Myth and Ideology : Creating History in the Bible

Stuart A West

The book seeks to clarify the origins of the Hebrew Bible by an investigation of the biblical text, relying on extra-biblical evidence, particularly archaeology. The authors approach is non-theological, referring to Bible Scholars for many of his sources and using quotes from the Bible and ancient Near Eastern texts to support his conclusions. The traditional view of a divinely revealed Pentateuch is examined and the author recounts the development of criticism of that view, culminating in the Documenary Hypothesis, which is explained in detail. The suggestion is made that the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic history, ending with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, emanate from several disparate sources. The author explains that all the evidence indicates that the earliest sources of the Pentateuch date from sometime between 922 and 722 BCE, and he shows that much of the Bibles narrative is myth and reveals a political bias by its writers. Often, we are reading historical fiction, evident from the anachronisms, contradictions, and repetitions in the text. By going to the roots of the Hebrew Bible, the book is intended as a personal appraisal of its sources and biblical dogma. Examples of the Documentary Hypothesis are noted, indicating that the books comprising the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) are a combination of what were originally independent texts. The linkage of the book of Deuteronomy with the books Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings, is shown, producing what became known as the Deuteronomistic History. The author discusses the various theories relating to the emergence of early Israel. He also notes the divisions that ultimately split the kingdom and the events that led to the destruction of both the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE and the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 BCE as reflected in the Bible and in extra-biblical sources. The reader will become aware that the role of archaeology is very pertinent in assessing the historicity of the biblical text. Finally, the author reviews the development of the biblical text and looks at the Bible in its setting.