- In Search of Ancient Israel (Philip R. Davies, 1992)
Davies' book "popularised the scholarly conversation and crystallised the import of the emerging scholarly positions" regarding the history of Israel between the 10th and 6th centuries - in other words, it summarised current research and thinking rather than proposing anything original. It was, nevertheless, a watershed work in that it drew together the new interpretations that were emerging from archaeology, the study of texts, sociology and anthropology. Davies argued that scholars needed to distinguish between the three meanings of the word Israel - the historical ancient kingdom of that name (historical Israel); the idealised Israel of the biblical authors writing in the Persian era and seeking to unify the post-exilic Jerusalem community by creating a common past (biblical Israel); and the Israel that had been created by modern scholars over the past century or so by blending together the first two (which he termed ancient Israel, in recognition of the widespread use of this phrase in scholarly hiostories). "Ancient Israel", he argued, was especially problematic: biblical scholars ran the risk of placing far too much confidence in their reconstructions through relying too heavily on "biblical Israel", the Bible's highly ideological version of a society that had already ceased to exist when the bulk of the biblical books reached their final form.
- The Invention of Ancient Israel (Keith Whitelam, 1996)
Subtitled "The Silencing of Palestinian History", Whitelam criticised his peers for their concentration on Israel and Judah to the exclusion of the many other peoples and kingdoms that had existed in Iron Age Palestine. Palestinian history for the period from 13th century BCE to the 2nd century CE had been ignored, and scholars had concentrated instead on political, social, and above all religious developments in the small entity of Israel. This, he argued, supported the contemporary claim to the land of Palestine thoe descendants of Israel, while keeping biblical studies in the realm of religion rather than history.
- The Israelites in History and Tradition (Niels Peter Lemche, 1998)
- The Mythic Past (Thomas L. Thompson, 1999)
The subtitle of the US edition was "Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel", a phrase almost guaranteed to cause controversy in America. The European subtitle, "How Writers Create a Past", was perhaps more descriptive of its actual theme, which is the need to treat the Bible as literature rather than as history: "The Bible's language is not an historical language. It is a language of high literature, of story, of sermon and of song. It is a tool of philosophy and moral instruction." This was Thompson's attempt to set the minimalist position before a wider public; it became the cause of a rejoinder by William Dever, "What Did The Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?", which in turn led to a bitter public dispute between the two.
Read more about this topic: Biblical Minimalism
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