Saturday, June 9, 2018
Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, 3rd Edition 3rd Edition by Hershel Shanks (Biblical Archaeology Society)
This book is fair-to-good. I was bothered initially by its 'bibliocentric' perspective in several chapters, especially the ones on the patriarchs, the exodus, and the settlement. Although Shanks expresses in the foreward that it would be too much material for a single scholar to control masterfully, I feel they could have been condensed easily into one essay on the 'emergence of Israel'.
I mean by 'bibliocentric' that certain essays are written, partially, as if they were dialoguing with someone who sees the bible as a source of religion, not history or even religious history. So the authors have to clarify that they are not approaching it from a devotional standpoint (because they're not fundamentalists) or that they mean not to offend those who do. But I got over it because it is meant for popular (but educated) consumption, and most if not all the contributors do have some measure of religious attachment to the bible anyway. However, I'd rather have the history of Israel related to me straight without the pandering.
The articles are informative, but not outstanding. For example, McKarter's & Horn's chapter on the divided monarchy offers interesting tidbits of information previously unknown to me, but merely follows the biblical story with ANE texts and archeological data thrown in to confirm or disconfirm the major public events in the bible. It was almost boring reading. Lemaire on the unified monarchy was more of the same. Contrast Meyers who is much more easygoing and shorter, although his section on the diverse sectarian formations in Judaism should really be an excursus. It doesn't have much to do historically with Israel as a whole given the politically-oriented nature of most of this history.
That's another disappointment I have though. Much more focus on social history, aspects of daily life, etc., and a less bibliocentric perspective would have served this volume better. Although a little dated, Coogan 1998 is better in the comparable chapters (it goes beyond the Roman destruction of the second temple, where this book, faithful to its title, abruptly stops).
But not a bad read at all for a distilling of the standard fare with a few updates for this third edition.