New book examines how the Bible came to be — a loser’s tale

by | Nov 3, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — Studying the Bible from a historic and critical lens is a longstanding project dating back to the 18th century. As new archaeological evidence comes to light, that project of better understanding the ancient world and its most influential text keeps evolving.Jacob L. Wright, a professor of Hebrew Bible at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, has now written a book that takes all the latest findings to help illustrate how the Hebrew Bible came together — and critically, why.
In “Why the Bible Began,” he concludes that successive expulsions and exiles — first the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, the Persians, and later the Greeks and Romans — forced the ancient scribes to forge from their defeats a new identity as a people.
Beginning around the destruction of the first Jerusalem temple in 586 B.C., elite scribes took some older writings from two traditions he identifies as the “Palace History” of Kings Saul, David and Solomon, and the “People’s History” of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) and later Moses — a tradition completely indifferent to the monarchy — and stitched them together.
In doing so, they reunited the memories of the divided kingdoms of Judah to the south and Israel to the north into a single people with a shared history.
This project of composing, recomposing, redacting and me …

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