According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review: "Legacy of Israel in Judah's Bible"

The Survivors Write the History: a brief book note on a new book on the Old Testament
I recently began reading The Legacy of Israel in Judah’s Bible: History, Politics, and the Reinscribing of Tradition by Daniel E. Fleming, professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. I’m glad I did; it’s a great book.
Israel began as a unified people but split into northern and southern kingdoms in 930 BC after the death of King Solomon. The northern kingdom retained the name “Israel” and the smaller southern kingdom was known as Judah, and its capital was Jerusalem.
The northern kingdom was overrun by the Assyrians in 722 BC, much of its population was taken captive, and the nation never revived. Judah, however, remained survived until 587 BC when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. Only, unlike Israel, Judah returned in 539 BC to rebuild their temple and their nation.
The nation of Judah survived and the Old Testament is Judah’s story.
Even though their northern counterparts certainly had written traditions that the Judahites possessed, these traditions were edited and brought into Judah’s story to reflect the story these postexilic survivors wanted to tell. The Judahites were the ones who determined its final shape and content. The flow of the long narrative from Genesis to 2 Kings culminates in Judah’s story. The prophets and the Psalms focus on Judah and Jerusalem. The Old Testament is “Judah’s Bible.”
But the story that the Judahites tell includes Israel significantly. They present their own beginning as part of the unified nation called Israel under Saul, David, and then Solomon. It also tells the story of the northern kingdom’s rise and fall in some detail, though clearly with little positive to say about it.
The question Fleming address is this: Given that the story of Israel and Judah is told through Judahite eyes, what can we learn, through biblical and archaeological evidence, of the history of the northern kingdom Israel?
The book is about 320 pages long and is divided into 4 parts.
Part 1 Introduction: Israel and Judah. The divided nations had very different types of political organization, with Judah being more centralized and less diverse, and Israel being larger, decentralized, and more politically collaborative.
Part 2 Israelite Content in the Bible. Fleming looks at specific texts that preserve narrative content from Israel and indicate the contrasts between the two nations.
Part 3 Collaborative Politics. Fleming elaborates the collaborative politics of Israel, with the Amorites and Arameans as a backdrop.
Part 4 Israel in History. Fleming concludes with a lengthy discussion of what we can know historically of Israel, tracing Israel’s story from its 14th century antecedents through the divided monarchy.
This book is an academic volume, but not technical. It might be tough going for college students, but certainly not for seminarians or doctoral students.
I have long been keenly interested in that perennial problem of history in the Old Testament–what kind of “history” writing do we find there and how much of it? This is not simply a problem for book like Genesis, but for every part of the Old Testament, including the so-called “historical books” of the monarchy and divided monarchy. So far, I like this book a lot and I recommend it to those who have similar interests.
If anything, The Legacy of Judah’s Bible demonstrates not simply that the Old Testament tells a story from the perspective of one portion of that nation, late in time. That is assumed, for it is neither controversial or contested in scholarly circles. Rather, Fleming demonstrates–perhaps ironically for some–how much history can actually be uncovered once you recognize that the survivors told the story.

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