- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (May 10, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521829461
- ISBN-13: 978-0521829465
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 67 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,549,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualization of Ancient Israel 1st Edition
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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
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Most of the Hebrew Bible, says Schniedewind, was written down from the eighth through the sixth centuries B.C.E., the period from Isaiah to Jeremiah, centering on the policies of Kings Hezekiah and Josiah. Archaeology indicates that Judah underwent extensive urbanization following the conquest of Israel by Assyria, so that literate elites from Israel migrated into Judah and brought royal archives and traditions with them. Thus Hezekiah's period saw an emphasis on trying to blend the traditions of Israel and Judah, which resulted in glorifying the united kingdom of David and Solomon as a golden age which Hezekiah hoped to recapture. There was an agrarian rebellion that put Josiah on the throne, leading to writings that demoted the influence of Israel and its transplanted elites. At the same time, literacy spread and literature flourished leading to "one of the most profound cultural revolutions in human history: the assertion of the orthodoxy of texts." (p.91) From that time onward there was a tension between the oral tradition and the written holy text.
Among the interesting points Schniedewind makes is how the story of the Ten Commandments differs in Exodus and Deuteronomy. In Exodus, the commandments are oral rather than written. "Somehow the story of the revelation in Exodus 19-23 seems unaware that the Torah is a text. This fact will become all the more remarkable when we see how later traditions will be obsessed with telling the story of the writing of the Torah." (p. 121) His analysis of the narratives in Exodus and Deuteronomy leads him to conclude that the tablets Moses received contained plans for the tabernacle rather than the Ten Commandments.
The tension between oral tradition and the written text becomes an important theme from the time of Josiah. Schniedewind points out that the Book of Chronicles was the first text to apply the term "word of YHWH' to the written Torah rather than to words spoken by prophets. He maintains that the priesthood which ruled during the period of the second temple championed the written text as holy and that the Sadducees and Essenes were movements which focused on the written text. But, he says, the Pharisees, early Christians, and Rabbinic Judaism emphasized a key role for the oral tradition.
This is a book that can be enjoyed by the general public as well as biblical specialists. Anyone interested in Bible study will find his analyses enlightening. His focus on the spread of literacy and the transition from oral to textual culture adds a significant dimension to study and understanding of the Bible.
Even today, vast amounts of people still cannot read or write. Many people can speak a language but cannot write it. Many can write but cannot write properly. So the author's view is very plausible.
Most people today do not write books. This is usually done by highly educated professional writers who write books for other people, much like the scribes in ancient times.
The original testament , Torah, the teachings of Moses and the other writings of the Hebrews/Jews, is the telling of thousands of years of verbal teachings/histories that were eventually written down by scribes and edited by religious leaders for the final canonized version of the Hebrew Bible.
The Bible becomes no less holy or less the word of G-d because of this. The Bible is a morally based teaching and one which relates to future generations the need to love and respect your fellow human being. That this love and respect is not a condition allowed by man but required by a divine command that cannot be abrogated by Kings and human beings. It is an eternal law and is indeed the will of the eternal G-d who created all that exists.
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