2 Kings 3: History or Historical Fiction? -- By: Joe M. Sprinkle

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 09:1 (NA 1999)
Article: 2 Kings 3: History or Historical Fiction?
Author: Joe M. Sprinkle


2 Kings 3: History or Historical Fiction?

Joe M. Sprinkle

Toccoa Falls College

It has become fashionable in recent decades for biblical scholars, sometimes termed “biblical minimalists,” to deny thoroughly the historicity of virtually all biblical narratives. 2 Kings 3 has not escaped this trend to repudiate reconstructions that harmonize the biblical account with extrabiblical data, in this case with the Mesha Inscription (Moabite Stone). Rather, such minimalists label 2 Kings 3 “historical fiction” with the emphasis on fiction and see little genuine history in the chapter. This paper examines the arguments of biblical minimalists concerning 2 Kings 3 in comparison with the Mesha Inscription and presents what can be termed a “historical maximalist” response for this story, evaluating the arguments of the minimalists while providing a positive historical reconstruction of this period on “maximalist” assumptions. It is concluded that a reconstruction that takes both 2 Kings 3 and the Mesha Inscription as essentially accurate history is possible, and that the objections raised by historical minimalists to such a reconstruction, though not without weight, are by no means conclusive. Hence, historical maximalism for 2 Kings 3 appears to be a viable option.

Key Words: Mesha (king of Moab), biblical minimalists, Kir Hareseth, Jehoshaphat (king of Judah), Jehoram (king of Israel)

Introduction

It has become fashionable in recent decades for biblical scholars, sometimes termed “biblical minimalists,”1 to deny thoroughly the historicity of virtually all biblical narratives and to decry any attempt to harmonize biblical and extrabiblical data, just as it had been

fashionable during the heyday of the Albright School to affirm the historicity of biblical narratives and to look more favorably upon harmonizing reconstructions. 2 Kings 3 has not escaped this trend to repudiate reconstructions that harmonize the biblical account with extrabiblical data, in this case with the Mesha Inscription (Moabite Stone). G. Garbini2 for example criticizes M. Noth, A. H. van Zyl, and G. Rendsburg for attempting such reconstructions. Rather, such minimalists tend to agree with H. C. Brichto3 in labeling 2...

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