Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ancient Israel: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It? by Lester Grabbe

Ancient Israel: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It? by Lester Grabbe is an overview of archeological, ancient inscriptions, and in general, extra-biblical evidence for the events depicted in the Bible.

For years, Europeans took the bible as the inerrant word of God, as history in the largest and broadest sense.  Beginning in the Age of Enlightenment, this view gradually eroded.   

Advances in philology enabled scholars to see the bible as a patch-work of sorts, a book composed of many documents stitched together by some unknown redactor. 

As a consequence, over the years, the historicity of the bible has been rolled back.  Geology and evolution destroyed the notion of Adam, Eve, Eden.  The pre-flood events in the bible were viewed simple folk stories.  The patriarchs survived for a while, as did the exodus from Egypt, but eventually they succumbed to a lack of evidence.  Without extra-biblical confirmation, events in the bible can’t be viewed as indicative of any verifiable historical event.

This brings us to Grabbe’s book.  He gets us up to speed on all those elements. Taken simply on raw data, Israel, as an entity, can only be verified from evidence outside the bible.  What we get is rather slim. Take the first outside reference to Israel in the the Merneptah Stele, about 1203 BCE.   The next mention of Israel is of King Omri, who ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel, often known as Samaria, in the Mesha Stele, set up around 840 BCE.

In those 363 years, there is no mention in external sources of a Kingdom of Judah, a united Kingdom of Israel and Judah, David and Solomon.  Grabbe’s intent is clear: without extra-biblical support, it appears that Omri’s Kingdom of Israel-Samaria became a nation before Judah to the south. This is a complete turnaround from the biblical text!

Grabbe gives you this and more.  He shows the reader that what can be proved as reasonably accurate in the biblical text, and what is conjecture or legend, is often miles apart.

No comments:

Post a Comment