Reading List for 2018

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Reading List for 2018

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Bearbeitet: Dez. 29, 2017, 1:50pm

Hail! Greetings everyone, I am pleased to find your community. I hope a few of you can help me construct a reading list for 2018 (and beyond?). I am planning to focus my studies on the ancient (BC) world, especially the middle-east, Greece/Rome, and the Americas.

Here is my list so far:

The Holy Bible
The Book of Mormon
Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Old Testament and Related Studies (Nibley)
The Ancient State (Nibley)
Bible History of the Old Testament (Edersheim)
The Temple (Edersheim)
The Times Complete History of the World
1491 (Mann)
Antiquities of the Jews (Josephus)
Legends of the Jews (Ginzberg)
Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha
The Complete Works of Plato

I want to find resources for so much more... Egypt, Ethiopia, Arabia, Phillistia, Syria, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Central Asia...

I would appreciate if you can recommend any books, websites, authors, or ancient texts translated into English on any of these, or similar subjects. I am interested in practically every topic as it relates to ancient middle-eastern, Greco-Roman, and American people, especially philosophy and religion. I am vastly more interested in Prophets and their Religions and Philosophers and their Philosophies than I am in Kings and their Wars.

Dez. 29, 2017, 2:20pm

I'll try to contribute more later, but for Graeco-roman culture, I suggest you start with

Classical Mythology, edited by Mark P.O. Morford et al. It is more than an encyclopaedia of religious beliefs, it also shows how they contributed to literature and culture, both in the ancient world and after.

For comparative mythology across many cultures, try The Golden Bough by James Frazer.

If you are interested in Babylonian religion, you should probably start with The Epic of Gilgamesh.

Bearbeitet: Dez. 29, 2017, 2:28pm

I'll try to contribute more later, but for Graeco-roman culture, I suggest you start with

Classical Mythology, edited by Mark P.O. Morford et al. It is more than an encyclopaedia of religious beliefs, it also shows how they contributed to literature and culture, both in the ancient world and after.

For comparative mythology across many cultures, try The Golden Bough by James Frazer.

If you are interested in Babylonian religion, you should probably start with The Epic of Gilgamesh.

The Living World of the Old Testament by Bernhard Anderson is good for putting biblical studies in context, with comparisons to other contemporary Middle Eastern cultures.

For other Hellenist and Jewish beliefs around the time of Christ, try The Gnostic Religion by Hans Jonas.

Dez. 29, 2017, 2:39pm

Sincere thanks to you, Guanhumara. I have read The Golden Bough and The Epic of Gilgamesh and those are the exact sorts of things I am looking for. You are hitting the nail on the head. I will add your others to my list! Thank you again!

Dez. 29, 2017, 3:50pm

Glad to be of help! The Gnostic Religion is outdated in some respects, because it was written before some of the more recent discoveries of gnostic texts, but it remains the best overview that I know of. It covers not only gnostic variants of Christianity, but Neoplatonism, and other Hellenist gnostic systems not influenced by Christianity. Elaine Pagels is a good author if you then want to go further into gnostic Christian beliefs.

Bearbeitet: Dez. 29, 2017, 4:04pm

If you are interested in the scriptures of heterodox groups (I mean that in the sense of groups that were not mainstream in their own culture), then some good collections are:
The Apocryphal Old Testament edited by M.R. James
The apocryphal New Testament : being the apocryphal Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses, with other narratives and fragments also edited by M.R. James
The Nag Hammadi Library edited by James M. Robinson.

I would also add
The Dead Sea Scrolls in English translated by Geza Vermes et. al.

Dez. 29, 2017, 5:23pm

If you are interested in what predated Gilgamesh, you might like Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer. Kramer was the foremost expert on the Sumerian language and Wolkstein was a professional storyteller.

Dez. 29, 2017, 6:07pm

>7 PhaedraB: That looks interesting: I have added it to my own Wishlist.

Dez. 29, 2017, 8:00pm

An unusual one you may want to add is THE ESSENE JESUS.

Old classics include WHAT THE BUDDHA TAUGHT by Walpola Rahula,

THE TEACHING OF BUDDHA by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai,

and the slim paperback HATHA YOGA by Wallace Slater.

Bearbeitet: Dez. 29, 2017, 11:55pm

Thank you all for your thoughtful suggestions! I appreciate you taking your time and sharing a little of your knowledge with me. I am trying to focus on the ancient world Before Christ with this particular reading list and I especially appreciate the suggestions falling in this category.

On the subject of Buddhism, can anyone recommend any sources relating the development of Buddhist religion to its impact on ancient people and civilization? I know very little, if anything, about the consequences of Buddhism (and Zoroastrianism) on the people and civilizations that grew around them, but I know a great deal about the growth and impact of Islam which largely replaced them in the areas I'm most interested in. What was unique about the ancient people who practiced these religions? How did the people and ideas interact with their neighbors, especially in the middle east?

I have literally dozens of excellent sources relating to the Hebrew and Islamic people, but I am very thin outside of these two realms and I'm really only looking at pre-Islam people for this study anyway. Some areas (and people) I'm most interested in are Egypt, Ethiopia, Arabia, Phillistia, Phoenicia, Syria, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Central Asia, and Ancient America. What were the religions and philosophies that guided their lives? Who were their prophets and philosophers and what did they teach? How did the people and ideas interact with each other?

Thank you all again!

Bearbeitet: Dez. 30, 2017, 4:38am

To be honest, I would consider the Golden Bough (and likewise Robert Graves' Frazer-inspired White Goddess) pretty dated at this point. While it may still be of interest for historical reasons -- it was incredibly influential -- it should really be balanced by reading more recent scholarship. Unfortunately, when I studied classics I was more interested in literature and philosophy than religion and ritual, so I don't have any specific recommendations to offer. Possibly Jan Bremmer (Greek Religion) or the essays in Greek Religion and Society edited by Easterling and Muir.

I'm a big fan of going back to the original sources. You might look at, for example, Ancient Greek Religion: A Sourcebook or Greek Religion: A Sourcebook.

I'm quite fond of the Presocratic philosophers, whom I actually find more interesting than the omnipresent Plato; there are various volumes with selections of their writings, including an inexpensive edition by Penguin Books: Early Greek Philosophy.

Dez. 30, 2017, 2:38pm

The Ancient City is interesting, but I understand it's not totally held up to modern scholarship.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 1, 2018, 1:22am

This came across my desk on Saturday and may be a useful read: Dan Cohn-Sherbok's edited volume Religious Diversity in the Graeco-Roman World. As it's designed for theologians, I think, it's a bit more accessable than some aimed at classical scholars.

For the Ancient Near Eastern world, I can suggest two older books: James B. Prichard's classic Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament, a wonderful trove of texts from the Fertile Crescent. I can't remember whether it includes the Ugaritic texts, which are very closely tied to the religious world of the Old Testament as they are our best texts on the Canaanite religion that the Hebrew prophets set themselves in opposition to, but if not you could pick up John Gibson's Canaanite Myths and Legends. Facing the translations it includes the Ugaritic text with a glossary, useful if you read Hebrew.

The second book I was going to recommend was George Roux's Ancient Iraq, but it strikes me it may be too out of date now. Does anyone have a more up-to-date history of the Ancient Near East, ideally one that fits Egypt into the picture? If you've not yet read one, it's worth reading a general history as a framework for the mythological and religious worlds. Robin Lane Fox's The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian would work well for the Graeco-Roman world (his Pagans and Christians is an outstanding introduction to the religious world of the later Roman empire).

Bearbeitet: Jan. 1, 2018, 1:17am

I'm not sure about Morford's Classical Mythology. I had it as a textbook a few years ago and hated it, as did many other fellow students. Certainly don't waste money on the 'latest edition' (it's fiercely overpriced), and note the US edition has some illustrations the International edition doesn't (didn't) have. Much better read the Greek myths from the original sources: Apollodorus' Library of Greek Mythology (well, that's a modern rendering of his Bibliotheca), Hesiod's Works and Days, and above all Ovid's playful Metamorphoses would be a good start.

Also I'd not like to try to read the complete works of Plato in one go. You might like to listen to the earlier broadcasts of Peter Adamson's History of Philosophy (Without Any Gaps) podcast before leaping into ancient philosophy. Adamson, an expert in ancient and Islamic philosophy who used to be professor at King's College London and who's now a professor at a German university, introduces you to aspects of the work of each philosopher in some depth without trying to cover their work across its range within the format of a 15-20 minute podcast. The accompanying website (and doubtless the first OUP book based on the series - see the link above) gives a great intro to each aspect with further reading.

Jan. 2, 2018, 11:20am

>14 shikari: I studied the 9th International edition and loved it. The problem with looking at mythology from a single classical author, is that they are systemisers; they each invent a version that collates disparate traditions into a unified whole. As works of literature, they are wonderful, but if, like the OP, you are interested in the actual beliefs of people, rather than their literary value, they give a deeply misleading impression. To understand what people actually believed, you need to read, as a minimum, Hesiod + Homer + Apollodorus +Ovid + the complete plays of Euripedes and Sophocles. That's quite a project! (I've actually read most of that, but over a few decades.) And even then, you have to allow for genuine belief being twisted for dramatic effect, and you have neglected all the evidence that comes from archaeology. It's a viable method if you are only interested in classical culture, in a fairly limited time period - the thousand years in which these works were written, but for an accurate overview, you need a concordance.

>10 TylerHarris: The only suggestion I have for Buddhism's cultural context are the relevant chapters in Encyclopedia of Living Faiths, edited by R.C. Zaehner, an expert in Eastern Religions. It is only part of the whole, and and bit dated, so that the tone of some of the contributors does grate rather, but so far its the only book I've come across that attempts to give an overview of the evolution of these religions over time, and how the different branches relate to one another. I would also recommend it as an overview of Hinduism. Reading a religion's sacred writings alone cannot give the whole picture; the canon evolves over time, and different branches interpret it differently.

You might also be interested in A Popular History of Philosophy by Teodoro de la Torre. It is a selection of excerpt from philosophers over the ages; but since the author is a Jesuit, he has a particular interest in selecting passages that demonstrate a religious dimension.

Jan. 2, 2018, 2:14pm

Jan. 2, 2018, 2:17pm

>15 Guanhumara: My first introduction to ancient religion was Edith Hamilton's Mythology. While I still treasure my half-century-old copy, I now caution people that reading it and thinking you understand the religions is like reading Ben-Hur and thinking you understand Christianity.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 2, 2018, 4:59pm

You are all wonderful! Thank you so much!

As a couple members have discerned, I am especially fond of the ancient texts themselves and some of the collections you are recommending are exactly what I'm looking for. You all have shared so many treasures, for which I am grateful, but there are still so many holes... What of great Egypt? Assyria? Babylon? Persia? We have scarcely touched on these subjects compared to what we've seen of the Greeks. Have any members explored these lesser known ancient worlds and found any worthy sources to share?

Perhaps it is worth a few words for me to mention that I am not beginning my study of ancient history this year. Indeed, I have recently (~5 years) read perhaps 30% of Plato, all of Homer, Sophacles, Ovid, Xenophon, and many others besides. In fact, I have previously read perhaps 60% of the contents of the list in my original post in this thread. Although not expert, my study of ancient history (especially religion and philosophy) has heretofore hardly been negligent. Unfortunately, my study has been haphazard. I am interested in practically every subject under (and over, and behind, and within...) the sun and last year I read perhaps 20,000 pages on subjects ranging from market trading to transgender studies, including authors from Freud to Friedmann.

What I am doing in my current project is focusing my studies on the ancient world. Some would say I'm still not very focused, but what can I say haha?! I have a voracious appetite for knowledge and I've been blessed with something of a talent for reading and retaining information.

On the subject of general histories of the ancient world. I prefer ancient texts, but since I have limited myself to the English language (for now), I will gladly take what I can get when these are not available. A few of those histories of which I am most fond include The Muqaddimah, The Times Complete History of the World, and A History of the Arab Peoples. I would be happy to add similar works to my collection that cover other ancient people. I see many of you are already recommending some of these and I am adding them to my list!

Jan. 2, 2018, 5:05pm

>17 PhaedraB: For the same reason I love Bullfinch's Mythology but would not recommend it here. I also thoroughly enjoyed Greek Myths by Robert Graves, but, although fascinating on a literary level, he is far to idiosyncratic a writer to be a safe guide. So I recommended, Morford, which was still the set text for final year degree students here two years ago.

I agree Zaehner is problematic, athough again he was still being used as a set text a decade ago. Trevor Ling's work was magisterial, but it is not an easy read, and does presuppose a great deal of prior knowledge.
Anderson was also being widely used a decade ago, and I do not think has been superseded in what it does.

The only early text I recommend is The Golden Bough. It is certainly flawed, but as an introduction it gives an impression of the sheer diversity of ancient belief, in a way that is hidden by studying only the records the records that are also great works of literature - which makes them a delightful read, but their artistry detracts from their accuracy as historical record. (Like a Hollywood biopic, they were not afraid to change what were currently believed "facts", if it made a better story.)

>18 TylerHarris: The problem with Assyria, is that what you consider important is not what the Assyrians considered important! I studied cuneiform briefly, and all the texts were either a) tax records b) lists of King X's glorious victories - and how gruesomely he executed his enemies afterwards c) law codes with draconian punishments for a lengthy list of offences. It was linguistically fascinating, but extremely depressing reading.

Our understanding of Ancient Egyptian religion comes mainly from a) gleanings from extracts of ancient hymns & b) accounts from Greek historians, such as Herodotus - who is not an entirely reliable narrator! Although he appears to have been sincere, and to have visited Egypt himself, his work is marred (but enlivened) by his credulity for traveller's tall tales (such as the people with mouths in their stomachs...)

As a major, but worthwhile project, I would suggest you add The Mahabharata to your long term goals. I recommend van Buitenen's multivolume versio, which is helpfully annotated.

It is rather later than the period you specified, but you may want to include the Adi Granth I found it very readable in the Pelikan translation.

Jan. 3, 2018, 10:09am

>18 TylerHarris: Given that you've done a lot of reading in the classics, perhaps Morford would be useful. Let me add Beard, Henderson and Price's Religions of Rome (vol. 1 is a history, which is what I'm recommending; vol. 2 a linked sourcebook which I've not seen but which is probably excellent). And let me repeat the Lane Fox Pagans and Christians recommendation.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 3, 2018, 12:42pm

Thank you all again.

Can anybody comment on the comparability of the two works Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament and Readings from the Ancient Near East: Primary Sources for Old Testament Study? The former is a much thicker collection, but the latter can be purchased at a 95% discount in price. I suppose you get what you pay for, but I would be interested to hear any opinions from those who know. Fortunately, the more expensive volume is available electronically for free -

What of the works by Marc Van De Mieroop? A History of Ancient Egypt, Crossroads and Cultures, Volume I, Philosophy before the Greeks, A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC... I have not read this author before, but looking through his published works makes me want to be his best friend!

Jan. 3, 2018, 12:42pm

I really don't recommend Golden Bough as a way of understanding ancient religion. Some of Frazer's interpretations are really really dated and he was doing a fair amount of mythmaking himself -- i.e., creating an idea about primitive beliefs that spoke to modern people in search of spiritual meaning. Again, I'm not saying throw it out altogether, but it provides a very unbalanced view of ancient religions and what they mean. Walter Burkert's major work on Greek religion is from the 70s, but still probably a better overview than Frazer.

I would also go further and argue that not only modern compilations like Bullfinch or Hamilton, but even the works of the classic poets and dramatists are of limited use for understanding Greek and Roman religion. As sources of their diverse and sometimes contradictory mythology, yes, they are invaluable. But Euripides and Sophocles, Ovid and Vergil were writing artistic, literary narratives, not sacred texts per se, and I think it's reasonable to ask how literal people's beliefs in the mythic stories actually were.

Because mythology is not at all the same thing as cult and ritual.

I mean, the Greek tragedies were performed at a festival to Dionysos -- who is a marginal figure in the mythological stories -- and scholars are still debating the actual relationship between Greek theater and the cult of Dionysos. Nor does Asklepios, another extremely important god in terms of cult practices, appear much in the mythic tradition. In addition, because the Romans borrowed so much of their mythic material from the Greeks, mythology would provide a very distorted picture of actual Roman beliefs: nothing about the lares, the household/ancestral gods, nothing about the Vestals or imperial state religion or the cult of Mithras.

(This is of course true to some degree even of religions that are based on sacred texts, i.e., Judaism, Christianity, Islam. My own experience of religion -- I was raised Catholic -- is anchored much more in the liturgy, prayers, and rituals of the mass (the Nicene Creed, the Apostles Creed, the rosary) than in the Sunday-school stories from the Bible. I'm sure this is not universally the case, but I also doubt that my experience is unique or even particularly exceptional.)

Jan. 5, 2018, 9:08am

>22 spiphany: Your use of Catholic Christianity as a yardstick for the centrality of sacred texts in teaching is unfortunate. Islam, Judaism, and Protestant Christianity all devote a large proportion of their religious gatherings to the public reading of their holy books, and exposition of the same - and the fact that this forms such a minor part of Catholic religious experience is one of the points seized on by those who consider "papistry" to by "idolatry" and not Christianity!

But you are right to emphasise that not all religions are based around a scripture. And I wholeheartedly agree that to treat the classical authors as repositories of belief is extremely unwise - their purpose was to entertain, not to to transmit a philosophy.

They bear the same relationship to people's beliefs as Hollywood films do to Christianity: some (like Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ") are constructed by believers who want to give their audience a new 'take' on a familiar theme; many (like the films of Cecil B. de Mille) simply seek to create an exciting and amusing spectacle for the theatre-goers or their readers or listeners.

It must be remembered that great artists are not necessarily religious people. Most of the collections of classical mythology have come down to us from periods when (like in our day) many educated people did not actually believe in the state-sponsored religions, but were familiar with the characters from childhood. They are writing about familiar characters, not deities that they actually themselves worship - and with considerable artistic licence. What Euripedes says a god does in a play may have much more to do with a political point that he is making about contemporary Athenian society than any connection with what anybody actually believed.

>18 TylerHarris: To answer your question as to why there are 'holes', you need to look at the reasons why written records of belief were created. Neither the Jewish nor the Christian scriptures were written down at the time when the events they describe take place. An active religion does not need to write down its core beliefs - they will be transmitted through the teaching of religious leaders, and from parents to their children. A systematic record is only needed when this process is interrupted - by persecution, or by the scattering of the people, and the breaking down of their religious structures. So the earliest books of the Bible were first written down during the Babylonian occupation of Israel, when the Jewish population had been deported and a different religion enforced (much of their content is of course much older). And the Gospels were first written down when Christianity stopped being seen as a heretical sect of Judaism, and started being seen as a rival religion. Persecution forced early Christian leaders to leave Jerusalem - and to spread Christian teaching widely, a written form was needed rather than relying on the availability of teachers.

Similarly, the tenth guru of Sikhism is a book, because persecution was intefering with the transmission of teaching authority from guru to guru. (Islam is the only religion I can think of that started in written form, and its prophet saw his teachings as a continuation of (and correction to) Jewish and Christian scriptures.)

Religious beliefs within stable empires were not written down. Major components of Greek and Roman religion, such as the Elysian mysteries and the cult of Mithras, have left no written record, because their content was too sacred to be written about.

In our day, it is acceptable to write stories that distort or misrepresent traditional religious teaching for literary effect, in a way that would not have been possible when the majority of the population sincerely believes in it - as Salman Rushdie found when he began to play similar literary games with Islam! In classical mythological stories, as collected by Ovid and Euripedes, we are seeing the same thing.

But, because literary evidence is easier to obtain than archaeological, too often collected mythologies (whether modern, or made in ancient times) are mistaken as samples of religious belief.

Jan. 6, 2018, 10:43am

>23 Guanhumara: Aren't you forgetting Manichaeism? Mani wrote a lot! Perhaps the canonization of Christianity and Judaism's scriptures changed the game, as I can't think of many new religions that follow the foundation of Christianity that haven't started with a scripture. Catharism? But it had writings and its writings were burned, so who knows. Earlier Gnostic sects seem to have been text-dependent, don't they? Late, perhaps the Druze didn't start as a written religion (if theirs is an independent religion) but I'm not sure, as it started in response to a Caliph al-Hakim's claims to divinity, didn't it? Baha'i starts with Baha'ullah who certainly wrote, as did the Bab, Baha'ullah's predecessor.

Jan. 6, 2018, 6:05pm

>10 TylerHarris: For Egyptian religion, try Erik Hornung's Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt and Stephen Quirke's Ancient Egyptian Religion. Many recent exhibition catalogues will also offer a lot of good, up-to-date information about Egyptian religion. For texts in translation, a good place to start is Miriam Lichtheim's Ancient Egyptian Literature. Her presentation is considerably more accessible than what you find in ANET, and her footnotes are intended for those who know Egyptian--and for those who don't!

Jan. 7, 2018, 8:24am

>24 shikari: We certainly have lots of extant Gnostic texts, but they too, usually seem to have been an oral tradition, later committed to writing. Manichaeism, like Islam, consciously created a scripture as a "true version" of Christianity.

I would agree with you that new beliefs that see themselves as "corrected versions" of a religion with a scriptural tradition do tend to create their own sacred scriptures.

But Manichaeism did not originate as the state religion of a stable society, but with a persecuted prophet i.e. exactly the conditions under which religions tend to take written form.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 8, 2018, 1:50pm

No ideed: Islam is fairly unique in starting from a position of power. Still, Mani had powerful supporters, and reputedly had close access to Shapur I, though his son Bahram had him put to death.

Jan. 9, 2018, 8:33pm

>27 shikari: You have piqued my interest: any recommendations for recent scholarship regarding the life of Mani?

Jan. 10, 2018, 9:34am

Best place to start in my opinion is the Encyclopaedia Iranica article ( ), and then Harvard professor Prods Skjærvø’s materials on Manichaeism ( ). Their recommendations for further reading will be better than anything I might suggest!

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 29, 2018, 3:35am

>29 shikari: I did specify recent! I haven't visited Manichaeism in the past decade or so, but the contents of those reading lists predate my last foray into that field. A couple of promising references for Zoroastrianism though.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 11, 2018, 3:20am

>30 Guanhumara: Hmm, it’s not really central to my research areas so I’ve not invested in lots of new books. My access to Mani’s writings (and his disciples’) is basically through Gherardo Gnoli’s three volumes on il Manicheismo in the Lorenzo Valla series by Mondadori. Like all the volumes, they are inexpensive, with excellent commentary and — for the Greek and Latin if sadly not Coptic, Syriac, etc. — they contain original texts with facing page translations. The three volumes are:

  • vol. 1: Mani e il Manicheismo, 2003.
  • vol. 2: Il mito e la dottrina. I testi manichei copti e la polemica antimanichea, 2006.
  • vol. 3: Il mito e la dottrina. Testi manichei dell’Asia Centrale e della Cina, 2008.

    Sadly Gnoli has now passed away, but his work is still in print. >1 TylerHarris: If you read Italian, I recommend adding them to your reading list.
  • 32Guanhumara
    Bearbeitet: Jan. 11, 2018, 7:19am

    >30 Guanhumara: Unfortunately my Greek and particularly my Latin are a little rusty, and I know no Italian at all.

    It would have been nice to have such a wide selection of texts.

    Bearbeitet: Jan. 13, 2018, 3:57pm

    I must sincerely thank you all again for sharing your thoughts and recommendations with me.

    I would share a few thoughts on a subject which has been discussed, that of the writing of Israelite scripture and of my personal purpose in studying ancient history in general. I have a very simple mission in my study - to learn things that are true, and not to learn things that are not true. I am not a party member. I have made no conclusions and I desire nothing but to learn at the feet of the ancients. Can you imagine the pains someone like me has to go through to get to the pure simple facts in studying Israelite religion?

    Think about it. If you want to study Israelite scripture from the perspective that what's written is all literal and true, a whole party of fundamentalists in the churches stands ready to prop you up in your misguided endeavor. While if you choose to reject the lot of it, the liberal party of academia offers you their ready sword and shield to protect you on your foolish quest.

    It is a most obvious fact to me that the study of Israelite scripture has always been undertaken in the exact same way: namely, the one who reads the bible decides for himself exactly what is history, what is allegory, what is myth, what is legend, and what has been interpolated. The fundamentalists and the liberals do not extract their conclusions from the text and the historical evidence at all, but they enforce their conclusions upon that evidence, whatever it may be. The members of these parties have the hardest time learning anything approaching truth, because party loyalty insists the problems are all resolved.

    Isn't it remarkable that about 1925, the liberal school concluded the historical value of the bible was nothing at all (Eduard Konig), while the discoveries of a few decades later prompted one of the greatest scholars humans ever produced (Eduard Meyer - agnostic) to declare the Old Testament was by far the most accurate and complete history produced by any ancient people! The liberals had confidently brushed aside Genesis 23 describing Abraham's dealings with Hittites as an error, Judah's seal-ring was an obvious and clumsy anachronism... in short, they had boasted of numerous "errors" that proved to be exactly correct under the light of evidence. The claim made by Guanhumara that the Israelite scriptures were not contemporary to the events they describe smacks of the liberal party to me, and I've seen so many similar claims proven wrong or groundless in my studies, that I hesitate to accept such. It would certainly require astonishing (to me) and specific evidence to demonstrate the correctness of the claim, and I wonder if such evidence exists.

    I am rather fond of the following summary of affairs written by Hugh Nibley, a master of comprehending, avoiding, and offending party loyalists. I do not share it to offend anyone of course, but because it shows an example of an open mind to which I feel a certain kinship.

    "The favorite creed of the liberals that the early history of Israel rested entirely on oral tradition was blasted by discoveries proving widespread literacy in the earliest days of Israel. The universal belief that Israel had no interest in real history is disproven by the care with which memorial stones, trees, and so on were designated, and by the fullness and detail of early accounts. It was taken for granted that early histories of Israel did not reflect the ancient times they purported to describe, but depicted actually the much later periods in which they were written; yet archaeological, ethnological, and philological findings in and around Israel show that these texts do not depict the Aramaic times but give an authentic picture of a much earlier world. Naturally it was assumed that the early historians of Israel knew nothing about the correct use of sources and evidence; yet they are careful to cite their sources (often now lost), have keen eyes for historical changes, and often include comments and sidelights from various related sources. The prevailing conviction that Israelite history was a "harmonizing and rationalizing" piece of free composition is disproven by the very scholars who make the charge when they claim they are able to detect a great variety of styles and levels of composition - in other words, that the texts have not been harmonized. The very common claim that the history of Israel was all painted over and prettied up so as to quite conceal the original, runs contrary to the many unsavory and uncomplimentary things said about Israel and her founders throughout these writings; the weaknesses of Israel's heroes are not concealed, as such things are in other ancient histories, and the actions of the nation are certainly not "bathed in a golden light," as the scholars claimed."

    We have previously discussed something of the value of studying ancient texts themselves. I believe one of the great virtues of studying such documents is to get outside the party lines. With this in mind, I am continually becoming more aware of the limitations I impose on myself by restricting myself to one language only, English. I wonder, will some of you please recommend more languages I should learn to read so I can study the ancient documents of the Near East?

    Jan. 14, 2018, 5:44am

    "It is a most obvious fact to me that the study of Israelite scripture has always been undertaken in the exact same way: namely, the one who reads the bible decides for himself exactly what is history, what is allegory, what is myth, what is legend, and what has been interpolated. The fundamentalists and the liberals do not extract their conclusions from the text and the historical evidence at all, but they enforce their conclusions upon that evidence, whatever it may be."

    You should find different authors to read. This is not obvious to me at all. There are plenty of historians out there who attempt to look at the Bible without interpreting it through a religious belief lens. How successful they always are is another question but they are there. Bart Ehrman is one author though he writes in a way geared for popular audiences.

    Though at its core your statement is correct. The person reading the Bible does determine for him- or herself what is history and what is not. That is what historians do.

    Apr. 20, 2018, 8:32pm

    Here's my entire reading list for 2018:

    Plato's Republic

    I'm on book 5 of the Jowett translation and am smug as hell. After all, Thucydides took me about 8 years....

    Apr. 20, 2018, 9:01pm

    >35 Sandydog1: Way to go! I too went through an intene period of smugness when I finished reading Plato's Republic. The smugness was short-lived when I realized I couldn't remember much of what I read.