Israel and her History -- By: Ronald Youngblood
ATJ 34 (2002) p. 81
Israel and her History
Ronald Youngbood (PhD, Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning) is Emeritus professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Bethel Seminary San Diego.
John Bright, A History of Israel, 4th ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000. xxii + 533 pp. + 16 maps, paperback, $34.95.
Alfred J. Hoerth, Archaeology and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998. 447 pp., hardback, $44.99 .
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., A History of Israel From the Bronze Age Through The Jewish Wars. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998. xx + 540 pp., hardcover, $34.99.
Niels Peter Lemche, The Israelites in History and Tradition. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998. ix + 246 pp., hardback, $29.95.
The four books here under review deal, each in its own way, with the task of attempting to determine how, when and why the Old Testament historiographers went about doing their work. What were the writers of the Old Testament trying to accomplish in terms of the history they recorded? During what time span did they write—or dictate? Did the events they chronicled reflect their own time, or the time of the presumably past events they were writing about? And does any of this really matter?
Let me begin by briefly analyzing Lemche’s volume, the title of which was perhaps inspired by that of John Van Seters’ notorious work on the patriarchs, Abraham in History and Tradition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975).. Niels Peter Lemche, Professor at the Institute for Biblical Exegesis at the University of Copenhagen, is a prominent member of the so-called minimalist (also labeled “revisionist” or “nihilist”) school of Old Testament scholars centered primarily in Sheffield, England, and Copenhagen, Denmark (Lemche provides a representative listing of his like-minded colleagues on p. 157). Their basic overall thesis is that the Old Testament documents were produced in toto during the Persian and/or Hellenistic periods (sixth to second centuries BC) and that the so-called “history” they record is that of the time of the writers, not that of
ATJ 34 (2002) p. 82
the pseudohistorical/mythical people and events named in that “history” (p. 129). As an exemplar of the Copenhagen school, Lemche denies the historicity of everything that occurred prior to Israel’s divided monarchy, including for example the exodus (p. 23) and the period of the judges (p. 101). Indeed, exodus and exile alike are “foundation myths” of which ancient Israelite “history” is simply the logical “extension” (pp. 86–97). Since the Old T...
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