A History of Israel: from the Bronze Age Through the Jewish Wars - Kaiser, Walter C., Jr

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Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. A History of Israel: From the Bronze Age through the Jewish Wars. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1988. 540 pp.

Summary
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., in the introduction of his book, A History of Israel: From the Bronze Age through the Jewish Wars, describes how scholars have gone from generally accepting the Biblical account as historically accurate to discarding any supernatural events or anything that disagrees with their interpretation of archaeological artifacts and extra-biblical accounts. Kaiser’s attempt to cover the scope of issues and expanse of time involved in the history of Israel takes a pointedly different approach to today’s popular attitude that, “the Bible is useless for reconstructing the history of Israel.” (xvii) Instead of starting with the popular presupposition today that the Bible is an ethnocentristic account of history full of supernatural events that must be automatically discarded because of an anti-supernatural view of the universe, Kaiser starts with the presupposition that the Bible is trustworthy. Kaiser begins with the fact that the Bible has been accepted as trustworthy historically for centuries, but then taking the Bible on its own terms he subjects the claims of scripture to critical methodology to see how they stand up. Contrary to Biblical minimalists, Kaiser considers the claims of the Bible to be, “reliable – until they are proven to be otherwise.” (xii) To the biblical minimalists Kaiser has dared to do the unthinkable: “We have dared to use the Bible as a source in the construction of Israel’s history!” (xii)

In the first chapter Kaiser describes how there is no consensus today of how to interpret historical evidence, particularly written accounts, because any historical account is written from some biased perspective. This is thought to be especially true of the Bible, which is, “suspect as being a religious document more concerned about getting across a ‘privileged point of view’ than it is in representing fairly the real state of affairs.” (2) Kaiser admits that the Bible is not meant to be a history textbook any more than it is a science textbook, and that its main purpose is indeed to reveal who God is and how He deals with man, but it does so using, “real events from the ancient Near East, against which backdrop the revelation of God was communicated.” (3) In the first chapter Kaiser rebuts the logical fallacies, which are used to exclude the Biblical account of events as historically reliable. The fallacy that history cannot include the supernatural or acts of God assumes that, “all historical phenomena must be subjected to an analogous explanation, i.e., one that explains events in terms of other known happenings.” (3) The idea that, “History cannot include anything that does not have external documentation,” is false in that our available external evidence is random and often cannot prove or disprove events that scholars generally accept as historical fact. The fallacies that, “History cannot include narratives about individuals, but must focus on nations instead,” (6) and that, “History must not focus on individuals as shapers of the times, but on sociological factors that attempt to discover general laws and large-scale societal forces the influence historical change,” (7) seem to be largely derived from an abstract Marxist approach to sociology and history in which individuals can play only a minor role in history. I would say that Marx’s philosophy or history has been shown to be a failure by history itself, which records the ultimate failure of nations that tried to implement Marx’s philosophies. Kaiser’s book shows numerous times how the fallacy that, “History must not give logical and necessary priority to written evidence over material culture,” (7) is weak because the interpretation of material evidence is very subjective and the more material evidence that is uncovered the more it seems to corroborate the written biblical...
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