Saturday, September 09, 2017

Hjelm and Thompson (eds.), History, Archaeology and the Bible Forty Years After “Historicity”

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ingrid Hjelm, Thomas L. Thompson (ed.), History, Archaeology and the Bible Forty Years After “Historicity.” Changing Perspectives, 6. Copenhagen International Seminar. London; New York: Routledge, 2016. Pp. xvi, 229. ISBN 9781138889514. $140.00. Reviewed by Laura Quick, Princeton University (
The editors recall in their introduction the state of the field in biblical criticism prior to the publication of the studies of Thompson and van Seters, tracing some of the key publications from the pre-1970s landscape of biblical archaeology and concluding that these past studies had essentially accepted the historical construct of the biblical narrative in their reconstruction of ancient Israelite “history.” Into this landscape, scholars such as Thompson and van Seters radically reframed the way in which the Bible could be used in confrontation with the archaeological and extra-biblical data. Writing in 1974, Thompson broke with theory that linked the patriarchal narratives to the lived experience of the Bronze Age. Confirming Thompson’s conclusions, in the following year van Seters extended this critique, arguing that these narratives actually reflect a context in the Iron Age, and not the Bronze. Thereafter scholars felt increasingly able to disconnect their historical reconstructions of ancient Israel and Judah’s past from a biblically oriented narrative, turning instead to evidence gleaned from archaeological findings, as well as ancient Near Eastern texts, and the “Copenhagen School” was born. In this volume, a number of scholars map some consequences of this development as well as possible avenues of future research. Some of the highlights of these contributions are detailed below.

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