For those of you who are interested, I recently published an article about Passover in the Hebrew Bible on Ancient History Encyclopedia. Click here for the link.
For those of you who are interested, I recently published an article about Passover in the Hebrew Bible on Ancient History Encyclopedia. Click here for the link.
In Chapter 1 of Explorations in Poetics, Benjamin Harshav lays out his basic theoretical framework for literature. This frame is, I think, a particularly good starting point for modelling literary texts and mapping out their systems.
Within a text, he distinguishes between the Speakers, Internal Field of Reference (IFR), External Field of Reference (ExFR), referent (r; plural rs), and frame of reference (fr; plural frs). Overall, the IFR in the constructed fictional world within any text. Within the IFR exists both rs and frs. rs is anything which can be spoken of, real or non-existent, idea or event. frs are “any semantic continuum of two or more referents that we may speak about.” A fr has various kinds: unique description in time (“they used to eat”; “during the exciting birthday party last year) or general (“autumn”); real or non-existent. Moreover, frs within texts are sometimes indeterminate because they are not known or understood by the reader. At last, frs are what a text is about: as a network of references integrated into the broader IFR, they describe “what the text is about.” Meaning is also related to the EFR, though, namely “any FRs outside of a given text,” such as history or a philosophy. For example, when an authors claims that “on the 14th of August, PN1 spoke aggressively to PN2 in the streets of New York”, the text evokes the EFR, namely New York, and incorporates it into the IFR.
Concerning the relationship between IFR and EFR, Harshav comments on Tolstoy’s War and Peace: “to what extent Napoleon, as presented in the IFR, should be taken within the presented limits and to what extent the reader may, or should, draw on the Field of outside knowledge cannot be decided in advance, but has to be negotiated in an interpretation.” That is to say although Harshav distinguishes between EFR and IFR, the r or frs that are evoked by the IFR as originating from the EFR are subject to interpretation, in terms of how much of the r’s or fr’s world and characteristics should be drawn into the IFR from the EFR, even if absent in the IFR.
Undoubtedly, the ideas here are somewhat complex, simplified within this blog posts. What I want to point to is a few benefits of using Harshav’s theoretical framework. First, his framework is helpful for thinking about the relationship between a text’s fictional world (IFR) and the real world from which it draws material (EFR). As illuminated through his comment on War and Peace, though, the relationship between the EFR and IFR are subject to interpretation. Nonetheless, his framework at least provides clear domains which enables scholars to identify the fr in the EFR and IFR so that they can subsequently analyze the degree to which aspects of the fr in the EFR are evoked in the IFR. For Biblical Studies, this is related to the issue of historical context. That is, what sort of referents function as frames of reference within the fictional world of the literary text and to what degree does a literary text, such as Genesis 1, evoke and incorporate those frames of references and associated characterization from the EFR?
Second, Harshav’s model is helpful for identify the location wherein readers must place their own imagination into the texts. This occurs as a result of multiple frs being brought into tension with each other. Chapter Two, wherein Harshav discusses metaphors, is more clear on this point: readers must gap-fill when a frame of reference is mentioned. Naturally, this can vary in terms of what is evoked. For example, if a text says, “In the month of March,” the text may evoke distinct things for readers. For an individual in Washington, it may evoke weather which is rainy and around 50 degrees. For people living in other regions, though, the fr “March” may evoke other sorts of weather. At base, then, what is helpful is that Harshav’s theory and modelling of texts enables critics to more precisely identify where readers diverge on things evoked texts.
Finally, I have not yet finished Explorations in Poetics. I have no doubts, though, that Harshav’s other discussions will provide helpful theoretical foundations for analyzing biblical texts.
 Harshav (2008), 5.
 Harshav (2008), 39.
 Harshav (2008), 23.
 Harshav (2008), 27.
Admittedly, I am not particularly familiar with the novels by Milan Kundera. Nonetheless, I read through a significant portion of Milan Kundera’s book The Art of the Novel because it was mentioned in footnote from a professor whose work I follow. In my reading, there are a few points which stood out to me. As such, I want to briefly present and discuss them in this blog post.
First, Part Four: Dialogue on the Art of Composition, includes some helpful terms and methods for describing novels and other literature. Kundera deems one category of description “lighting of the characters.” This is the mathematical structure of how the speech is divided throughout the novel. For example, Kundera describes his novel The Joke, for which he describes the lighting of the characters: “Ludvik’s monologue takes up 2/3 of the book; the monologues of the other three together take up 1/3 (Jarslav 1/6, Kostka 1/9, Helena 1/18)” (86). Such an approach to any literary text can be productive, inasmuch as describing the lighting of characters throughout a biblical text can help in precisely describing the text. After all, “Each character is lighted at a different intensity and in a different way” (86). By systematically and numerically tracking the lighting of characters, the data can help in comparing distinct biblical texts and their thematic thrusts. More generally, by noting possible similarities in terms of the lighting of characters, we can get a better sense of how scribes employ particular linguistic conventions by forming texts in certain ways.
Second, Kundera describes some types of narrative, not simply suggesting that narrative is a singular thing. Here are few examples of types of narratives presented by Kundera: continuous narrative which shows a causal connection between chapters; oneiric narrative; discontinuous narrative which does not show causal connection between chapters; and polyphonic narrative (87). Though somebody may have already done it, it would be interesting to consider how these types of narratives, or narrative modes, may be re-deployed for describing biblical texts. Alternatively, different narrative modes should be sought after by describing narrative in the biblical texts themselves.
Third, Kundera has some helpful comments on tempo: “Because tempo is further determined by something else: the relation between the length of a part and the “real” time of the event it describes” (88). Of course, some scholars have already begun to explore the issue of tempo and time in biblical texts. In particular, I think to Liane M. Felman’s recent dissertation on the priestly source, wherein she explores the tempo of the Priestly Source: “In a composition notable for its brevity, the sheer verbosity of this single eight-day episode raises many questions. Why does the pace of the storytelling grind to such a halt at Sinai? What is the function of the extended divine speeches containing ritual instructions? How do these instructions relate to the rest of the story, if at all?” (“Story and Sacrifice” by Liane Feldman). In other words, one of her main concerns is the purpose for the tempo change in the Priestly Source. This, I think, is a productive way to think about any literary text.
Fourth, and finally, is the interaction between the text of a novel and the reader: “the reader’s imagination automatically completes the writer’s” (34). That is to say, though the novel presents a story, aspects of the story are filled in by the imagination of the reader. This is akin to Barbara Smith’s discussion about literature and linguistics, wherein she suggests that the power of poetry, or perhaps more broadly the power of literature, is the fact that the reader must fill in aspects of it with imagination. Without the imagination, the poetry, or literature, becomes meaningless. Though I can appreciate this description of the relationship between text and reader, I do struggle with the implications of it: when a critical scholar describes the ways that a text works, namely the way it is structured and employs distinct linguistic conventions, what should our orientation be? Is our goal to find the base meaning of the text by interrogating the “true” meaning? Or is our goal to open up texts in new ways so that reader’s can re-imagine them with new understandings about the text’s history and composition? I have no answer. Though, I want to think through these things as I move forward.
One of the problems in Religious Studies is thinking about what constitutes religion.
For this reason, I was particularly impressed by the critical acumen of the script writers for the Marvel TV show Cloak and Dagger. In one scene, one character leads a tour through a church in New Orleans. Click here to watch the video clip on YouTube.
What stood out to me was the following line: “But you see Voodoo isn’t always its own religion; that’s a misconception. Voodoo is, at its core, a diverse collection of religious and cultural traditions that can either stand alone or be added to your faith.”
This description of the relationship between Voodoo and religion is, I think, helpful. Essentially, the character, and therefore the scripter writer(s), accurately captures the liminal nature of Voodoo. That is, it isn’t exactly religion. Why, though, is this so?
A brief look at the US Department of State’s coverage on Haiti can help to explain this. Describing the role of Voodoo in Haiti, the US Department of State reports: “While society generally is tolerant of the variety of religious practices that flourish in the country, Christian attitudes toward voodoo vary. Many Christians accept voodoo as part of the country’s cultural patrimony, but others regard it as incompatible with Christianity, and this has led to isolated instances of conflict in the recent past” (Haiti). In other words, a conflict exists between Voodoo and Christianity, some viewing it as legitimate, some regarding it as not legitimate. Unfortunately, with the rising predominance of Christianity in Haiti, Voodoo has become categorized as a sort of religion. What is the significance of being considered a religion?
As a practice (not necessarily a religion), Voodoo functioned historically within Haiti as a means to “contain and control a potential parallel political power in Haiti”, a political power which stood in distinction to Euro-American political power (Religion and Revolution in Haiti). As Voodoo has come to be categorized as religion, though, this function of Voodoo is problematized. As a religion, it is simply became “a mark of alterity (for Euro-Americans)”. When not categorized as a religion, though, it served as “the threat of rural, popular political power (for Haitian political elite).”
Returning to Cloak and Dagger, the previously discussed material is precisely why I appreciate the show’s description of Voodoo in relation to religion and culture. It recognizes that Voodoo cannot simply be categorized as religion. In doing so, Voodoo is deprived of its social and historical value and contexts. Instead, the script writers were careful to describe Voodoo as something not equivalent to religion, being a form of social protest derived from Brazilian and African traditions and giving practitioners a place in society that is not framed solely by Western notions of belief and religion.
A great blog post on grading papers and ethics.
By Jonathan E. Soyars, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
I distinctly recall one of the most incisive pieces of critical paper feedback that I received in graduate school: “You wrote a lot of things, but you didn’t argue anything.” In the moment, reading such an evaluation of my work felt painful, maybe even a little unfair, as if the evaluator hadn’t read closely or slowly enough to absorb the intricacies of my argument. I comforted myself with a simple delusion: surely, they missed the forest for the trees! With the passing of time, though, I came to realize that their assessment was entirely accurate. Indeed, that paper had presented no forest. And, to make matters worse, it actually contained few trees.
As second-year postdoc, I now find myself grading student papers similar to my own way back when. Frankly, such grading occurs at a volume and pace that can sometimes…
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In a previous post, I provided a summary and reflections on Chapter One of Barbara Smith’s On the Margins of Discourse: The Relation of Literature to Language (1978). Rather than summarizing the entire book here, I want to summarize two points which stood out to me.
First, one of the major concerns in Biblical Studies is thinking about how texts relate to history. Smith, in my opinion, offers a helpful perspective on this idea. In her view, a text’s composition, namely the time when it was actually written down, is a historically determinate event (34). Put another way, since the composition of a fictive utterance is a historical act, some of the meaning is absolutely historically determinate (138-139). A fictive utterance may be defined in contrast to a natural utterance: where a fictive utterance is usually present in imaginative works of literature like poems, tales, and drama (20), a natural utterance is a historical event, occupying a specific point in time and space (15) .
Elements which are historically determinate, of course, may be argued. For example, when reading Ps 29, the scribe’s poem was informed by a unique cultural library of linguistic conventions. Unfortunately, such conventions are not always evident to modern readers. As such, scholar must explore the historically determinate aspects and meanings of a Psalms by looking at other ancient Near Eastern literature in order to identify linguistic conventions and patterns. In doing so, scholars can better understand the historically determinate meaning of Ps 29, as well as other texts. Without identifying the linguistic conventions, there are errors of identification: “Errors of identification produce erroneous assumptions and bring into play inappropriate conventions. Conventions are conventions, however, and they may change over time and, under varying conditions, be alters” (141). Put another way, if we don’t understand the linguistic conventions of biblical poetry, we can’t understand the meaning of the poem that is historically determinate.
Simultaneously, though, scholars should be careful not to restrict the historically indeterminate meaning, namely the aspect of meaning which depends on the reader to bring to it life experiences and assumptions which results in the poem being “interesting” (154). This tension between historically indeterminate meaning and historically determinate mean is shown by Smith to be a spectrum. Adopting this perspective for biblical texts would be, I think, productive. Through clearly distinguishing between the types of meaning, scholars may engage with the text at two levels: the historically determinate level which informs intellectual and social knowledge and the historically indeterminate level wherein the human spirit exists and thrives.
Additionally, Smith’s “discourse” is informative regarding biblical genres on two fronts: didactic and proverbial. First, she defines proverbs as “sayings” which seem to have no known original speaker. As such, “it appears uncontaminated by ordinary human error or bias, and thus oracular” (72). Her comments indicate that proverbial sayings are unique on account of their seemingly non-human origins. Though I won’t divulge into discussion of how this perspective may impact biblical interpretation, suffice it to say that it has potential to do so.
Second, Smith discusses “didactic” in terms of poetry: “we may not say only that the line between didactic poetry and pure poetry is hazy, but that all poetry is didactic. We usually refer to a work as “didactic” when such propositions are explicitly formulated within them. But all works of literature may be seen to imply propositions, most of them not stated explicitly and many of them unstable – unspeakable – in terms of the formulated wisdom of the culture” (142). In short, poetry is all didactic. This make me think of the problematic characterization of Ps 78 and Ps 49. Both Psalms begin with remarkably similar language and style; however, they differ in terms of content. Ps 49 does what Smith comments on what is typically called “didactic” poetry: it is explicit concerning wisdom. By contrast, the content of Ps 78 takes a narrative form, the propositions not stated explicitly. On account of the distinction between the content of Ps 78 and Ps 49, there is not much consensus concerning the relationship between the texts. By employing Smith’s approach to didactic poems, though, it may provide a more productive way of thinking about their relationship. Moreover, it may provide a more productive way of thinking about biblical poetry generally.
 It is important to note that a natural utterance may also be written, namely an inscription. In an inscription, a natural utterance is performed upon reading it because the inscription, like a personal letter, is a historically unique verbal event, analogous to a speaker in discourse (20).
Edward Lipinski. A History of the Kingdom of Israel. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 275. Leuven: Peeters, 2018. xii + 200 pp..
Edward Lipinski is most well known as a philologist, especially for his work with Old Aramaic and Phoenician onomastics and inscriptions. In A History of the Kingdom of Israel, he leverages that background to provide a brief account of ancient Israelite history. First, I will provide a summary of Lipinksi’s historical re-construction of ancient Israel. Subsequently, I will offer critical reflections on his construction of ancient Israelite history.
Though Lipinski doesn’t include methodological discussion proper, he does put forth a few key principles in the foreword (XI-XII). First, he notes that, though biblical texts can be “examined as historical sources for the first millennium B.C.,” they should be studied along with “Egyptian Akkadian, Aramaic, Phoenician, Moabite, Old Arabian, Greek sources from those times” (XI). Second, concerning the proto-history of ancient Israel, he suggests that a few elements are important: Egyptian and Akkadian sources from the 2nd millennium BCE, archaeology, and “ethnographic studies of tribal regroupings and integrations” (XI). Third, he provides a short summary of his arguments.
In Chapter One, Lipinski focuses on the proto-history of ancient Israel. He correctly notes that narratives in the Pentateuch are unhelpful for sketching a proto-history of “biblical” Israel. Even so, he suggests that the “Old Hebrew literature, preserved in the Bible” retains “some legal traditions, tribal names, the core of certain folk tales or poems [that] may date from those times” (1). As such, he focuses on tribal units in Israel during the 2nd millennium BCE. He supports this notion methodologically by drawing an analogy with a single ethnographic study of Arabs in Moab from 1908. For Lipinski, this provides a solid foundation for thinking of 2nd millennium BCE tribal units as tribes who “had to renounce his former appellation and tribal units” and marry into a new tribal unit for membership (2). This, apparently, provides the “institutional background of name changing” in texts like Genesis (2).
Next, drawing especially from the Egyptian Execration Texts, Lipinski suggests that various tribal references in the Hebrew Bible are referenced in the early 2nd millennium: “The great house of Joseph”; Simeon, Jacob-El, Reuben, Abram (Hatt), Mount Yahwe-El, Shasu, Israel, and the ‘Apiru. For each proto-historical tribe, he suggests a possible geographic location in the Levant. Next, he provides brief consideration of the deportation and exodus of the Shasu people. Moreover, he suggests that Mount Nebo and Se’ir was originally the location for the Yahwistic cult of El. These various “tribes,” he guesses, coalesced into the Kingdom of Israel in the 1st millennium BCE.
In Chapter Two, Lipinski attempts to outline how the nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists coalesced into urban and agricultural parts of the population, even though he notes that this “cannot be observed on sound archaeological evidence” (33). Drawing from various Biblical texts, El-Amarna correspondence, the Song of Deborah, Joshua, and other texts, Lipinski attempts to identify the location for each tribe as referred to in the Song of Deborah. Strangely, though he claims to recognize that the Bible is not a history book, he nonetheless seems to assume that the Hebrew Bible retains historically accurate and precise oral traditions. He does the same with the Maakathite and Geshurites. As for his history of the “Period of the Judges,” he notes that no historical statements can be made about the “judges” of Israel. Even so, he claims that in the 10th century “Israelites became aware that the time had come to replace the rule of the “judges” and of army chiefs by a stable authority, capable of opposing the pressure of the Philistines” (43). He garners evidence from 1 Sam 8:4-5 and an ostracon from Khirbet Qeiyafa, which he reads as “The men and the chiefs will institute the kingship” (46). He also considers 2 Sam 11:2-12, 23 as helpful for considering David’s capture of Jerusalem “if we relay on the historical background hidden behind the account” (48), a notion he doesn’t explain.
Following this, he lays out the reigns of Saul/Ishbaal, David and Solomon, Jeroboam I, and a few subsequent kings. His primary evidence for this comes from Biblical texts, including Kings, LXX, Samuel, and Chronicles. Occasionally, he references an archaeological site to help him with an aspect of his argument.
In Chapter Three, Lipinski shifts to the Omride dynasty. First, discussing the reign of Omri, he offers various possibilities considering the ethnic origins of Omri, drawing from Hurrian, Old Arabian, and Egyptian onomastics and toponyms. He also discusses the Mesha Stele, from which he emphasizes the claim that Omri was a “vigorous general” who had occupied a large part of the Transjordan, as well as regions at the border of Aram-Damascus. He also attempts to provide clarity concerning chronology with regard to the Mesha Stele, references to the House of Omri in Neo-Assyrian documents, the Hebrew Bible, and the Tel Dan inscription. Next, drawing from “The archival document used by the Deuteronomistic redactor” that was “damaged on the right side,” Lipinski proposes twelve districts in Omri’s reign (72). Subsequently, he describes how the Omride dynasty experienced good economic relations with Phoenicia. Finally, through the next 28 pages, he focuses on the history surrounding each king subsequent to Omri.
Chapter Four deals with the downfall of Israel and the Assyrian conquest. Like other discussions, he focuses more extensively on corroborating the Biblical narrative with other Near Eastern inscriptions, such as those by Tiglath-pileser III. He divides his discussion into events leading up to the siege of Samaria, the siege itself, the issue of deportees themselves, and deportees to Samaria. Echoing Finkelstein and Broshi, Lipinski perpetuates the idea of “mass emigration of Israelites to Jerusalem and Judah after 722 B.C.” (126). Because the volume is primarily focused on Israel, he only includes two short paragraphs about the steady decline of Jerusalem and its eventual destruction in 587 BCE.
Chapter Five attempts to outline the religion of Israel. Though recognizing the centrality of El in Israelite religion, he primarily focuses on religious centers, including Shechem, Bethel, and Shiloh. Moreover, dealing with issues of the Asherah, he argues the term primarily designates a holy site marked by the presence of a sacred grove, the term only beginning to denote a “heathenish sacred tree” in the Persian period. Likewise, he notes that the former prophets and priestly teachings were active, though he primarily draws from Biblical narrative. Finally, he outlines various foreign cults which may have been present in 7th century Samaria, drawing primarily from the Aramaic variant translations found in the marginal notes of the Codex Reuchlinianus of the prophets.
Chapter Six briefly reviews the history of Samaria under Achaemenid rule. It primarily draws from the Wadi Daliyeh Samaria Papyri. He offers much philological analysis, focusing especially on toponyms and onomastics. With this information, he proposes a chronology for the governors of Samaria during Achaemenid rule.
Some of Lipinksi’s philological analyses are notable. For example, he has a helpful philological analysis of the Wadi Daliyeh Samaria Papyri, interacting extensively with D.M. Gropp’s Wadi Daliyeh II. The Samaria Papyri from Wadi Daliyeh (2001). Likewise, throughout the volume, he offers intriguing philological analyses of various onomastic data and inscriptions.
Such analyses, though, are far outweighed by poor methodology and historical construction. For this, four trends throughout the volume will be addressed: onomastics, toponyms, and history; the Hebrew Bible as a historical source; historical sources (primary and secondary); and assertions.
First, Lipinski’s use of onomastics and toponyms for reconstructing history is a consistent problem. To demonstrate this, a few examples are cited below:
– In order to reconstruct the “Proto-history” of ancient Israel, Lipinski argues that the house of Joseph “is attested already in the early second millennium B.C. by the Execration Texts” (2). He notes the 15th century BCE Egyptian writing Y-š3-p-i-3-r. He then notes that this writing may point to Yasuf in the hill country as the core of a tribal area, 20 km south of Samaria. He provides similar discussion for Simeon, Jacob-El, Reuben, Abram, and Mount Yahwe-El. In other words, he considers 2nd millennium toponyms, toponyms in the Biblical narrative, and links them linguistically in order to argue that the tribes of “Israel” existed as distinct entities as early as the 14th century BCE. This argument is undoubtedly problematic because Lipinski draws from source material which was written nearly a millennium prior. As such, claims for tribal continuity are extremely conjectural.
– In terms of history, he claims that in the 10th century, the Israelites “became aware that the time had come to replace the rule of the “judges” and of army chiefs by a stable authority, capable of opposing the pressure of the Philistines (43). He rightly notes that the texts in 1 Sam 9-11 are unhelpful for history writing. Instead, he turns to a single ostracon from Khirbet Qeiyafa which “seems to indicate that elders representing local communities were chosen in various centres to express their will and their choice at a general assembly of the Israelite tribes… The story of Saul’s choice at Gilgal… seems to correspond best to such a reconstruction of events” (43). Lipinski translates: “the gathering of men and chiefs will bring forth a king” or “will institute kinghood.” Two comments are in order. First, though this is a possible reading, more discussion concerning this ostracon must be done before affirmatively stating that this is the earliest demonstrating a shift to kingship among the Israelite population. Second, Lipinski’s characterization of Israelites acting in response to Philistine pressure is problematic. Though Philistines likely were a threat to a small degree, it is too much to imply that they are the reason for the emergence of Israelite kingship. In fact, his own statement betrays a historical understanding which is fundamentally based in the biblical text. Taking these points together, Lipinski’s method of linking an under-discussed inscription with the assumption of Philistia as the cause for Israelite kingship results in historical reconstruction which is stands upon an uneven, unstable, and weak foundation.
– In Chapter Three, Lipinski attempts to define the possible origins of Omri on the basis of his name. On the basis of Neo-Assyrian writing, he raises the possibility that Omri is derived from the Hurrian word hamuri. This is plausible; however, he takes his discussion too far into the realm of conjecture. On the basis of the Hurrian origins of Omri’s name and the lack of a patronymic, Lipinski suggests that Omri “did not belong to a well-known clan… One wonders therefore whether Omri was not a native of Rehob” (67). Essentially, Lipinski gathers onomastic evidence alone in order to conjecture on Omri’s origins. His use of onomastics as a means of identifying ethnic origins with such little evidence is methodologically unsound, resulting in not historical plausibility but conjecture.
Second, Lipinski’s use of the Hebrew Bible as a historical source is questionable. In his discussion about Omri and Ahab, he draws from 1 Kings 4:8-19 as a source for the division of Israel during the reign of the Omrides. He briefly comments that mention of Solomon’s two daughters is from another source. Subsequently, he notes that the “archival document used by the Deuteronomistic redactor in I King 4 was damaged on its right side, as shown by the missing names of several prefects, whose sole patronymics were preserved” (72). His use of 1 Kings 4 as an archival document used by the Deuteronomistic redactor is problematic on multiple fronts. First, it is plausible that 1 Kings 4 is derived from an archival document; however, in its current status, it is not an archival document but part of a larger narrative text, nor do we possess the archival document from which 1 Kings 4 draws. As such, Lipinski too quickly and uncritically asserts that 1 Kings 4:8-19 is, in fact, derived from an archival document. Without any evidence, the claims itself is questionable. Second, even if we accept the premise that 1 Kings 4:8-19 was copied from an archival document, his claims that the “archival document… was damaged on its right side” (72) is entirely conjectural. That is to say, he doesn’t take into consideration possible explanations via literary analysis, but instead provides mere conjecture. Third, he notes that “the mention of two daughters of Solomon in I Kings 4, 11 and 15 must come from another source” (72); however, Lipinski provides no further discussion about what this “other source” may have been or how this “other source” became intertwined within the archival document copied into 1 Kings 4:8-19. Fourth, and in light of all the previous points, his use of the Hebrew Bible is problematic inasmuch as it is based on an uncritical reading of the text, or at least unsubstantiated interpretations of the text, providing no thorough argumentation about the text itself or attempts to describe the construction of the text itself. Instead, Lipinski just offers conjecture as a form of evidence in order to use 1 Kings 4:8-19 as a historical source reflecting the reign of the Omrides.
In brief, other examples of this include, though are not limited to, use of Gen 31:13 and 35:7 to assert that the “cult of El at Bethel obviously goes back to the Bronze Age and to Y-h-w3-3 of the Shasu pastoralists” (135), poor substantiation for textual emendation of Ex. 34 to reflect the history of Israelite religion (149), and Deut 32:49-50a (which Lipinski appears to date to the 12th century BCE) as evidence of Mount Nebo as a Yahwistic sanctuary in the 9th century BCE.
Third, some choices in Lipinski’s source material is questionable, both primary and secondary. In terms of primary material, Lipinski describes evidence for foreign cults in 7th century Samaria. He draws from the Deuteronomistic account in 2 Kings 17:24-33; however, in order to argue to evidence of foreign cults in Samaria during the 7th century BCE, he draws from the “variant Aramaic translations preserved in the marginal notes of the Codex Reuchlinianus of the prophets” (150). For example, concerning the line “The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth,” he suggests that the phrase skwt bnwt should translate as ywnt’ w’prhwh’, “the dove and her brood,” in agreement with the marginal note of the Codex Reuchlinianus (150). In his own words, it is “undoubtedly a reference to the anti-Samaritan account about the dove worshipped by Samaritans,” evidenced in the Talmud of Jerusalem, Lucian of Samosata, and Diodorus Siculus. Of these source, Diodorus Siculus is a 1st century BCE authors. Lucian of Samosata lived as early as the 2nd century CE. The Jerusalem Talmud is later. What this indicates, then, is that the evidence used to justify Lipinski’s preference for the marginal notes of Codex Reuchlinianus is far too late to support his argument of religion in Samaria during the 7th century BCE. That is to say, while the line of evidence brought forth by Lipinski may be helpful for considering religion in the region between the 1st century BCE and the 4th century CE, it is methodological problematic to apply those results to the historical situation of the 7th century BCE.
In terms of secondary material, I was surprised by the lack of references to pertinent studies concerning many subjects with which Lipinski deals. A few examples demonstrate this point well. First, when discussing the Asherah in ancient Israel, Lipinski does not engage with important works like Nadav Naaman and Nurit Lissovsky, “Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, Sacred Tress and the Asherah” (2008) and Mark Smith, The Early History of God, 2nd ed. (2002). Second, in his discussion of religion in Samaria during the 8th and 7th century, he fails to recognize the Neo-Assyrian presence in Samaria after 734 BCE, as shown by Shawn Zelig Aster and Avraham Faust, “Administrative Texts, Royal Inscriptions, and Neo-Assyrian Administration in the Southern Levant” (2015). This study is important because it is documented evidence of a foreign entity with distinct religious practices from Israel and Judah. As such, it is particularly important for the discussion of religion in 7th century Samaria. Third, as far as I could see, there was little to no discussion about the economy of the region, especially the importance of olive oil production in Israel during the 9th and 8th centuries BCE, as described in Avraham Faust, “The Interests of the Assyrian Empire in the West” (2011), 66-68. Fourth, he never refers to or engages with the more comprehensive history by Israel Finkelstein, The Forgotten Kingdom (2013). Fifth, concerning the issue of “mass emigration” of Israel (126) in the 8th century BCE, he does not mention the response to M. Broshi and Finkelstein by Nadav Na’aman, “The Growth and Development of Judah and Jerusalem in the Eight Century BCE: A Rejoinder” (2009). Though just a small sample, there is a large amount of scholarship with which Lipinski does not engage.
Fourth, a large portion of Lipinski’s rhetoric regularly makes unsubstantiated assertions. Consider the following examples: regarding Ziklag, “This may be linked to the occupation by Philistines and David’s presence in its “fortress”… which could have served later as basis for the seizure of Jerusalem” (51); “One could assume therefore that some shasu people of the passage quoted above… were deported also from this area. If this hypothesis is correct…” (29); “The original text of v. 27b-29 was probably read as follows,” without offering any substantiation; “This record” in III Kings 12:24a of the LXX “does not look like fictitious information with invented figures and it should be based on an authentic source” (55), without any evidence or discussion as to his reasoning; various names of Judean Israelites “seem to imply a dangerous situation, even the deportation, but the fact that these men were “visitors” at Assur apparently shows a certain liberty of action and movement,” a poor use of onomastic data (121); concerning Abimelek being made king, “This happened in the period of the “judges”, probably in the 11th century B.C., after Abimelek has been supplied with silver from the “House of the Lord of the Covenant” (Judg. 9, 4-6). This was very likely the sanctuary of God heading the tribal federation of Israel” (130), offering no substantiation and employing biblical chronology for developing his history; concerning Hos. 4:13 and without any evidence, “This reference to the terebinth and the mountain-tops implies an allusion to Mount Ebal and to Mount Gerizim” (131); and the House of Yahweh “at Shechem, recorded in Josh. 24, 26, was presumably destroyed by Josiah, king of Judah” (131). All these quotations exemplify how Lipinski regularly makes unsubstantiated assertions in order to support his overall arguments.
In conclusion, I cannot recommend Edward Lipinski’s A History of the Kingdom of Israel. Though there is occasionally an interesting comment or discussion, it is far outweighed by poor methodology and unsubstantiated claims.