Saturday, July 23, 2011

Genesis and the Moses Story

Genesis and the Moses story were two competing myths of origin for Israel that were literarily and conceptually independent from each other. They both explained in different ways how Israel came to be.See also Genesis and the Moses Story: Israel’s Dual Origins in the Hebrew Bible (Siphrut 3; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2010)

By Konrad Schmid
Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism
University of Zurich, Switzerland
October 2010

In the 20th century, the so-called Documentary Hypothesis with its four elements J, E, P, D was a commonly accepted explanation for the literary growth of the Pentateuch. This hypothesis is based on the assumption that there are three similar narrative accounts of Israel's history of the creation, the ancestors, the exodus, and the conquest of the land: J, E, and P. The story line of the Pentateuch was considered very ancient. J adapted the structure of the narrative from the old creeds of ancient Israel, and the structure of the narrative accounts of E and P were mere epigones or imitations of J. However, in the last thirty years, serious doubts have arisen concerning this model. Only P, because of its clear structure and its specific language, has remained generally uncontested.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Origin of Biblical Israel

Philip R Davies
University of Sheffield


The most important development in recent years in the study of the history of ancient Israel and Judah has been, in my opinion, the interest in Judah during the Neo-Babylonian period, a period previously somewhat neglected, and strangely so, since it offers the most peculiar anomaly: for the entire period, a province called ‘Judah’ was in fact governed from a territory that, as the Bible and biblical historians themselves would describe it, was 'Benjamin’. The former capital of the kingdom of Judah, Jerusalem, was replaced by Mizpah. In the majority of modern histories of Israel/Judah that I have consulted, no explanation is offered for this choice.

How long this state of affairs continued remains unclear: the narratives of Ezra and Nehemiah are silent about this (as they are confused about the rebuilding of the Temple), and, as Edelman has recently argued (Edelman 2005), Jerusalem was probably not restored as the capital of Judah until the middle of the 5th century at the earliest (indeed, if Jerusalem had been the capital before the time of Artaxerxes, the story of Nehemiah would be largely pointless!).

Thus, for well over a century, the political life of Judah was centered in a territory which had once been part of the kingdom of Israel. How, when and why it became attached to Judah is unknown. The claim in 1 Kings 12:16-21 that Benjamin sided with Judah when the ‘kingdom’ was ‘divided’ is hardly to be taken as reliable. If, when the Assyrians divided the territory of the former kingdom of Israel into provinces, the territory we know as ‘Benjamin’ was allocated to Assyria’s vassal Judah, it seems not to have been involved in the campaign of Sennacherib—or had it been, it would  have probably been removed from Judah. Perhaps it was annexed by Josiah: but if so, why would it not have been reclaimed by Egypt or by Babylon after his death?). The reign of Manasseh looks more probable, given the favourable relations between him and Assyria.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jerusalem in the Persian (and Early Hellenistic) Period and the Wall of Nehemiah

Israel Finkelstein, Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel  
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Vol 32.4 (2008): 501-520 


Knowledge of the archaeology of Jerusalem in the Persian (and Early Hellenistic) period — the size of the settlement and whether it was fortified — is crucial to understanding the history of the province of Yehud, the reality behind the book of Nehemiah and the process of compilation and redaction of certain biblical texts. It is therefore essential to look at the finds free of preconceptions (which may stem from the account in the book of Nehemiah) and only then attempt to merge archaeology and text.

The Current View

A considerable number of studies dealing with Jerusalem in the Persian period have been published in recent years (e.g. Carter 1999; Eshel 2000; Stern 2001: 434-36; Edelman 2005; Lipschits 2005, 2006; Ussishkin 2006). Although the authors were aware of the results of recent excavations, which have shown that the settlement was limited to the eastern ridge (the City of David), they continued to refer to a meaningful, fortified 'city' with a relatively large population.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


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