I actually bought a real book made out of paper and ink. I prefer real books if they are well made. I have been using my Kindle to store ebooks, however, because my house is so full of corporeal books that there is a space problem.
Sometimes there is no sign that a book will be available in digital form anytime soon. That was the case with Avraham Faust’s Israel’s Ethnogenesis: Settlement, Interaction, Expansion and Resistance. I really wanted this book. Here is why?
The Bible as a source for understanding the origins of Israel has been around for centuries. But in the last couple of centuries people have been digging up a lot of old sites that shed light on the period of Israelite settlement. Sometimes these don’t seem to fit with the Bible. Sometimes, though, they do seem to match up with particular texts. At the same time, people have been paying more attention to anthropology as a way to understand how ethnic and cultural groups arise.
Faust has been one of the few people who have tried to put all this together. He puts the Bible and other texts together with archeological finds in a framework drawn from anthropology.
There are those today who eliminate the Bible as a source on methodological grounds. There are others who take the Bible as divine source that overrides any thing we dig up. Their assumption is that when we have dug up more someday everything will confirm the Bible. Others, though, see the Bible speaking with several voices even about historical details.
Faust tries to put most of what we actually have together. We keep digging artifacts up. Faust published in 2006. So he won’t be covering everything. But this book is recent enough that he can give us something that goes beyond most books.
In the preface, he says that “while written sources serve mainly as second fiddle, usually only in the second stage of the analysis, they also provide a context against which to examine the likelihood of proposed explanations” (p. xiv).
This shows where he stands in the arguments about “biblical archeology”. Some object to the term because they are afraid of the apologetic use of the archeology. Conservative scholars sometimes pick and choose only the archeology that supports their notion of the Bible’s historicity. On the other hand, to not use the Bible at all seems like a voluntary impoverishment, since it gives us a vast resource precisely about the Iron Age emergence of Israel in Canaan.
So this is my next reading project. I hope to learn a lot. And I invite my readers along on the journey for the next several weeks.