Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 54:2 (June 2011) p. 367
An Introduction to the Old Testament: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts of the Hebrew Bible. By David M. Carr. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, 276 pp., 19.99; €24.00 paper.
An Introduction to the Bible: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts. By David M. Carr and Colleen M. Conway. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, 383 pp., 24.99; €30.00 paper.
These works, both introductions to the Bible, structure the data of the biblical storyline around a framework that was erected by the great empires of the ancient Near East. The approach is thus historical, though not one that follows the Bible’s internal chronology or patterns of cause and effect. Rather, David Carr (Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Union Theological Seminary) and Colleen Conway (Professor of Religious Studies at Seton Hall University) proceed by analyzing individual biblical texts in relationship to a sequence of larger historical contexts, each composed of events precipitated by the great empires of the ancient world. The Bible is thus a composite of texts and traditions, shaped, reshaped, and shaped again, by Israelites and (later) Jews who, as understudies on the world stage, sought to define their identity(ies) and reason(s) for being in light of larger world forces that swirled around them, forces which they were scarcely able to control but sometimes wanted to mimic and other times wanted to shun.
In the reconstruction of Carr and Conway, the history of ancient Israel begins in the early Iron Age (the period of the Judges) with a few oral traditions shaped around a shared (or invented?) memory of resistance to domination by Egypt and/or the Canaanite city states (e.g. Judges 5 and the early chapters of Exodus). It then moves to a period of Zion-thinking and incipient nationalism patterned after the royal theologies of prior ancient Near Eastern empires (illustrated by some of the Psalms and Proverbs), followed by a century or so of prophetic introspection in the face of the Assyrian threat (Amos, Hosea, Micah, early Isaiah, and the like). A try at moral nationalism that coincides with falling Assyria and rising Babylon (prompting the books of Deuteronomy through 2 Kings, Jeremiah, Nahum, and Zephaniah) gives way to the purification of the Babylonian Exile (Ezekiel, Isaiah 40-55, certain Abrahamic narratives in Genesis 12-25, and the book of Leviticus), then the return from exile under Persian domination (Isaiah 56-66, Jonah, Ruth, Job) and the crisis of Hellenism (prompting Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles, and Esther). Sociological, economic, a...
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