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Studying the Ancient Israelites: A Guide to Sources and Methods


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The Old Testament was not written in a vacuum. It was written by and to a specific people who lived within specific social, historical, political, and literary contexts—contexts not only of their own culture but also of the surrounding peoples. Clearly, an understanding of ancient Israel and the ancient Near East is essential for proper interpretation of the Bible.

Unfortunately, as students seek this kind of understanding, they are confronted with a variety of competing opinions and methods regarding the culture, history, sociology, and geography of the biblical story. Does archaeology ‘prove’ the Bible? Is the Bible history, and if so, what kind? How should the Old Testament be approached as literature? These and other questions are addressed in Studying the Ancient Israelites, which provides a guide to the tools, methods, and goals of the study of ancient Israel. The book also examines the insights that can be gained from geography, archaeology, literary study, sociology, and historiography, as well as the limitations of each of these disciplines. Here is an excellent text for Old Testament study.

The Logos Bible Software edition of this volume is designed to encourage and stimulate your study and understanding of Scripture. Biblical passages link directly to your English translations and original-language texts, and important theological concepts link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. In addition, you can perform powerful searches by topic and find what other authors, scholars, and theologians have to say about the Word of God.

Resource Experts
  • Focuses on both biblical and ancient Near Eastern sources in looking at the ancient Israelites
  • Examines ancient Israelite culture through the effects of multiple source materials and ideas
  • Includes various maps, figures, and sidebars to help enhance study
  • Historical Geography
  • Archaeology
  • Literary Approaches
  • Social Sciences
  • History and Historiography
Not only does Matthews write with the authority of a scholar with years of experience in the cultures of Israel and the ancient Near East, he also writes to bring the material to the educated layperson. This is an excellent background work, thus I would encourage all to read it as a prelude to any study of Israel. Studying the Ancient Israelites is full of practical, sensible help in understanding ancient Israel. The work contains specific examples concerning the various disciplines that have been used to study ancient Israel: archaeology, sociology, historical geography, historiography, and literary approaches.

Mark W. Chavalas, professor of history, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Matthews is a sure-footed guide for students looking for help in sorting out the claims and counterclaims of scholars. This concise volume clearly introduces readers to the various issues surrounding the study of the ancient Israelites, offering insightful comments on the methods used in the investigation and why they are important.

J. Andrew Dearman, professor of Old Testament, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

  • Title: Studying the Ancient Israelites: A Guide to Sources and Methods
  • Author: Victor H. Matthews
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Pages: 240

Victor H. Matthews is the dean of the College of Humanities and Public Affairs and professor of religious studies at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, where he has taught for 30 years. He is the author of numerous books, including The Old Testament: Text and Context, Hebrew Prophets and Their Social World: An Introduction, and Studying the Ancient Israelites: A Guide to Sources and Methods.


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    Print list price: $26.00
    Save $0.01 (0%)