The Emergence of Israel in Ancient Palestine: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives. By EMANUEL PFOH. Copenhagen International Seminar. London: EQUINOX PUBLISHING LTD., 2009. Pp. xix + 236. $95. [Distributed by The David Brown Book Co., Oakville, Conn.]
The Emergence of Israel in Ancient Palestine: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives by Emanuel Pfoh is representative of the growing importance and maturing of the debates in the study of ancient Israelite history that have roiled the field since around the turn of the century. This book, published in the Copenhagen International Seminar series, takes a clear side in those debates, arguing for bracketing the biblical narratives as a late and ideological historical source and centering the reconstruction of ancient Israelite history within the disciplines of archaeology and anthropology. While there are problems with this book, Pfoh's clear stance on the minimalist-maximalist debates and his focus on the emergence of the "state" in the central highlands as a particular case study make it an important contribution both to the study of the history of ancient Israel and the methodological debates surrounding the field.
The introduction (pp. 1-10) provides an initial outline of the book but also admits the author's dependence on the leading scholars that have come to be associated with the Copenhagen school. While numerous scholars are referenced in the introduction, Pfoh is clearly dependent on the works of T. L. Thompson and N. P. Lemche throughout the book. Pfoh rightly points out that the Late Bronze to Early Iron Age transition in Israel is key to discussing multiple historiographic problems, including the issues of state formation, ethnogenesis, and the disjunction between what the biblical literature describes and what can be understood through the disciplines of archaeology and anthropology. It should also be noted at this point that the book as a whole is well researched and well documented. In fact, the first chapter could serve as an up-to-date history of the minimalist debate that contextualizes the issues and establishes the boundaries of the important problems.
The lengthy first chapter (pp. 11-68) approaches the problems of writing history with the Bible as the primary resource. While Pfoh does provide some background to these issues, he moves quickly to highlight the role of Lemche and Thompson without much context for the larger trends in biblical studies and ancient...