Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book Blog: The Blackwell Companion to the Hebrew Bible

Lately, I have been reading the Blackwell Companion to the Hebrew Bible.  I'm reading it because I want to know more about what is and what is not true about the God of the Bible.  I will probably read only 10 or 12 chapters in this book, because I'm not interested in everything in it.

Topics of the chapters I'm interested in are Early Israel, the Rise of the Monarchy, Monarchic Period, Exile and Restoration, Archaeology and Israelite History, Canaan, the Solomonic Temple, Schools and Literacy in Ancient Israel, Community, Old Testament Ethics, Narrative Texts, Wisdom Lit., and Apocalyptic Lit.


This book drops some bombs early on.  They are things that I've probably heard before, but now they're sticking.  They didn't stick before because evidence probably didn't matter as much to me before 8 months ago as it does now.

The Preface, written by Leo G. Perdue, summarizing the chapters of the book, says that the conquest model of Israel conquering the land of Canaan has been repudiated.  It says there is no archaeological evidence for Israel's sojourn in the desert.  The biblical narratives, e.g. the stories of the Patriarchs, Moses, and the Exodus, while probably based on some true information, are largely legendary.  It says that biblical sources represent a Judahite (rather than Northern Kingdom Israelite) perspective, so they are propaganda and questionable sources of objective history.  The exile and restoration could be examples of propaganda, and thus, myths.


So, part of me wants to say, "Ahem... Holy Shnikies!  This is ridiculous!  How do traditional Judaism and Christianity get around these scholarly conclusions?!  Faith?!  Do they blame these conclusions on the naturalistic bias of academia? Or Satan?"

Another part of me says, "Well, I've been a true believer before, and I know how easy it is to explain away contrary opinions.  Perhaps that is what is going on in the academy, as well."

One key difference I see between the scholarly approach and the faith approach to the Hebrew Bible is that the former emphasizes the importance of evidence.  This is not to say that evidence is unimportant to people of faith, but rather that evidence is, quite possibly, everything to those who take the former approach.  Also, those who take the former approach do not have a bias toward believing that the entire Bible is factually true.  Instead, they may have a bias toward believing that miracles aren't probable enough to prove historically.


In any case, it seems to me that if the God of the Bible was a God who wanted the events of the Hebrew Bible, especially the miraculous events, to be considered likely occurrences by modern scholars, then He sure could have done a better job at leaving more evidence.

However, perhaps the God of the Bible is not that type of God...

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