The Crisis of Israelite Religion: Transformation of Religious Tradition in Exilic and Post-Exilic Times

By Bob Becking; Marjo C. A. Korpel | Go to book overview

Lester L. Grabbe Hull — United Kingdom


Israel's Historical Reality after the Exile

It has been stated that during the Bosnian war, the American news media omitted the Croats from their reportage. It was supposedly because the public could understand two opposing sides, the Bosnian Muslims and the Bosnian Serbs, but that having a three-sided situation was just too complicated for your average American to handle. Whether this is really true, I do not know, but as you are aware, there is nothing that we Europeans enjoy more than laughing at American foibles. If I might be so bold as to paraphrase Mr Bennett, “What are Americans for?”1

Before we laugh too hard, however, I cannot really say that reportage in the UK was necessarily much better. The fact is that the human mind often prefers stereotype to reality. Reality is infinitely detailed and extremely complex. Although we scholars may disdain the common herd, we are by no means immune to attachment to our own stereotypes and oversimplifications — to our own myths. And scholars have no greater myth than the belief in the Tightness of their own individual theories or their past positions taken on various issues. We all know of scholars whose devotion to a particular theory has blinded them to what is plain to the rest of us. However, occasionally a favoured theory has become so broken-winded that we can no longer ride it, at which point we make a virtue of necessity by abandoning it — especially if someone else originated it in the first place — and pointing out that we are always ready to change our minds if the facts demand it.

The theme of this conference is continuity and discontinuity in religion. As the first paper in this conference, it is my duty to map out a broad overview which will touch on many areas of concern. It seems to have been my lot a number of times recently to try to survey large areas and digest them for others.2 To attempt to give

1 J. Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1913; ed. R.W. Chapman), Oxford 1926, 364; Mr Bennett says to Elizabeth, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

2 See my Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, vol. 1: Persian and Greek Periods; vol. 2: Roman Period, Minneapolis 1992 (British edition in one-volume paperback, London 1994); Leviticus (OTGu), Sheffield 1993; Priests, Prophets, Diviners, Sages: A Socio-historical Study of Religious Specialists in Ancient Israel, Valley Forge, PA 1995; An Introduction to First Century Judaism: Jewish Religion and History in the Second Temple Period, Edinburgh 1996; Wisdom of Solomon (Guides to Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha), Sheffield 1997; “The Book of Leviticus”, Currents in Research: Biblical Studies 5 (1997), 91–110.

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