The Quest for the Historical Israel Continued A Review Article -- By: Bill T. Arnold

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 024:1 (NA 1992)
Article: The Quest for the Historical Israel Continued A Review Article
Author: Bill T. Arnold

The Quest for the Historical Israel Continued A Review Article

Bill T. Arnold

Dr. Arnold (Ph.D., Hebrew Union College) is Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at ATS.

The nineteenth century “Quest for the Historical Jesus” was an attempt to strip away the Church’s dogma concerning Jesus and discover who he really was. Pursuers of the “historical Jesus” believed he had been obscured by the kerygmatic accretions of the Church. They believed the raw facts of history could be excavated by tearing back the debris of later generations of faith and exposing the real Jesus. Our discussion of the quest for the historical Israel is a “continuation” because of a volume published a decade ago entitled “The Quest for the Historical Israel.”1 It assumed the historical Israel had also been eclipsed by the religiously biased authors of the biblical text.

The prevailing opinion in Old Testament scholarship today continues to be very Bultmannian. Scholars often assert that historicity has no real bearing on the value of the redemptive story contained in the Bible. A dichotomy is usually established between the brute facts of history (German Historie) and the story of redemption (German Geschichte).2 The crucial issue becomes whether this story of redemption has become God’s word for you through the exercising of your faith. Whether or not there is any historical rootage to Old Testament theology becomes irrelevant.3

In this article, I consider two recent works which share, for the most part, this approach to Old Testament historiography. Both are archaeological in point of departure, and they constitute important new contributions to our understanding of the Old Testament period. The Biblical Archaeological Society has produced Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, edited by Hershel Shanks (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988). The other volume under consideration here is William G. Dever’s Recent Archaeological Discoveries and Biblical Research (Seattle: University of Washington, 1990).4 As helpful as these books are in advancing our understanding of Old Testament history, they nonetheless demonstrate the sometimes arid results of modern biblical scholarship.

In Ancient Israel, leading scholars in Old Testament research give a current state of the field in a convenient, easy-to-read format. After a brief introduction by the editor, eight chapters written by eminent scholars cover the periods of Is...

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