Category Archives: Bible and Interpretation

The Invention of the Alphabet: Historical Sleuthing and the Power of Naming

Enjoy it- over at Bible and Interpretation.

How Old is the Hebrew Bible

Oh boy!

Many scholars, largely disregarding linguistic data, insist that most or all of the Hebrew Bible was written in the second half of the first millennium BCE, during the Persian and/or Hellenistic periods, and draw the inference that there is little or no historical content that predates this era….The ages of the books of the Hebrew Bible span a vast chronological range, from the early Iron Age to the Greek age, which we can discern at different degrees of focus. There is much that we can know about these topics, more than most scholars are willing to grant.

Hendel and Joosten are on fire.

If You Haven’t Checked out Bible and Interpretation in a While…

Give it a look.  It’s got a new host at a new site and it’s a re-developed page.  Enjoy!

And check it daily.

Mapping Palestine

Bible and Interpretation has posted Philip’s contribution to our Whitelam Festschrift.  Give it a read (and get a copy of the Festschrift).

Did the Fortified Jerusalem of the Middle Bronze Just Vanish, and What Does This Say About King David?

New in Bible and Interpretation

New Carbon-14 tests show that massive Middle Bronze fortifications near the Gihon Spring in Jerusalem shall not be regarded to this period anymore. The archaeological community is in a rage. If the Canaanite fortifications did not exist, how credible would be the biblical account of the United Monarchy?\

It’s a good one. And very fair.

Counting and Weighing: On the Role of Intuition in Philology and Linguistics

By Martin Ehrensvärd. Give it a read in Bible and Interpretation. Great stuff.

The Book of Ruth: Origin and Purpose

New in Bible and Interpretation.

Something New in Bible and Interpretation

What Do Old, Dirty, Broken Pieces Of Pottery Have To Do With The Bible?

Robbing tombs is illegal. Most of the “museum pieces” found in Israel are rather homely and plain. Yes, you will dig up hundreds of potsherds if you do an excavation (along with bones, metal objects, and perhaps glass, among other things). And if you find “anything good,” you will not get to take it home.


Speaking of Bible and Interpretation

I really wish they’d get an email subscription widget or something so that we can get alerts for new articles.  It would be a boon.

On Myths and Their Contexts: An Issue of Contemporary Theology? A Response to Jeffrey Morrow

New in Bible and Interpretation from Thomas Thompson.

This essay is written in direct response to Jeffrey Morrow’s article and should be read with Morrow’s paper in hand. The first section of my response, in its attempt to deal with such ringing echoes of Peter Abelard’s sic et Non is such that the charge of prejudicial bias fundamental to the methods and principles of biblical criticism has brought back memories of my early student examinations at Blackfriars! I hope the reader will have patience and forgive the logical stiltedness of my prose in this opening section.



New in Bible and Interpretation

A History of the Hasmonean State: Josephus and Beyond

Josephus cautiously avoided messianism in his history of the Has- monean period. He appears to have been reluctant to document any Hasmonean history that involved the violent messianism of the type that had contributed to the outbreak of the First Jewish War. Instead, he stresses that the Hasmonean family’s rule had gone well until they had established a monarchy and allowed sectarian factions to influence politics. Josephus wrote his books partly to support the aristocracy, namely the rule of the Pharisees and their leaders. For Josephus, these groups represented caution and Roman aristocratic values. They were opposed to the religious zeal of the Zealots and related Jewish groups that had caused the rebellion against Rome. For Josephus, the priests and the aristocrats were the only legitimate Jewish leaders.

The Deuteronomistic History and Israel’s Kings

New in B&I

The perspective of Dtr [Deuteronomistic Historian] is clear: Israelite worship should be centralized. As such, he uses Jeroboam as a literary tool to construct the portraits of and pass judgment on northern kings. As rivals to the Davidic throne, northern kings, are almost always judged negatively. The bad kings are like Jeroboam. The standard by which they are measured has little to do with their comprehensive behavior as kings, but instead is concerned with their actions for and against uncentralized worship and (in)fidelity to the deuteronomistic covenant. This issue becomes of the utmost importance in the eyes of the historian. Despite other kings’ wrongdoing—emptying the temple treasury (Jehoash, 2 Kgs 11:15), warring against the other kingdom (Asa, 1 Kgs 15:16), even idolatry (Omri, 1 Kgs 16:25-26) — for Dtr, Jeroboam remains the evil king par excellence.

Sin in the Hebrew Bible

A new essay at Bible and Interpretation discusses the subject.

New in the Bible and Interpretation


But setting aside the means through which Nehemiah sought to deal with opposition and to assert himself, the heart of the imperial mission seems to have been the establishment of a birta (citadel) in Jerusalem which is likely to have been a response to problems in the region. These problems concerned the aggrandisement of indigenous elites who seem to have extended their rule beyond what the Persian government permitted.

King David and the Illusory Judah

New in Bible and Interpretation

Judah appears remarkably few times as central player in 1–2 Samuel. If the Judah material were indeed primary to the David story, the story would collapse from lack of self-standing, independent lore. In contrast, the majority of the story of David as king is focused on David’s rule of Israel alone. The biblical evidence invites us to reconsider the political and social landscape of the early monarchy, defined not by the so-called “united monarchy,” nor by Judah alone, by the one important entity in these centuries: Israel.

Identifying the Upper Room

A new essay in Bible and Interpretation is summarized thusly:

Archaeology is only part of a comprehensive evaluation of an historical site. Any conclusions to be drawn must also take into account, among other things, a site’s social and literary history as well as available contemporary artistic representations. Fortunately we are blessed with a wealth of this kind of material about the Cenacle. Used in isolation, however, these too can be confusing and misleading. That is why all the data must be considered in unison in order to offer as thorough an historical explanation for the Cenacle as possible, one that accounts for all of the evidence.


The Scribal Background of the “Menetekel” in Daniel 5

New over at Bible and Interpretation:

Since Aramaic was introduced as the standard administrative language in Achaemenid Palestine around 500 B.C.E. and dominated scribal training into the early Roman period, its influence on literary production is hardly surprising. Placing such key terms against their original background goes far beyond merely antiquarian interests; it helps uncover new literary subtleties in the biblical text and better assess their theological impact.


From Plato to Moses: Genesis-Kings as a Platonic Epic

Read the essay over at Bible and Interpretation.

The Jordan River

There’s an interesting book excerpt over at Bible and Interpretation you’ll want to read on the topic.

Geographers were long fascinated by the nature of the Jordan River, as they were by the Dead Sea, its terminus. There was, particularly, a certain phenomenon that couldn’t be accounted for: The linear distance from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, along with the difference between the elevation of the two lakes and the belief that the Jordan was a more or less straight river, created a striking improbability that commanded the attention of geographical societies.

Women-Folk in Genesis

Women folk and men folk will be interested in this new essay in Bible and Interpretation.

womenWomen’s voices in the Bible are limited, but they are not absent. Where they do appear they come in three forms. The most common is through the omniscient voice of the narrator, or where someone describes something about women, or women’s actions. “Sarah shall bear you a son” (Gen 17:19). “Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man” (Gen 24:61). Secondly, women speak, sharing basic factual information. “Rebekah said to her son Jacob, ‘I heard your father say . . .’” (Gen 27:6). Thirdly, and most infrequently, women describe their feelings. Sarah explains, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me” (Gen 21:6). When suffering through her pregnancy, Rebekah cries out, “If this is so, why do I exist?” (Gen 25:22). Later she will say to Isaac, “I abhor my life . . . if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of the Hittites . . . what will my life be worth?” (Gen 27:46). Rachel plaintively says to Jacob “Let me have children; otherwise I am a dead woman” (Gen 30:1). Yet even with these examples, there remains the ultimately unanswerable question, are these women’s voices speaking, or are these examples of men representing women’s voices?