Monday Books : Historical Take on Bible; the Bible in History: How Writers Create a Past by Thomas L. Thompson Pimlico

Article excerpt

Byline: DAPHNE ABERNETHY

This is the study of how the Bible fits into history - the way in which it deals with the past, the history of the period it is traditionally thought to describe and the history of the period in which it was written.

Ranging from theology and textual criticism to drought cycles and settlement studies, it is a solid but rewarding read.

Part one is an introduction to historiographical issues: the problems of confusing stories with historical evidence, the ways in which the Bible talks about the past and the dangers of confusing that with modern notions of history and the use of myths of origin and recurring motifs.

Part two is a history of Palestine and the surrounding region, from the earliest human settlement down to the Hellenistic period, based on the latest archaeological and historical evidence. Against the background of long-term climatic change, the origin of the Semitic languages, and patterns of cultural change and continuity, it covers agriculture, settlement patterns, trade networks, and political structures, from the relationship of towns with their hinterlands to the geopolitics of Egyptian and Assyrian imperialism.

This touches on issues of Biblical history - and the findings of archaeology and history are incompatible with the traditional history obtained by a literalist reading of the Bible. …