Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives

Essays on the Patriachal NarrativesEssays on the Patriarchal Narratives brings together a team of seven Old Testament scholars who examine the evidence for the authenticity of Genesis 12-50. All of the essays are available for free access. Just click on the individual links below to view.

Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives – Table of Contents

The Patriarchs in Scripture and History – John Goldingay

Methods of Studying the Patriarchal Narratives as Ancient Texts – Alan R. Millard

Archaeological Data and the Dating of the Patriarchs – John J. Bimson

Comparative Customs and the Patriarchal Age – Martin J. Selman

Abraham Reassessed – Donald J. Wiseman

The Religion of the Patriarchs – Gordon J. Wenham

Diversity and Unity in the Literary Structure of Genesis – David W. Baker

Preface

Today there is renewed interest in the history and traditions of the patriarchal period. Recent publications have sought, among other things, to show that the biblical patriarchs were a literary, even fictional, creation of the first millennium BC, produced to provide the nation of Israel, which came into prominence only then, with ‘founding fathers’. Much of this new writing is helpful in distinguishing what are traditional or speculative interpretations from the basic text of Genesis. Sometimes archaeological evidence has been adduced in support of the historicity of the patriarchs and their cultural background in the second millennium BC which can no longer be sustained. Sometimes, however, the value of such evidence is ignored or belittled.

In the light of the importance of this subject for the proper understanding of the historical reliability and the theological teaching of the Bible (which cannot be separated), the Council of Tyndale House set up an Old Testament project group to look afresh at aspects of the problems raised. These essays are the first fruits of its work. We are grateful to all who have supported the research and to those scholars who have given time to it.

Since such studies depend largely on the validity of the methods of study, this matter has initial place. Attention is given also to matters of tradition-history and structural analysis of the text. The essays review past work and attempt, in their various ways, to break new ground and stimulate further study. They aim to make a positive contribution, not merely to criticize the works of other writers. Each, necessarily, reflects the views of its own author, rather than of the contributors as a whole.

These essays are offered in the context of a continuing debate, yet with the hope that they will prove of interest and help to many concerned with a subject of absorbing historical and theological importance.

D.J.W.
A.R.M.

© 1980 A.R. Millard & D.J. Wiseman, reproduced by permission. Prepared for the web by Robert I. Bradshaw, January 2004. Please report any typographic errors.

Alan R. Millard on the Historical Accuracy of Daniel

In 2012 Crossway published an impressive collection of 21 essays defending the historical reliability of the Bible under the title Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? The publishers have kindly granted permission for Theology on the Web to host Alan Millard’s contribution to that volume, dealing with the accuracy of Daniel’s account of Babylon:

Alan R. Millard, “Daniel in Babylon: An Accurate Record?” James K. Hoffmeier & Dennis R. Magary, eds. Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture. Crossway, 2012. Pbk. ISBN-13: 978-1433525711. pp.263-280.

You can download a copy in PDF here.

Thomas McCall’s essay on religious epistomology (Chapter 1) is also available here.

Tiny tablet provides proof for the accuracy of the Old Testament

Personally I don’t have any doubts that the Bible provides an accurate historical record of the people and events it describes. Even so, it is nice when someone comes up with yet another piece of hard evidence for this. The evidence doesn’t get any “harder” than than the 2,500 clay tablet discovered recently in the collection of the British Museum. This tablet is a receipt from one of the temples of Babylon to Nabu-sharrussu-ukin “chief eunuch” of Nebuchadnezzar. According to a recent article in The Daily Telegraph It is almost certain that this is the same person as is mentioned in Jeremiah 32:3:

Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and took seats in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the king of Babylon. [NIV]

The find is being hailed as the most important find in Biblical Archaology for 100 years, Prof. Irving Finkel of the British Museum is quoted as saying:

This is a fantastic discovery, a world-class find, … If Nebo-Sarsekim existed, which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power.

A writer who set out to write about the fall of Jerusalem might be expected to know the name of the Babylonian king that captured the city, but such secondary details demonstrate that the book is, as it claims, a contemporary eyewitness account.