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Gilbert M. Stack

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Writing the Bible by Martien Halvorson-Taylor

Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 14, 2022 at 7:55 AM

Writing the Bible by Martien Halvorson-Taylor

This is what a Great Courses book is supposed to be. Rather than get bogged down in faith stories as so many historical books looking at the bible do, Halvorson-Taylor jumps right into the problems of discerning where and how the books of the Old Testament were written and compiled and in doing so teaches us a lot about the history of the regions.

 

People tend to think that the great religions of the world began in their present forms rather than evolved over time. The thing I liked most about Writing the Bible was how Halvorson-Taylor shows again and again how the interests of the people writing about periods that happened centuries earlier put their own worldview on to the historical actors. A really interesting example was King Solomon, who is presented in the Old Testament as having abandoned his monotheism and worshipped other gods. However, those accounts were written centuries after his death. It is much more likely, based on an analysis of the texts and when they were written, that Solomon ruled at a time when the Jews were not yet staunchly monotheistic—something that later authors either didn’t know or couldn’t accept.

 

Another fascinating insight conveyed by Halvorson-Taylor was how the written word did not originally appear to be given the same trustworthiness as the spoken word, but that over time with the literate gaining in influence, the written word became viewed as much more dependable.

 

All in all, this is a wonderful book. I hope she does a sequel on the New Testament.

 

Categories: Reviews