Biblical History and Israel's Past: The Changing Study of the Bible and History. By megan bishop Moore and Brad E. Kelle. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2011. Pp. xvii + 518. $46 (paper).
This book is an intelligent overview and assessment of modern critical scholarship with regard to "biblical history" and ancient Israel, and is meant for scholars as well as students. The express aim "is to describe the changing study of Israelite and Judean history and the relationship of the biblical literature to that history since the 1970s, when the idea began to be widespread that the story of Israel's past might at times be quite different from the Bible's description of ancient Israel" (pp. 39-40). As such, it follows the trend of other books that discuss and critique the methodologies used to understand ancient Israel's history--such as Megan Bishop Moore's Philosophy and Practice in Writing a History of Ancient Israel (London: T&T Clark, 2006), Philip R. Davies' Memories of Ancient Israel: An Introduction to Biblical History--Ancient and Modern (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008), and others--but aims to be more comprehensive.
The book excels in clarity, although there is some repetition of content between chapters. After an introduction that surveys the stages of modern critical scholarship from the nineteenth century to the present, each chapter thereafter gives a detailed review of scholarly methods used and the most recent perspectives for each major era in the Hebrew Bible's chronology, from the patriarchal-matriarchal period to the postexilic. The book's format includes some features that follow the American university textbook model: sidebars with explanations of terms and concepts, and discussion questions and suggestions for reading at the end of each chapter. These characteristics will be of varying interest or use to specialists; however, the volume overall is a fine reference for research and teaching. There are a moderate number of footnotes, a thirty-four-page bibliography, and a general index.
In chapter 1's survey of modern critical scholarship, the authors begin by sketching the lasting assumptions of historical criticism that came out of the work of Wellhausen and others in the nineteenth century. The most important of these was the proposition that the biblical text itself has a historical context, in that its authors shaped their understanding of Israel's past based on the concerns and...