Item description for Ancient Israel: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It? (T&t Clark) by Lester L. Grabbe...
A number of 'histories of Israel' have been written over the past few decades yet the basic methodological questions are not always addressed: how do we write such a history and how can we know anything about the history of Israel? In "Ancient Israel "Lester L. Grabbe sets out to summarize what we know through a survey of sources and how we know it by a discussion of methodology and by evaluating the evidence. Grabbe's aim" "is not to offer a history as such but rather to collect together and analyze the materials necessary for writing such a history. His approach therefore allows the reader the freedom, and equips them with the essential methodological tools, to use the valuable and wide-ranging evidence presented in this volume to draw their own conclusions. The most basic question about the history of ancient Israel, how do we know what we know, leads to the fundamental questions of the study: What are the sources for the history of Israel and how do we evaluate them? How do we make them 'speak' to us through the fog of centuries? Grabbe focuses on original sources, including inscriptions, papyri, and archaeology. He examines the problems involved in historical methodology and deals with the major issues surrounding the use of the biblical text when writing a history of this period. "Ancient Israel" makes an original contribution to the field but also provides an enlightening overview and critique of current scholarly debate. It can therefore serve as a 'handbook' or reference-point for those wanting a catalog of original sources, scholarship, and secondary studies. Its user-friendly structure and Grabbe's clarity of style make this book" "eminently accessible not only to students of biblical studies and ancient history but also to the interested lay reader.
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Studio: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.13" Width: 6.3" Height: 1.26" Weight: 1.4 lbs.
Release Date Feb 25, 2008
Publisher T & T Clark International
ISBN 0567030407 ISBN13 9780567030405
Availability 0 units.
More About Lester L. Grabbe
Lester L. Grabbe is Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the University of Hull, UK.
Lester L. Grabbe has published or released items in the following series...
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Supplement
Reviews - What do customers think about Ancient Israel: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It? (T&t Clark)?
A fair review of some basic evidence about the history of ancient Israel Dec 14, 2007
I found this to be an interesting book. Given that histories of ancient Israel have often been highly political works, it is good to see someone attempt to simply discuss what sort of evidence we have as a starting point. The result is a cautious book in which the author hesitates to speculate on the answers to some fundamental questions about the history of the region, but that's okay. After all, this book is not supposed to be a history of ancient Israel but a guide to the relevant evidence that one ought to consider were one to try to write such a history.
Only when we get to the reigns of Omri and Ahab are we on relatively solid ground about the names of the rulers and the rough timing of their rules. And Grabbe discusses at some length some of the major historical events described in the Old Testament and the extent to which they have been confirmed or refuted by other sources.
What about the existence of earlier kings, such as Saul, David, or Solomon? Did they exist at all? Did Israel exist back then? Even according to the cautious Grabbe, the best guess is that they did. We have the Merneptah Stele which appears to date from a little before 1200 BCE which refers to Israel. And while the Biblical accounts of the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon may be very untrustworthy, it is reasonable to surmise that these rulers existed. I think it is certainly a more rational approach to make such a guess than reject it solely because one does or does not like monotheists, Jews, or the Israel of the twentieth century!
What happens when we go further back? After all, there is a question: where do the Ten Commandments and the tradition of celebrating Passover come from? Were they simply made up out of whole cloth on the spur of the moment by a single individual on the first day that we can prove they were written about? Here, Grabbe simply gives up and only explains that some of the wilder aspects of the Exodus story are not true! A really huge slave revolt did not happen when and where the story says. Nor did the miracles happen! But that is not the question, and Grabbe seems to miss this point. One question ought to be whether the Ten Commandments actually came from someone who had been in the Pharaoh's court in Egypt, and was said to never in fact have been in the land of Israel. Another might be whether the story of people having been slaves in Egypt had anything to do with the actual Hebrews of the Levant. No matter how skeptical one may be, one can not safely assume that Moses never existed, nor that the story of the Exodus had no connection whatsoever with reality. Grabbe does try to discuss evidence that the origin of the word Yahweh may date to the time of Moses, but this isn't the main question.
As a matter of fact, the stories about the Patriarchs suggest that there may have been an Abrahamic tradition among the Hebrew people followed by some sort of Mosaic tradition. Once again, being a total skeptic does not completely work: you can't be sure of getting the answer right just by saying that nothing about this has a connection to truth. Needless to say, the Patriarchs are far enough back so that Grabbe can't make much out of the stories about them. The best he can do is say that there's no serious evidence to show what time period these stories refer to. I can't blame him for that, but once again, he not only fails to answer the main question but also fails to seriously discuss it.
I'm a very skeptical person. But this book made me imagine having a discussion with someone whose study of Christian texts was limited to everything written since the very first Gutenberg Bible. What if that person said that Christianity was invented by Gutenberg, who wrote the whole Bible, invented the entire history of Israel as well as Jesus, and invented the existence of Jews and Christians as well? Grabbe does warn us that we can't just toss out evidence and that we need to consider all sources on their merits. But I would want to be very careful about coming up with hypotheses which are so cautious that they might look as preposterous as the one about Gutenberg inventing the entire story of Jews and Christians.
I think this book is pretty good, and I like the fact that the author is cautious rather than prone to wild speculation. As such, it puts some of the history of ancient Israel in a valuable perspective.