Apr 08

A Biblical History of Israel, by Provan, Long and Longman ????

This book ended up being considerably different than I expected from the cover, yet was a delightful and very informative read. I had expected a simple biblical narrative rehash of what I already knew from reading the OT 15-20+ times through. This book did not take that approach. The first five chapters were a defense of doing history, especially biblical history. Current modern liberal theologians tend to identify the Old Testament as entirely unreliable in accounting for a true history of events in Palestine, for reasons that include 1) history in the Old Testament mixes theology and history and thus is unreliable, 2) events of the Old Testament don’t precisely match archeological findings, and thus the OT text is in error, and 3) redaction criticism suggests a late writing of biblical history, which must thus be inaccurate. The authors shrewdly work through each of these objections, showing that the OT can be truly used as a legitimate source for ancient historical studies. The second part of the book then works through the narrative structure of the history of Israel, in particular identifying when liberal scholars note a discrepancy and show how variant reads of the OT text, or extreme extrapolations possible lead to errors on the part of the liberal scholars rather than the text of the OT. A simple example suffices. A recent archeological work failing to show proper period pottery in random digs around Jerusalem was interpreted to suggest that Jerusalem was not occupied during the suggested reign of King David. This is as ludicrous as me digging in my backyard, failing to find Indian artifacts, and thus concluding that Indians did not occupy the Pacific Northwest-aruguments of negation rarely ever prove anything. My disappointment with the book (and this is a serious one) is that none of the authors suggest that the OT might be divinely inspired, in spite of the occasional but insignificant corruptions of the original text. The authors may have been writing for a theologically liberal audience that they wished to not confuse, but it still would have been better to admit your bias, unless the authors truly do not hold to the notion that the Bible is the Word of God. Is it really academic to demand a “scientific” approach to the OT when attesting to its veracity? I don’t think so. The authors occasional comment on the mistake of reading the history from the OT in a “literal” fashion as a mistake, yet fail to distinguish how their lack of literalism differs from the liberal school theologians. For example, they go so far as to suggest that [some of the prophecies and wisdom books may be products of a later period (i.e., inter-testamental period), but this is a matter of speculation]. In the end, in their attempt to find acceptance among liberal theologians, the authors are willing to sacrifice a high view of Scripture, which is precisely the first event that led to liberal theology in the first place. Oddly, it makes no sense to placate these higher theologians, since theirs is a willing decision to reject the claims of Scripture even when shown to be substantially more likely than not to be true. Unfortunately, these liberal theologians sit on the faculty of many seminaries and departments of theology, hiding their absence of faith in the God of Scripture through a smokescreen of “academic rigueur”.

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One Response to “A Biblical History of Israel”

  1. Uncle Dennis says:

    Since I have been reading much neglected or forgotten biblical and church history over the last decade, I will echo the conclusions of the writers. The old Graf-Wellhausen documentary hypothesis was an ardent attempt to get to the bottom of what to make of the Bible historically, yet the grand impediment of the scholars of the Tuebingen school of the early 1800s is that Layard hadn’t even dug up Nineveh yet! (Nor had Boethe slightly earlier dug up one of the first Mesopotamiam cities.) Consequently, when you REALLY WANT TO resolve a big, important problem but lack the data, even brilliant, rigorous theological minds will end up treating the Bible as a stack of Rorshach ink blots and read into it all kinds of patterns, including fictitious history, that is not at all demanded of the unadorned text.

    As I pointed out in an early message, the top Egyptologist in the world, Birmingham U. prof. Kenneth Kitchen, levels the rationalist-school sandcastle. He speaks with authority and not as the theologians.

    It would be interesting to know if the authors actually have any of the forgotten but extremely significant OT history in their book. In the typical evangelical church, you get no inkling that the Israelites knew of anything but their plot of ground on the Levant, yet they formed colonies all over the Mediterranean, in waves over centuries. For instance, the Sephardic Jews (Spanish Jews) of today, which are not anything like the Turkish Ashkenzi Jews (as any Turk can tell you, Ashkenaz was the father of the Turks) who are Khazars, not Israelites, are later colonists in Spain after the “breach of Judah” sent descendants of Zarah in the 2nd millennium BCE to the Hebrew – I mean, Hibernian – peninsula. When the people of both northern and southern Israelite kingdoms were warned by prophets of impending invasions, the prophets recommended going west and many Israelites did just that. Those Zarahites in ancient northern Spain (they founded Segunto, the oldest known town in Spain) gave names to cities (Zaragosa – “fortress of Zarah” in Hebrew) and the Ebro (Hebrew) River, then migrated to northern Ireland, which was known in ancient times as Ibernia. This is where Jeremiah took the daughter(s) of Zedekiah where one of them married a Zarahite king (Eochiadh the Heremon of Erie) and the breach of Judah was healed. The herald of the city of Ulster is that of the herald of the Zarahites: a scarlet hand.

    There is now so much archaeological and other historical evidence for believing the Bible, yet even the OT histories in the “good Christian” churches deny God’s claims for Israel and the dynasty of David, and are in complete disarray over who the Jews are and what happened to the Israelites. They are vast and numerous, and remain generally unknown, hidden in plain sight. They are almost completely not “the Jews”. OT history is overdue for a complete re-write, both among the rationalist theologians and the mainstream evangelicals.

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