Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
GTJ 1:2 (Fall 1980) p. 233
The Rise of Civilization from Early Farmers to Urban Society in the Ancient Near East, by Charles L. Redman. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1978. Pp. 367. $13.50, paper and $22.00, cloth.
There are very few volumes which have attempted to encompass the vast subject area of this book, a feature which in itself makes it a valuable source of information. In essence, this volume represents an attempt to recreate the conditions and causes for the rise of civilization in the Ancient Near East. To quote the preface, “This book tells, within a single volume, the story of the rise of ancient Near East civilization from these early beginnings.” Perhaps its most valuable feature is that it does this in one volume in which much of the archaeological and anthropological information is gathered, thereby sparing the interested person the time-consuming steps of searching out the information himself.
A quick glance at the large number of commentaries on Genesis, coupled with observing the intense interest in the book on a general level, has always elicited, on my part, the surprising observation that there is such a marked disinterest in things not stated in Genesis. In other words, there is simply no interest in events which occurred from the Flood to the rise of civilization. This feature is almost certainly traceable to the controversy over the age of the earth. Nonetheless, this disinterest is unfortunate, since a good part of man’s existence on earth fits into that period. It is precisely in this area that this volume can help to redress the misemphasis of the present.
The volume at hand, however, is not without its faults and limitations. The average person will have to learn a whole new vocabulary (or at least tolerate many technical terms) in order to understand the volume. Nor is it always possible to agree with Redman’s theorizing. For example, on p. 101, food gathering of both hunting and gathering groups is said to have been a comparatively easy task while by p. 111, it became increasingly difficult for sedentarized man to revert back to that simple semi-sedentary state. Furthermore, the dating system is established on the basis of Carbon-14 as well as more modern methods which have produced dates unacceptable to those of us convinced of a young earth. Still, most of his dates are established through pottery and stratigraphic analysis (p. 189). On the other hand, throughout the volume, one gets the feeling that he must read more quickly lest the statements become outdated!
On the whole, however, the book will fill the needs for which it was intended. Its primary strength, in my opinion, is its plethora of charts, illustrations, and maps which are truly valuable to have in one volume. The first chapter, “The Environmental Bac...
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