Ancient Israel: The Old Testament in Its Social Context

Ancient Israel: The Old Testament in Its Social Context

Ancient Israel: The Old Testament in Its Social Context

Ancient Israel: The Old Testament in Its Social Context


This volume brings together essays by an international group of biblical scholars on Old Testament topics, employing social-scientific methods: anthropology, macro-sociology, social psychology, and so forth.


A part from Chapters 1 and 2, the essays appearing in this volume are edited versions of the papers first presented at the “St Andrews Conference on Old Testament Interpretation and the Social Sciences,” held in St Mary's College in the University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland, from June 30 to July 4, 2004.

This conference took place almost exactly ten years after another conference held in St Andrews: “Context and Kerygma: The St Andrews Conference on New Testament Interpretation and the Social Sciences.” That 1994 meeting led to the volume Modelling Early Christianity: Social-Scientific Studies of the New Testament in Its Context (ed. Philip F. Esler; London: Routledge, 1995) and it seemed appropriate to repeat the exercise in relation to the Old Testament. That we did so on the tenth anniversary of the former conference owes as much to sentiment as anything else. The phrase “Old Testament” was chosen for the title of the conference, rather than (say) “Hebrew Bible,” because we were also interested in the Apocrypha (and indeed Qumran texts).

Participants at the 2004 Conference journeyed to St Andrews from the United States, Canada, Ireland, England, Wales, Finland, Germany, and Italy. I acknowledge with thanks financial assistance from the British Academy which facilitated the participation of some of the speakers from outside the U.K.

In both the 1994 and 2004 events many, but by no means all, of the participants were members of the “Context Group: Project for the Study of the Bible in Its Cultural Environment.” I have recently published an essay setting out the history, broad intellectual orientation, and working practices of that Group (see references for Chapter 1). Whether members of the Context Group or not, all of the participants at the 2004 conference followed a methodology of the explicit application of social-scientific models or perspectives to the some aspect of the Old Testament. Chapter 1 of this volume contains a brief defense of socialscientific models in biblical interpretation against their cultured despisers.

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