The Hebrew Bible: New Insights and Scholarship

By Frederick E. Greenspahn | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Israel Without the Bible

Gary A. Rendsburg

The Bible does not exist. That is correct: The Bible does not exist. Permit me to explain what I mean by that statement with the following background material. For most of the twentieth century there was a general consensus among scholars that the Bible is a reliable guide to the history of ancient Israel. The towering figures in the field, people such as W. F. Albright and Cyrus Gordon in the United States and Benjamin Mazar and Yigael Yadin in Israel, led the way in believing that the Bible reflected true history. In their view, everything from the Patriarchs to Ezra was real.

Cuneiform tablets from Nuzi in Mesopotamia described social and legal practices that paralleled the customs reflected in the book of Genesis, including, for example, the duty of a barren wife to present her husband with a maidservant through whom the man would father children, exactly as Sarah presents Hagar to Abraham, leading to the birth of Ishmael.

Egyptian material demonstrated that the customs reflected in the Joseph story fit perfectly in the environment of the Nile Valley, including the presence of certain key Egyptian words in the story, such as 'abrēk (

), which is derived from Egyptian ib r-k (literally “heart to you,” the equivalent of our English phrase “hail to you”), proclaimed by the Egyptian people as the new viceroy Joseph was paraded through the streets (Genesis 41:43).

The story of the Exodus was real. The cities of Pithom and Rameses (Exodus 1:11) were constructed by Rameses II using foreign slaves; and the Merneptah Stele attests to the existence of the people of Israel in the year 1210 B.C.E.

The Conquest was real. Archaeological work at Bethel, Hazor, Lachish, and Tell Beit Mirsim, among others, revealed the destruction of a series of

-3-

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