Sunday, June 15, 2014

Thompson Thumps It

I have had cause to mention Thomas Thompson previously (here; and also here).

A review of his new book provides us with some insight.  I pick some relevant insights to his approach:

1.  ...the patriarchal stories are literary fictions and that, for this reason, scholars should turn away from the quest to recover the realia of ancient Israel and toward studying the genre of the heroic 
tale...Thompson rejects the assumptions of the “biblical theology” movement, “that biblical traditions originated in events” (71). He postulates that the “Israel” portrayed in the Bible is a literary phenomenon, not a historical one, and concludes that the biblical narrative was formed either during the period of Assyrian domination of Palestine or, at the latest, during the pre-Hellenistic postexilic period (91–92). The early stories in the Bible are not rooted in history but are 
literary tropes...

2.   ...biblical narratives are not historiography

3.   ...Thompson compares Genesis–2 Kings with Ugaritic and Greek epic literature and identifies a number of criteria that he deems significant for identifying biblical literature with both epical genres and historiography (157–58). In the end, however, he concludes that “the biblical traditions present themselves as neither historiography nor as great narrative epic” but that the Bible talks about the past primarily “by way of illustration” for the purpose of providing instruction and discourse.  Its identification with the past is strictly, however, vicarious...

4.   ...the biblical archaeological agenda of creating a historical synthesis of the biblical narrative with archaeological results is no longer viable”...“without evidence, one does not write history”...the difficulty of explaining how such a poor village economy, as is reflected in the excavations on Ophel, could have been responsible for the prolific literary achievements that are suggested for the Persian period. Could such a small Jerusalem—however religiously oriented—support the level of literary production implied by the Hebrew Bible, as is now suggested by Charles Carter, Davies, and Rias Sawah, regarding Jerusalem’s role as a holy city and scribal center?...“we might consider other sites which can be expected to have played a significant role in composing the Bible and, consequently, in forming early Judaism,” including Gerizim, Elephantine and second-century Leontopolis, the community and temple at ‘Araq al-Amir...A more complex perspective on the origins of the Torah and the Hebrew Bible is required, opening a new perspective with rich possibilities for the understanding of Samaritan and Jewish origins...


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