History and Theology – an Excerpt from Encountering the Old Testament

The following is an excerpt from Encountering the Old Testament, 3rd Edition, by Bill Arnold and Bryan Beyer.

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The Bible is more than a history book. It writes history from a decidedly religious perspective. There is no attempt at what we today might call objectivity in modern history writing. The authors are writing what scholars refer to as Heilsgeschichte, or salvation history. This designation distinguishes biblical history from general history, which usually deals with the sequence of human events in the natural sphere. The events of salvation history include supernatural divine revelations in time and space and are recorded in Scripture to promote faith.

Cover ArtThe recording of that salvation history is important in biblical faith. The events themselves cannot be re-created and studied firsthand, only the record of the events. So faith must study the events through the written record. Biblical faith, then, assumes the historicity of the events that constitute the history of salvation. The Bible accepts as true the historical events on which the revelation is based. It also asserts the truthfulness of the interpretation of those events, which the Bible presents in written form. The written form itself then becomes an important piece of historical evidence.

Biblical authors frequently appeal to events for validation of their theological points, and they assume the historical accuracy of the events they describe. The factuality of those historical events makes it possible to accept the theological assertions of the Bible as true. Historicity does not prove its theology is true. But historical trustworthiness is necessary in order for the theological assertions to be true because those assertions are based on the events of history.

For example, we may assert that we believe in the Lord of the Old Testament as a gracious and loving God who makes and keeps covenant with his people. That is a theological assertion. But unless Yahweh did in fact make and keep the covenant with the children of Israel, the theological assertion is groundless, regardless of its plausibility. If the history is not true, then the theology based on that history is mere human speculation.

The faith that the Bible defines and expresses is explicitly a historical faith. It is rooted and grounded in the historicity of certain past events. Historicity is a necessary ingredient of biblical faith, though not an adequate basis of faith in and of itself. Faith in the Old Testament is defined in terms of past events, just as New Testament faith is rooted in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12–19).

©2015 by Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Encountering the Old Testament, click here.

New Release: Encountering the Old Testament, 3rd Edition

Cover ArtThis new edition of a bestselling evangelical survey of the Old Testament has been thoroughly updated and features a beautiful new interior design. It is lavishly illustrated with four-color images, maps, and charts and retains the pedagogical features that have made the book so popular:

· chapter outlines, objectives, and summaries
· study questions
· sidebars featuring primary source material, ethical and theological issues, and contemporary applications
· lists of key terms, people, and places
· further reading recommendations
· endnotes and indexes

The book is supplemented by web-based resources through Baker Academic’s Textbook eSources, offering course help for professors and study aids for students.

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Praise for Previous Editions

“Arnold and Beyer have produced an exciting new survey of the Old Testament with the college student specifically in mind….I enthusiastically recommend this volume to you.” – Tremper Longman III, professor of Old Testament, Westmont College

“The authors are commended for providing their readers with a lucid survey of the Old Testament. They cover a wide array of issues in an easy to read text….A very useful volume.” – Willem A. VanGemeren, Trinity International University

“For college students who are encountering the Old Testament for the first time, this attractively produced textbook offers a clear and helpful orientation to the world and literature of the Old Testament….a refreshing improvement over the standard textbook fare!” – Richard Schultz, Wheaton College

“The excellent scholarship represented here, along with an appealing format, make this one of the best, if not the best Old Testament introduction for first-year college students. It could hardly be more helpful.” – Review of Biblical Literature

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Bill T. Arnold (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is Paul S. Amos Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including Ancient Israel’s History, Encountering the Book of Genesis, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, and a commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel.

Bryan E. Beyer (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina, where he has taught for more than twenty-five years. He is the author of Encountering the Book of Isaiah and coeditor (with Bill Arnold) of Readings from the Ancient Near East.

For more information on Encountering the Old Testament, click here.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – August 14, 2015

Cover ArtIn the latest issue of Themelios, Christopher A. Beetham reviewed J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth.

“I strongly recommend this book. I agree with Donald Hagner, who, endorsing the book, wrote that ‘it could serve admirably as a basic textbook on biblical theology.’ Yes, and so much more. If every evangelical student from Anchorage to Addis Ababa would pick up and read, it could revolutionize global Christianity.”

Also in Themelios:

Gospel of Glory, by Richard Bauckham, was reviewed at Books at a Glance.

“Bauckham’s new monograph is probably the most important guide to selected Johannine themes and passages since Leon Morris’s Jesus is the Christ. A rich, up-to-date resource that no serious student will want to miss.”

Zen Hess, at Theology Forum, reviewed Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology by Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, and A. J. Swoboda.

 

Genesis and History – an Excerpt from Ancient Israel’s History

The following is an excerpt from Ancient Israel’s History, edited by Bill Arnold and Richard Hess.

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Cover Art

The first book of the Bible presents several challenges when approached from the perspective of history and historiography. First and foremost among those problems is that the opening chapters describe characters and events in a world dramatically different from our own: a world with talking serpents, with life before cities, before agriculture, before music or metallurgy; a world in which humans were unified with one language; and more.

We cannot begin to locate these characters and events in a particular time or place, which is, of course, one of the tasks of any study of history. These chapters are, in fact, presented from a perspective before history, if we assume that history is properly understood as a time when humans began to write accounts of the past (a definition that itself is difficult to refine). And so we will need to start by asking how these materials in the early chapters of Genesis may be examined, or even if they may be examined at all, from the perspective of history and historiography.

Second, and closely related to this first challenge, is the realization that the genre or type of literature that we find in the book of Genesis is unlike others, with its own subset of characteristics raising numerous questions when examined, again, from the perspective of history and historiography. We will need to explore the specific characteristics and qualities of these literary types and how exactly they speak to issues of history, or whether they in fact speak to issues of history at all. And as we will see, these distinctive literary features relate to the ancestral accounts of Genesis 12–50 as much as they do to the so-called Primeval History of Genesis 1–11.

Third, in the case of Genesis we are left with even less evidence from the ancient Near East than usual when studying the Old Testament and its parallels with the surrounding environment. We famously have literary parallels in creation accounts (especially from Mesopotamia), comparative materials in creation concepts (including from Egypt), and cultural features from the ancient world that are suggestive as parallels to certain elements in the ancestral narratives. But in terms of archaeological context, or extrabiblical confirmation of the characters and events of Genesis, we are left completely without trace.

©2014 by Bill T. Arnold and Richard S. Hess. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Ancient Israel’s History, click here.

Bill Arnold and Richard Hess: “Why We Wrote Ancient Israel’s History

Why We Wrote Ancient Israel’s History
by, Bill Arnold and Richard Hess.

Ancient Israel’s History grows out of a need we noticed many years ago when we were students together at Hebrew Union College. We benefitted from handy up-to-date resources incorporating current research on multiple fronts related to the study of ancient Israel. We especially appreciated scholarship that adequately considered the evidence of the biblical text itself. In our days as students, works by Albright, Bright, Hayes and Miller, and others fulfilled this role with varying degrees of success.

More recently the challenge has grown exponentially. Not only have there been huge amounts of information appearing on every front in the related fields of social sciences and literary studies, but the various theories of interpretation have also grown in number and diversity. Recent years have witnessed the publication of some outstanding resources that survey the field at the introductory level. Many dictionaries and some multi-volume reference works have sought to detail the information available to the scholar.

Cover ArtHowever, little has been produced that attempts to dig more deeply into the historical questions relevant to specific areas of Israel’s history, to make full use and evaluation of the relevant evidence, and to do so within a handbook that surveys that entire history.

When we agreed to do this project, we recognized the difficulties, even the impossibility, of one or two scholars writing an entire work that would succeed in this endeavor. We decided to enlist scholars of the highest academic quality; we knew that their expertise included the areas we asked them to address in this book. We believe that this work will accomplish three goals.

First, it will provide a comprehensive survey of the field for the advanced undergraduate student and for the graduate student. Rather than merely retelling the stories of the Bible, our book attempts to survey the major events in and outside the Bible and to introduce and evaluate the variety of sources outside the Bible that become relevant. At the same time, we attempt to provide a review of the major issues that scholarship has identified for each period and to draw reasonable conclusions based on the evidence.

Second, Ancient Israel’s History attempts to provide a useful resource for the scholar who wishes to understand the diverse perspectives in historical questions of this period and related issues of culture. While each writer presents the evidence from their period, we also do not pretend a total objectivity. The book does not try to demand complete uniformity with respect to directions and possible solutions for various problems of interpretation. However, it does begin with the overall premise of a respect for the various witnesses of the biblical text as well as the contemporary written and material remains from each period. Recognizing that complete objectivity is impossible, we attempt to address the subject with integrity and to appreciate the variety of views that we survey in the book.

Third, our book attempts to provide prolegomena, or preliminary steps, to the study of Israel’s history. In the introductory chapter, Rick traces the contributions of others in the field and explains our goal of striking a balance between biblical and extrabiblical sources. In the next chapter, Bill uses the narratives of Genesis to explain that scholars working on historical realities of the ancient world must be willing to discern between conclusions that are proven, those that are probable, others that are plausible, and finally, conclusions that are merely possible. It is in this assumed context that we attempt to make a contribution that steers a via media between, on the one hand, the retelling of the biblical account with some interesting archaeology thrown in for good measure and, on the other hand, a reconstruction of the Holy Land in the second and first millennia BC that avoids or ridicules the biblical source altogether.

We hope Ancient Israel’s History will provide readers with a valuable guide to this most important story of the people, society, and events that shaped the faith, the culture, and the values of their time and that have informed our history and have formed who we are today. In this respect we invite you to undertake the serious study of the history of ancient Israel and to use this text as a guide and resource in your exploration of one of the most fascinating and significant periods in human history. Personally, this is the book we wish we had read as students and in our early days of research and writing. It would have introduced us to the scholars, the questions, and the evidence most necessary to understand and evaluate the field.

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Bill T. Arnold (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is Paul S. Amos Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is the author or editor of twelve books, including Encountering the Book of Genesis, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, and a commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel.

Richard S. Hess (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is Earl S. Kalland Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado, and editor of the Denver Journal. He is the author or editor of more than twenty-five books, including Israelite Religions, Song of Songs in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, and the commentary on Joshua in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series.

For more information on Ancient Israel’s History, click here.

New Release: Ancient Israel’s History

Cover ArtThis substantive history of Israel textbook values the Bible’s historical contribution without overlooking critical issues and challenges.

Featuring the latest scholarship, the book introduces students to the current state of research on issues relevant to the study of ancient Israel. The editors and contributors, all top biblical scholars and historians, discuss historical evidence in a readable manner, using both canonical and chronological lenses to explore Israelite history.

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“An excellent new resource for those interested in taking seriously all the evidence, both biblical and extrabiblical, bearing on the history of ancient Israel and in thinking carefully about how to weigh that evidence and integrate it into a coherent account.” – Iain Provan, Regent College

Ancient Israel’s History finely balances the biblical text and extrabiblical sources while exploring critical interpretive issues and methodological questions….A valuable addition to the library of students and researchers alike.” – Lissa M. Wray Beal, Providence University College and Theological Seminary

“In this incredibly thorough volume, an international and esteemed team of contributors offer us exactly what was promised: a state-of-the-art review of research relating to the history of ancient Israel….The result is a copiously documented, user-friendly, and up-to-date treatment that will prove to be a most useful textbook for both introductory students and seasoned teachers alike. I plan on having it close by.” – Brent A. Strawn, Emory University

“A superb collection orienting readers to historical data and debates relevant to ancient Israel–judiciously weighed, accessibly presented.” – Mark J. Boda, McMaster Divinity College

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Bill T. Arnold (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is Paul S. Amos Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is the author or editor of twelve books, including Encountering the Book of Genesis, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, and a commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel.

Richard S. Hess (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is Earl S. Kalland Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado, and editor of the Denver Journal. He is the author or editor of more than twenty-five books, including Israelite Religions, Song of Songs in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, and the commentary on Joshua in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series.

For more information on Ancient Israel’s History, click here.