This book presents a fresh introduction to the “historical books” of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. Beginning with a breakdown of the literary genre these writings represent and their relationship to history, Steven McKenzie discusses the larger units of the Bible that they constitute—the “Deuteronomistic History” and the “Chronicler’s History”—and then surveys the critical methods that scholars use to study them.
These introductory matters are followed by a chapter on each of the Historical Books—Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and Ezra-Nehemiah. Each of these chapters contains a detailed outline of the book’s contents and a thorough discussion of the issues peculiar to that book— its text, composition, relationship to history, special literary features, and theology.
Although his book is not principally a primer in the use of different methods, McKenzie does introduce readers to a range of critical approaches—textual, literary or source, tradition, canonical, intertextuality, and others— and demonstrates that the ultimate goal of these approaches is to determine how the biblical materials reflect or convey actual history as understood today. His explanation of the purpose of ancient history writing helps readers come to terms with apparent tensions between the Bible’s account and modern historical analyses.
Interspersed with various reading strategies and tips for reading and interpretation, McKenzie’s up-to-date, scholarly (yet not overly technical) guide to these rich documents at the intersection of history, literature, and religion will be ideal for undergraduates, seminary students, and Bible study groups alike.
Steven McKenzie is an internationally respected authority on the historical books of the Old Testament. His book is written for the novice, and with great pedagogical skill it explains and illustrates the various scholarly methods used to interpret these biblical books. At the same time he clearly articulates the major themes and ideologies of the ancient biblical historians. Highly recommended as a textbook and study guide for this part of the Bible.
—John Van Seters, professor emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
In this accessible volume Steven McKenzie brings fresh questions, insights, and scholarship to what have traditionally been understood as the historical books of the Bible, providing an effective introduction to complicated issues. He engages traditional scholarship with more recent advancements in textual analysis, material culture, literary analysis, historiography, and cultural studies. . . . Should be read by anyone who wants a sound initiation into study of the Bible.
—Alice W. Hunt, professor of Hebrew Bible, Chicago Theological Seminary
In full view of worldwide issues, McKenzie’s guide to the historical books of the Bible furnishes a sound introduction. He lays out fairly the boundaries of current popular discussion and allows readers the freedom of decision. This primer for undergraduate audiences will be a surprise for those to whom the discussion is new. It is lucid, appropriately brief, and challenging.
—Baruch Halpern, professor of ancient history, classic and ancient Mediterranean studies, Pennsylvania State University
More than simply an introduction to the historical books, this compact and very readable volume also opens a window into biblical scholarship as currently practiced in leading seminaries and universities—methodologies used, issues debated, and recent trends. An extremely good work!
—J. Maxwell Miller, professor of emeritus, Emory University