From Publishers Weekly
Since the 19th century, scholars have argued that the earliest stories in the Old Testament were probably recorded during the reigns of David and Solomon. Source critics have tended to isolate at least four sources that lie behind the Pentateuch (J, E, D, P) and have ascribed descending dates to the compositions of these sources. In a richly textured and revolutionary book, Schniedewind argues that the stories traditionally thought to have been written in the 10th and ninth centuries B.C.E. were most likely composed more than 100 years later. Taking a detailed historical and literary approach, he reminds us that early Israel was a largely oral culture, and that even during the consolidation of the kingdom under David and Solomon, few scribes were interested in chronicling the stories of a people. By the eighth century B.C.E., however, during Hezekiah's reign (727â"698 B.C.E.), the king's scribes engaged in writing and editing historical narratives and collecting the proverbs attributed to Solomon. The urbanization of Jerusalem provided the social context that allowed the movement from a primarily oral culture to a primarily literary one. Thus, Schniedewind contends that the historical narratives of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, in addition to the Pentateuch and some of the prophetic writings, can be dated to Hezekiah's reign rather than to an earlier Solomonic period or to a post-exilic Persian period. Schniedewind's provocative thesis will likely generate some controversy, but it will be well received among those who accept the historical revisionism of Israel Finkelstein and others.
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"...provides an excellent example of how a historian acts as a detective... Daniel J. Harrington, America: The National Catholic Weekly
"Exploring the evolution of literature in society and its secular as well as religious ramifications, How the Bible Became a Book is a welcome addition to Biblical studies shelves, as readable and articulate as it is scholarly." The Midwest Book Review
"A fascinating read for lay or scholarly readers, it illuminates why these texts have authority as Scripture. History buffs will enjoy learning why Ancient Israel, an oral culture, began to write literature." Horizons
"...a richly textured and revolutionary book..." Publishers Weekly
"In this extremely well written book, William Schniedewind tackles what has emerged as the most important question in biblical studies of our time - the issue of when the ancient Israelite accounts and traditions were put in writing. In what is probably the most thorough discussion of the shift from oral tradition to literacy and textuality in Ancient Israel, Schniedewind engages the broader cultural and historical questions of the circumstances under which the Bible was written. . . . Sophisticated and broad in its scope and yet easy to follow, this book will certainly become a cornerstone in biblical studies and in the search for the historical Ancient Israel: a real intellectual delight." Israel Finkelstein, co-author of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts
"For general readers interested in ancient history and religion, for Jews and Christians who study the Bible and its backgrounds, and for scholars who study the relationship between orality and literacy, this book will be both tremendously helpful and very enjoyable.... it has the potential to reshape the study of the Hebrew Bible for years to come." Benjamin D. Sommer, author of A Prophet Reads Scripture
"In this and previous publications [Schniedewind] demonstrates a thorough grasp of the archaeology of ancient Israel, the history of the Hebrew language, and the development of biblical historical literature. Here he synthesizes the research of many others to develop a comprehensive story of the writing of the Old Testament. The result is a grand narrative of the development of scripture in Israel." The Christian Century
"This is a well researched and written book." - Bible Today Diane Bergant
"This book adds a new angle to the discussion of the origins of the Bible." An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies Ely Levine, Harvard University