Quick Reviews: Ancient Israel’s History and Early Christianity in Contexts

ancientisraelhistoryTitle: Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources

Editors: Bill Arnold and Richard Hess

Bibliographic info: 560 pp.

Publisher: Baker Academic, 2014.

Buy the book at Amazon

With thanks to Baker Academic for the review copy.

The history of Israel is a contentious issue for many in biblical studies. Mainstream opinion on Israelite history doesn’t exactly lend much credence to the idea of the Hebrew Bible possessing a great deal of historical value. At one end of the spectrum, you have the minimalists, those who find next to nothing useful about the Hebrew Bible in terms of its reliability for providing a faithful historical account of Israelite origins. At the other end of the spectrum, you have a very conservative stream of Christian thought that sees the historicity of the Hebrew Bible as being practically perfect.

This is where Ancient Israel’s History comes in. It seeks to navigate between the two extremes by carefully and judiciously exploring the issues in Israelite history. Overall, the book avoids the dogmatic and naïve fideistic approach that will never admit the Hebrew Bible fudges the facts at times, and it also avoids the overly skeptical approach that presumes the Hebrew Bible is guilty until proven innocent.

After the obligatory preface and introduction, the chapters proceed as follows:

  1. The Genesis Narratives (Bill T. Arnold)
  2. The Exodus and Wilderness Narratives (James K. Hoffmeier)
  3. Covenant and Treaty in the Hebrew Bible and in the Ancient Near East (Samuel Greengus)
  4. Early Israel and Its Appearance in Canaan (Lawson G. Stone)
  5. The Judges and the Early Iron Age (Robert D. Miller II)
  6. The Story of Samuel, Saul, and David (Daniel Bodi)
  7. United Monarchy: Archaeology and Literary Sources (Steven M. Ortiz)
  8. The Biblical Prophets in Historiography (James K. Mead)
  9. Late Tenth- and Ninth-Century Issues: Ahab Underplayed? Jehoshaphat Overplayed? (Kyle Greenwood)
  10. Eighth-Century Issues: The World of Jeroboam II, the Fall of Samaria, and the Reign of Hezekiah (Sandra Richter)
  11. Judah in the Seventh Century: From the Aftermath of Sennacherib’s Invasion to the Beginning of Jehoiakim’s Rebellion (Brad E. Kelle)
  12. Sixth-Century Issues (Peter van der Veen)
  13. Fifth- and Fourth-Century Issues: Governorship and Priesthood in Jerusalem (André Lemaire)
  14. The Hellenistic Period (David A. deSilva)

EarlyChristianityContextsTitle: Early Christianity in Contexts: An Exploration across Cultures and Continent

Editor: William Tabbernee

Bibliographic info: 640 pp.

Publisher: Baker Academic, 2014.

Buy the book at Amazon

With thanks to Baker Academic for the review copy.

This volume explores the presence of Christianity in the early centuries within and beyond the borders of the Roman world. The studies included in this volume examine the latest archaeological evidence, including such things as inscriptions, mosaics, icons, and other artwork.

The chapters are arranged by geographical areas and they discuss various questions, including: When was Christianity introduced? How was Christian belief and practice shaped by the culture and thought specific to each area? How did Christianity influence local culture?

The chapters are as follows:

  1. The Roman Near East
  2. Beyond the Eastern Frontier
  3. The Caucasus
  4. Deep into Asia
  5. The World of the Nile
  6. Roman North Africa
  7. Asia Minor and Cyprus
  8. The Balkan Peninsula
  9. Italy and Environs
  10. The Western Provinces and Beyond

These chapters cover early Christianity in a variety of places, including: Palaestina, Syria, Arabia, Northern Mesopotamia, Persia, Georgia, Armenia, Central Asia, China, India, Egypt, Alexandria, Axum, Nubia, Roman North Africa, Carthage and Africa Proconsularis, Numidia, Mauretania, Tripolitania, Asia Minor, Cyprus, Achaea, the Greek Islands, Thracia, Eastern Illyricum, Constantinople, Rome, Central Italy, North Italy, Ravenna, South Italy and the Islands, Dalmatia, the Western Provinces, and beyond the Western borders.

Important note concerning the digital editions: the review copies I received were through the Netgalley program (and I was reading them on the Kindle Voyage). Unfortunately, the digital version of these books I received are very subpar as they contain a multitude of formatting problems, e.g., there are no table of contents, the footnotes appear in the body text, the transliterated Hebrew is real funky, section headings have no spaces between the words, etc. And as I understand it, the print edition of these books contain various illustrative items, such as maps, images, tables and sidebars. These do not seem to appear in the digital editions and the images that do appear are usually just an unintelligible gray blob. This is especially true for the volume on ancient Israel.

With that said, for the chapters that I did manage to more or less read, the essays are grounded in literary and historical research, contain the latest scholarship, and provide a good discussion on the current state of research. I don’t usually even bother to try and read digital review books that have such contemptible formatting, but these two volumes just looked too interesting to pass up.

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