Book review: Beyond the Texts

You can find a lot of different views on the internet about the accuracy of Old Testament history and how archaeology does, or doesn’t, support the Old Testament accounts. Minimalist historians, and internet sceptics, will tell you it’s almost all invented myth, while maximalist historians and christian apologists will tell you that archaeology supports the truth of the entire Bible.

How does an honest seeker after the truth find a way between the conflicting extremes to a fair understanding?

The best way, it seems to me, is to read an expert who is as unbiased as possible, with a slight leaning towards the sceptical. That way, I can be reasonably confident that anything the expert tells me is likely to be accurate, and maybe a little more besides.

So it was with these expectations that I purchased and read William Dever’s Beyond the Texts: An Archaeological Portrait of Ancient Israel and Judah. And it lived up to my hopes.

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Letting the Bible be what it is, not what we would like it to be

I didn’t grow up in a christian family, but I was sent to Sunday School from when I was young. And so I learnt to believe that the Bible was true.

It was only later, in my late teens, that I began to discover some anomalies in the Bible that didn’t fit what I had been taught.

I didn’t continue to believe what I was taught, despite the problems, as many people do. And I didn’t decide that if the Bible isn’t what I thought it was, it couldn’t be true at all, and so give up my faith faith, as others do.

Instead I grappled with the anomalies and often ended up modifying my understanding of the Bible and of God.

I want to share my journey with one such anomaly that has changed some of how I think about the Bible and about the christian faith.

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Book review: Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

This is quite simply one of the best and most enlightening books I have read about Jesus and the Gospels.

I have learnt so much that has helped me make better sense of the gospels and of my faith (although I am certainly not claiming to be like Maria in the Counting Crows song, Round Here, who says she is “close to understanding Jesus”!)

Let me tell you why I am so enthused.

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Book review: Disarming Scripture

Disarming Scripture by Derek Flood

The Old Testament world was a violent place.

For a christian, the most troubling violence is surely that said to be commanded by God, whether it be Abraham being commanded to sacrifice his son and heir Isaac, Joshua commanded to exterminate Canaanites who are unfortunate enough to be living in the “Promised Land”, the command through Elisha that Jehu should kill all the family of the line of Ahab (Joram, Jezebel and all their relatives), or many other incidents.

Christians must face the challenge: if God commanded these killings, how can we say he is loving?

This book addresses the question of violence attributed to God in the Bible, and how that can be consistent with the non-violent teachings of Jesus. And it comes with recommendations from no lesser luminaries than Walter Brueggemann, Brian McLaren, Peter Enns, Jim Wallis and Brian Zahnd.

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Did the exodus really happen?

The exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and their travel to the Promised Land is one of the key events in Jewish religious history, and, therefore, in christian belief as well.

But did it actually happen? Did something like 2 million people cross the Red Sea and through the Sinai, aided and guided by miraculous interventions by God?

Scholars from various disciplines have argued about the facts for years now, but perhaps there is some sort of consensus emerging. Perhaps.

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Joshua & the conquest of Canaan: what’s history, what’s legend, what’s unknown?

I don’t know about you, but when I read the Old Testament accounts of Joshua and the Israelites invading Canaan, I don’t have any picture of the geography or where the cities were located.

The matter is complicated by the fact that many people feel a lot is at stake. Believers generally want to find support for the Bible, and some unbelievers want to undermine it. Some Jews and Palestinians want to support their rival claims for the land.

So when I read the opinions of historians and archaeologists on whether these events were historical or legendary, I have little on which to base a judgment. I don’t think it’s the most important thing in the world, but it has been interesting to try to ferret out the truth, to read all sides of the question and try to come to an honest and true conclusion.

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Does archaeology show the Bible is true? Seven facts

I’m sure you will have read, and heard it said, that archaeology confirms the accuracy of the Bible. But you may also have heard from sceptics that the Bible isn’t historically accurate. So which is true?

This is a complex matter with a wide variety of conclusions among the experts. I have tried to investigate as impartially as I can, and it seems that both views are true (sometimes) …. and false (sometimes).

Here are seven statements I think can be known to be true.

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Book review: The Jesus Legend

jesus-legend

Some books on Jesus and the New Testament are clearly apologetic in nature, seeking to argue or defend a certain viewpoint, whether it be sceptical or believing.

Other books clearly aim at being academic, impartial, seeking to advance academic opinion.

This book, which is almost a decade old, is kind of both. I have only recently read it, and I think it is worthy of a review.

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