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The Bible and the Ancient Near East (Revised Edition) Paperback – February 17, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Revised Edition edition (February 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393316890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393316896
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,137,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Cyrus R. Gordon is professor emeritus of Mediterranean studies at Brandeis University.

Gary A. Rendsburg is professor of Near Eastern studies at Cornell University.

Customer Reviews

His prose is thoughtful and interesting.
Ryan Mease
It has helped me understand the Torah better and it has given me a better understanding of the meaning if the symbolism and legal requirements if biblical times.
Kat
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a greater appreciation of either the Bible or the ancient world.
Jane Lebak

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Jane Lebak on May 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
I had the privilege of taking two courses with Dr. Rendsburg, and my biggest regret about college is not taking more. This book complements the courses I took (although it wasn't our textbook) and it's been a joy reading about everything discussed in class.
Dr. Rendsburg and Dr. Gordon's approach will not satisfy those who want a literal approach to the Biblical text. For anyone who wants the Biblical stories placed in a historical context, however, this work will do exactly that. By matching elements of the Biblical text to ancient near eastern documents and history, the Biblical stories are placed into the greater context of their times, which I find extremely enlightening. Find out why dream interpretation occurs in Daniel and Joseph and nowhere else; learn how the patriarchs' family structure fits exactly into the legal construction of the family and land inheritance as described in texts from Ugarit; follow the understanding of the God of Israel from the chief god among many to the only God.
The authors treat the Bible with great respect, searching out the historical facts, illuminating where epic tradition colors the text, and relating the growth of Judaism to the political, social, and literary climate of the times in which it was written. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a greater appreciation of either the Bible or the ancient world.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Martin Pierce on January 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is a classic, first published in 1953, but fortunately it continues to be updated, up to 1997 (4th ed).

The authors succinctly cover a huge expanse of time and geography while putting it all in perspective and context so that you learn not only about the Bible but about world history in general. The authors respect not only the Biblical text, but all the ancient texts (see footnote on p. 117), unlike "higher critics" who seem to assume all the ancient writers (especially Bible authors) were either pathological liars or bumbling fools. Some reviewers (see below) have criticized the book for taking the Bible too seriously, while some Christians may feel it doesn't take the Bible (e.g., Bible chronologies) seriously enough. Overall, though, it seems pretty well balanced - an excellent, scholarly look at Old Testament times from all angles!

My only complaint is that, given the enormous amount of time, ancient texts, people, places, and archaeology covered by the book, it can't be longer. That, nonetheless, is what makes it an excellent book for readers who don't want too much detail. Hopefully, the publishers will continue to revise and expand this book in the future.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Perry Willis on March 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book tells the story of a small people battered on both sides by larger powers, forever threatened with extinction, but always rising to the challenge of survival. It is also the story of the origin of a large part of our current culture. The authors are well informed and share their vast knowledge of this place and period in a highly accessible way. This is not the story of Cecile B. Demile's Bible - it is something far better. It's the story of what actually happened, as best we can know it. The most interesting thing for me was to read of the gradual evolution of the Hebrew faith from monolatry (there are many gods but one supreme God), to monotheism (there is only one god), and of how the changes in fortune of this ancient society created the religious ideas from which Christianity evolved. If you want to understand the world we live in today then you will need to understand the world they lived in then, and this book is an excellent guide.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R. Visser on August 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book will be very useful for any new student of the Ancient Near East (ANE). It places the events of the entire ANE (Egypt to Sumeria, Canaan to Babylon with some Greek)during the Old Testament times in great perspective.

What I liked about it is the way in which it explains Biblical events and customs within their contemporaty meanings. There's a review on this site that calls the book narrow minded and ignorant of science and archeology, but I disagree with this. Remember that in this book we read about how the people of the ANE understood and interpreded their lives AT THE TIME and how this relates to the Biblical genre, it's not trying to influence how we interpret the Bible TODAY. In fact, it's not proselytizing in any way, it's objective historical information.

It really is a very good introduction to the Old Testament and it's fascinating to learn more about it's contemporary culture in this book. I recommend it.
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47 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Tadej Kotnik on March 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
The reason I've bought this book is that certain documentaries about the Near East made me aware how ignorant I really was with respect to one of the most important chapters in the history of civilization. While one gets a lot of serious reading about Greeks and Romans (starting with the primary school), his "knowledge" of the Hebrews is mostly based on the Bible, or on the books and movies in which the stories from the Bible are reproduced literally. For the most conservative believers (I guess these include the Kansas educational board), this is also the way it ought to be. On the other hand, for those who possess some degree of criticism, it is obvious that these stories are a mix of myths, legends, and certainly some historical truth. Books for the general reader which speak about the facts behind the Bible are few.
The book by Gordon and Rendsburg fills this void efficiently and with style. It is both revealing and amusing, as the authors do not practice the dry style of an expertise. Instead, their story is pleasant to read, often interweaved with familiar parallels from the more recent history. The reason why I restrain myself from appointing the fifth star is that some footnote comments are definitely more of a distortion than a delight to read. Many footnotes are in place, including all of the citations, but some comments are much too elaborate and tend to repeat themselves. For me, skipping all the footnotes would mean remaining unacquainted with many interesting facts, so this is not the solution. I hope the next edition will revise the footnotes, perhaps with some constructive input from the readers.
Still, it is a very good book, and I warmly recommend it to anyone interested in the facts behind the Bible. For those who will like this book as I did, I suggest also reading Dead Sea Scrolls: The Complete Story by J. Campbell, which takes off where this book ends.
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