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 present a layman's guide to the latest research into the Biblical texts and the archaeological evidence behind them. I also explore the religion of ancient Israel, and the development of Christianity. The revolution comes in two parts:
Revolution in Old Testament Studies
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.
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.
Revolution in New Testament Studies
A quite separate and distinct re-evaluation of the New Testmant has been bubbling along since the late 1700's. The archaeologists have little do with this. This battle has been conducted on a literary level, between people sitting in comfy chairs; not trench-workers in the desert heat digging in the dusty earth for weeks at a time.
About the Podcast
In the History in the Bible Podcast I take you inside this revolution in Biblical studies in a series of fortnightly podcasts. Each episode is a chunk just right for your morning or afternoon commute.
Series 1: From Genesis to Babylon
In the first series, I covered 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 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 Revelation
In the second series, I 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 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 launch into the history chronicled in all the versions of the New Testament. I get my teeth stuck into the gospels, the letters, Acts, and Revelation; showing what modern scholarship has to say about their complex history and interelationships. I also cover the books that only the Ethiopian Orthodox church includes as canonical.
Series two will reach the New Testament and the earliest history of Christianity around April 2018, with episode 21 of series two. But believe me, it will be worth the wait. I've spent years scouring the scholarly literature, to bring you what I think is a well-rounded portrait of the state of modern scholarship on Jesus, the gospels, the disciples, Paul, and all the books in the New Testament. Am I biased? Absolutely! But, hey, it's my podcast!
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 scholarly and authoritative translations into English:
- 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.
- The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011), Oxford University Press [JANT]. This work contains the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) English translation of the New Testament. The NRSV is often regarded as the premier translation into English (although you can find plenty who would beg to disagree—and I get into that debate in one of my episodes). You can find that text in many other editions. What makes this edition really stand out, is the outstanding critical commentary on the NRSV text by eminent Jewish scholars. Whatever your religion, this version of the NRSV is really special.
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.
- Paul L. Maier (ed.) (1994), Josephus: The Essential Works, Kregel.
- Geza. Vermes (ed.) (1987), The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Penguin Books (3rd edition).
Books for the Interested Reader
- 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.
- Paul Barnett (2005), The Birth of Christianity, Eerdmans.
- Donald Akenson (1998), Surpassing Wonder, Harcourt Brace.
- Richard E. Friedman (1987), Who Wrote the Bible?, Jonathon Cape.
More Academic Books
- Allan Barr (1976), A Diagram of Synoptic Relationships,T & T Clark. A whopping great fold-out chart, showing how each verse in one gospel relates to those in the others.
- Christine Hayes (2012), Introduction to the Bible, Yale University Press. Hayes is a brilliant populariser. Her insights have proved invaluable to the podcast.
- Dale Martin (2012), New Testament Literature and History, Yale University Press. The Yale counterpart to Christine Hayes, but a lot crustier. Another major resource.
- Shaye J. D. Cohen (2014), From the Maccabees 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.
- Alan Avery-Peck and Jacob Neusner (eds.) (1999), Judaism in Late Antiquity, BRILL.
- James D. G. Dunn (ed.) (2003), The Cambridge Companion to St Paul, Cambridge Unversity Press.
- Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz (1998), The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, Fortress Press. A dreary slog, oddly-translated, but considered a classic textbook.
- Devorah Dimant (ed.) (2012), The Dead Sea Scrolls in Scholarly Perspective, 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
- 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.
- Mahlon H. Smith, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University, has a great website, Virtual Religion Network, with buckets of info: from the timetable of the Dead Sea Scrolls, to a detailed study of the synoptic gospels. He also has a staggering amount of links to other trusted resources. Mahlon has a lot to teach all of us.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don Falkos' Two Minute Bible. The Bible, told as a continuous story in two-minute chunks each episode. A real delight.
- Ryan Stitt's The History of Ancient Greece Podcast. Beautifully told, a definite keeper.
- Andrew Vahrenkamp's Wonders of the World. I think Andrew could well be the USA's answer to BBC 4's Melvyn Bragg. Each episode mixes cooking and recipes with a take on one of the world's great marvels. A real treat while you are on daily commute, and inspiration for dinner.
- Brother Brewer's (David Adkins) 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.
- 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. Just gorgeous to listen to.