turks of Copenhagen”) and Philip R. Davies; most lists would add John Van Seters, Gösta W. Ahlström (died 1992) and his student Diana V. Edelman, Keith W. Whitelam, and Giovanni Garbini. S. David Sperling treats the Torah as radically as any of the minimalists (several of whom he cites repeatedly), although he accepts the period of the “united monarchy” as historical and sees it as the time of the creation of much of the Torah material. The archaeologist most frequently identified with the group, and most frequently cited favorably by its members, is Israel Finkelstein, who himself sees much of the writing of both the Torah and the Deuteronomistic historical books as dating from the time of Josiah, with later revision. Aware of the group’s contributions, but frequently disagreeing with its conclusions, are the authors of important histories of ancient Israel and Judah, J.M. Miller and J.H. Hayes and J. Alberto Soggin; also Hershel Shanks (editor of the magazine-format periodical Biblical Archaeology Review—hereafter BAR—and author of various popular studies in the field). A once-friendly critic whose reactions have become quite embittered is archaeologist William G. Dever. The revisionists’ list could be greatly extended, but these names will serve.
The viewpoint of the revisionists is far from monolithic; they differ on many points, often quite important ones. Any group of scholars whose works offer radical challenges to long-accepted positions will occasionally overstate its case, and the Young Turks of Copenhagen and their allies are no exception to this general rule. In a confrontation between “biblical minimalists” and their critics orchestrated by Hershel Shanks for the cover story of the July/August 1997 BAR, Niels Peter Lemche was so bold as to suggest that one or more recently-discovered inscriptions seemingly having a bearing on biblical issues might be fakes; he subsequently retracted at least one such suggestion as “premature.” The very devastating critique of earlier conservative scholars offered by Keith Whitelam, notably arguments showing the casual racism and reporting the pro-genocide comments of W.F. Albright (directed toward the biblical Canaanites), tends to become obscured by Whitelam’s own indulgence in present-day pro-Palestinian and (some suggest) anti-Israeli polemics. Some of Thompson’s recent arguments have been rather convincingly characterized as thinly-veiled Pauline Christian theology. In the 25th anniversary issue of BAR of March/April 2001, several mainstream archaeologists and biblical scholars quoted by editor Hershel Shanks are at pains to insist that “minimalism” is now dying. Whether this conclusion represents the calm certainty of a strong position or hopeful whistling in the dark remains to be seen. Some of their critics’ success in demonstrating that “minimalists” make overstatements and even show biases should not blind readers to the overstatements and biases that have always been manifest in traditional conservative commentary on the Bible and on ancient Israel. Marcus, referring to the “Copenhagen School,” makes a strong point: “In their effort to show that the Bible should not be read as history, they sometimes go too far. But their detractors fail to give them proper credit for what they have achieved. The bottom line is that when it comes to the big picture, they are often right. Many of their ideas, once considered far-fetched, are now solidly mainstream concepts.”
Textbooks’ Treatment of Ancient Israelite History
In the survey of textbooks’ handling of Israel’s history that follows, I have included enough directly-quoted passages to show that interpretations based on the biblical narrative itself or on quite conservative scholarship are the norm. Such quotes could be multiplied, but I have contented myself with presenting in connection with each major topic a selection of striking statements and simply citing other textbooks’ pages on which similar passages appear—often at the end of my discussion of the topic, preceded by “See also.” On matters of how textbooks report information (kings’ regnal years, dates of events, etc.), where the issue is not phrasing but the consistency, inconsistency, or range of answers provided, I have saved space by summarizing my findings, rather than citing the specific information provided in each text.
Disclaimers, but hedging. Only a handful of the surveyed textbooks’ chapters or sections on ancient Israel (e.g., those in Hause, Kagan, and Perry) could be plausibly described as consistently following something close to a biblical-literalist line. Hause 40a, e.g., says that the Jewish religion was “inspired by revelations that can be dated with some accuracy.” Many of the texts offer what appear to be serious disclaimers as to the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible. Hunt 31a admits: “Unfortunately, no source provides clear information on the origins of the Hebrews or of their religion. The Bible tells stories to explain God’s moral plan for the universe, not to give a full historical account of the Hebrews, and archaeology has not yielded a clear picture”; 33a: The Israelites’ “distinctive religion and way of life … both took much longer to evolve than the biblical account describes.” McKay 41a says that the Hebrew Bible, “though it contains much historical material, … also contains many Hebrew myths and legends”; 60a refers to “the difficult question of how much of the Hebrew Bible can be accepted historically.” See also Noble 51b, 52b. But even the authors making such disclaimers frequently couple them with other comments that appear to treat the biblical account as literal reportage of historical events, or they combine such disclaimers with attributions of dating, which seem to me to imply a belief that something happened, however tenuously it might be related to event(s) reported by tradition.
Abraham’s existence, homeland, and covenant. None of the texts consulted, for example, comments on the blatant anachronism of the Bible’s reference to “Ur of the Chaldaeans” (Genesis 11.31) as the original home of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham. Yet whenever the Chaldaeans emerged as the dominant group in southern Mesopotamia, it was certainly centuries later than any period in which Abraham supposedly inhabited the old Sumerian city of Ur. McNeill 69 cites “Biblical tradition” for Abraham’s leaving Ur, but supplies an approximate date (“perhaps about 1900 B.C.”) and says: “There is nothing intrinsically improbable about this traditional account.” Hollister 28b-29a begins discussing Abraham and his covenant as if only reporting the tradition in Genesis, but ends up speculating about what Abraham thought and believed, i.e., treating him as a real person. Abraham’s “covenant” with Yahweh is treated as historical in some of the texts. See also Kishlansky 25a; King 48b.
The Hebrew nation in Egypt. Most of the texts accept the biblical “sojourning” and enslavement in Egypt, some putting the migration by the Hebrews into Egypt as early as the time of the Hyksos rulers (ca. 1648-1540 on Amélie Kuhrt’s chronology), perhaps as part of a wave of Semites entering the Delta; some even earlier; others simply supply varying dates. Hollister 30a has the Hebrews in Egypt during the mid-1300s reign of Akhenaten, but says that they, being “at the bottom of the Egyptian social order, remained unaffected” by his religious reform; 29b says “the Hebrew community in Egypt clearly also included kindred folk and probably other Semitic people”; 30a adds the suggestion that while there, “the Hebrews may have extended their covenant of Abraham to include greater numbers of oppressed people.” King 48b-49a suggests that “The Israelites…thought of Canaan as their homeland despite generations of slavery in Egypt.” See also Kagan 25a; Hollister 4 chr., 28 chr. Those who name a “Pharaoh of the oppression” tend to name Ramesses II or possibly his son Merneptah. Suggested exodus dates generally range over the span 1300-1200 BCE.
Moses, exodus, Sinai, wanderings. The various elements of the biblical story of Moses—the exodus event itself, his epiphany on Mount Sinai (or Horeb), his reception of the Ten Commandments, his renewal and/or revision of the divine covenant earlier made with Abraham, and his leadership through the years of “wilderness wandering”—are handled with varying degrees of distancing by the textbook authors, but almost none of them denies the stories some historicity. Noble 51b-52a introduces discussion with “According to the biblical account,” reports that the Israelites “are said to have” made a covenant with Yahweh, and describes the approximate date provided as being according to “those who accept its historicity,” but then reports as if factual: “The Exodus … is one of the rare examples of a successful national liberation movement in antiquity…. The Exodus is also one of the central events in the history of ancient Israel, because it marked another covenant…. In return for obedience to Yahweh’s commandments, they would be God’s chosen people…. The … covenant … in form and style … bears a certain similarity to the treaties of international diplomacy of the period 1400-1200 B.C.[, which] suggests the genuine antiquity of the biblical tradition…”; the intro. to 55 box reiterates: “The central event in the history of ancient Israel was the covenant, or treaty, at Sinai….” Greaves 34b informs readers: “Historians have been frustrated by the absence of unmistakable references in Egyptian records to the sojourn of the Hebrews, but this omission is not decisive,” and says that “the Exodus was the formative event of the Jewish faith….” Hunt 33a, although offering several comments indicating the problematic nature of the biblical evidence, nonetheless casually uses “[i]n the time of Moses” as a dating formula, and couples references to “Israel” on Merneptah’s stele and to “[t]he Hebrews who fled from Egypt with Moses.” Hause 41a explains: “The Ten Commandments [were] brought down by Moses from Mt. Sinai and delivered to the people of Israel before their entry into Canaan,” though the law based on them “evolved over time.” King 48a reports the arrival of the Israelites in Canaan already “endowed with a religious and ethical tradition that constituted the world’s first major monotheism,” adding (48b): “Moses not only had led his people out of Egypt, but also had bestowed upon them, carved in stone, the law code decreed by their one God”; later (49a), David “hoped to build a temple to Yahweh that would house the Ark of the Covenant, the shrine containing the two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments.” Cannistrato 41b: The Ark in Solomon’s temple had been “handed over by Moses”; 42b: “Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai produced the basis for Hebrew law….” See also McKay 41b, 44a-45a; McNeill 69; Cannistraro 41a; Hollister 30a; Hause 39a, 43a; Chodorow 25a, 26a; Kagan 30b; Kishlansky 25b, 28a, 28 map; Esler 29; Perry 33a.
Conquest and “chasing after baals.” The biblical “conquest of Canaan” by Hebrews coming from outside seems to be generally accepted by the textbooks’ authors; Noble 51a : “Through a combination of the biblical narrative and archaeological evidence, Israelite history after 1200 B.C. is relatively easy to trace.” In the main, however, they implicitly deny the whirlwind nature of Joshua’s triumph as reported in the Bible—most of them not even mentioning Joshua by name. They prefer instead to follow scholars who stretch the process over a couple of centuries, most commonly ca. 1200-1000 BCE. Several supply details, reflecting different degrees of literal acceptance of the biblical narrative. Kishlansky 28a refers to the years “wandering in the desert and then slowly conquering Canaan” as the period in which the Israelites (some of them originally Egyptians) developed their identity and faith, in that “they adopted the oral traditions of the clan of Abraham as their common ancestor and identified his god, El, with Yahweh,” whom they had taken over from the Midianites. “Inspired by their new identity and their new religion, the Israelites swept into Canaan,” where the local populations either “accepted the religion of Yahweh” and welcomed the invaders or were “slaughtered”—no other alternatives being mentioned. Hunt 33a also refers to the adoption of Yahweh from the Midianites, and says: “The Hebrew tribes joined their relatives who had remained in Palestine and somehow carved out separate territories for themselves there.” See also Perry 33a; McNeill 69, 71. Some texts are willing to rationalize the Bible’s “backsliding” into polytheism and understand it as the pre-monotheist norm among the Israelites. McKay 41b-42a concedes: The Hebrews, “not always hostile[,]…freely mingled with the Canaanites, and some went so far as to worship Baal…”; a golden calf statuette found at Ashkelon in 1990 is interpreted as archaeological support for the biblical account. Compare Greaves 35a, 37a-b; Hunt 33a.
Kings of the united monarchy. The textbook authors generally equate the establishment of the Israelite kingdom with the choosing of Saul as its first king, supplying approximate dates. Inconsistencies seem to be largely a matter of seeing (sometimes implicitly) David as the monarchy’s “true” founder, e.g., the foundation of the monarchy may be given the same date as the beginning of his reign, even though Saul is mentioned as king before him. The texts offer varying dates for Saul, David, and Solomon, ranging generally from shortly before 1000 to somewhere in the 920s.Such dates are all guesswork based on biblically-reported reign-lengths, calculated backwards from the traditional approximate date for the end of Solomon’s reign. None of the texts even mentions scholars’ suggestions that the “united monarchy” itself might be fictional.
Early writing down of scriptures. Essentially following the most conventional version of the documentary hypothesis and showing obliviousness to all more recent suggestions, the textbook authors usually put the beginning of the writing down of the Hebrew scriptures in the period of the united monarchy—if not earlier. King’s first chapter begins (4a) with the scene from Genesis 22 of Abraham’s not-quite sacrifice of Isaac, described thus: “Written down nearly 3000 years ago, this story originated even earlier, not long after the appearance of the first human civilization.” Noble 50a assures readers that “Much of the Hebrew Bible…is based on written sources that probably date back at least as far as the early Israelite monarchy of about 1000 B.C. Some scholars trace these written sources back several centuries earlier, to… Moses and the laws he is said to have promulgated.” Perry 34a says: “Under Solomon, Israel…experienced a cultural flowering: some magnificent sections of the Old Testament were written….” Hollister 31a sees the earliest version of the Torah as having been “probably put into written form during Solomon’s reign.” See also Hollister 29a, 31b; McKay 31a, 41a; Hunt 33a; Chodorow 25a; Stearns 28 chr.; Greaves 34b.
Empire and capital city. Ignoring recent archaeological arguments concerning Jerusalem and several other sites, the textbooks are essentially unanimous about the greatness and splendor of the “united monarchy” under David and Solomon. Greaves 35a insists that David “made Jerusalem into an impressive capital,” Solomon ruled “an elegant city,” and the temple reconstructed after that of Solomon was destroyed “never recovered the grandeur of earlier times.” Hollister 33a puts the expansion under David and Solomon “in the eleventh [sic!] and tenth centuries B.C.,” elsewhere (31a) saying that under David and Solomon Israel extended to the upper Euphrates, while “[t]he Phoenician cities retained their independence only through…submissive cooperation” and “Solomon made Jerusalem the cosmopolitan capital of a wealthy empire.” Spielvogel says (33b) that David “established control over all of Palestine” and (32) that Solomon “created a strong, flourishing state.” See also Kagan 29b-30a; Hunt 52a; Noble 52b; Esler 27; King 49a; Hause 39b. Esler 27 and Greaves 39b accept and give some importance to the Biblical account’s marriage between Solomon and the daughter of some unnamed Egyptian pharaoh (1 Kings 3.1; 11.1).
North-south schism and why. Although some texts interpret the biblical split of the united monarchy into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah as prompted by economic and regional factors, some see a religious dimension in the north’s secession, e.g., McKay 42b: “In the eyes of some people, [Solomon] was too ready to unite other religions with the worship of the Hebrew god Yahweh”; 43a: “With political division went a religious rift: Israel, the northern kingdom, established rival sanctuaries for gods other than Yahweh.” Taking an opposite theological line, Kishlansky 30a says: “The northern region, demanding that aspirants to the throne should be tested for their faithfulness to Yahweh, broke off to become the kingdom of Israel….” Kagan 30a offers the puzzling comment that Solomon’s “sons” (plural) could not hold the kingdom together. See also Perry 34a; Cannistraro 41b; King 49a; Hause 39b.
Two kingdoms, Judah, law and prophets. The period of the two kingdoms and of Judah after the fall of Israel to the Assyrians is a period for which external written sources (primarily Assyrian and Babylonian) are comparatively abundant. The key political events reported in the Bible, all with important impact on interpretations of Israelite/Judahite history and its meanings, were the fall of the northern capital Samaria in 722 or 721, Sennnacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701, the so-called “Deuteronomic reformation” described as being carried out in Judah under King Josiah in 622, and the two Babylonian sieges of Jerusalem (only the first of them confirmed by Babylonian evidence) in 598-7 and 587-6 by Nebuchadrezzar (Biblical Nebuchadnezzar), each said to have involved deportations and the second said to have led to the destruction of Solomon’s temple and the city. This is also the period in which scholars have generally located most of the biblical prophets, whose spoken oracles are usually believed to have formed at least the core of several books in the canonical collection. Although by and large the textbooks agree with conventional scholarship in generally following the documentary hypothesis, several of them deviate markedly from Wellhausen’s conclusion that the work of the Hebrew prophets preceded the establishment of the “Mosaic” law; they tend instead to follow the Bible in depicting the prophets as calling the Israelites back to observance of the already-established law. Thus McNeill 71 argues: Although the prophets of the eighth century and beyond created fully developed monotheism, their task was “comparatively easy” because “Yahweh had always been a jealous god, requiring the undivided loyalty of his people and repudiating all rivals.” Kagan 30b, having suggested that monotheism may be as old as Moses, insists that “it certainly dates as far back as the prophets of the eighth century B.C.E.” See also Hunt 52b; Hollister 33a; King 30b; McKay 45a; Esler 29.
Josiah and the Deuteronomic reformation. The documentary hypothesis is essentially followed in regard to Josiah’s reformation. Noble 50b says: “Josiah… assembled ‘the entire population, high and low,’ to swear to obey ‘the scroll of the covenant which had been discovered in the house of the Lord’ (the scroll probably was Deuteronomy, now the fifth book of the Torah)”; 53a-b: “They succeeded in making the Temple…the unquestioned religious center of the whole Israelite people, and they began the process of canonizing the Hebrew Bible.” McNeill 72 asserts: “Not long before the conquest of Jerusalem (587 B.C.) a strenuous effort had been made to purify the worship of Yahweh. In the course of this reform the sacred scriptures were organized into the books of the Old Testament, almost as known today.” See also Hollister 33a; McKay 45a. Yet despite the fact that it is a fundamental tenet of the documentary hypothesis, a hypothesis that most of them consciously accept, none of the textbook authors ventures to suggest that the scroll “discovered” in the temple in Josiah’s reign might in fact have been written at that time by those instigating the cultic reformation. Compare the phrasing of Morton Smith: “It is possible, indeed likely, but not certain, that the Deuteronomic code was the most influential forgery in the history of the world.”
Deportations to Babylonia. In discussing the “Babylonian captivity,” a primary issue is the sheer scale of both the deportations and the return, since the biblical text clearly takes as normative and definitive the experience of those who went through both processes, marginalizing those who either remained in Palestine all along or stayed on in Babylonia. The biblical narrative at 2 Kings 24.12-16, which shows signs of re-writing, reports deportations in the time of Jehoiachin (597 BCE), including the king himself and his entourage, providing both 10,000 and 7000 as total numbers; 2 Kings 25.6, 11-12, 21 (parallelled in Jeremiah 39.7, 9-10 and 52.11, 15-16, 27) indicates that “the remainder of the population,” excepting some few agricultural workers, followed a decade later. A more modest biblical version (in Jeremiah 52.28-30) gives precise and much smaller numbers—a total figure for all the Babylonians’ deportations (including a third one after the assassination of their governor) of 4600. It appears that most of the textbook authors seem to see the deportations from Jerusalem, especially the second, as being quite large in proportion to the population of Judah, generally accepting the large scale of deportations indicated by the dominant biblical tradition. See the phrasing of, e.g., McKay 43b, 51a, 44a; Hunt 46 chr., 52a, 80 chr.; Hollister 33a; King 52b, 201b; Noble 48a-b, 55a. Some of the texts actually seem to try to combine the incompatible biblical narratives, i.e., more or less to equate deportation of the elite with deportation of the large majority of the population. Other texts are more ambiguous or more inconsistent, e.g., McNeill 59, 72; Perry 34b, 35a; Kagan 30a; Spielvogel 34b, 35a, 37b, 47b. A few textbooks actually seem to say that only the elite were exiled: Cannistraro 41b; Hause 40a; Chodorow 27b.
Exilic developments. The Hebrew Bible itself says very little about what happened among the exiles in Babylonia. The textbook authors follow the consensus of conventional scholarship in generally agreeing that important work in putting together the biblical books, or at least the Torah, was done among the exiles. Commonly cited as new works produced in Babylonia are Psalm 137 (“By the rivers of Babylon…”) and the prophetic corpora of Ezekiel and “Second Isaiah”—whose universalizing message is emphasized. The general impression conveyed in the textbooks is that what occurred during the exile and/or after was mostly a selection, from extensive pre-existing written materials, many of them several centuries old. It is also generally asserted (again without biblical or other evidence) that many practices associated with Jewish worship began among the exiles. Thus Hollister 39a-b says: “It was during the Babylonian Captivity that the Sabbath and dietary codes came into focus, as well as the insistence on male circumcision and bans on marriage outside the faith. … The Psalms…were assembled and edited during the Exile….” McNeill 72 is certain that the exiles in Babylonia “possessed the sacred texts and could read and study them,” which they did in weekly meetings, each led by “a teacher (rabbi).” Noble 56b says it is possible that the exiles put together the Torah in something like its present form, and points out that some scholars believe that they organized the first synagogues. See also further passages in Hollister 39a; Kagan 31 box; Hause 43a; Cannistraro 42a.
Completion of the canon. Despite the emphasis given to exilic developments, some of the texts do show awareness that the Hebrew Bible as we now have it was not finally completed for centuries beyond. The full development of the religion we call Judaism is also seen as coming rather late, after the exile. Spielvogel 35a says: “It was among the Babylonian exiles…that Yahweh…came to be seen as the only God. After the return of these exiles to Judah, their point of view eventually became dominant, and pure monotheism…came to be the major tenet of Judaism.” Hollister 40a argues: “It took several centuries to impose on Palestine the Judaism that had been born in the Exile.” See further Noble 43, 50a; Chodorow 25a; Perry 37a; Stearns 28 chr.; Greaves 34b; Cannistraro 40b, 56b; Hunt 33a, 46 chr.; McNeill 74; King 30b, 49a-b. McKay 44a says: “During and especially after the Babylonian Captivity, the exiles redefined their beliefs and practices, and thus established what they believed was the law of Yahweh”; 47a actually confuses the production of the Torah with that of the much later Talmud, describing the Talmud as a work “begun during the Babylonian Captivity and completed by the end of the sixth century B.C. [sic!].”
Return to Jerusalem and environs. The biblical tradition that the return to what became the Persian province of Yehud began within a year of Cyrus’ capture of Babylon in 539, authorized by an edict of Cyrus himself, is followed without question, despite testimony (also biblical) that the actual reconstruction of Jerusalem’s temple did not occur until the reign of Darius I (the reconstruction, on the biblical evidence, occupying the years 520-515). Given their general belief that both the exile and the return involved quite large numbers of Judahites, it is not surprising to see little discussion in the textbooks consulted about what some current scholars see as the appropriation and redefining of the traditions of an entire people by a fairly small minority. The description of the conflict in postexilic Yehud in Hollister 39b-40a is atypically objective, reporting the conflicting claims of various parties: the returning exiles, the “people of the land,” and the Samaritans (who “never became Jews of the new type”) with considerable evenhandedness. Hunt 52a and 79b is unusual in emphasizing the influence of Persian Zoroastrianism on the religion of the Hebrews.
Ezra and Nehemiah. There is in the textbooks consulted a general unconcern with (or unawareness of) the numerous source problems afflicting the biblical texts of Ezra and Nehemiah, and it is frequently stated as simple fact that Ezra attained some sort of public ratification of the (entire) Torah in the second half of the fifth century BCE. Noble 56a reverses without comment the Biblical sequence and puts Nehemiah a generation earlier than Ezra, giving the latter a date that contradicts the Persian regnal years of the biblical text; 44 chr. in entry for ca. 425 BCE: “Judaean assembly accepts the Torah” (essentially reiterated at 50b). King 197b-198a reports: “Ezra organized the compilation of the Hebrew writings (probably some part of the Pentateuch…–perhaps only Deuteronomy). From a wooden pulpit, he read the law aloud…. With that…the history of Judaism begins.” See also Hollister 39b-40a; Perry 35b.
The Textbooks and Historical Scholarship
Best textbook treatments of ancient Israel. Spielvogel is on the whole more consistent with the findings and observations of recent scholarship on ancient Israel than any of the other textbooks surveyed. The Hebrews’ nomadic period, their descent from Abraham whose origins were in Mesopotamia, their sojourn and enslavement in Egypt, Moses and the exodus, the wilderness wanderings, their entry into Canaan, division into twelve tribes, and conflict with the Philistines—all are presented by Spielvogel only as “a tradition concerning their origins and history that was eventually written down as part of the Hebrew Bible…,” with “according to tradition” and “[a]ccording to the biblical account” further inserted within the summary to reiterate the point that only tradition (not history) is being reported (33a-b). This summary of tradition is followed immediately (33b) by these observations: “Many scholars today doubt that the early books of the Hebrew Bible reflect the true history of the early Israelites. They argue that the early books of the Bible, written centuries after the events described, preserve only what the Israelites came to believe about themselves and that recently discovered archaeological evidence often contradicts the details of the biblical account. Some of these scholars have even argued that the Israelites were not nomadic invaders but indigenous peoples of the Palestinian hill country.” A few pages later (36a-b), traditions about Moses and the exodus are reported in greater detail, modified throughout by such phrases as “[t]he Israelites believed,” “supposedly,” “[a]ccording to tradition,” etc. The lateness of the general adoption of “pure monotheism” is also recognized: “For some Israelites, Yahweh was the chief god of Israel, but many, including kings of Israel and Judah, worshiped other gods as well”; only in exilic and post-exilic times did monotheism become dominant (35a). And it was only “[d]uring and after the Babylonian exile [that] the Jews recorded many of their traditions in order to preserve their identity. These writings became the core of the Hebrew [B]ible” (36a). Spielvogel does not adopt the full “minimalist” position of questioning the historicity of the “united monarchy”; he treats it as historical and allots it a subsection (33b), and “Creation of monarchy in Israel” is the first item in his time-chart of Israelite history (53 chr.). Spielvogel does not suggest, however, that any parts of the Hebrew Bible were written as early as the time of Solomon.
McKay, in 1998, reported certain important archaeological finds that have not yet been mentioned in any of the subsequently-published texts; the reportage is valuable even if the interpretations offered for the historical significance of the artifacts remain doubtful. Evidence excavated in 1990 for golden calf worship in Palestine, for example (45 illus. and caption), hardly supports—as McKay implies—the specifics of the narrative of Exodus 32 (the calf created by Aaron at Sinai while Moses is atop the mountain). This textbook is especially to be commended for reporting (43a-b) so promptly the 1993 discovery of a ninth-century Aramaic inscription from Tel Dan in northern Galilee that seems, in the eyes of many scholars, to mention the “House of David”; none of the other texts mentions it. Yet the apparent context of the phrase is misinterpreted, and the inscription is seen as celebrating a victory of “the royal line of Israel,” when the phrase (on the most generous reading) seems to identify a king of the dynasty in Judah, in contrast with a king of Israel (i.e., the northern kingdom), also referred to, both of whom are defeated, not victorious.
Recommended readings: the better lists. Spielvogel’s revisions of his Suggestions for Further Reading for ed.4 involve deletion of two books by Albright (Bright’s History is retained, however) and the addition of Kuhrt’s Ancient NE (2 volumes), Soggin (though carelessly cited in his 1984 edition, rather than its 1993 revision, Introduction), and several other Israel-related books of the 1980s and 1990s, while retaining from the previous edition Miller and Hayes, History, Shanks, Ancient Israel (1988), and Lemche, Ancient Israel. Hunt, among the most recent (2001) of the textbooks surveyed, not surprisingly has some of the most up-to-date Suggested Readings. Books recommended in this text but not in its 1995 predecessor include Kuhrt, Ancient NE; D.C. Snell, Life in the Ancient Near East, 3100-322 B.C.E. (1997); Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel; Norman Cohn, Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith (1993); and (all these uniquely among the textbooks surveyed) Gruen, Heritage and Hellenism; Peter Schäfer, Judeophobia: Attitudes Toward the Jews in the Ancient World (1997); and Jonathan N. Tubb, Canaanites (1998). The Suggested Reading in McKay is both more up-to-date and higher in quality than that of any contemporary (1998) or earlier textbook, and compares very favorably with that of the texts of 1999-2001 that were surveyed. McKay was the earliest of the surveyed texts to list several of the comparatively critical recent treatments, e.g., Kuhrt, Ancient NE (subsequently listed by Spielvogel, Kagan, and Hunt); Shanks, Rise of Ancient Israel; J.R. Bartlett (ed.), Archaeology and Biblical Interpretation (1997); Susan Niditch, Ancient Israelite Religion (1997). The only other texts consulted that list Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel are Kishlansky, Hollister, Noble, and Hunt.
Recommended readings: lesser lists. The conventionality of the treatments of Israel in the other textbooks surveyed should be evident from the numerous passages quoted above. None of them discusses ancient Israel with anywhere near the sophistication of Spielvogel, or shows nearly as much awareness of recent critical scholarship as Hunt or McKay. When one consults the recommended readings sections of these other texts, the conventionality of their historical narratives is not surprising; most of the books listed tend to be traditional in their orientation, even if written in the 1980s and ’90s. Kagan’s ed.7 finally lists some 1990s books relating to the Near East in general, e.g., Kuhrt, Ancient NE and the 1998 second edition of W.W. Hallo and W.K. Simpson, The Ancient Near East: A History, as well as Snell, Life in the ANE; the only new item relating more or less specifically to Israel, however, is a collection of sources in translation edited by Hallo and L. Younger, The Context of Scripture: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World (1997), apparently the first volume of an ongoing series. Although several books written in the 1990s that relate to early Christianity are listed by King (2000), there is only one such book (of 1992) that deals with pre-Christian Israel, and its beginning point is Ezra. The relevant bibliographical essay in McNeill (1999) has manifestly not been updated from ed.3 of 1979; nothing specific to Israel postdates 1960! Perry’s 1996 text is something of a special case; it is the only text surveyed that devotes an entire chapter to ancient Israel, and its suggested readings are both numerous (sixteen items) and specific to Israel; nonetheless, they are generally conventional, and only one listed book dates to the 1990s. Chodorow’s ed.6 (1994), despite considerable rewriting in its section on the ancient Israelites, makes absolutely no changes in ed.5’s bibliographies (even the misspelling of one author’s name is retained), lists nothing specifically about Israel later than 1963, and is still listing works of 1932 and 1913 among suggested readings! It is very rare to find in the texts surveyed any books listed that are written by any of the so-called “biblical minimalists”; their works mentioned specifically in my discussion here (text and notes) constitute the complete list of such citations within all the textbooks surveyed.
Conclusion: Why This Is Important
The textbook authors are of course correct to stress the impact the Hebrew Bible has had on Western Civilization, and it is true that part of that impact has been because of the inherent quality of some of its messages, notably the demands for social justice in some of the prophetic books and Second Isaiah’s notion of a universal deity available to all people. But neither ethical concerns nor historical accuracy were by any means the major preoccupations of those who canonized the body of scriptures that was assembled, edited, and perhaps to a considerable extent written (in? and) after the Babylonian exile of the elite of Judah. Most of the Hebrew Bible’s message focused essentially on the chosenness of Israel, on the arbitrary preference of its god for the advancement of his people, often in direct opposition to the interests, or even survival, of other peoples.
The most important factor in the Hebrew Bible’s universal impact was that Paul and other early Christians consciously reinterpreted—in fact misinterpreted—the Hebrew scriptures, teaching that the assurances of divine favor embodied in them were equally and directly accessible to everyone, without most of the cultic requirements and prohibitions. The Hebrew Bible, renamed the “Old Testament” and coupled with the Greek New Testament in a redefined “Bible,” became in this unintended Christianized form the most important and influential body of religious literature within Western Civilization, for the simple reason that the Roman Empire and its successors adopted Christianity as their state religion. This was the Bible that Muhammad sought to reinterpret and supersede in creating Islam, making Jesus, like Moses and others, another prophetic predecessor to himself.
In any event, impact has little to do with historical accuracy. Although I have given perhaps disproportionate space to severely critical and “minimalist” historical scholarship, and I confess to considerable sympathy for such viewpoints, the detailed treatment and abundance of citations are offered primarily because such work is less widely known among non-specialists than more conventional treatments. I was myself ignorant of such ideas before I began my recent intensive period of reading, prompted by controversies alluded to frequently in the pages of Biblical Archaeology Review. I am certainly not insisting that authors of Western Civilization texts for university classes should agree with the suggestions made about ancient Israel in recent decades by scholars such as those whom I have cited. What I am saying is that it is bad scholarship, and bad pedagogy, simply to ignore an important body of recent work, offering adult students a literalist-leaning account that is by scholarly standards probably twenty years out of date. At the very least, textbook authors should include more critical scholars’ works and some minimalist works in their recommended readings, so that students would have a chance to confront such arguments on their own.
I am presenting here a critique and a plea for improvement, not an exposé comparable to a 1998 discussion of public school American history textbooks in the New York Review of Books. I do not believe that the writers of these sections on ancient Israel are motivated by the kind of abject terror of giving offense or the pandering to every conceivable pressure group described in that article. But of the textbooks I have consulted, most of them fail to do the job, and they fall short—in greater or lesser degree—for the same reason: bestowing (usually implicitly) a special status on one particular body of ancient literature that is not bestowed on any other. The Hebrew Bible is simply not a reliable source for the history of ancient Israel, and the authors of the textbooks surveyed seem largely unaware of this fact. Writers of textbooks for undergraduates need to ask themselves: If we are content to provide students with mythical, legendary, uncritical histories of ancient Israel, how can we have any legitimate grounds for complaint or criticism when others are willing to provide mythologized, fictionalized histories of other peoples and places?
Appendix: Textbooks in Which Sections on Israel Were Surveyed
Kishlansky = Mark Kishlansky, Patrick Geary, and Patricia O’Brien, Civilization in the West, ed.4 (Longman 2001)
Hunt = Lynn Hunt, Thomas R. Martin, Barbara H. Rosenwein, R. Po-chia Hsia, and Bonnie G. Smith, The Making of the West (Bedford/St. Martin’s 2001)
Kagan = Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment, and Frank M. Turner, The Western Heritage, ed.7 (Prentice Hall 2000)
Spielvogel = Jackson J. Spielvogel, Western Civilization, ed.4 (Wadsworth 2000)
Hollister = C. Warren Hollister, J. Sears McGee, and Gale Stokes, The West Transformed: A History of Western Society (Harcourt 2000)
King = Margaret King, The Meaning of the West (Prentice Hall 2000)
Cannistraro = Philip V. Cannistraro and John J. Reich, The Western Perspective: A History of Civilization in the West (Harcourt Brace 1999)
Hause = Steven Hause and William Maltby, Western Civilization: A History of European Society (Wadsworth 1999)
McNeill = William H. McNeill, A World History, ed.4 (Oxford University Press 1999)
Stearns = Peter N. Stearns, World History in Brief, ed.3 (Longman 1999)
McKay = John McKay, Bennett D. Hill, and John Buckler, A History of Western Society, ed.6 (Houghton Mifflin 199876)
Noble = Thomas F.X. Noble, Barry S. Strauss, Duane J. Osheim, Kristen B. Neuschel, William B. Cohen, and David D. Roberts, Western Civilization: The Continuing Experiment, ed.2 (Houghton Mifflin 1998)
Greaves = Richard L. Greaves, Robert Zaller, and Jennifer Tolbert Roberts, Civilizations of the West: The Human Adventure, ed.2 (Longman 1997)
Esler = Anthony Esler, The Western World: A Narrative History, ed.2 (Prentice Hall 1997)
Perry = Marvin Perry, Myrna Chase, James R. Jacob, Margaret C. Jacob, and Theodore H. Von Laue, Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics & Society, ed.5 (Houghton Mifflin 1996)
Chodorow = Stanley Chodorow, MacGregor Knox, Conrad Schirokauer, Joseph R. Strayer, and Hans W. Gatzke, The Mainstream of Civilization, ed.6 (Harcourt Brace 1994)
* My warm thanks are extended to friends and colleagues who read and offered comments on one or another draft of this article: (alphabetically) Shelley Emmer, Dick Holland, Nancy Mautner, David Panisnick, Susan Schrepfer (twice), Robert Sewell, Traian Stoianovich, Shanti Tangri, Barry Wittman. Among textbook authors and biblical scholars cited in the article, drafts were sent to John Buckler and Niels Peter Lemche, both of whom responded graciously and encouragingly, although without specific suggestions. Most especially I want to thank my long-time mentor Erich Gruen for reading and offering valuable suggestions on two drafts. The editors and three readers for this journal and one reader for another also had valuable comments to offer.
1 In this article I cite each textbook simply by its first author’s surname, i.e., by the element to the left of each entry in the list of my Appendix. In most cases I have consulted vol. 1 of a 2-volume edition; McNeill exists only in a single volume; I assume no pagination problem is produced when I employ vol. A of a 3-volume edition (Hunt) or the large single-volume edition (Kishlansky, Kagan, Chodorow), since almost invariably the sections consulted come within the text’s first couple of chapters. Sometimes I am aware of the specific author of the chapter(s) or section(s) on ancient Israel, but in any case joint authors must bear communal responsibility for their book’s inadequacies, just as they collectively take credit for its strengths. In citations of specific text passages, left and right columns are indicated respectively by “a” and “b” attached to page numbers. Absence of such a suffix indicates a page not divided into columns; “chr.” after a page number indicates something in a chronological chart on that page; “box” indicates something within a boxed item on the page (usually a primary source excerpt or some introductory or explanatory material associated with it); similarly “map” and “illus.,” etc.
2 Emphasis here and throughout this discussion is on history and on the Bible as source material for Israelite history. No arguments are offered here that in any way question the greatness of the Hebrew Bible as literature, nor is any criticism offered or implied toward commentators who deal with the Bible as a literary corpus. Thus, e.g., the brilliant commentary of Robert Alter in works such as Genesis (Norton, New York 1996), The David Story (Norton, New York 1999), and Canon and Creativity (Yale, New Haven 2000) is outside the scope of this discussion. Nor does any of the textbooks surveyed discuss the Bible in primarily literary terms (only Cannistraro and Noble list any work by Alter among their recommended readings, for example). They all treat the Bible as a historical source, and my criticism relates to their generally unsophisticated and seemingly ill-informed ways of doing this.
3 Wellhausen, author of Prologomena to the History of Ancient Israel (1881), resigned his professorship at Greifswald, convinced that his “scientific treatment of the Bible” made him unfit for preparing Protestant ministerial students, an event cited as testimony to his integrity by Robert A. Oden, Jr., The Bible without Theology (Harper and Row, San Francisco 1987) 20; cf. Jon D. Levenson, The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and Historical Criticism (Westminster, Louisville 1993) 97.
4 Hollister 32b, for no obvious reason, dates the writing of the Book of Job to the era of the prophet Isaiah.
5 See Morton Smith, “The Present State of Old Testament Studies” (1969), reprinted in Smith, Studies in the Cult of Yahweh, ed. Shaye J.D. Cohen (Brill, Leiden 1996), vol. 1, 37-54.
6 Smith, Palestinian Parties and Politics That Shaped the Old Testament2 (SCM, London 1987, corr. repr. of ed.1 of 1971). Other textual criticism of comparable severity may be found in, e.g., Oden, Bib.w/out Theol.; Robert B. and Mary P. Coote, Power, Politics, and the Making of the Bible (Fortress, Minneapolis 1990); and Mark S. Smith, The Early History of God (Harper and Row, San Francisco 1990). Steven L. McKenzie, King David: A Biography (Oxford, New York 2000) probably belongs in this category, although Jack Miles, reviewing the book in the New York Times Book Review (June 18, 2000) 11 describes McKenzie as, in his eyes, “a minimalist in maximalist company.”
7 As observed by, e.g, Giovanni Garbini, History and Ideology in Ancient Israel, tr. John Bowden (Crossroad, New York 1988, tr. of 1986 Italian ed.) 8. See also S. David Sperling, The Original Torah: The Political Intent of the Bible’s Writers (NYU Press, New York 1998) 41: “Virtually every American biblicist or seminary graduate of a certain age grew up reading John Bright’s History of Israel,…deservedly popular in circles of religious moderates for its attempt to balance the critical study of Israelite history with respect and reverence for the biblical tradition.” For the kind of Brightean gymnastics admired by “religious moderates,” see Perry 37b: “John Bright… suggests a judicious balance. The religion of Moses ‘did not deny the existence of other gods,’ says Bright, but it ‘effectively denied them status as gods.'”
8 Books by Albright and/or Bright are listed by Spielvogel, Cannistraro, Hause, McNeill, Stearns, Noble, Esler, Perry, and Chodorow.
9 A listing of Pal.Parties & Pol. was included in McKay ed.4 at my suggestion, but the description of the book in eds.5 and 6 (“Turning to politics, M. Smith…takes a practical look at events”) does not show any actual consultation of it, since Smith uses “politics” very metaphorically for the interaction of cultic factions, not for anything comparable to the seemingly modern use of “politics” in this phrasing. None of the other textbooks surveyed lists any work by Smith at all.
10 Thomas L. Thompson, Journal of Biblical Literature 114 (1995) 694 says that “such major changes of perspective have occurred in our field that several of us have been inclined at times to speak of a paradigm shift that potentially affects nearly every aspect of biblical studies…,” refers (696) to “the present quite profound ‘paradigm shift’ that has overtaken our field,” and asserts (698) that newly-found knowledge “has changed the very paradigm within which scholarship operates today.” See similar language in Philip R. Davies, In Search of ‘Ancient Israel’ (JSOT, Sheffield 1992, corr. repr. 1995, 1999) 11, 15, 25; Keith L. Whitelam, The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinian History (Routledge, London 1996) 177 cites “claims of a major paradigm shift” by himself, Davies, Thompson, and Niels Peter Lemche. Sperling, Original Torah 41 asserts that “there was a radical shift in the scholarly consensus” between the publications of Bright’s History of Israel (1972) and Lemche’s Ancient Israel (1988). Amy Dockster Marcus, The View from Nebo: How Archaeology Is Rewriting the Bible and Reshaping the Middle East (Little, Brown, Boston 2000) 21 refers to “the seismic shift …under way in archaeology” that affects biblical issues. Mike Carter, a letter writer to Biblical Archaeology Review 26.4 (2000) 68, sees both Thompson and his critic William G. Dever as representing different points along the same paradigm shift.
11 Sperling, Original Torah 51-52 shows very effectively both the strength and weakness of Smith’s approach.
12 Frédéric Gangloff, Theological Review 19 (1998) 27 n. 49 lists the pejorative terms used to describe scholars and works (works of which he approves); all of the scholars he names are named in my paragraph here. Showing the casual use of extremely negative labels, a review by L.H. Lesko, BAR 26.4 (2000) 59 says that a book about Israel in Egypt “might be welcomed by some as an antidote to the nihilists who consider the Exodus story total fiction,” but alas the book is seen as more or less playing into their hands.
13 Perhaps with tongue in cheek, Thompson, JBL 114 (1995) 697 suggests that an appropriate label would be “Neo-Albrighteans,” because of his group’s “insistence on external evidence before assuming the historicity of biblical narratives, themes, and motifs” and “also because of its insistence on independent evaluation of biblical and other data useful for historical descriptions of the southern Levant, and because of its efforts to integrate and critically synthesize the several sub-branches of the history of the ancient Near East.” William G. Dever, Near Eastern Archaeology 61.1 (1998) 43 dismisses this description (spelling it “Neo-Albrightian”) as “patently absurd.” Lemche, Prelude to Israel’s Past: Background and Beginnings of Israelite History and Identity, tr, E.F. Maniscalco (Hendrickson, Peabody, MA 1998; German ed. 1996) xv does indeed appear ready to describe himself as a “minimalist.”
14 My English-only statement is meant to strengthen the point that each textbook author could just as easily have become aware of this scholarship as I did; the new work is not at all obscure, it is readily accessible and much discussed. As several notes have already shown, I have read, and I feel free to cite, literature published up to my time of final revision, the later elements of which were of course unavailable to the authors of textbooks published earlier than, or contemporarily with, the literature itself. Almost all of the “minimalist” scholars I cite were already making similar points in publications within the 1980s, some in the 1970s, and a few even earlier. I see no distortion involved in citing what seem to me to be the fullest or clearest or most accessible formulations of their positions, whether early or late.
15 My historical fields at the Ph.D. level are Greek and Roman history, and my scholarly publishing has been mostly in the Greek area. But I also managed to work in a few graduate courses in ancient Israelite history and scriptures, and this background combined with a great deal of self-directed reading has enabled me to teach my department’s survey course in the ancient Near East, as well as various undergraduate seminars on biblical topics. My single publishing foray into the biblical field, “David in History: A Secular Approach,” Judaism 35.2 (1986) 211-222, shows very clearly my lack of exposure at the time to most of the literature cited here; I worked purely as a textual critic, influenced primarily by Morton Smith, correspondence with whom was cited in my article’s notes. For a greatly superior and more detailed effort along somewhat similar lines, see McKenzie, King David.
16 See, e.g., John Noble Wilford, “A New Armageddon Erupts over Ancient Battlefield: Archaeological Finds Challenge Chronologies of the Israelites,” New York Times (Jan. 4, 2000) F1, F6. Beyond the very numerous relevant articles in recent volumes of BAR (many of which are cited below), articles germane to the controversy and written by archaeologists active in current excavations appear in, e.g., the issues of the magazine-format periodical Archaeology for May/June and Sept./Oct. 1998 and Nov./Dec. 1999.
17 The review of this book by Jodi Magness, BAR 26.5 (2000) 62, 64, 66 seems to me rather unfair in treating it in tandem with a fundamentalist tract entitled The Bible Is History and seeing the two as flawed in similar ways; inadequacies in Marcus’ discussion of issues about Qumran caused Magness, she says, to ‘realize’ that “Marcus’s presentation in an earlier chapter of the so-called minimalist-maximalist debate about early Israel is similarly lopsided toward the minimalists.” She concludes: “While the evidence Marcus puts forth is not necessarily incorrect (at least, not strictly speaking), the manner in which it is presented gives readers a false or misleading impression of at least some of these scholarly debates.” In my view Marcus is simply giving more exposure to less widely known views; her discussion of minimalists vs. maximalists is not misleading at all, though her sympathies do indeed appear to lie more with the minimalists.
18 See Davies, In Search of ‘Ancient Israel’. Marcus, V.f.Nebo 117 and 242-244 describes this book’s impact.
19 Lemche, Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 3.1 (2000) 14: “The biblical picture of ancient Israel…is simply an invented history with only a few referents to things that really happened or existed. … It is something sprung out of the fantasy of biblical historiographers and their modern paraphrasers, i.e., the historical-critical scholars of the last two hundred years.”
20 Van Seters, In Search of History (Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, IN 1997, repr. of 1983 ed.) 8 dates “the earliest Israelite histories in the sixth century B.C.” and comments at 217, 287, 323, and 359 imply an exilic date, without quite unequivocally saying so; he is certainly interpreted in this sense by Lemche, Prelude 224.
21 Lemche, Prelude 219-225 provides an admirably clear summary of the arguments for and against four commonly-accepted dates for the beginning of the composition of the Pentateuch: the traditional tenth-century “Solomonic” period, the late-seventh-century reign of Josiah, the sixth-century period of “exile,” and the Persian or Hellenistic periods. In the words of Thompson, The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel (Basic Books, London 1999) 67-68, “Within the context of the Persian or Hellenistic renaissance, the authors of the tradition created the understanding of the population of Palestine as Israel…not as it once existed in an earlier period, but in a way that was meaningful for themselves.” Garbini, History & Ideology 16 says the biblical “texts are all thought to be much older than they really are,” and provides specific and often very late examples at, e.g., xiii-xiv, 63, 95, 109, 132. Davies, Search 113 says the “geographical perspective” of the ‘exilic’ poet Second Isaiah is not Babylon but Palestine and “later,” claiming in the process to have solved a problem that had troubled Morton Smith. Sperling, Original Torah 5-6 also dates Second Isaiah to the Persian period.
22 Davies, Scribes and Schools: The Canonization of the Hebrew Scriptures (Westminster, Louisville 1998) 93-99 offers some very cogent reasons for seeing the book of Deuteronomy as a product of the Persian period and for seeing the account in 2 Kgs. of the “finding of the law book” as purely fictional.
23 See, e.g., Finkelstein and Nadav Na’aman (eds.), From Nomadism to Monarchy: Archaeological and Historical Aspects of Early Israel (Ben-Zvi, Jerusalem 1994). Marcus, V.f.Nebo discusses the many archaeological digs that have contributed to changes in scholars’ interpretations, reporting numerous conversations she has had with archaeologists; see the long list of names in her Acknowledgements, pp. x-xi.
24 Sperling, Original Torah 7-8: “Israel was never enslaved in Egypt, so consequently there was no exodus and no trek through the desert. The people ‘Israel’ did not come from outside the land, so there was no conquest,” and at 8-9: “…I am compelled to read the Torah allegorically because it cannot be read historically…[;] nothing in the Torah is historical.” Lemche, JHS 3.1 (2000) 11 is forthright: “1999 represents the silver anniversary of the final settlement—represented by the contributions of Thomas L. Thompson and John Van Seters—with the idea that there ever was a patriarchal period.” Note also the admissions of Dever, in an encounter with revisionists moderated by Hershel Shanks in BAR 23.4 (1997) 29: “…the Exodus and the conquest…are a bad case. I agree with you…. If you guys think I…am looking for the Israelite conquest archaeologically, you’re wrong. We’ve given that up. We’ve given up the patriarchs. That’s a dead issue.” See also Marcus, V.f.Nebo 31-32 on Abraham.
25 In this connection, several cite the conclusions of David W. Jamieson-Drake, Scribes and Scholars in Monarchic Judah: A Socio-Archeological Approach (Almond, Sheffield 1991) [his spelling]. Lemche, JHS 3.1 (2000) 11: “…Jerusalem in the 10th century B.C.E….was at most a village or a small town.” Thompson, Mythic Past 164 goes further: “Only after Lachish had been destroyed by the Assyrians in 701 does Jerusalem develop the political or economic structures and capacity of a city…. Jerusalem is not known to have been occupied during the tenth century.” Marcus, V.f.Nebo 105-128 (Chapter 4: “In Search of David and Solomon”) is an excellent overview of excavations and issues; see also 138-143. One of the issues raised by recent illegal earth-moving operations by the Muslim religious authority in control of the Temple Mount, Waqf, in the words of Israeli archaeologist Ronny Reich, BAR 26.2 (2000) 14, is “that the material hauled away from the Mount might even have contributed to the debate on whether Jerusalem was a significant city in the tenth century B.C., the era of King David.”
26 The “empire” of David and Solomon has become the chief remaining battleground between minimalists and more traditional scholars, with the latter eager to assign dates for all possible monumental remains—especially in Jerusalem but also in other places mentioned in the biblical account of the united monarchy—to the tenth century, thus making the remains definable as Davidic or (usually) Solomonic. The later dating suggested for remains at Megiddo and other places by Israel Finkelstein, which would move several traditionally “Solomonic” complexes into the period of the ninth-century northern kingdom dynasty of Omri and Ahab, is perceived as especially to be opposed whenever and wherever possible. Sometimes defenders of traditional dating become rather obviously overzealous, e.g., when Shanks supplies the title “Will Tel Rehov Save the United Monarchy?” to an article by the site excavator Amihai Mazar and John Camp, BAR 26.2 (2000) 38-48, 50-51, 75. Mazar himself protests, in a letter in ib. 26.4 (2000) 69, saying that the title “was chosen by the editors, not by us” and characterizing it as “at least overstated and at most inaccurate.” Note also the defensive language in three articles in ib. 26.3 (2000) by John Monson (p. 35), Lawrence E. Stager (p. 47) and Gabriel Barkey (pp. 50, 56-57). Shanks returns to this preoccupation in an article entitled “The Missing Millennium in Jerusalem’s Archaeology,” ib. 26.5 (2000) 34-37; the same concern in equally evident in his review, ib. 26.6 (2000) 64, 66, 68, 71 of Finkelstein, David Ussishkin, and Baruch Halpern, Megiddo III—The 1992-1996 Seasons, 2 volumes (2000).
27 From Babylonia if during the Persian period, from the Jewish diaspora in general if from the Hellenistic period.
28 The phrase is used by, e.g., Walter Dietrich in Volkmar Fritz and Philip R. Davies (eds.), The Origins of the Ancient Israelite States (JSOT, Sheffield 1996) 196. Cf. Shanks’ citation of Lawrence E. Stager’s referring to certain biblical minimalists as the “Copenhagen dyspeptics,” BAR 24.2 (1998) 61. Marcus, V.f.Nebo 117-123 discusses what she calls “the Copenhagen School” in some personal detail.
29 Although Van Seters is not always currently listed among biblical minimalists, Thompson, Mythic Past xii-xiii stresses the impact of his pioneering work of the 1970s.
30 She edited his posthumously-published magnum opus (990 pages), The History of Ancient Palestine, with a contribution by Gary O. Rollefson (Fortress, Minneapolis 1993, 1994).
31 Among revisionists, Lemche, The Israelites in History and Tradition (Westminster, Louisville 1998) 157 lists Davies, Thompson, himself, and Whitelam. Whitelam, Invention 176-177 lists all these as persons involved in “what we might term the ‘new search’ for ancient Israel,” along with Ahlström, R. Coote, and Finkelstein.
32 Sperling, Original Torah 7-9, e.g. See the carping review by Shanks, BAR 25.3 (1999) 6, 59 and a more informative one by Levenson, JBL 119 (2000) 547-549.
33 See, e.g., Lemche, Israelites in H&T 65: “…especially Finkelstein’s studies have revolutionized the study of the archaeology of Palestine in the transition period, c. 1250-850 B.C.E…”; Whitelam, Invention 176: “The work of Finkelstein is distinctive and important for the direction of future discussions, being the publication and analysis of new and vital survey data by a professional archaeologist.” Thompson, Mythic Past xiv describes as being “overwhelmingly important” in his own “re-education” two books, Lemche’s Early Israel and Finkelstein’s The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement. Finkelstein is a major presence throughout Marcus, V.f.Nebo; see, e.g., 21, 97, 99-101, 110-114, 137-143, 146, 150-151, 243, 256-258. Shanks, reporting on attending a scholarly symposium, is quite harsh on a presentation given there by Finkelstein, quoting comments against him from several more conservative scholars, BAR 26.3 (2000) 6, 63-64; cf. the highly favorable review of two volumes of survey reports by Finkelstein and others in the very same issue (p. 62, by Eric M. Meyers).
34 Finkelstein’s own general interpretation is now readily available in his new book (with Neil Asher Silberman), The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (Free Press, New York 2001). See early reviews by Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times (Jan. 6, 2001), available online at http://www.latimes.com/cgi-bin/print.cgi; Phyllis Trible, New York Times Book Review (Feb. 4, 2001) 16-17; and Dever, BAR 27.2 (2001) 60, 62. This book is reviewed along with Marcus, V.f.Nebo by Laura Miller in the online periodical salon.com (Feb. 7, 2001); see wysiwyg://68/http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2001/02/07/Solomon/index.html.
35 Miller and Hayes, A History of Ancient Israel and Judah (Westminster, Philadelphia 1986); Soggin, An Introduction to the History of Israel and Judah, tr. John Bowden (Trinity, Valley Forge, PA 1993 — a complete revision and updating of ed.1 of 1984, which had been entitled History of Israel; the change in title explicitly reflects the impact of recent critical scholarship).
36 Dever contributed an article to a collection edited by Diana Edelman, The Fabric of History (JSOT, Sheffield 1991) 103-115, which included articles by Edelman herself (13-25), Thompson (65-92), and Ahlström (116-141), among others; in it he had friendly words for “several recent biblical historiographers of the socioanthropological school”, singling out “for their courage, if nothing else” (i.a.) Whitelam, Van Seters, Lemche, Garbini, and Thompson (p. 109). In BAR 23.4 (1997) 33-35 Dever and Thompson engaged in some rather tense dialogue (Dever in 1967 led an excavation in which Thompson worked under him; they remember the experience very differently). In NEA 61.1 (1998) 39-52 Dever flat-out denounces Thompson, Davies, Whitelam and other revisionists, whom he labels ideologues and nihilists. Thompson, Mythic Past 202-203 gives his version of the 1967 excavation. Marcus, V.f.Nebo 119, 122-123 provides interesting details on Dever and his quarrel with Thompson. Dever reviews Thompson’s new book in BAR 25.5 (1999) 64, 66, taking the same hostile line; cf. the quite favorable review of Norman K. Gottwald, ib. 66-68 and the somewhat conciliatory letter by Thompson in response to Dever’s review, ib. 26.1 (2000) 6, 8. Dever has not modified, has indeed rather stepped up his attacks, as in his contribution, entitled “Save Us from Postmodern Malarkey,” to a reprise of the minimalist-maximalist controversy in ib. 26.2 (2000) 28-55, 68-69; his simple equation of biblical minimalism with “postmodernism” prompts a salutary correction by reader Bruce Wildish in a letter to ib. 26.4 (2000) 62. Dever’s review of Finkelstein and Silberman, Bible Unearthed in BAR 27.2 (2001), while saying many positive things about the book, nonetheless expresses fear that its “data will simply be co-opted by the more radical ‘revisionists’ and will lend respectability to more Bible bashing” (p. 62). Dever’s own What Did the Biblical Writers Know, and When Did They Know It? Archaeology and the Reality of Ancient Israel (Eerdmans 2001) was still forthcoming as this article was being completed.
37 Thompson, JBL 114 (1995) 696-697 n. 37 lists many authors and works he sees as contributing to the current “paradigm shift”; see also the extensive bibliographies in Gangloff, Theol.Rev. 18 (1997) 100-101 and Dever, NEA 61.1 (1998) 51-52. Probably now the best available list both of books by revisionists and of “[i]mportant works of traditional scholarship” (differentiated as such) is to be found in the “Recommended Reading” of Thompson, Mythic Past xvii-xix. Marcus, V.f.Nebo 249-265 (“Notes on Sources”) is useful, but less easy to use.
38 Although I have not seen it cited on either side in the debate, I see Donald Harman Akenson, Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds (Harcourt Brace, New York 1998) as essentially a minimalist work, since it treats the core of the entire collection Genesis-Kings as having been produced during the exile, then subsequently re-edited. Erich S. Gruen, Heritage and Hellenism: The Reinvention of Jewish Tradition (Univ. of Calif. Press, Berkeley 1998), e.g., does not discuss the creation of the canonical Hebrew Bible, but his treatment of the development of certain Greek additions to the Writings is very similar to the revisionists’ treatments of the biblical books, sufficiently so as to make it appear that he is in general sympathy with their outlook and methods.
39 Thompson, JBL 114 (1995) 696 counters an attack on himself, Davies, Lemche, and Ahlström by Iain Provan, saying that the latter’s labels inappropriately lump together “a Joycean Catholic Irish American emigree [sic!], a Welsh atheist, a happy Protestant Dane, and a rather disrespectfully Protestant Swede.” Marcus, V.f.Nebo 117, referring to the “Copenhagen School,” says that “they don’t agree enough even among themselves to fill a classroom, let alone a school.”
40 Suggestions made at BAR 23.4 (1997) 36-38 and partially retracted at Lemche, Israelites in H&T 182 n. 38. Reactions to such overstatements have been universally critical, even among friendly commentators, e.g., Marcus, V.f.Nebo 118-119.
41 Whitelam, Invention 82-84.
42 See the very negative reaction of, e.g, Dever, NEA 61.1 (1998) 44-46, including a paragraph with the subtitle “Anti-Semitism?” For some revisionists’ responses to such charges, see comments reported in Marcus, V.f.Nebo 118. Innuendo persists: Frank Moore Cross, BAR 27.2 (2001) 29 is cited by Hershel Shanks as follows (without clarifying or providing data): “Cross also noted another factor, ‘something that is not talked about too much: They’re kept alive by anti-Semitism. It bothers me.'”
43 Charles David Isbell, in a blistering November 1999 on-line review of Thompson, Mythic Past, makes such arguments. See the review at http://www.h-net.msu.edu/reviews/ showrev.cgi?path=32376943908835. Shanks hostilely reprints an excerpt from Mythic Past in BAR 26.2 (2000) 36-37, giving it the title “Can You Understand This?”
44 BAR 27.2 (2001) 22-25, 29-31, 35, esp. 29, reporting such statements by Ephraim Stern, Lawrence Stager, Frank Moore Cross, Philip King, and Amnon Ben-Tor, with more moderate reactions from David Noel Freedman and Eric Meyers.
45 Marcus, V.f.Nebo 120. A similar statement is quoted from a professor in an Orthodox university in Israel, p. 121. Philip Davies, participating in a minimalist-maximalist confrontation called by Shanks “The Search for History in the Bible,” BAR 26.2 (2000) 22-51, 68-75, entitles his own contribution “What Separates a Minimalist from a Maximalist? Not Much,” and argues accordingly, pp. 24-27, 72-73.
46 See Amélie Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East c. 3000-330 B.C. (Routledge, London 1995) 399, where an imprecise date early in the first millennium BCE is suggested for the Chaldaeans’ earliest attestation—even this date being long before they became dominant in the region. The implication of the Biblical phrase has often been pointed out, e.g., a quarter-century ago by John Van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition (Yale, New Haven 1975) 121, 310. See also Marcus, V.f.Nebo 47.
47 Abraham’s place of origin is variously given in the textbooks as Ur, Harran, or Mesopotamia (unspecified); he is dated mostly within 100 years before or after 1900 BCE.
48 Marcus, V.f.Nebo 54-57 (see also 70), reporting on visits to the Cairo Museum, shows both the offensive questions and the silly explanations prompted by the exodus legend; 63-65 describes recent Egyptian efforts to “rehabilitate” the reputation of Ramesses II because he is thought of as the “oppressor” Pharaoh.
49 Hollister 30b includes in its discussion of Moses’ receiving of the Ten Commandments the statement that “it became custom to pronounce the word Adonai (‘the Lord’) where the text read ‘YHWH,'” as if there were any conceivable temporal connection between this very late pious development within Judaism and the supposed history of the Sinai epiphany!
50 Exceptions: King 48b says that the leadership of the Israelite invaders “by Joshua, lieutenant of Moses” is attested by Exodus 1-15 (these chapters actually describe the exodus from Egypt itself, not mentioning Joshua at all). Then (49a) “Joshua’s dramatic capture of Jericho…was allegedly accomplished by faith and the sound of trumpets.” “In reality,” however, much remained to be done “after the death of Joshua”; see also Hollister 30b. Stearns 28 chr. and Chodorow 26a do not mention Joshua, but indicate a rapid conquest.
51 In scholarly terms, they modify Albright’s “conquest” model by partially accepting the “infiltration” model of Albrecht Alt, generally rejecting more recent models (e.g., those of George Mendenhall and Norman Gottwald) that see the “Israelites” as indigenous to Canaan. See discussion of models in, e.g., Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton U. Press, Princeton 1992) 263-269; Shanks in id. (ed.) The Rise of Ancient Israel (BAS, Washington 1992) 5-14; Soggin, Introduction 140-163; Ahlström, History 342-350; Kuhrt, Ancient NE 424-437; Marcus, V.f.Nebo 94-96.
52 Hunt and King oddly leave a gap of eight or nine years between David and Solomon; Kagan does not mention Saul at all.
53 1 Sam. 13.1, where Saul’s reign-length would appear, is corrupt in the traditional Hebrew text (which says he became king at age 1 and ruled for 2 years) and missing in the Greek Septuagint; Acts 13.21 attributes 40 years to Saul’s reign, but no one accepts this. David is said to have ruled for 40 years at 2 Sam. 5.4-5 and 1 Chr. 29.27 (all such years—including 7, or 71/2, in Hebron, before 33 in Jerusalem—seemingly put by context after the death of Saul, thus not overlapping); 1 Kgs. 11.42 and 2 Chr. 9.30 attribute 40 years also to Solomon.
54 In fact, of course, the temple built by Herod the Great (37-4 BCE) was immensely more elaborate and impressive than any that preceded it.
55 Cf. denial of the likelihood of such a marriage by Garbini, History & Ideology 27-29, whose critique is cited favorably by Soggin, Introduction 80-81. Miller and Hayes, History 195 also deny the marriage’s likelihood.
56 Sic! Only Solomon’s heir Rehoboam is mentioned in Biblical descriptions of events at this time.
57 Hunt 52a says the Assyrian king involved was Tiglath-pileser III (died 727).
58 Hollister 34 box calls the prophet Isaiah himself the author of the prose narrative passages in Isa. 36-37 on Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem, which are in fact simply lifted almost verbatim from 2 Kgs. 18-19 (the borrowing continues through Isa. 38-39, which reprises 2 Kgs. 20).
59 Smith in St.C.of Yahweh 66; see also Miller and Hayes, History 394; Coote, Power, Politics 61 (“penned on Josiah’s orders”); Garbini, History & Ideology 63 and Soggin, Introduction 258 (both of whom refer to scholars’ suspicions of “pious fraud”); Ahlström, History 777 (mentioning both contemporary fraud and later creation of the whole story as possibilities).
60 Miller and Hayes, History 419-420 chart the different biblical exile figures (including those of the confused version of 2 Chr. 36.6, 10, 18, 20), then offer a rather feeble attempt at harmonizing them.
61 HWorldS (see n. 76 below) 41b reduces “some forty thousand exiles” here to “some 4,600,” i.e., adopts the calculations of Jer. 52.28-30.
62 HWorldS 45b eliminates this egregious error, describing the Talmud as having been “composed during the period between the Roman destruction of the second temple in A.D. 70 and the Arab conquest of 636.”
63 The province is variously mislabeled in the textbooks as “the kingdom of Judah,” “their kingdom,” and “a small client state”.
64 Some say 539 and some say 538, some mention Cyrus’ edict specifically and others refer only to Persian permission, but none of them contradicts the essentials of the biblical story in 2 Chr. 36.22-23, repeated with elaborations in Ezra 1.1-4 (the edict is referred to again in Ezra 5.13 and 6.3).
65 Ezra 6.15 provides dates; 5.1 and 6.14 refer to the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, who strongly urged the completion of the project; the internal dating of their books matches the dating in Ezra. Kagan, in two different chronological charts (pp. xxxiii and 29), dates both the restoration of the temple and the return of the exiles (in that order) to 539.
66 Cf. Thompson, Mythic Past 184: “The failure of historians to address the continued existence of Samaria after the Assyrian takeover is due to their use of the Bible as if it were Palestine’s primary history.” Marcus, V.f.Nebo 154-178 (Chapter 6: “Babylonian Exile: The Ones Who Stayed Home”) describes recent archaeological work showing ongoing life in not-depopulated Judah during the Babylonian period. Lemche, JHS 3.1 (2000) 12 n. 27 provides important 1995-and-later bibliography on this topic.
67 Marcus, V.f.Nebo 220-232 discusses many Ezra/Nehemiah issues.
68 This statement manifestly could not have been made about earlier editions of this text. I was myself extremely gratified to see how open Spielvogel had been to my own suggestions for improving the ancient part (chapters 1-6) of his ed.3, an openness manifested in his very extensive rewriting of the sections in chapter 2 on Israel.
69 Some revisionists question the “House of David” reading; see three successive articles (by Lemche and Thompson, Davies, and Ehud Ben-Zvi) on this controversy in Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 64 (1994) 3-32, and also the summaries in Whitelam, Invention 166-168 and especially Lemche, Israelites in H&T 38-43. See also Thompson, Mythic Past 203-205; Marcus, V.f.Nebo 145, 148, 151-153.
70 This is not to say that the bibliographies of all the texts are entirely out of date. Kishlansky adds the 1997 reprint of Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel (although without mentioning that it is in fact a work of 1962, by an author who died in 1971). Hollister uniquely lists Michael Coogan (ed.), The Oxford History of the Biblical World (1998) and Jack Miles, God: A Biography (1995). King’s recommended readings includes the 1997 reprint of Frank Moore Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (originally published 1973); Cannistraro lists both Finkelstein, Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement and Mark S. Smith, Early History of God; Hause lists Lemche’s Ancient Israel; Hause and Noble list Shanks’ Ancient Israel and Hollister lists Van Seters’ pioneering effort, Abraham in History and Tradition (1975).
71 Although he is hardly a minimalist, Baruch Halpern nevertheless provides a very thought-provoking reappraisal of the biblical prophets’ social pronouncements, seeing the prophets as essentially agents of a totalitarian state agenda. See his chapter in J.S. Cooper and G.M. Schwartz (eds.), The Study of the Ancient Near East in the Twenty-First Century (Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, IN 1996) 291-338, esp. 331-332.
72 Levenson, HB, OT, & Histl.Crit. 151-155 is unusual in showing this with striking honesty and plainspokenness. Hollister 32b admits this in a preexilic context: “The prophetic vision of justice and righteousness did not extend to humanity at large, but as yet encompassed only the Hebrew community”. Spielvogel says that the prophets “cried out against social injustice” and that their “proclamations…became a source for Western ideals of social justice,” but he concedes: “Although the prophets ultimately developed a sense of universalism, the demands of the Jewish religion…eventually encouraged a separation between the Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors” (38a; similar view summarized at 37b).
73 Alexander Stille, “The Betrayal of History,” NYRB 45.10 (June 11, 1998) 15-16, 18-20.
74 This text has a different title from The Challenge of the West (D.C. Heath 1995) by the same authors. Although many passages appear unchanged or only slightly changed, the reorganization—to judge from the sections on ancient Israel—is often drastic, the sequence of topics greatly altered. I am grateful to my departmental colleague Bonnie Smith for making a copy of the new textbook available to me early enough to include it in my discussion, updating my original references to its 1995 predecessor.
75 Copyright 2001, but actually published in 2000 in time for fall-semester classes.
76 The copyright date on my copy says “1999,” but the Library of Congress Catalog Card Number begins with “98,” and my Fall 1998 class definitely used more than 150 copies of it, purchased in early September at the local bookstore. Improvements are made in certain Israel-related passages of the more inclusive version of this text, A History of World Societies, ed.5, by the same authors plus Patricia Buckley Ebrey (2000). These are credited where appropriate above, citing this text (single-volume edition) as HWorldS. Presumably the new language will be employed in ed.7 of A History of Western Society when it appears.
BY: Jack Cargill