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Prelude to Israel's Past: Background and Beginnings of Israelite History and Identity [Hardcover]

By Niels Peter Lemche (Author)
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Item Number 119645  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   272
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.24" Width: 6.19" Height: 0.97"
Weight:   1.12 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Nov 30, 1998
Publisher   Hendrickson Publishers
ISBN  1565633431  
EAN  9781565633438  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
How useful is the Old Testament for reconstructing the history of early Israel? How accurate is the Bible's portrait of the ancient Near East over three thousand years ago? Such questions have recently dominated academic discussion and have spilled over even into the popular arena. Prelude to Israel's Past may add fuel to the fire of this often heated debate. Lemche, a scholar at the center of this debate, carefully explores the crucial questions that concern the biblical portrayal of Israel's early history. Does that portrait conform to the historical description of Bronze Age Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Mesopotamia that modern-day historians and archaeologists have uncovered? Did the biblical authors record the experiences of Israel's ancestors, or did these authors express their own experiences through historical fiction? Lemche's lucid answers to these and many other questions suggest that the biblical writers, like modern-day filmmakers, wrote tales that spoke to their audiences' tastes, intelligence, and (especially) needs. Consequently, the primary task of the modern student of the Bible is not to look to the patriarchs, or Moses, or Mount Sinai for historical reconstructions but to understand the theological context and purpose of these narratives. Only if we read the Old Testament in its literary and theological contexts can the Bible continue to speak to us today. The merit of this solid and stimulating work is that it gives the fullest account available in English of Lemche's assessment of the pentateuchal traditions in relation to what we otherwise know of Bronze Age Syria and Palestine in their sociopolitical, literary, and religious dimensions. He concludes that while the Pentateuch carries cultural and literary traces that would accord broadly with the world in which it is set, these features are too fragmentary and contextless to give us recoverable history. In his view, the Pentateuch's narrative intention was to provide a foundation story for the monotheistic Jewish community of a much later age. Instead of providing us information on Israel's actual beginnings, it is an exceedingly valuable window into the postexilic thought world and communal concerns of those who composed it. Happily, Lemche's argument is free of the scornful polemics that have unfortunately characterized much of the scholarly debate on these issues in recent years, allowing the reader to consider his claims on their own terms.

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More About Niels Peter Lemche

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Niels Peter Lemche is Professor in the Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen. His most recent works include The Old Testament Between Theology and History, The A-Z of Ancient Israel and The Israelites in History and Tradition.

Niels Peter Lemche has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Objective scholarly analysis of a Biblical world  Jan 26, 2003
A clean, refreshing and unbaised look at the Biblical world and its relation to genuine history. Establishing that there is no possible credible relationship between the Bilical world and genuine ancient world the author approaches the logical and only remaining question of what then is the Bible and provides a well discussed thesis on the Biblical texts. Matters are analysed in a thourough, clear and concise way which is accessible to any reader. The book can be recommended on at least the basis that the author sets out neither trying to prove or disprove the historicity of the Bible but arrives at his outcomes on the basis of pure objective scholarship. A most valuable introduction and example to budding historians of how to approach the study ancient documents in an objective way.
Outstanding introduction to the biblical world  Aug 11, 2002
This is a thorough introduction to the historical, social, literary, and especially historiographical issues of reading the Bible as a collection of ancient texts. The main emphasis is on the early biblical period, but many of the book's insights are applicable for the whole of the biblical period and the discussion often extends into later parts of the Bible. It is precisely what is needed by those who want to understand the nature of the Bible and its subjects in their ancient Near Eastern contexts. The writer is well informed on the relevant information and bibliography (it is easy to follow Lemche's views to their roots in reputable contemporary scholarship, and on every topic he offers an expertly selected list of suggested supplementary readings), yet most readers will find his style not only accessible but interesting. The biblical world is different from our world, and the Bible was not produced the way we might expect looking back from our own cultural and historical context. Reading the Bible is a cross-cultural experience, and most readers need a reliable guide to its foreign culture. The author has indeed played a role in the dispute over the so-called minimalists in biblical history. This work however is scarcely susceptible to the charges usually levied. The historiographical issues the author addresses are ones that all historians of the ancient world, as well as general readers interested in that world, must come to terms with, and he addresses them with a welcome fairmindedness, circumspection, courtesy, and pointedness. A highly recommended resource.
Beating up a straw man argument  Aug 22, 2001
The interesting parts of this work dealing with questions of whether archeology presents evidence of an Exodus, has been dealt with before by better scholars, Finkelstein in particular. No scholars believe these stories to be historic nor is anyone arguing about them. What the authors have done is create a fictitious argument and then come forward with 'answers.'

The rest of the arguments about when stories in the bible were written down, why, and by whom are presented with little supporting data and ignoring the mountain of evidence that contradicts the authors thesis. I suggest if you are interested in this topic reading "what did the bible writers know" by william dever (awful title, but good book).

Lemche is one of the leading proponents of 'biblical revisionism' an effort argue that the bible and ancient Israel are literary figments. They make this argument in the face of reams of independent data to the contrary. I leave it to the reader to figure out the reason why.


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