Item description for The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology And The Myth Of Israel by Thomas L. Thompson...
Overview The Mythic Past provides refreshing new ways to read the Old Testament as the great literature it was meant to be. At the same time, its controversial conclusions about Jewish history are sure to prove incendiary in a worldwide debate about one of the world's seminal texts, and one of its most bitterly contested regions.
Publishers Description The Jewish people's historical claims to a small area of land bordering the eastern Mediterranean are not only the foundation for the modern state of Israel, they are also at the very heart of Judeo-Christian belief. Yet in The Mythic Past, Thomas Thompson argues that such claims are grounded in literary myth, not history. Among the author's startling conclusions are these: . There never was a "united monarch" of Israel in biblical times . We can no longer talk about a time of the Patriarchs . The entire notion of "Israel" and its history is a literary fiction. The Mythic Past provides refreshing new ways to read the Old Testament as the great literature it was meant to be. At the same time, its controversial conclusions about Jewish history are sure to prove incendiary in a worldwide debate about one of the world's seminal texts, and one of its most bitterly contested regions.
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Studio: Basic Books
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.06" Width: 5" Height: 1.08" Weight: 1.09 lbs.
Release Date May 1, 2000
Publisher Basic Books
ISBN 0465006493 ISBN13 9780465006496
Availability 78 units. Availability accurate as of Oct 26, 2016 07:28.
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More About Thomas L. Thompson
Thomas L. Thompson is Professor of Old Testament at the University of Copenhagen.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology And The Myth Of Israel?
An Interesting Look at the Bible Apr 29, 2008
After reading this book by Thomas L. Thompson, I am anxious to seek out and read more of his material. A fresh look at a subject too often dominated by Biblical apologists, this book belongs in the library of any curious and open-minded intelligent person. Highly recommended!
A soulful critique of literalist thinking Feb 20, 2008
Before reading Thompson's book, I had read some reviews of his work. The vitriol and invective give the impression Thompson is a raving mad man with a vendetta against religion. As usual, the truth is the complete opposite of such character assassination. Thompson is not only rational, fair, and meticulous; he writes with compassion and a concern for humanity and certain of its inhabitants' naive and dangerous tendencies.
Simply put, everything you think you know about the bible is probably wrong. After reading Thompson's work with an open mind, and without sacred cows clouding your perception, you will undoubtedly come away thinking, "Duh! Why didn't I see that??"
This book is dense and covers a lot of ground. Thompson gives a history of what we KNOW about ancient Palestine and its culture based on contemporary texts and archaeological data. Predictably, this history has almost nothing in common with the myths interpreted as "history" in biblical texts. So how do we explain this discrepancy? Thompson successfully argues that the biblical texts were not intended as history. They are literary creations on a philosophical subject: How does the divine manifest in our world? They use mythical figures and metaphors to show how the unknowable interacts with the known.
Modern Jews and Christians do an great disservice to such texts in their literal doctrinaire interpretations. Thompson notes the absurdity and danger of looking towards an ancient and outmoded worldview for spiritual guidance. The legacy of these texts is one of exclusivity, violence, domination, xenophobia, and rigid dogmatism.
Most interesting to this reader was the description of the ancient "transcendental monotheistic" world view: an understanding of the divine as universal, much like Plato's One, True, Good, Beautiful. It is only when pathocratic elements of society exploit perceived differences that such a belief becomes one of exclusivity. To this end, a study of macrosocial evil in politics is fitting. Bob Altemeyer's "The Authoritarians" and Andrzej Lobzcewski's "Political Ponerology" are essential works on the subject.
If you want to understand why they bible was written, and why we've read it the way we have for so long, check out Thompson's work.
Historical facts v. hope-full stories Feb 15, 2008
Thompson's book offers an interesting insight based on facts known to archeology at the time of the writing of the book. The bible, or to be politically and theologically correct, the Jewish Torah, the Old Testament (a different, and much more recent, retelling of the Torah stories), together with the New Testament, are literary works that have influenced, for better and for a lot worse, mainly European societies, their cultures and "cultures". The point that Thompson seems to make and many, especially the detractors, seem to miss is that history, i.e. a true(ish) recounting of ancient events is a modern concept. Thompson's, and so many other archeologists', point is that in times of strife, people need to hear stories that ground them, give them hope and the illusion of the "this too shall pass" variety. The Odyssey and the Torah are epic examples of just that. That is why the fact that the Torah and Old T tell many conflicting stories were/are overlooked, because they're all about the message that those moralilty stories carry, not the "facts" employed by the stories. Told and retold over long periods of time, their objective was to give succour to the illiterate masses. "Illiterate" because the ability to read and write was of no consequence in a world with no need for bookstores, but with the same need for stories that gave reason, hope and desire to carry on into the future. History - an objective(ish) science, is a mere few centuries old. Subjective story telling is as old as humanity. Two different concepts, with divergent purposes. To confuse historical recounts with histrionic story-telling is a sad reflection on the adherents and practitioners of any cult, whose only lesson learnt seems to be the need to place themselves as separate and uber alles, with all its resulting consequences. Different times = different mores. What was considered moral, "lawful" and just a millenium ago, has been modified in our times. An eye for an eye may have made sense then, today it spells genocide, even extinction. Henceforth the ancient caveat: "Do unto others..." mitigates and calls for reflection. The latter is why those stories, as Thompson points out, still hold true and are valid to us all. Palestine still is a crossroads for all humanity. We can meet there and rejoice at the road we've travelled. Or perish. All and together. That is what I gleened from Thompson narrative and why it merits five gold stars.
A Biblical Paradigm Shift Jun 18, 2007
I cannot overestimate the importance of this book in its influence on my appreciation and understanding of the Bible. My growing dissatisfaction with the biblical training I had received in seminary was finally resolved by Thompson's sinking, once and for all, my understanding of the Bible as history. What Thompson proposes is a classic paradigm shift, ala Thomas Kuhn. It can be difficult and traumatic to see--hence, the numerous negative reviews here. Adopting Thompson's perspective was for me, however, enormously liberating. It enabled the Bible to come alive again in my personal reading and in my preaching and teaching.
It has saddened me to see the attacks Thompson has endured in many different places but I am sure he anticipated them. Like a Galileo or Darwin he has performed a great service in bravely going public with such unpopular ideas. Thompson's assertions are not important just for squabbling biblical scholars, or for liberal and conservative antagonists within Christianity. As he himself recognizes, the belief in a historical Bible has poisoned relations between Christians, Jews, and Muslims for centuries and is an essential component of the turmoil in the Middle East.
The Mythic Past is by no means just for academics. That said, it must be admitted that it is not easy reading. As some have critically said, this is due partly to Thompson's style. Much more, however, it is simply the result of reading genuinely new ideas contradicting deeply ingrained assumptions. I have found this is a book I can go back to multiple times and still learn something new. If the Bible is of any interest to you, and you are open to someone with a genuinely new perspective on it, I strongly encourage you to make the effort to read this book. You will not see the Bible or the world's religions the same ever again--and that will be a good thing.
Disputing Thomas Thompson May 27, 2007
Thompson is among a small group called the biblical minimalists.They say no Israelite nation existed before 800 BC. Yet the Pharoah Mernepthah mentions Israelites in a stgele he had erectd about 1207BC. They say that the Hebvrew Bible is mostly fiction concocted to compete with the Hellenistic of the Greek conquerors in the 4th century BC. In that case, you would expect Greek and Babylonian loan words in the Book of Exodus. But there are none. There are,however, Egyptian loan words.I could go on but don't want this review to take up too much space. Robert Meister, Brookline. MA.