A History of Ancient Israel and Judah, a Book Full of Doubt and Skepticism
"A History of Ancient Israel and Judah, Second Edition" by J. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes is
published by Westminster John Knox Press. This review is based on the Kindle edition that I received from Edelweiss in exhange for a review. The thoughts expressed in this review are mine alone.
The volume, whether in print or in Kindle form, is massive. It has lots of information in it and contains vibrant pictures. I was very pleased by what was presented in pictorial form and the clarity by which they appeared in the Kindle edition.
A negative that immediately appeared for the e-book version was how the text was abruptly broken up for ancillary information. In places, it wasn't even terribly clear what the information was that produced the break in the reading. This happens throughout the Kindle version.
While I found some content that was very informative, I was taken aback by what I viewed as a tendency of the authors to choose deductions based on epigraphs (inscriptions that act like mere snapshots in ancient times), archaeology (what man says based on what he can and cannot find and distorted by bias) over biblical content. In other words, if there was a doubt, the authors leaned toward humans prone to error rather than what people like me believe to be the inerrant Word of God. Don't get me wrong, archaeology is a wonderful and informative discipline but humans enter it with certain presuppositions and color the findings with bias.
For example, Deuteronomy 8:7-9 along with an ancient Egyptian travelers' like-minded description are explained away by the authors as follows: "Allowing for theological enthusiasm and tourist exaggeration, these two passages provide an accurate glimpse of Palestinian agriculture in biblical times, (Location 740)." It was shocking to see that even with corroborating testimony from an extra-biblical ancient witness, they failed to see that the Bible was authenticated by an Egyptian traveler to be referring to a land that was a more than adequate one in which the children of Israel could live and thrive.
Another such incident is the declaration of the Hebrew Bible being "relevant to some degree for researching the history of ancient Israel and Judah, if for no other reason than that it reflects the way that Jews and Christians of classical times understood their religious heritage." Never mind that the Bible is relevant as the inspired Word of God. My point is that a book published under Westminster John Knox Press should begin with the idea that the Bible is an accurate account on all that it testifies. The authors' bias should lean to the idea that epigraphs and archaeology would further inform on biblical truth rather than lead to skepticism of the biblical record in favor of man's presuppositions mixed with archaeology and other studies of the humanities. My conviction is that Christians have nothing to fear from true science that is conducted objectively.
In yet another place, the authors state that "much of the account of Israel's origins presented in the biblical books of Genesis through Judges must be regarded as legendary. Yet the stories that make up this account have their setting in the real world as it was known to the ancient Israelites." I would have to disagree. Genesis through Judges does represent the real world of our ancient forebears in the faith who worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The Bible makes clear that God is the ultimate author of Scripture. Human agents were used as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is given by inspiration of God and to approach the Scripture with doubt and skepticism is the opposite of faith and unworthy of a Christian publication. See 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Hebrews 4:12. Therefore, I would not recommend this book.