The Oxford History of the Biblical World

The Oxford History of the Biblical World

The Oxford History of the Biblical World

The Oxford History of the Biblical World

Synopsis

Here, in one impressively illustrated volume, leading scholars offer compelling glimpses into the biblical world, the world in which prophets, poets, sages, and historians created one of our most important texts-- the Bible. For more than a century, archeologists have been unearthing the tombs, temples, texts, and artifacts of the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean world. Using new approaches, contemporary scholars have begun to synthesize this material with the biblical traditions. The Oxford History of the Biblical World incorporates the best of this scholarship, and in chronologically ordered chapters presents the reader with a readable and integrated study of the history, art, architecture, languages, literatures, and religion of biblical Israel and early Judaism and Christianity in their larger cultural contexts. The authors also examine such issues as the roles of women, the tensions between urban and rural settings, royal and kinship social structures, and official and popular religions of the region. Readers will find that 200 photographs, line drawings, and maps as well as an insert containing 25 color photographs vividly illustrate the history discussed. Understanding the biblical world is a vital part of understanding the Bible. Broad, authoritative, and visually engaging, The Oxford History of the Biblical World will illuminate for any reader the ancient world from which the Bible emerged.

Excerpt

The Bible is one of the foundational texts of our culture and of the three major monotheistic traditions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is a complex document—a set of anthologies, in fact. Thus, fully to understand the Bible requires a knowledge of the contexts in which it was produced, the many cultures of the ancient Near East and the ancient Mediterranean—the biblical world. For numerous reasons, presenting a history of the biblical world is an ambitious task. The scope of that history is vast, covering at the very least more than two thousand years and spanning three continents. Through archaeological research, new discoveries continue to be made, requiring modifications to earlier views and sometimes reconsideration of interpretive models based on less complete data. Moreover, the study of history itself is in flux. New approaches require, for example, broadening the focus of earlier scholars on the elite, their rulers, and their struggles for power to include the lives of the mostly anonymous ordinary people in the societies of which the elite were only the upper crust. These new data and new perspectives make it possible to take a fresh look at the well-traveled terrain of the biblical world.

The geographical focus of this history is the region variously known as the land of Canaan, Israel, Judea, and Palestine, with appropriate attention to the larger geophysical context and the geopolitical entities that over millennia were the matrix for biblical Israel and its successors, the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities. When to begin and end a history of the biblical world is more difficult to decide. The Bible itself begins with creation but dates it aeons later than modern scientific understanding of the origins of the universe allows. As the early chapters of this book will show, it is impossible to correlate with any certainty the events described in the first books of the Bible with known historical realities. Yet it is appropriate to set the core of our history into a larger context, as biblical tradition itself does, for there are demonstrable continuities between the earliest civilizations of the ancient Near East and ancient Israel, early Judaism, and early Christianity. The book thus begins with a sketch of the prehistory of the region.

When to end is also problematic. Surveys of the history of ancient Israel sometimes conclude with the revolt of the Maccabees in the mid-first century BCE, which corresponds to the dates for the latest books of the Hebrew Bible (the Jewish scriptures); or the Roman general Pompey's capture of Jerusalem in 63 BCE; or the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE; or the end of the Second Jewish Revolt against the Romans in 135 CE. This last is also a frequent terminus for surveys of . . .

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