Welcome to The History in the Bible Podcast
The Revolution in Biblical Studies
Hi. I'm Dr Garry, aka Garry Stevens. Welcome to my podcast, the History in the Bible.
In this podcast I will present the latest research into the Biblical texts and the archaeological evidence behind them. I will also explore the religion of ancient Israel.
Until the 1970s, archaeologists of Israel and Palestine saw their job as demonstrating the historical validity of the Bible. A new band of archaeologists and scholars has overturned that notion. The Bible is no longer seen as a document whose words must be proven, but as a starting point in providing a new and reliable history of the Jews, and the development of Judaism.
Their conclusions are radical: that the Israelites are Canaanites who forged a new identity, that there was no Exodus, that King David was not much more than a bandit, that the empire of Solomon never existed, and that the God of Israel may have had a wife, Asherah. All this, the new wave say, was whitewashed by the authors of the Old Testament (Tanakh), who only put pen to paper centuries after the events they wrote about.
Few people outside of the rarefied world of academia have been aware of this intellectual ferment, this revolution. Until now.
Teaching the Controversy
As you can imagine, the work of the new wave of scholars has been immensely controversial. Let me make one thing clear: the new wave are not complete crazies. They hold eminent positions in prestigious universities. Many are Jewish. But, as Philip Davies explains, their work is fraught with political implications:
Debate about ancient Israel is also debate about modern Israel, and in the eyes of many people, the legitimacy of the latter depends on the credibility of the biblical portrait. Still, what is worrying to many Israelis and Jews about the “ancient Israel” debate is that biblical studies, having for so long been a natural advocate of the land always being “the land of Israel”, is now (and I think rightly) bringing the notion under critical scrutiny that Israel was the natural or rightful owner of this piece of land.
What is important is not to politicize biblical studies but to de-politicize it, to distance it from any political stance…. Israel is part of the history, as well as the present, of Palestine. I think the Bible should not interfere in this way with modern politics. … But this does not entail being anti-Jewish…. The State of Israel was the result of things more tangible and imperative than divine promises and ancient occupations.
About the Podcast
In the History in the Bible Podcast I will take you inside this revolution in Biblical studies in a series of fortnightly podcasts. Each episode will be a chunk just right for your morning or afternoon commute.
Series 1: From Genesis to Babylon
In the first series (ending May 2017), I will cover the history and archaeology of the Old Testament (Tanakh); from the Patriarchs and the origins of the Hebrews; then the Exodus, and the conquest of Canaan; through David and Solomon, to the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah and their prophets. I will show how scholars think that the various threads of the books we now know as the Bible came together, and what the latest archaeological discoveries and controversies can tell us about this long history. The first series ends at the beginning of the Exile.
Series 2: From Babylon to Revelations
In the second series (beginning July 2017), I will first discuss the Babylonian exile, the return, and the subsequent history of the Jews from the Persian period through the Hasmonean kingdom to conclude with Judea as a Roman province. I will also cover the vast literature that was produced after the Babylonian Exile, sometimes called the pseudepigrahical works. None of these works made it into either the Old or New Testaments but they influenced both of the daughter religions of the ancient Israelite faith: rabinnical Judaism, and Christianity.
After that is done, I will launch into the history chronicled in all the versions of the New Testament. I will get my teeth stuck into the gospels, the letters, Acts, and Revelations; showing what modern scholarship has to say about their complex history and interelationships. I will also cover the books that only the Ethiopian Orthodox church includes as canonical.
Online English translations of the Bible
The premier site for Biblical translation into English is the brilliant site Bible Gateway. This astonishing resource provides English translations from so many bibles your head will spin. It is without doubt the world's greatest resource for this material. And all for free.
Written English translations of the Bible
I rely on these three scholarly and authoritative translations into English, one from the Christian side, and two from the Jewish:
- New American Bible, Revised Edition (2011), Harper Collins (NABRE). The text is approved by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops under the Catholic Code of Canon Law 825. The scholarly apparatus it provides is rather thin, and has been criticised by Catholic conservative priests as dangerously radical. I suppose it would be churlish to mention that these are the same conservative clergy who spent decades covering up sexual abuse claims.
- Jewish Study Bible (2004), Oxford University Press (JSB). There is no authorized translation of the Tanakh (the Hebrew for what Christians know as the Old Testament) into English. This edition provides an extensive academic apparatus to accompany the translation often referred to as the NJPSV: the New Jewish Publication Society Version, completed in 1985. I thoroughly recommend this edition of the Old Testament to anyone, Jew, Christian, or athiest.
- Schocken Bible (2 vols) (1995-2014), Schocken Books (Random House). This is a translation by the scholar Everett Fox, published in various forms since 1983, culminating in the two volumes I cite here. Fox has attempted to produce a translation that reproduces the language, intent, and cadences of the original Hebrew as far as possible, without sacrificing intelligibility. The consensus is that Fox has done a masterful job, even if often the English is Yoda-like. Fox changed his translation practices between the two volumes, only for the better, in my opinion.
English translations of other primary sources
- Robert M. Price (ed.) (2006), The Pre-Nicene New Testament, Signature Books.
- Herbert Danby (ed.) (2013), The Mishnah, Hendrickson (originally Oxford University Press, 1933).
- James H. Charlesworth (ed.) (2015), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols, Hendrickson.
- R. Bauckham, J. R. Davila, A. Panayotov (eds.) (2013), Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Canonical Scriptures, 2 vols, Eerdmans.
- Early Jewish Writings. An introduction and links to translations of the Old Testament parabiblical literature. Simply a wonderful resource. You should also investigate the New Testament equivalent.
- The Bible and Interpretation. Latest advances, discussions and controversies.
- Mark Poyser's Bible Diagrams. A vast collection of timelines and diagrams on biblical history.
- Encyclopedia Judaica.
- Judaism 101. A great introduction to Judaism.
Books for the Interested Reader
- Christine Hayes (2012), Introduction to the Bible, Yale University Press. Hayes is a brilliant populariser. Her insights have proved invaluable to the podcast.
- Michael Grant (1984), The History of Ancient Israel, Scribners.
- John Rogerson (1999), Chronicle of the Old Testament Kings, Thames and Hudson.
- John Rogerson (1986), Atlas of the Bible, Equinox/Facts on File.
- Eric H. Cline (2014) 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed, Princeton University Press.
- Joseph Rhymer (1982) Atlas of the Biblical World, Hamlyn/QED Publishing.
- Harold Bloom (1990), The Book of J, Grove Weindenfeld.
- John Romer (1988), Testament, Michael O'Mara Books.
- Colin McEvedy (2002), The New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History, Penguin Books.
- Geza Vermes (1988), The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (3rd ed), Penguin Books.
- Paul Barnett (2005), The Birth of Christianity, Eerdmans.
More Academic Books
- James D. G. Dunn (ed) (2003), The Cambridge Companion to St Paul, Cambridge Unversity Press.
- Shaye J. D. Cohen (2014), From the Maccabess to the Mishnah, WJK (3rd ed).
- Mark S. Smith (2001), The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, Oxford University Press.
- Michael Coogan (ed.) (2011), The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible (2 vols), Oxford University Press. This is another of the major sources I have used for my commentary.
- Thomas L. Thompson (1999), The Mythic Past, Basic Books.
- Roland de Vaux (1978), Ancient Israel, Darton, Longman and Todd.
- Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman (2002), The Bible Unearthed, Touchstone.
- J. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes (2006), A History of Ancient Israel and Judah, SCM Press.
- Amon Ben-Tor (1992), The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, Yale University Press.
- Megan Bishop Moore and Brad E. Kelle (2011), Biblical History and Israel's Past, Eerdmans.
- Reinhard G. Kratz and Hermann Spieckermann (eds.) (2010), One God One Cult, De Gruyter.
- Tom Higham and Thomas Evan Levy (eds.) (2005), The Bible and Radiocarbon Dating, Equinox Publishing.
- F. E. Deist (1978), Towards the Text of the Old Testament, D.R. Church Booksellers.
- Helmer Ringgren (1974), Israelite Religion, SPCK.
- Donald Akenson (1998), Surpassing Wonder, Harcourt Brace.
- Alan Avery-Peck and Jacob Neusner (eds.) (1999), Judaism in Late Antiquity, BRILL.
- A. J. Jacobs (2007), The Year of Living Biblically, Simon & Schuster.
- David Plotz (2009), Good Book, HarperCollins.
- David Rohl (1996), A Test of Time: Volume 1 –The Bible From Myth to History, Century Random House.
Unfortunately, most of these journals are behind paywalls, and part of the international academic publishing rort
- Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
- Near Eastern Archaeology
- Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University
- Zeitschrift die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
- Method and Theory in the Study of Religion
- Journal of Ancient Judaism
Why not download my free poster-sized chart of Old Testament history, and then my poster on Early Christianity? Or take a look at the various maps and tables I am posting in support of the podcast.
Podcasts Worth Visiting
Check out these podcasts, all of which I have used as sources, or just like a lot:
- Brother Brewer's Skeptic's Brewpub. A well-blended potpouri of talk and guests on religion, nerdy things, Episcopalians, gnosticism, and beer. Lots of beer. Jolly good fun.
- Dan and Lex 's Judaism Unbound, about re-imagining Jewish life in modern America. Good-natured and thoughtful talk, with great guests.
- Mark Goodacre's NT Pod, on the New Testament and Christian origins. Mark is a Brit at Duke University in the USA. Episodes are in short 15 minute chunks, and very nicely done. From his accent and delivery, you would swear he was Richard Dawkins' twin brother.
- Doug Metzger's Literature and History. I'm having a lot of fun listening to Doug Metzger's podcast. Doug's delivery, and editorial use of music is so smooth and professional, that I can only think he has previous training in radio. Just a delight to listen to. So far eps cover from Mesopotamian literature to the biblical.
- Stephen Guerra's History of the Papacy. A podcast about much more than the history of the popes. Stephen lets his muse take him where he will. He has produced eleven episodes just on the First Council of Nicaea. You would not get that amount of information if you were doing a Master's in the subject.
- Robert M. Price's two podcasts The Human Bible and The Bible Geek. Slightly dotty compendia of all things Biblical. The History in the Bible Podcast is in a very different style, and complements nicely Dr Price's zany topical shows.
- Philip A. Harland's Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean. An excellent source on many advanced topics in Israelite religion and early Christianity.
- Scott Chesworth's The Ancient World. A rollicking survey of almost 3,000 years of history.
- Peter Adamson's History of Philosphy Without any Gaps. A magisterial work that he actually gets paid to make. The bastard.
- Lance Ralston's Communio Sanctorum. A long-running labour of love on the history of Christianity. Lance is so dedicated that he reworked and re-recorded his entire first 35 episodes into better versions. You have to admire that sort of comittment.