Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 60:1 (Mar 2017)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

The History of Ancient Israel: A Guide for the Perplexed. By Philip R. Davies. Bloomsbury Guides for the Perplexed. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015, xiii + 186 pp., $29.95 paper.

The history of ancient Israel is one of the most controversial issues in the OT, and numerous books have dealt with this issue. Among the most recent and popular are Israel Finkelstein, Amihai Mazar, and Brian Schmidt, The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel (Atlanta: SBL, 2007); H. G. M. Williamson, Understanding the History of Ancient Israel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); Bill Arnold and Richard Hess, Ancient Israel's History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2014); and N. P. Lemche, Ancient Israel: A New History of Israel (London: T&T Clark, 2015). Philip R. Davies, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield, also participates in this perennial issue by writing the current volume in the Bloomsbury’s Guides for the Perplexed Series, which aims to offer “clear, concise and accessible introduction to thinkers, writers, and subjects that students and readers can find especially challenging” (p. ii). In actuality, this book is a combined and shortened version of Davies’s two recent books: The Origins of Biblical Israel (New York: T&T Clark, 2007) and Memories of Ancient Israel: An Introduction to Biblical History (Louisville: WJK, 2008).

The book begins with an orientation in which Davies outlines the background to recent archeological developments in the investigation of ancient Israelite history, critiquing the unreliability of inscriptional texts and archeological data. He then pauses to consider what the terms “history” and “Israel” mean by suggesting a combination of archeological principles, literary-critical methods, and social-scientific theory.

The rest of the book consists of four main parts: “History,” “Israel,” “Ancient History and the Social Sciences,” and “Constructing a History of Ancient Israel.” In the first part (chaps. 2–4), Davies defines what history means. He claims that history is not the past activities of humans but collective memories about accounts of what probably happened by some causes, which he calls “cultural memory.” After this, Davies overviews history-writing in the ANE and in Greece, proposing that biblical historiographies were influenced by Greek and ANE cultures because, as he believes, the biblical narratives were recorded from the fifth century BCE onward. In dealing with biblical historiography (chap. 4), Davies offers the first history (Genesis-Kings) and the second history (Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah). He further divides the firs...

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