The Bible in History: How Writers Create a Past

 
9780099435211: The Bible in History: How Writers Create a Past

For centuries, archeologists, historians and biblical scholars believed that the stories of the Bible describe real historical events, such as the Exodus, the kingdom of David and the Exile. But since the mid-1980s this understanding has been radically challenged: it is generally accepted today that there is very little archeological or historical evidence that confirms the stories of the Bible. In this lucid and fascinating book, Professor Thompson - who has been the forefront of the international debate for many years - shows that we understand the Bible if we read it as history, a modern concept completely incompatible with the world-view of the ancient world. Combining literary criticism of biblical texts and detailed analysis of ancient history, he shows that we have to look at the Bible as a body of literature that reflects the philosophical and moral views of its authors. By examining the social and political forces at work in the Middle East during the period that saw the Bible's text composed, Thomas Thompson puts the Bible in its proper context and sheds new light on the relationship between the Old Testament and the New, Judaism and Greek philosophy, Yahweh and Christ. By taking the Bible seriously as a collection of literature that reflects the world and the experience of its authors.

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Product Description:

Professor Thomas suggests that we misunderstand the Bible if we read it as history, which he considers a modern concept completely incompatible with the world-view of antiquity. He shows we have to regard the Bible as a body of literature reflecting the philosophical and moral views of its authors.

Review:

For centuries it was widely held that the Bible recounted real historical events such as the Exodus, the kingdom of David and the Exile. But recently there has been a radical shift in interpretation--most scholars now accept that one can't simply paraphrase the Bible for an accurate history of ancient Israel and Palestine. Spearheading that shift, often controversially, has been Thomas Thompson, now Professor of Old Testament Studies at the University of Copenhagen.

Here, he takes his argument much further. The Bible is a crucial text, not so much for its veracity but as great literature and as the best insight we have into how stories are moulded for the audience of their time. The very idea of history, he argues, is a modern concept, incompatible with the world view of the ancient world. This book "looks at the Bible's view of the past on its own terms...because it is only as history that the Bible doesn't make sense". He argues that by doing so "we are not getting rid of the Bible" but are discovering "where it has always been: playing among its stories and legends".

With detailed literary and historical analysis of the texts, referring always to what we now know about the contemporaneous socio-political forces at work in the Middle East, Thompson illuminates the relationship between the Old Testament and the New, Yahweh and Christ, Judaism and Greek philosophy. He writes delightfully, making a complex argument both accessible and fascinating to the general reader. --Jim Rickards

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