Biblical Studies and the Failure of History: Changing Perspectives 3, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Biblical Studies and the Failure of History

Changing Perspectives 3, 1st Edition

By Niels Peter Lemche


352 pages

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pub: 2014-08-28
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Until the 1970s biblical studies belonged to the historical-critical school and had reached a point where all problems were believed to have been solved. Then all assumptions began to be turned on their head. Previously, historical studies constituted the backbone of biblical studies; now, every aspect of biblical history began to be questioned. The idea of the Old Testament as a source of historical information was replaced by an understanding of the texts as a means for early Jewish society to interpret its past. 'Biblical Studies and the Failure of History' brings together key essays which reflect the trajectory of this scholarly shift in order to illuminate the state of biblical studies today. The early essays present historical-critical studies tracing historical information. Further essays employ a more critical and interpretive perspective to examine seminal issues ranging from the Hellenistic contexts of biblical tradition to the functioning of Old Testament society.

Table of Contents


1 - The ‘Hebrew slave’: comments on the slave law, Exodus 21:2-11

2 - The manumission of slaves – the fallow year – the Sabbatical Year – the Jubilee Year

3 - Andurārum and Mišarum: comments on the problem of social edicts and their application in the ancient Near East

4 - The Greek ‘amphictyony’: could it be a prototype for Israelite society in the Period of the Judges?

5 - The chronology in the story of the Flood

6 - ‘Hebrew’ as a national name for Israel

7 - Rachel and Leah: on the survival of outdated paradigms in the study of the origin of Israel

8 - The Old Testament: a Hellenistic book?

9 - Power and social organization: some misunderstandings and some proposals, or is it all a question of patrons and clients?

10 - Is it still possible to write a history of ancient Israel?

11 - Is it still possible to speak about an ‘Israelite religion’? From the perspective of a historian

12 - Kings and clients: on loyalty between the ruler and the ruled in ancient ‘Israel’

13 - Justice in western Asia in antiquity, or why no laws were needed!

14 - From patronage society to patronage society

15 - Are we Europeans really good readers of biblical texts and interpreters of biblical history?

16 - History writing in the ancient Near East and Greece

17 - Good and bad in history: the Greek connection

18 - On the problems of reconstructing pre-Hellenistic Israelite (Palestinian) history

19 - How does one date an expression of mental history? The Old Testament and Hellenism

20 - Chronology and archives: when does the history of Israel and Judah begin?

21 - ‘Because they have cast away the law of the Lord of Hosts’, or ‘We and the rest of the world’: the authors who ‘wrote’ the Old Testament


About the Author

Niels Peter Lemche is Professor in the Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen.

About the Series

Copenhagen International Seminar

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Ancient / General