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The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel [Paperback]

Thomas L. Thompson
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 May 2000
The Jewish people's historical claims to a small area of land bordering the eastern Mediterranean are not only the foundation for the modern state of Israel, they are also at the very heart of Judeo-Christian belief. Yet in The Mythic Past, Thomas Thompson argues that such claims are grounded in literary myth, not history. Among the author's startling conclusions are these: . There never was a "united monarch" of Israel in biblical times . We can no longer talk about a time of the Patriarchs . The entire notion of "Israel" and its history is a literary fiction. The Mythic Past provides refreshing new ways to read the Old Testament as the great literature it was meant to be. At the same time, its controversial conclusions about Jewish history are sure to prove incendiary in a worldwide debate about one of the world's seminal texts, and one of its most bitterly contested regions.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 436 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (1 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465006493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465006496
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 655,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Thomas L. Thompson is one of the leading biblical archaeologists in the world. He was awarded a National Endowment fellowship, has taught at Lawrence and Marquette Universities in Wisconsin, and currently teaches at the University of Copenhagen, which has one of the most prestigious Biblical Studies programs in the world. His book, The Early History of the Israelite People, a famously controversial book at the time, is now a standard text in the field. He lives in Denmark.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Saul's election and rise to power over Israel: his fall from grace; mad king Saul whose depressions are soothed by David the inspired musician of the psalms; the great warrior Saul. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars
2.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What every Christian should know 30 Dec 2004
It is hardly surprising that this book created such a furore when it first appeared. Although its ideas are widely taught in the Religious Studies and Theology departments of most non-sectarian universities they have not yet been disseminated among ordinary Christian believers who must find them quite shocking.
The book brings together contemporary understanding of the archaeology of Palestine and current academic thinking on the history of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament, for Christians)and proposes some well-supported theories on the basis of this.
The first part looks at the problems which arise when people try to treat the Bible as history and clarifies its nature - a combination of myths, poetry, sermons, and scraps of ancient literature.
The second part looks at the real history of Israel/Palestine - what we can genuinely discover from archaeology and reliable history - and recognises that there is no evidence at all for Israel's favourite myths of the united monarchy, Saul, David and Solomon, let alone any of the earlier patriarchal histories.
The third part looks at the sociological and theological conclusions that we can draw from this more factual view of the Bible and how it affected the first century thinking that produced the New Testament.
The book appears to be written for the 'layperson' rather than the specialist but while fascinating and thought-provoking, it is heavy going in places. The most irritating thing about it, though, is that it lacks notes, proper references, and an index.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The book assembles a collection of arguments that compare the past portrayed by the Bible against historical fact, and in doing so reveals that it is misleading to view the Bible as history, or that its purpose was ever to be historical. The book convinced me that most of what I believed to be true was understood as mythological at the time of the Bible's writing. Even showing how the original mythical meaning of the garden story was changed during the Middle Ages to the one generally held today. And although the argument that the Bible was a late development seems rather pretentious, he also suggests that the traditions that the Bible drew upon understood events from the past, but that it is difficult to extract history from myth. Both the New and Old Testaments are discussed, including parallel metaphors in each. But the main message is that if the Bible is viewed as history, its true meaning is no longer understood from its symbolism, which is at the heart of understanding the Bible's theology. Although much more interesting at first, this book could have been 100 pages shorter without any real loss. Another book that tries to explain the source of the myths used to create the Bible is "The Bible Myth" by Gary Greenberg.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad effort. 10 April 2014
Not bad, a worthy addition to any Christian book collection. I did find it a bit irritating when he writes about the bible, as he dosnt believe a word of it, better less atheistic theology, and just get on with the archy stuff and history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I would recommended it. 17 Aug 2014
By K.M.B.
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is very informative and has provided new knowledge for me.
in which case, it has met my expectations.

I would recommended it.
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